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New agreement assures admission for WCU students to UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy

A new partnership will assure admission for current and incoming Western Carolina University students interested in pursuing a doctoral degree in pharmacy into the University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

The Early Assurance Program is a partnership between WCU and UNC – Chapel Hill that will run through 2027, with an option to renew. The program is not only a means for WCU to increase its undergraduate enrollment, but it will also allow the Eshelman School of Pharmacy to attract students from Western North Carolina.

WCU is the fourth UNC System school to partner with the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, joining Appalachian State University, University of North Carolina at Wilmington and UNC Pembroke.

“This program not only provides our students with guaranteed admission into one of the finest pharmacy schools in the nation, but it also recognizes the high quality of our faculty, our programs and the education we provide our students,” WCU Provost Richard Starnes said. “It is a great win for our students and for WCU.”

Any WCU student can apply to the program providing they have completed at least one semester. Up to 10 applicants can be chosen per year. They must meet all of the requirements, which include three letters of recommendation that can attest to the student’s academic performance and/or sustained interest in pharmacy, high school and current undergraduate performance/transcripts and a personal statement that conveys a passion for pursuing a career in pharmacy, as well as their short-term and long-term goals for their career.

Students accepted into the program must:

  • Complete all prerequisite coursework with no grade lower than a C-
  • Earn a minimum 3.2 GPA by the end of the spring term preceding fall enrollment into the PharmD program
  • Meet with their WCU pre-professional adviser at least once each semester prior to entering the PharmD program
  • Receive no student conduct or honor code violations
  • Meet the health requirements/prerequisites established by the Eshelman School of Pharmacy for all entering students
  • Meet all other requirements established by the Eshelman School of Pharmacy Admissions Committee

Jamie Wallen, associate professor and chemistry and physics department head, is leading the project, joined by Al Fischer (assistant professor of chemistry) Heather Coan (associate professor of biology), Joe Bill Mathews (associate instructor of biology) and Emily Sharpe, director of honors advising in the Brinson Honors College.

Wallen said it should take students 2-3 years to complete the course curriculum, which will guarantee admittance into the Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

“We have a lot of students interested in pursuing a career in pharmacy,” Wallen said. “I think this is going to be an awesome recruiting tool in open houses to be able to say we have this agreement. Also, once students get here, talking to them about it is really going to build excitement, and I’m hoping we’ll get some more students that are interested in pharmacy coming to Western.”

Initial applications into the program will be due in January 2023. The director of recruiting from the Eshelman School of Pharmacy will be in Cullowhee Nov. 1, which is Advising Day for WCU students. She will give a presentation at 2 p.m., followed by a question-and-answer session, at a yet to be determined location, Wallen said.

“We are excited about this agreement between Western Carolina University and the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, as it provides a pathway for our students to more easily reach their goal to become pharmacists,” said David Kinner, dean of WCU’s College of Arts and Sciences. “Beginning students in this program will continue to have the benefit of our amazing faculty mentors, which will allow them to build the skills and confidence they need to succeed.”

For more information on the Early Assurance Program, contact Wallen at 828-227-3667 or

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