Behind the scenes: Doctor of Pharmacy interviews

By Karen Vo, class of 2023

Karen Vo, class of 2023

For Doctor of Pharmacy applicants, the interview is often seen as an intimidating experience, but it doesn’t have to be. We caught up with second-year pharmacy student and student ambassador Karen Vo to share a behind the scenes look at the interview process, while reflecting on her time as an interviewee.

Over two years ago, I was sitting in a conference room as a prospective student practicing my elevator pitch. I was terrified of what my interviewers would ask me later that afternoon; my mind ran through a series of questions- what are my stances on various ethical issues in healthcare? How extensive are my experiences in customer service? How much do publications weigh in? What was my most recent research project about? Despite the comfort the current students provided us, my mind shuffled through an unrealistically long list of disastrous scenarios.

Today, I find myself on the flip side of this experience. I have the opportunity to interview prospective students and to learn all about their diverse experiences that led them to a career in pharmacy.

In the interview, student ambassadors are paired with a faculty member. Once we are assigned students to interview, we work through how best to conduct the interview, making sure the interviewee feels as comfortable as possible. Our job is not to grill them or stump them with difficult questions. Since the college conducts blind interviews, interviewers do not see any background details or records ahead of time and applicants get to come in with a blank slate. Potential students are not asked about the discipline nor are they asked do calculations. Instead, they are asked about themselves; questions about things such as their motivations, their goals, their accomplishments, and their setbacks. As interviewers, we do our best to create a warm and open environment, so applicants feel comfortable telling us their stories.

As part of the Washington State University College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences’ holistic approach to admissions, the college is interested in more than just the stats.  The college is compelled to learn about who potential students are as people. The interview process is designed to get to know the student and to give applicants an opportunity to learn more about the program and decide if it is the right fit for them.

Over the course of the approximately 3-hour process, potential students get the chance to meet and ask questions of a faculty member and a student ambassador, receive a virtual campus tour, and talk to current students and alumni about what it’s like to be part of the WSU pharmacy community.

At the end of each interview, we open the floor for questions. This is the student’s chance to get to know us a little better. As much as it is an interview of them, it is an interview of us and the college. This is one of the most important things to remember: we want them to consider if the WSU Doctor of Pharmacy program is the best fit for them. We want them to reflect on what their needs are and whether or not this program can help meet those needs. This means asking us questions they have about who we are and what we value as faculty, staff, and students.

Collectively, the faculty, staff, and student ambassadors work hard to make interviewees feel comfortable, to hear their stories, and to ensure that their needs are met. These are things I wished I had known going into my interview two years ago. My advice to all prospective students is this: this is your chance for you to tell us who you really are so be honest and unafraid. We want to know you for you. Also, ask thoughtful questions. This shows us that you did your research and that you are taking the time to reflect on your needs, something that is critical to your personal and professional growth. Last but not least, if you’re panicking, that’s normal and completely okay. You’ll do great!