In the fall of 2018, the UofSC College of Pharmacy matriculated its first students into the Gamecock Pharmacy Assurance program, a unique initiative designed for exceptional high school students who want to pursue a career in pharmacy.
This early assurance program allows students who have achieved academic distinction at the high school level to receive a provisional early acceptance into the college’s Doctor of Pharmacy program. Candidates must meet program requirements in order to matriculate into the Pharm.D. program at the beginning of their third year of college. Thus far, almost 70 pharmacy students have successfully progressed from the GPA program into the Pharm.D. program. The College looks forward to welcoming another cohort of GPA students in August.
“The GPA program helps prepare students for the rigors of pharmacy school by focusing on prerequisite courses, professional and leadership development, as well as networking,” says Kristi Kinslow, director of Pre-Professional Studies and Recruitment. “The students who complete the GPA program have opportunities to build relationships with peers and College of Pharmacy faculty and staff. Our GPA programming eases the transition from an undergraduate to a doctoral level.”
The GPA program helps prepare students for the rigors of pharmacy school by focusing on prerequisite courses, professional and leadership development ...
Kristi Kinslow Director of Pre-Professional Studies and Recruitment
Students accepted into the GPA program are not only academically talented but have distinguished themselves as leaders in both their schools and communities, according to Nikki Mellen, director of Admissions for the college. “In addition to a holistic review of their academic and extracurricular accomplishments, each invited student must participate in a multi-faceted interview process with College of Pharmacy faculty, staff, and students to demonstrate their communication and critical thinking skills as well as their dedication to the college’s culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” she says.
Kinslow and her team are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to share information about the program with K-12 students, instructors, advisors and counselors.
“Though COVID has impacted our ability to host in-person events, we have increased our reach of prospective students through use of virtual platforms and creative programming,” she says. “As we have gradually returned to many in-person recruiting efforts, we are excited to visit individual schools and participate in career fairs and conferences. We also invite groups and individuals to tour the College of Pharmacy and receive personalized guidance.”
Johny Nguyen, Class of 2024, was among the first students accepted into the GPA program. Though he was accepted to the university as a traditional pathway pre-pharmacy student, after learning about the GPA program and receiving an invitation to apply, he pursued the early assurance pathway.
“Being part of the GPA program has helped me to develop my leadership skills,” Nguyen says. “The way the program is set up allows me to be exposed to the world of pharmacy and reinforces that this is the career I want to pursue.”
Kendall Kerr, Class of 2025, attended an open house at UofSC, after having toured 12 other colleges and universities.
“I considered mechanical or chemical engineering, but I had always been interested in health care and working with people,” Kerr says. “At the open house, I saw the pharmacy booth and learned more about the GPA program, then applied after talking with Ms. Mellen.”
The networking you do as a freshman, through pre-pharmacy and by meeting other students and faculty, has been so beneficial ... attending the GPA events made a tremendous difference. It gave me confidence and helped set me up to be successful.
Kendall Kerr Pharm.D. Candidate, Class of 2025
Kerr credits the GPA program with making her transition to the Pharm.D. program much easier.
“The networking you do as a freshman, through pre-pharmacy and by meeting other students and faculty, has been so beneficial,” she says. “Pharmacy school is a huge adjustment from undergrad and knowing so many of my peers through attending the GPA events made a tremendous difference. It gave me confidence and helped set me up to be successful.”
While former GPA program students are exposed to and interested in a variety of career paths, both Nguyen and Kerr have already become involved in research projects within the college and are currently leaning toward pursuing a postgraduate residency.
“Seniors get excited about the GPA program as it allows them to solidify their pharmacy pathway through conditional acceptance into the Pharm.D. program before they even graduate high school,” Mellen says.