Tips for Residency Applications

Monday, April 29, 2019

On February 28, the Office of Career and Professional Development collaborated with UCSF’s American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and Phi Lambda Sigma (PLS) on a residency application preparation panel.

The panelists were:

Amanda Morris, PharmD, BCPS, BCCCP, UCSF Residency Program Director, PGY-1 Pharmacy, Critical Care Pharmacist, UCSF Medical Center, Assistant Clinical Professor, UCSF School of Pharmacy

Claire Bainbridge, PharmD, Chief Resident, PGY-1 Pharmacy Program, UCSF

Althea Han, PharmD, Chief Resident, PGY-1 Pharmacy Program, UCSF

YeeAnn Chen, Fourth-Year Student Pharmacist, UCSF

Sonya Kedzior, Fourth-Year Student Pharmacist, UCSF

The panel was moderated by Alisha Vora, Vice President of Professional Affairs for PLS and Joanna Choi, Vice President of Internal Affairs for APhA.

This article summarizes several tips that the panelists shared during the program to help students prepare their pharmacy residency applications, and advice on how to stand out during the process.

Strategies to Research Residency Programs:

The panelists discussed several ways to find residency programs including attending residency showcases at conferences, as well as searching the ASHP Online Residency Directory. The Directory has a list of accredited residency programs, and applicants can filter based on type of program (e.g.,managed care, community-based) and location.

The panelists also recommended that students connect with pharmacy students and professionals to learn about their perspectives on different residency programs. One way to do so is through tapping into the large alumni network at UCSF.

When researching residency programs, identify which residents graduated from UCSF and reach out to them. Even if you do not know them personally, alums are often willing to give back to the UCSF community.

Approaching Preceptors about Writing Letters of Recommendation:

Letters of recommendation are an important part of a residency application, and can help set you apart from other applicants.

The pharmacy community is small, and many residency programs put a lot of weight on them. A resident panelist discussed two strategies that can be used when approaching letter writers.

One strategy is to “watch and see,” and evaluate your performance in your rotation and assess whether you believe the preceptor will write a strong letter of recommendation before approaching them.

Another approach is to tell the preceptor that you are considering asking them to write a letter of recommendation and ask them what criteria/requirements they look for in order to write a letter.

Ultimately, it is important to choose preceptors who you believe can strongly advocate for you. Because preceptors’ time is limited, make sure you ask early and do what you can to make the process easier for them.

For example, one student panelist provided a document to her letter writers that listed the residency programs she planned to apply to, her interest in each program, her strengths and qualities that she believed were valued by the program, and what she wanted the letter writers to highlight about her.

Creating Letters of Intent:

When creating your letters of intent, reflect on what is important to you about the residency program and try to convey that in the letter. The first paragraph of the letter should include the name of the institution and the specific program.

Also, highlight the strengths of the residency program, why that program appeals to you, and how you feel you are a good fit for it.

In addition, highlight your professional goals, and what skillsets you believe will help you be successful in that program and as a resident.

Furthermore, follow any specific directions or requirements set out by each residency program (e.g., word/page limits, specific information the program would like you to highlight).

Preparing for Interviews:

When preparing for interviews, research commonly asked questions, know your strengths and weaknesses, and have good stories to go along with them.

Also, practice interview questions with different people multiple times, including with the Office of Career and Professional Development.

For clinical interview questions, be prepared for the “bread and butter” pharmacy topics (e.g.,anticoagulation, diabetes, infectious disease). If there is a new guideline that came out that year, the residency program may ask you about your thoughts on the guideline.

Your rotations will help you prepare for the clinical questions, so utilize every opportunity to learn and practice your clinical skills.


For support on residency application reviews, interview preparation, or networking with UCSF alumni or other pharmacy professionals, make an appointment with the Office of Career and Professional Development. Also, consider joining UCSF Connect, an online networking platform exclusively for the UCSF community. Through UCSF Connect, you can expand your network and find alumni who are willing to provide guidance, support, and mentorship as you embark on the residency application process.