Program Questions

Why a Pharmaceutical Sciences Graduate Degree from VCU School of Pharmacy?

Our programs offer advanced training in the pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences and preparation for career paths that include academia, pharmaceutical industry, and government (FDA and NIH). Our students train with nationally and internationally renowned faculty who publish hypothesis-driven scientific articles using state-of-the-art methods and equipment. There is opportunity to earn the doctorate with generous stipends and tuition assistance.  Our strong alumni network represents leaders in academia, industry, and government agencies.

How long does it take to complete the program?

The School estimates the doctoral program to be completed in four and a half to five calendar years. However, some students may take more or less time depending on their progress and effort in the program.

Do you admit and fund international students?

Yes. We accept and fund both domestic and international students. Our student body is very diverse and has students from all over the world.

How many students do you accept each year?

In general, 8-15 doctoral students matriculate into the program each year. This number includes VCU supported and international government supported students.

Do you accept students in the spring?

Yes, but the vast majority of open positions are in the fall semester. If there are no openings in the spring but your application is viewed as qualified and competitive, it will be deferred to the fall candidate pool. Medicinal Chemistry is an exception however, and does not admit students in the spring.

Once in the M.S. program, will I be switched automatically to the Ph.D. program upon degree completion if I wish?

No. Entry into the doctoral program is a separate process and the student will need to be re-evaluated for admission into the Ph.D. program.

What is my obligation after accepting a funded position?

Once you have accepted a funded position, that position is saved for you. If you decide not to attend, please provide at least three months advance notice so we may fill your position with another qualified student. If you notify us later than that, we are unlikely to be able to fill the open line with another student in time, resulting in loss of opportunity that would've been available to another student.

Application

May I inquire about my candidacy?

We review only official VCU application materials and thus do not generally respond to inquiries before receipt of the package. We also will not speculate on decisions before admission decisions are made.

When must I submit my application?

May 1 is the final deadline for fall admission for all tracks except Medicinal Chemistry, where the final deadline is January 1. We recommend that you submit your application by December 1 to be considered for funded positions (October 1 deadline for spring semester). Applications received by February 1 will receive priority consideration for funding. Applications received after February 1 may also be considered for funding and admission based on availability.

What is the average GRE score of your entering student?

We consider many factors when evaluating students and the GRE is only one. Although strong GRE scores are preferred, students may be accepted below the 50th percentile on a case by case basis.

Can I apply online?

Domestic applicants may apply online using the application available on the Graduate School website. International applicants are encouraged to apply online using the application available on the International Admissions website. If you prefer a hard copy of the application, refer to instructions on the appropriate website.

Where do I send my application?

Paper applications (for international students) should be mailed to the Office of International Education, 408 W Franklin St, Richmond, VA 23220, although letters of reference may be mailed directly to the School of Pharmacy. Please do not mail your materials to the School as it will delay processing your application.

May I inquire about the status of my application?

Although VCU Pharmaceutical Sciences has a rolling admission policy, applications arriving earlier will be considered first. Applicants are normally informed about admission decisions by the VCU Graduate School, the Office of International Education or the department between January and May. The School will let you know as soon as a decision has been made.

Tuition

Is funding available?

Funding is available for doctoral students in the form of teaching and research assistantships which include a stipend, tuition and fees. The assistantships are awarded on a competitive basis and are annually renewed. They are intended to provide support for the duration of the graduate degree program to doctoral students in good academic standing. It is highly recommended that you submit your application by December 1 to be considered for these assistantships. The School does not offer funding support to students in the Master's program, and M.S. students must be self-funded throughout their graduate studies. If you do not receive aid but choose to come to VCU with your own funds, please be aware that your chances of receiving assistance after your arrival are very low. Any remaining funding awards are highly competitive and there is no guarantee you will receive any financial assistance once you arrive. It is also VCU and School policy that students must receive permission to work, and most visas do not permit outside employment.

Do you fund M.S. students?

No. Funding is only for doctoral students. However, if you are interested in ultimately pursuing the doctorate, we encourage you to apply directly for that program, since we do not require an M.S. degree to apply for the Ph.D. program.

I received admission and funding from the school, but the start date for my assistantship does not coincide with my teaching start date. Why?

The dates don't match because the pay periods and school start dates are fixed and usually don't coincide. Please understand that you will receive one full year of funding in exchange for two semesters of teaching though the start and end dates won't exactly align with pay periods and school schedules.

What is the cost per year, if I am a self-funded student?

The cost of tuition can be found here. The cost of living in Richmond is approximately $15-18,000 per year.

What do I need to do to apply for a scholarship?

If you are a doctoral applicant, you are automatically considered for funding. As mentioned above, M.S. students are not funded within the School of Pharmacy.

Department of Pharmaceutics

Do you offer doctoral (Ph.D.) and master's (M.S.) degree programs?

Yes. However, support in the form of stipend, tuition and fees is available on a competitive basis only to doctoral (Ph.D.) students. Applicants to the master's (M.S.) program must be capable of self-funding for the duration of the program.

Do you offer part-time graduate (i.e., Ph.D. or M.S.) degree programs?

Yes. However, many of the required courses are offered during the day so part-time students must make allowances for taking these courses.

How can I obtain admissions information and submit application materials?

U.S. citizens and permanent residents can find admissions information and a downloadable application from the VCU Graduate School. International applicants can find the needed information from the VCU Office of International Education. Your application must be received by the respective office for further processing to occur within VCU.

When do you admit students?

The VCU Department of Pharmaceutics normally admits students to start graduate study in the fall semester. However, in the case of self-funded students and in the event that additional assistantships become available, we may admit students to start in the spring semester. We do not normally admit students to start in the summer semester.

How is the admission decision made?

The VCU Department of Pharmaceutics has a rolling admission policy based on funding and resource availability each year. Many applicant qualifications are evaluated and no single criteria are given priority to select those candidates who will ultimately be offered admission. Typically, applicants are reviewed and ranked based on academic performance (e.g., GPA, class rank and the reputation of their educational institutions), possession of advanced degrees, shared research interests with the faculty, writing ability, standardized test scores (e.g., GRE and TOEFL) and research experience. Select candidates may be contacted for interviews and the department votes for approval of admission following nomination by a member of the faculty.

Are there required criteria for admission?

The VCU Graduate School has a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 point scale for admission. However, in cases where the undergraduate GPA is below 3.0, additional factors such as performance in the last 60 hours of coursework may be weighted more heavily in the admission decision. While no cutoff score is specified, generally a minimum score of 1,000 in the verbal plus quantitative reasoning sections and 4.0 in the analytical writing section are recommended as minimum GRE scores. For international applicants, the TOEFL is also required and the minimum scores on the paper-based, computer-based and internet-based exams are 600, 250 and 100, respectively.

Is it better to specify an area of research interest in the application?

Yes, admissions are normally directed toward specific research groups in the Department of Pharmaceutics. Expressing an interest in one or two research groups will allow the directors of each to identify potential students with interest in their research. For further information on graduate research and the various tracks available, see Research.

When should I expect to hear about my admission decision?

For fall admission, applicants are normally informed about admission decisions by the VCU Graduate School, the Office of International Education or the Department of Pharmaceutics between January and May (see question above about how admission decisions are made).

May I inquire about my candidacy?

We review only official VCU application materials and thus, do not generally respond to inquiries before receipt of the package. We also will not speculate on decisions before admission decisions are made. In the event, however, that you do not receive an admission decision by May 31, please contact the director of admissions, Dr. Masahiro Sakagami, at msakagam@vcu.edu.

Is funding available?

Funding is available for doctoral students in the form of teaching and research assistantships which include a stipend, tuition, fees and health insurance. These are awarded on a competitive basis and are annually renewed. They are intended to provide support for the duration of the graduate degree program to productive doctoral students. It is highly recommended that you submit your application early to be considered for these assistantships. As specified above, the VCU Department of Pharmaceutics does not offer funding support to students in the master's program, and M.S. students must be self-funded throughout their graduate program. In addition to the funding listed above, you may also review Grants and Funding for Graduates Students through VCU Libraries to learn more.

How long does it take to complete the program?

The VCU Department of Pharmaceutics has designed the master's program to be completed in 2 calendar years and the doctoral program in 4 calendar years. However, some students may take more or less time depending on their progress and effort in the program.

Department of Medicinal Chemistry

How do I obtain an application for admission?

All application materials are available online. Please visit the webpage of the Graduate School for the M.S. program, the Ph.D. program or the International Education Office at VCU.

How do I apply for financial aid?

We only offer financial support to accepted Ph.D. students. The student does not need to apply for financial support. Once an applicant is considered to be accepted into our Ph.D. program, he/she will be automatically considered for financial support.

What documentation is required for application?

  • A doctor of pharmacy or a bachelor's degree in pharmacy, chemistry, biochemistry, biology, pre-medicine, engineering or a related science from an accredited college or university
  • Transcripts from all colleges and universities attended
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement
  • Satisfactory scores on the GRE
  • Satisfactory scores on the TOEFL (if applicable)

When are applications due?

All application materials for students must be postmarked on or before January 1st.

Do you have set minimum requirements for GPA, GRE or TOEFL scores?

The Graduate School has a preferred performance level of a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. We normally do not consider any applicant with a cumulative GPA lower than 3.2.

A TOEFL score of 250/300 (web-based), 600/660 (paper-based) or 100/120 (IBT) is a necessary requirement for international students whose native language is not English. Generally, successful applicants to our program have TOEFL scores well above this standard.

Our graduate program does not have minimum requirements for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

What are the GRE and TOEFL institution codes?

Virginia Commonwealth University's institution code is 5570.

What criteria does the Department of Medicinal Chemistry consider for selection?

The factors that the faculty consider in deciding whether a student should be admitted into our program include the quality of the student's academic performance, the quality and reputation of the institution at which the applicant has carried out their previous academic work, the applicant's GRE and TOEFL scores, the comments from the applicant's recommenders, the nature and quality of an applicant's research experience, and the applicant's desire and commitment to graduate studies as relayed in their personal statement.

Does your department require specific prerequisite coursework?

Coursework in organic chemistry, physical chemistry and biochemistry are prerequisites for the courses required in our graduate program. In some instances, applicants who have not had either physical chemistry or biochemistry at the undergraduate level may be allowed to enroll in Medicinal Chemistry and make up such a deficiency during their first year in the program.

Does your department offer an M.S. degree program in Medicinal Chemistry?

Our department does offer an M.S. degree program.

Can you begin processing my application for admission before I submit the application fee?

No. The Office of Admissions at VCU is not able to process an application without the fee under any circumstances. If you submit your application materials without the fee, your application will be filed and no action will be taken until the fee is received.

Do you allow students to begin studies mid-year (at the beginning of spring semester)?

Our graduate program is structured so that it is not possible for students to begin their studies at the beginning of the spring semester.

Can I apply to study with a specific professor or research group?

Applications are made to the graduate program, not to an individual professor or research group. Students participate in a number of activities during their first semester to help them select an advisor.

Will I be notified when my application materials have arrived to the Medicinal Chemistry department?

The Medicinal Chemistry Department does not send acknowledgments upon receipt of applications. We will notify you if you are missing one or two of your application materials, such as one of your letters of recommendation or copy of your GRE and TOEFL scores, etc. It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure the arrival of all necessary documents to their correct recipients. It may take several weeks to process an application once the Graduate School and the Department of Medicinal Chemistry have received all of your required materials.

How will I be notified of my admission status?

Once a decision has been made by the admissions committee of the department, the department and the Graduate School will send out letters notifying the applicant of their enrollment status. This initial letter will not include any information about the applicant's financial aid status. Financial aid packages are awarded through the Department of Medicinal Chemistry, and applicants are notified of their award status in a second letter sent by the department/School of Pharmacy.

Where can I get answers to other frequently asked questions?

Please feel free to contact Dr. Shijun Zhang, Director of Graduate Admissions for any other questions or concerns.