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5 Ways to Save When Applying to Pharmacy School

By Sophia Stone

Applying to pharmacy school is a massive undertaking, and getting in is an impressive accomplishment! The costs associated with applying to pharmacy school can add up, but they shouldn’t have to stand in the way between you and a Pharm.D. By budgeting wisely and planning in advance, you can streamline the process of applying to pharmacy school – and make it a little easier on the wallet, too. Here are 5 things that have helped pharmacy applicants get into pharmacy school without breaking the bank:

1. Maximize your chances of success

The easiest way to save is to maximize your chances of getting into pharmacy school on the first try. Students who end up re-applying to pharmacy school usually get in because they’ve planned better on the second try and made their application even more competitive. There’s no reason that same strategy won’t help you get into your top programs on the first try!

What this means in practice is doing everything you can to make every aspect of your application as strong as possible. Think about what you could be doing to make your application even better. If you are still in school, focus on earning good grades, especially in science classes, to make your GPA shine. It’s never too early to start drafting ideas for your personal statement, and use your network of peers and acquaintances to get as many sets of eyes on your essay as you can. If you don’t yet have much experience with pharmacy, consider shadowing a pharmacist or working as a pharmacy tech; if you already have pharmacy experience, maintain a good relationship with your supervisor so you can request a letter of recommendation down the road.

When deciding on where to apply, make sure to include a few “reach for the stars” programs that are your top choices, some schools that you are competitive for based on your GPA and PCAT score, and at least one “safety” program that you feel pretty confident you can get into. That said, only apply to schools that you would actually attend if accepted!

2. Hack the PCAT

Well, don’t actually hack the PCAT. Rather, hack the PCAT fee schedule to save money. In 2017-18, these were the fees associated with taking the PCAT:

To translate, here’s what you can do so save on the PCAT:
  • Register early to avoid a $49 late fee and test at a convenient location so you can avoid hotel or travel costs.
  • Keep track of the cancellation deadline to receive at least a partial refund should you choose to postpone your test date.
  • Use your PCAT score to determine how many schools to apply to. All schools that participate in PharmCAS will count as just “one” of 3 transcripts that are included in the $210 registration fee. If you apply to more programs that do not participate in PharmCAS, you may pay $20 extra for each additional transcript sent.
  • Prep strategically so you can take the PCAT just once to get your best score. This brings up my next point.

3. Prep smart

One of the most important components of your application is your PCAT score. First, develop a plan for exactly how and when you will study for the PCAT, and which resources you will use. If you can, try to give yourself at least 2 months to study, and register for the PCAT in July or September so you give yourself the option to re-take – only if necessary.

Be sure to take advantage of free practice tests and videos and sign up for free webinars to boost your score. You can also apply for a Pharmaceutical Studies Scholarship to earn up to $1000 for your PCAT prep. Figure out exactly what your needs are, and then find the right resources that meet your needs and goals, whether that be practice tests or a self-study course or one-on-one tutoring. Rather than buying materials from several different places, look for a comprehensive package that meets all your needs and gives you the best bang for your buck to help you earn the highest score possible.

4. Make interviews count

If you ask most pharmacy students what they consider the most exciting part of applying to pharmacy school, they’ll tell you it was receiving their first interview invite. Interviews can be exhilarating, but travel costs can quickly add up! Fortunately there are a few ways to make traveling for interviews more affordable.

Waiting last minute to shop for your interview attire leaves you with fewer options than if you start shopping early. Not only does shopping early give you time to research your options and find the perfect interview outfit, but it may also give you time to find decent deals, rather than having to look for a suit on short notice once you’ve been invited to an interview.

Once you’ve been invited to an interview, decide whether you should fly or if you can drive. If you need to buy a plane ticket, securing your seat early can help you save, and so can joining mileage programs if you’ll be flying to more than one interview. Once you know when and where your interviews are located, staying with acquaintances in the area–or even fellow pharmacy applicants!–can help reduce lodging costs while you’re there. While planning your travel, make sure you know exactly when and where you will be interviewing and how you will get to each location.

5. Help a friend

Return the favor – and the savings. As a future pharmacy student, not only can you share your money-saving tips with friends applying to pharmacy school, but you can also offer to let them stay with you or help escort them to their interviews while they are interviewing in your city.

Also, by joining Next Step’s Ambassador Program, you can earn a $50 Amazon gift card for every friend you refer who enrolls in Next Step’s PCAT course or tutoring – and your friend will earn a $50 Amazon gift card, too! By referring 10 friends, you can earn up to $500 and help your friends get into pharmacy school.

Don’t let application costs get in the way of your dreams of pharmacy school. Small savings add up, and so do the investments you make every day that make your application even stronger. If you aren’t sure where to start, consider starting with a free consultation with an Academic Manager to figure out what options you have for your PCAT prep to help you get into your top choice for pharmacy school.

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