First Year FAQ

Whom do I contact if I want to get more involved?

One way that you can get involved with pharmacy events and initiatives is through APSA, which includes many student committees and also Community Education (student-led presentations on health topics, usually to elementary, junior high, or senior high schools). You can talk to anyone from APSA Council if you want to increase your involvement outside of the books. The list of APSA Councillors and Officers is here. Your class representative is also a good person to start discussion with.

Whom do I contact if I have an academic concern?

Contact our VP Academic with any academic concerns. The current VP Academic can be viewed on our About Us page. You may also contact your student mentor if you need help with academics. Otherwise, you may contact your faculty advisor whose name and email you will receive on orientation day.

What should I expect from exams and general academics?

“Exams are tough – that is, if you don’t study. Think like a clinician, as the exams are more practice-based, which may be different from the ones you are used to in your undergraduate programs. Be practical, look at the evidence, and don’t just regurgitate what the notes say.”

Exams in Pharmacy are primarily multiple-choice-based with some occasional short-answer questions (it really depends on the professor and the course; some courses may be more focused on short-answer responses for e.g. Cardiology; however, this is generally not the case in first year.) You will find that the first year of Pharmacy provides you with a wide array of different course topics. These course topics are general in nature and are meant to bring all students up to speed on physiology and anatomy, and to give a taste of certain topics such as Pharmaceutics before you move into the meat and potatoes of the therapeutic modules in your second year of Pharmacy.

What is the white coat ceremony?

The White Coat Ceremony, which takes place in January of first year, formally recognizes your entry into the profession and clinical practice of pharmacy. You will be provided with a white coat and name tag that you will wear for your rotations and lab sessions thereafter, allowing others to recognize you as a pharmacy student. You will also recite the Code of Ethics and declare your commitment to the profession. More information will be available closer to the event.

What is Speechcraft/Toastmasters?

Speechcraft (formerly called Toastmasters) is a public speaking course that you will take in September that will contribute to your Communications I (Pharm 314) credits. The class is scheduled for one night per week for four weeks as well as one Saturday in total. Course activities include giving a speech, providing constructive feedback, introducing other speakers, and practising impromptu speaking. It is a lot of fun, and many students find they benefit greatly from the course. You also have the chance to meet your classmates and learn more about them!

What is service learning and how do I sign up?

Service Learning is also known as Pharm 300. It is a course composed of 50 hours of volunteering between early October and late March and a few discussion seminars reflecting on the experience. At least 25 hours must be completed in each of the Fall and Winter terms. The service learning fair, which allows you to see the potential sites, is scheduled early in September. Information on sign-ups will be available around that time. Most students begin their volunteer hours early in the Fall term. It is recommended that you find a site convenient to your location so you can keep a flexible schedule.

What is experiential education?

Experiential education refers to the clinical placements, also known as “rotations,” in community or institutional pharmacy that are included as part of the pharmacy curriculum. The first-year placement is known as Pharm 305, a course during the Spring term. It is a four-week practicum in community pharmacy that allows you to build upon and apply the skills you learned in first year in a practical and professional setting. There are a variety of sites that you can go to (both rural and urban) and you will be able to sign up for your top site choices in January. Nearly all students are placed in their first or second choice. By signing the experiential rotations declaration, you acknowledge that you will accept the rotation site to which you are assigned.

How much will textbooks cost? Do I need all of them?

The cost of all your textbooks for the 4-year program is generally around $1300. Some students choose to buy all their textbooks in first year. However, students in the program would likely recommend that you wait and be selective in the textbooks you purchase. Most professors test largely on lecture materials and textbooks are only recommended to enhance your understanding of the coursework. Some books are available online through the library website for free, while some print books may be available for a discounted price from senior students. The list of required/recommended textbooks is available on the Faculty site. Again, your student mentors can help you decide which textbooks you should invest in. APSA also organizes a used textbook sale on which more information will be available at the beginning of the semester.

How do I know my schedule?

Your term schedule will be dictated by the Registration Track you are assigned to. Every first-year student is enrolled in the same courses, so the entire class attends the same lectures. The only variations in the schedule are seminars, labs, and the option course (for students who are taking an option). A complete schedule will be emailed to you once prepared by the faculty and you will have access to your own track schedule through Google Calendars/online. It is important to keep up to date with your current schedule as it may change frequently. For questions about your schedule please contact our faculty representative Rae Beaumont at

What other student organizations are available?

The University of Alberta Students’ Union offers many services to students on campus ( You can visit 040-W in the Students’ Union Building (SUB) or search other student groups on campus at to find out more about other groups and clubs you can join.

Where can I get food?

ECHA has a cafeteria on the south end of the second floor that is open during the lunch hour, as well as a Starbucks at the north end and Katz has a Tim Hortons. CAB (Central Academic Building) has a cafeteria and a few other franchises, while SUB and HUB have many fast food restaurants and cafes.

Where is the gym?

The gym is located in the Van Vliet Building across from SUB (Students’ Union Building). It is called the fitness and lifestyle centre. There are also fitness classes you can take (fee covers one semester), dance classes, self-defense classes, and more. There is a Yoga Club on campus and a Hot Yoga studio on Whyte Avenue. You can also run the track, play badminton, or take a swim! If you enjoy team sports, consider playing intramural sports. APSA will pay for your registration fee when you join a Faculty of Pharmacy intramural team, so find the perfect one for you!

Where is the bookstore?

The bookstore is located in the Students’ Union Building on the first floor. The upper year pharmacy students (such as your orientation leaders) can also sell you textbooks and can help you figure out which textbooks are crucial and which ones you can do without.

Where do I go if I get sick?

The University Health Centre is located on the second floor of the Students’ Union Building. All you need is your OneCard and you have access to a physician and nursing staff. There is also a counselling services centre for mental health and stress support. For information on exam deferrals due to sickness please contact the VP Academic.

Where can I study?

The best way to find places to study is to explore! However, there are a few popular places that pharmacy students tend to hang out with their textbooks. ECHA, which is located across the street from the Butterdome, has a lot of places to sit and study by the windows and seminar rooms that you can use when they are empty. The Katz building also has many lounge areas and tables that are great for studying. The libraries that are closest to the pharmacy buildings are the John W. Scott Health Sciences Library, Cameron Library, and Rutherford Library. Details of all campus libraries can be found through the U of A libraries site (

As of last year, pharmacy now has its very own dedicated seminar rooms in the Medical Sciences Building (MSB) that have a table, tv, and password-protected door. These rooms may be used for individual studying, however preference is given to study groups and faculty classes and seminars.

Where can I find out who my faculty advisor is? How can I contact them?

At Orientation, you will find out the name and contact information of your Faculty Advisor. There will also be a list available in the APSA office throughout the year in case you forget.

How do I get a locker?

Locker sales will be coordinated by APSA and will take place during the month of September. Details are still being finalized on the exact number of lockers available and cost for rental. Class announcements regarding locker sales will be made in early September.

Where is the main faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences office?

The main faculty office (where you can find Student Services) is located in the 2nd floor of MSB (Medical Sciences Building).

Where is the APSA office?

The APSA office is located in the Student Commons area on the first floor of the Edmonton Clinic Health Academy (ECHA).

Where will I be on Campus?

The majority of your lectures will be in both ECHA (Edmonton Clinic Health Academy) and MSB (Medical Sciences Building) at the intersection of 87th Ave and 114th Street (North Campus, University of Alberta). Both of these buildings are on situated in close proximity to the other health sciences disciplines and are connected via pedway to the University of Alberta Hospital and the Health Sciences LRT Station.

How do I get more involved with APSA?

Consider running for an APSA position, such as First Year Class Rep or First Year Social Rep! A vote for each of these positions will be carried out within the first few weeks of the term. The Class Rep will sit on APSA Council, while the Social Rep will sit on the Social Committee. APSA will be visiting your class during the first few weeks to promote the positions. If you are interested, please talk to an APSA representative about the position you would like to run for. Candidates will make a small campaign speech to their classmates; the class will then vote to choose who will represent them on APSA. For more information about APSA’s Councillors and Officers, you can read our constitution and biographies on our About Us page. There will also be many opportunities to volunteer with APSA events, initiatives, and committees. These opportunities will present themselves throughout the school year so be on the lookout for your chance to get involved with us!

Where do we find information on intramural sports?

Information about intramurals will be posted on the bulletin board outside of the APSA lounge (2nd floor Med Sci) and on the APSA website on the Intramurals page. There will also be information in weekly emails and class announcements will be made by the sports reps. For more information, you can contact the Male or Female Sports Reps, which can be found on our About Us page.

What types of APSA events are held?

APSA organizes a variety of events that involve anything from professional events to volunteering to social get-togethers to a faculty-wide Ball. The Welcome Reception, Blue and Gold (annual pharmacy ball), guest speaker series, Mr. Pharmacy, beach volleyball, BBQs, TGIFs, career fairs, seminars, Faculty Meet and Greets, and even more are being planned for this upcoming year. Students must be members of APSA to participate in many of these events so there’s another reason to become a member! You can visit our Events Page for more details about pharmacy events.

How can I get more info about APSA events?

Use the power of the web! You will most likely have a class-specific Facebook group. Be sure to like the APSA Facebook Page ( for regular updates from APSA, including upcoming events. As another option, all APSA events are posted on the calendar on here. You can also come to APSA office hours and talk to a Councillor directly. APSA Councillors are always willing to provide you with information and get to know you. You can also visit our events page to learn more about pharmacy events.

What is APSA active membership and what does it include?

Becoming an active member of APSA costs a one-time fee, and your membership lasts for your four years as a pharmacy student. Included with your APSA active membership are numerous benefits, such as membership in CAPSI (Canadian Association of Pharmacy Students and Interns) and IPSF (International Pharmacy Students’ Federation). Active members also receive access to social events, educational seminars, the student lounge, books in the APSA office, spots in competitions/team intramurals, BBQs, lunches, locker rentals, and much more. To see all the great benefits that membership provides, please refer to our Student Services page,

When is Orientation and where do I learn more about it?

Orientation is a mandatory event on the first two days of school where first year students are introduced to APSA and pharmacy school at the U of A. Orientation information will be emailed out and will also be available here on the website closer to September. For further information about orientation please visit our Orientation Page or you can email the VP Social, which can be found on our About Us page.

What is APSA?

APSA is the Alberta Pharmacy Students’ Association. We are the official student group (registered with the University of Alberta Students’ Union) that oversees all events and issues that affect the Pharmacy student body. We are a highly respected organization in the world of Pharmacy along with the Alberta College of Pharmacists (ACP), the Alberta Pharmacists’ Association (RxA) and the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. It is our privilege to act as a liaison between all the aforementioned groups and the student body. Please look at our vision and mission and take some time to read through our constitution to learn more about our governing regulations.

Is orientation mandatory?

Yes! If you have to miss Orientation, you will be missing a lot of important information. You may only be excused from Orientation if you have a legitimate reason (e.g. family issues, illness). If you cannot make it to Orientation, please contact our VP Social.

Is there a dress code for orientation?

Dress as if you are attending a regular class, in comfortable and regular day-to-day clothing. You know the drill.