Interview with a Pharmacy Admissions Coordinator

Interview with a UMKC Pharmacy Admissions Coordinator
Admissions advice based on 10 years of reviewing UMKC Pharm.D. applications
By: Viktoria Phillips

At UMKC’s School of Pharmacy, we’re all about being as transparent as possible in our admissions processes. To help answer some admissions questions that you may have on your mind but are potentially too afraid to ask, we sat down with our Recruitment & Admissions Coordinator, Steve McDonald, to help address what applicants need to know about applying to pharmacy school. Steve has been reviewing Pharm.D. applications for over 10 years, so he knows a thing or two about what makes a strong application and a strong applicant. He works on our Columbia campus and has been with our school for almost 20 years. Below we address the questions we’re most often asked (or not asked but can tell you’re thinking) in regards to getting accepted into pharmacy school.

 Q & A with Steve McDonald: 

  1. Question: In your mind, what makes a strong pharmacy school applicant?

Steve’s Response: Passion. I always like to say that good science & math grades (3.0 Math/Science GPA or higher) and a decent PCAT will get your foot into the door for the admission interview. Once inside, a passion for the profession and a passion for learning really shines through to the faculty, alumni & students.

  1. Question: If a student is unsure if their PCAT score is good enough to get in, what should they do?

Steve’s Response: Applicants who are wondering about their scores should totally check in with somebody at the pharmacy school! In Kansas City, they can meet with Viktoria Phillips or Amanda Hoelting. In Columbia, they can meet with me! In Springfield, they can meet with Dr. Paul Gubbins who has served on the admissions committee. Or call me at 573-884-9683, or email at We all love talking about this stuff.

  1. Question: When should someone apply to UMKC’s pharmacy school? Is it too late to apply in the spring?

Steve’s Response: The earlier the better.  Our rolling admissions process is pretty cool, as we admit throughout the school year. The majority of the early applicants will know by Halloween if they will be in the Pharm.D. program or not. Especially if a certain campus location (Kansas City, Columbia, or Springfield) is important, we recommend applying early. There are also several reasons why students may choose to apply in the spring…it may be due to a lack of time to complete the application due to extracurricular activities, or a student having an epiphany over the winter break that pharmacy would be a great profession, or they’re just awaiting a January PCAT score – applying after winter break is definitely an option! We offer four interviews in the spring (one each month, January – April), and once you interview, you’ll have an admissions decision within two weeks.

  1. Question: What are your top three interview tips for a student who has received an interview?

Steve’s Response:

  • Tip 1: Be passionate. I have heard admissions interviewers comment, “the applicant couldn’t really articulate why they wanted to be a pharmacist.” Then again, I have also heard, “This student is ALL ABOUT pharmacy!”  You can guess which applicants the admissions committee responds to the best.
  • Tip 2: Work with someone ahead of time on your interview techniques. Find out about your nervous habits.  Avoid repeated usage of words such as “like,” “um,” & “you-know.” And practice hand-shakes & eye contact.
  • Tip 3: Arrive prepared for discussion. Your interviewers are going to want to know more about you. Be ready to talk about your academics, your pharmacy experience or research, and who you are as a person (family/friend support you have, how active are you outside the classroom, what do you do for fun and to cope with stress, etc.). As Associate Dean, Dr. Paul Gubbins likes to say, “The interview is not the time to be shy about yourself.”
  1. Question: If a student’s application is put on hold for fall grades and/or a new PCAT score, do they have a realistic chance of getting in?

Steve’s Response: Absolutely, this happens quite a bit.  Sometimes the applicant simply requires just a little something else to look really good. The best thing you can do if this happens to you is to stay optimistic.

  1. Question: What is your #1 piece of advice for someone applying to pharmacy school?

Steve’s Response: Honestly, to come meet with us. Grades, PCAT, and pharmacy experience are important…but that is pretty well known.  Meeting with us in person in Kansas City, Columbia, or Springfield will help answer those questions you’re wondering about and provide you additional advice you had not considered. It also allows us to get to know you as an individual and to provide personalized suggestions. Multiple times, I have heard applicants who come by to see me say, “I was really nervous about this whole process but a couple students I work with who are in the program, told me to come see you because I’ll feel better about everything.” And you know what, they did feel better after meeting with me!

We hope you feel more relaxed (or at least knowledgeable) about applying to pharmacy school after reading through our interview with Steve. If you want to apply to UMKC’s Pharm.D. program to start in Fall 2019, there is still plenty of time! Our deadline is March 1, 2019, and our application instructions can be found here. And if you’re not quite ready or have questions about applying for future admission cycles, just schedule a meeting with us. As Steve mentioned, we’re happy to meet with you at one of our three locations across the state! We look forward to reviewing your application!