Tips for Pharmacy school applicants

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If you aspire to be a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD), this fact sheet will give you some background information about the requirements you must fulfill to apply to Pharmacy school, and how you can meet those requirements at Elmira College.

Admissions requirements

Most pharmacy programs require a variety of courses in science, social science, and the humanities for admission.  There is little uniformity among programs, so please be sure to research each program that you may be interested in attending. 

Most Common Pre-requisite Courses

Freshman Composition/Communications

Biological Concepts with labs (major’s level)

General Chemistry with labs (major’s level)

Organic Chemistry with labs

Physics with labs

Anatomy and Physiology with labs

Calculus and/or Statistics


Other courses often required, or strongly recommended:






Public Speaking


You may major in anything as an undergraduate, as long as the pre-requisite courses are taken.  Most applicants choose a science major because there are many science pre-requisites and most students have a strong interest in science, especially chemistry.  Most of our students will major in Chemistry or Biochemistry, for example.  Successful applicants have a wide variety of coursework and experiences, so there is no one “correct” choice for a major.  The Business Administration minor is popular among our pre-pharmacy students.

Test scores and GPA

The exam that most pharmacy programs require is the PCAT (Pharmacy College Admissions Test), taken during the summer between junior and senior year.  See  for details about this exam.
 Most programs in pharmacy expect the undergraduate GPA to be at least a 3.0, with no “C” grades in the sciences to be competitive.

Health care experience

Health care experience is a necessary component of your preparation before applying to a pharmacy program.  Every program has its own mission and philosophy.  You need to explore the various professions and be educated about your decision to become a PharmD versus another member of the health care team.  For example, if you work or shadow at a pharmacy, hospital, or nursing home, these hours can be counted toward completion of the required internship experience at Elmira College.

Development of Personal Attributes
While a high degree of academic success is necessary, it is not sufficient for admission to Pharmacy programs.  Demonstrated altruism, interpersonal skills, and the highest ethics and integrity are all part of developing what you need for a strong provider-patient relationship.  Cultivating outside interests and activities is critical.  It is less critical what you spend your time doing, but much more critical that you show passion for something.  Length of time invested, depth of the experience, and lessons learned are three key criteria for evaluating outside activities.  Volunteer work in almost any health care setting will be of value to you as well as the schools you apply to.

Research experience
While not a requirement at every professional school, research can give you an academic edge.  Research can give you insight into how science works outside the classroom setting.  In addition, your professors can get to know you better and thus be able to write meaningful letters of recommendation.  Students can conduct research at Elmira College during the academic year or can apply for the summer undergraduate research program.  Many deadlines across the country for research internships close in early February.  This experience can help you decide if you want to be a pharmacist or a pharmaceutical researcher.


1.  The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy
This is the professional organization of Pharmacy Colleges in the US.  There is a page under the Resources tab that directs you to a Student Center for answering many of the questions an applicant might have.

2.  Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS)
The site that most pharmacy programs use to manage their applicants.  Start working on your application through this site in mid to late summer of your junior year if you plan to attend right after you finish your degree here.

3.  Division of Mathematics and Natural Sciences Pizza Lunches and prehealth Speaker Series
Attend as many programs as you can.  Important information that can help with the application process will be shared at pizza lunches.  These sessions also educate you about various health care professionals you will be working with some day.  

Special Agreements

We have an agreement with Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) whereby we can recommend students for early admission to pharmacy school.  Students can apply while still in high school, or apply during their first two years at Elmira College.  For details, visit

Common Questions

How many Pharmacy programs are there?  How long do they take to complete?

Pharmacy programs take 2-4 years of pre-requisite work, followed by 4 years of professional school.  There are 129 programs across the country that are members of the AACP.  The Doctor of Pharmacy degree is the professional degree for the field (PharmD).  Please check the individual Schools of Pharmacy to see what other degree combinations they may offer.

Some schools let you enter to complete the 2 years of coursework, and then go straight into the PharmD 4 year program without a Bachelor’s degree.  What are the merits of obtaining a Bachelor’s degree first?

The main reason I would recommend a bachelor's degree in a specific discipline (like biology or chemistry) rather than go to a college that offers a pre-pharmacy track that does not require a BS degree first is that it leaves many more options open to the student.  Applicants with degrees are given preference by some schools.  Having a degree in hand before professional school gives you a wider variety of experiences, and helps you make an informed decision.  It also allows you to go on to graduate school if you happen to discover another profession, or if you decide that pharmaceutical research is your path.