Category Archives: Pharmacy School Information

Pharmacy School Spotlight: A Pharmacy School in the Nation’s Capital – Howard University College of Pharmacy

“Washington Monument – Washington DC” by Mike Boening Photography is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

Washington DC. The globally popular and historic capital of the United States of America. Howard University College of Pharmacy is located in the heart of this great city and is the only pharmacy school located in the nation’s capital. According to their website, it was founded in 1867, with its roots beginning in the Department of Medicine, and later being differentiated into their own Department. A couple interesting excerpts from their “About” page:

“The mission of Howard University College of Pharmacy is to provide pharmacy education of excellent quality to students possessing high academic, scholarship, and leadership potential, with particular emphasis upon the recruitment, retention, and graduation of promising African American and other ethnically diverse minority students.”

 “The College of Pharmacy currently offers an entry-level four-year Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree program, a two-year post-B.S. Pharm.D. degree program, a Non-traditional Pharm.D. degree program, and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Pharmaceutical Sciences.”

Now that some basic information about the pharmacy school has been provided, let’s move on to some more interesting topics: Living in the great city of Washington DC! Attending Howard University College of pharmacy has the advantage of one exploring the sights and experiencing the fun activities in Washington DC. This city offers excellent public transportation provided by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) which oversees an extensive public transportation system (both subway and bus) within and around the Greater Washington DC metropolitan area. DC also has many alternative cheap bus providers such as the DC Circulator. Washington DC is also part of what is known locally as the DMZ: DC, Maryland, and Virginia because both Maryland and Virginia are adjacent to the city, and are a part of the WMATA public transportation system. Here are a couple helpful maps to help you understand how to navigate this great city:

Washington DC WMATA subway map

Howard University has its own subway stop (see arrow above), and is just a few exits from the famous National Mall, where many tourists travel to visit or view the numerous museums and sites such as the Air and Space Museum, the Washington Monument, the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Vietnam War and Korean War Memorials, and many other tourist attractions. There are also many excellent private museums such as the Spy Museum, the Holocaust Museum, and the Bible Museum. You wouldn’t even need a car because the subway or even bus routes could take you even further outside of DC and into Maryland and Virginia.

DC Circulator Map and Information

The DC Circulator is a free alternative bus transportation system, distinct from WMATA, that offers frequent stops all around and within DC to many popular and frequently travelled areas.

According to, Howard University is very walkable with walk “walk scores.” Students have access to many restaurants, bars, entertainment destinations, and easy public transportation.

Howard University’s walkability map (above) is very green, indicating positive walking experiences.

Howard University if also very bikeable as indicated from the dense green zones.

Capital Bikeshare

Students at Howard University have access to cheap rental bikes to use to get around the city without having to store or own a bike. Capital Bikeshare is a company that makes bike rentals available in stations throughout the city and in Maryland and Virginia. They have a variety of pricing plans, whether one-time uses or subscriptions. Scooters are also available throughout the city from other companies.

There are so many ways to have fun in the city as a Howard University student such as getting involved in student organizations, attending school events, or even venturing to places outside the campus to explore the city or attractions. Some of these attractions include the newly renovated DC Southwest Wharf which holds many bars and restaurants with excellent views of the water, attending professional sporting events such as watching the great Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals hockey team, Juan Soto and the Washington Nationals baseball team, Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards basketball team, the Washington Football team, and DC United Soccer teams. DC is also a foodie’s haven with many famous restauranteurs, such as Jose Andres, serving delicious cuisine.

What to do if you are not accepted into pharmacy school

So you opened your small light envelope containing a single piece of paper that informs you of the the worst possible news you could imagine:  “Thank you for your interest…Unfortunately, due to the high volume of applicants, we are unable to grant you acceptance at this time.  However…”  You feel crushed.  Your hopes and dreams of working behind a pharmacy counter, starting your career making decent income fades into the wind.  At first, you are in shock, and maybe in denial.  But sooner or later, the hurt begins to set in.  You start panicking, unsure of what your next steps are.  You feel ashamed to tell your family or friends about the news, and maybe you even come up with plans or excuses to tell them.  You may feel all of those hours spent studying for the PCATs, or hours in the library studying to get A’s in organic chemistry or biology feel wasted.  What do you do?

Well, first of all you should gather yourself and your thoughts and take a little time off to put everything in perspective.  You’ve worked hard, and deserve a little rest and relaxation whether you were accepted or denied into a pharmacy program.  Spend time with your loved and friends.  Or even take a little mini-vacation to the beach, or a trip somewhere to get your mind off of things, and decompress.  Tomorrow is a new day, and there are plenty of options and strategies you can employ.

When you return from your little time off, ask yourself whether pharmacy is for you.  Meaning…do you love the pharmacy industry, or are you doing it for the money and job stability.  If it’s purely for the job stability, you may or may not be disappointed.  Pharmacy isn’t the easiest job profession.  It is stressful.  The work schedule may not suit your lifestyle, and you may have to work with difficult colleagues and customers/patients.  Eventually, it may wear you down if you don’t enjoy the work or what you’re doing every day.  Think about it.  You have to wake up early in the day to get to work for the next 30-40 years or so depending on when you want to retire.  If you don’t enjoy the work, sooner or later, it will become more difficult to get up to work every day as you get older.  Make sure you actually enjoy the pharmacy profession before you decide to fully pursue it.  Otherwise, there are many other professions that provide decent income and good job stability.  Try to find one that you actually enjoy doing, and are a little passionate about.

So, you do enjoy this profession – what now?  If you’re grades or PCAT scores aren’t high enough compared to other applicants, it may be very difficult to get accepted.  However it depends on the school, and you may be able to check with each pharmacy program to see what their minimum requirements are, and if your grades and PCAT scores meet the criteria.  You may even contact the pharmacy program on whether an academic counselor is available to discuss your situation.  They may advise whether you should repeat classes that were under-performed, or re-take the PCATs if your score is below the average.   If you’re academic record is good enough to get into pharmacy programs, then perhaps you should apply again.  Maybe you didn’t apply to as many schools previously, and hoped that you could make it into your dream college, or go to a school in your dream city.  Well, life can be very brutal, and we can’t always have what we want.  Perhaps you should expand your options.  You may consider applying to more pharmacy schools to increase your chances.  The number of pharmacy schools have increased significantly in the past decade, so there are many seats available…meaning there are more openings which is a plus for potential students.  Remember, the PharmD program is temporary and flies by quickly; it will last at 4-6 years or less (depending on whether you apply to an accelerated program).  Since everyone’s situation is different, in the end it will be up to you to see whether you feel your grades and scores are good enough if you apply to more programs, or whether being a pharmacist is even worth it in the long run compared to pursuing another profession.

One last note, you may consider working or volunteering in a pharmacy setting if you haven’t already done so.  At the very least, you’ll have a better understanding of what a pharmacist does every day, and whether it’s what you want to do for the rest of your life.  Good luck.

Tips for New Pharmacy School Students

For the new pharmacy school students who are about to enjoy their last summer before embarking on a long journey, here are some tips you could use to prepare yourself before and throughout pharmacy school. In prior days, pharmacy school students were seen lugging around book bags or even luggages of thick, heavy textbooks to classes and between classes. Needless to say, these books are taxing to the body due to the ever-expanding and changing material found in them. Books are also expensive, and those that prefer to read and hold in their hands (or arms) the pages of a book could probably be better served by checking to see if those same books are available at some used book repository online or asking upperclassmen if they are available for purchase from them. Keep in mind the publication year and editions of the textbook, as they tend to be updated frequently. As new drugs are continually being added to the pharmacy shelves, their information will also need to be updated in textbooks as well. Therefore, buying textbooks each year may seem like a waste of money, as older editions will quickly be obsolete. Fortunately in these modern times, online versions of these textbooks may be available. They have the advantage of being readily updated as opposed to lag time associated with book publications, as well as improved availability online which is accessible with a student’s laptop, or other mobile devices. They also have improved search capabilities compared to the time wasted searching the index for the page numbers of relevant keywords in a textbook. Therefore, it may be a good idea in saving time and money for utilizing online versions of textbooks if available. For those that prefer the actual hand-held textbooks, look to used versions to cut costs. Keep in mind that certain editions may be updated frequency.

Pharmacy schools are filled with courses that may require much memorization in order to succeed. There are many drugs to learn about, and new drugs that are being added each year. Knowing the particulars of each and every drug could be a great hurdle for some, which is why working in a retail pharmacy setting may assist students without making it seem like what one would call ‘studying’. Students who regularly dispense the drug and can see the product with their own eyes, and handle the order entry of the drug’s dosages, instructions, insurance claims into the computer system will greatly enhance one’s experience and exposure with new and common medications. Reading the patient handouts that accompany the drug product, as well as listening to patient counseling from the pharmacists will also assist with the retention of information through repetition. This may make some aspects of actual schoolwork easier, and will allow quicker understanding of the concepts taught in their courses. For those that do not have any retail experience prior to pharmacy school, it may be a good idea to consider applying for a retail pharmacy position.

Lastly, networking with other pharmacy students and partaking in club activities will help one to progress smoothly during the years in pharmacy school. Forming study groups will benefit each individual from the perspectives of others. Seeking a mentor in a professor or upperclassmen will allow one to have private one-on-one access to someone who has more experience and tips for success. Joining pharmacy associations and attending meetings will allow access to important resources and support not otherwise had without membership. More importantly, it will enable one to immediately network with scores of others, which may bode well in their future endeavors with job referrals, internships, residencies, and fellowships.

Don’t make this mistake in pharmacy school

Talking to many experienced and older pharmacists in the pharmacy world, the one common mistake pharmacists have admitted to were the limited ‘networks’ that were established during their time in the PharmD program; it is much more difficult to meet and network with others after graduating from pharmacy school and starting your job. This may be due to the focus on trying to get a job, buying a house, starting a family, and/or taking care of your kids with limited time for anything else. And even those networks are not as strong as those that could have developed during their school days, when they had more time to develop their friendships such as going out to eat, studying for a tough exam, sharing an apartment, and even traveling together on vacations. Instead in the professional world, networks are limited to those in the workplace, the professional pharmacy organization that one may join and have limited time for, as well as the few friends that they keep in touch with outside of pharmacy school. The people you meet – your professors, alumni, fellow classmates (and maybe even your future spouse!) will be an important base of network you could seek assistance from long after graduation. Networking is very important for your future, and many would say one of the most crucial elements needed for your career. They may provide referrals for jobs and internships, access to educational programs, critical pharmacy information, advice, exclusive recommendations for many positions, introductions to other networks, and many more. Pharmacy school is a professional graduate program, and your immediate contacts – students, professors, and alumni, during your time in pharmacy school will be the easiest to establish. The number of people you could meet in a relatively short amount of time trumps the number of those you meet in the workplace after graduation throughout your entire career. You would instantly have access to your entire faculty, your direct class, and maybe even other classes, as well as the scores of alumni, professional organization groups, and preceptors. Networking and becoming friendly with those around you will benefit you in the long run. Being social, talking with peers and professors, meeting with alumni mentors, participating with the many organizations available in your school will go a long way for your career as long as those networks or friendships are maintained. This principle applies not only in pharmacy school, but also in life. Being a loner or a ‘lone wolf’, having an unfriendly or arrogant attitude, becoming too independent, and not partaking or participating in organizations or groups are not the best methods to establish these networks. Being open to different things and the ability to adapt to changes are good ways to have the right attitude as pharmacy school will be much different from the undergraduate lifestyle. There are ways to be a competitive student without having to put others down when you are trying to get a better grade on a project.

For those of you who are already in school and have not created your networks, try to use the limited time left in your schooling to make those networks. It is always better late than never because you may never see them again after you graduate. If you have antagonistic relationships with some people, try mending them because you never know when you will see them again; they be employed in a job that you are applying for. For those of you who will begin pharmacy school, you have a head start into this long journey. Remember, pharmacy school isn’t the same as your high school and undergraduate days. This is your professional career, and so you want to approach this intelligently. Always remember people’s names, be genuine and humble, and try to always smile. If you are not a social ‘butterfly’ then do your best to change so that you could establish your network of friends. We talked about how they may help you after graduation, but they may help during pharmacy school as well.

Post Pharmacy School: Your Options

Senior pharmacy students in their finals years will often ponder their options after graduation while going through their pharmacy clerkships, internships, or rotations. Many may already know what they will be doing after graduation, but some may still wonder what the best ‘fit’ would be. A good diverse selection of internship electives in addition to choosing selective sites of work for general core internships could broaden the outlook on future possibilities. Although a lot of pharmacy schools have a defined process, and possibly restricted set of internship sites for practice, many programs offer interesting and innovative internships for their students. Some of these internship programs could include international internships to foreign pharmaceutical companies as well as health organizations and governments. Some others even include programs in non-traditional pharmacist positions such as internships with the federal government, research, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and corporate strategy. Despite the limited positions for pharmacists in these non-traditional roles compared to the traditional positions in hospital or retail pharmacies, possibilities exist because many organizations desire those who have the specific knowledge and understanding of medicinal chemistry and pharmaceutics.

More and more pharmacy graduates are pursuing post graduate training in residency programs and fellowships. As the pharmacy profession evolves alongside ongoing medical breakthroughs, residency/fellowship training is also advancing and adjusting for future clinicians and researchers to benefit from the experience and knowledge of practitioners. Senior pharmacy students who are interested in applying for post-graduate programs could do so during conferences held by the American Society of Health System Pharmacists (ASHP), American Pharmacists Association (APhA), or others. Usually students should apply during the Fall-Winter seasons, but should check the individual organization’s websites for a current list of opportunities. The directory of participating residency or fellowship programs will typically show program descriptions, program directors and contact numbers, the application process and deadlines, stipend, location, qualifications, requirements, and the interview process. Similar to the college application process, a candidate could increase their chances to programs of their choosing by applying to more than more program. It is advisable to research the program, particularly the mentors, the location, in addition to program diversity as this will be an important first step into a candidate’s pharmacy future. Great mentors breed great future professionals, and program diversity could broaden the knowledge of one’s training. The location of the program is also important, as the selected individual will have to live in the practice area for at least one year.