I loved my undergraduate time at the University of Tennessee. Probably a little too much, because I wasn’t accepted into any PT schools the first time I applied. One program even recommend that I try a different profession.
In the following year I worked hard to gain experience, volunteer, retake some science courses, and contact schools. The 2nd time around I was accepted into multiple schools. I ended up at one of the top schools in the nation, graduated with a 3.8, and now have one of the best jobs in the city.
PT School Admissions
Unfortunately, the most important aspect of your undergraduate career is your GPA and GRE scores (not your beer pong record). Most schools weight this heavily and consider it the most important factor. In real life this doesn’t mean much at all, but this is the game you have to play when you want to go to grad school.
So if you have great numbers, congratulations, getting into PT school will be easier. If not, you just have to do some extra work and fill in the other areas to make yourself more marketable.
9 Ways to Get into PT School
1) Get Experience
This is huge. Volunteering, observing, and/or working as a PT aide will help tremendously. You make yourself more marketable, increase your connections, learn things directly applicable to PT (unlike that damn chemistry class), and gain more opportunities for letters of recommendation.
At UT I worked as a student athletic trainer for the Lady Vols. When I worked as a PT aide I used to go to an aquatic therapy center on my lunch break, then drive down to a hospital after my shift to get more hours. I also worked/observed in tons of other clinics. Of everything I did in my undergraduate career, this paid off the most in the long run as far as making me a better physical therapist.
Volunteer everywhere you can. Just call and ask places. Most places would love to have someone come by and observe and help out for free.
2) Contact the Schools
This will show that you’re interested and also inform you of what you need to get done to be considered for acceptance. Each school has different requirements.
Some schools even track the number of times students contact them.
3) Do well in Science Classes
The science GPA is a big deal. If you’re like me and were more worried about tailgating for the football game instead of studying for the chemistry test, then you should take some classes at a local community college (usually easier) to boost your GPA.
4) Take the GRE as Many Times as You Need
I didn’t study for the GRE or take any prep classes. I just took it twice and it was enough to get into many schools. I’ve heard of many people taking it several times to get the numbers they needed.
If your numbers aren’t great, thats okay, just make sure you’re good in the rest of these categories.
5) Visit the Schools (and their admissions office)
There’s nothing like meeting these people in person to show your interested, learn about what you need to apply, and to visit the place you might be spending the next 3.5 years.
6) Be More than a Student
Don’t just be some geek with a 4.0. Make sure you have some hobbies and stay physically active. No one wants a sedentary book worm as their PT.
I was in various clubs, played guitar, participated in rec sports, was a gym rat, and attended many activities/events.
7) Apply to a Ton of Schools
Think about it. The more places you apply, the more chances you have of being accepted somewhere.
8) Lower Your Standards
If you’re obsessed about getting into the best school in the country, you’re going to have a bad time.
The truth is, the best PT’s are the ones that are very curious, open minded, and work hard. Plus, the DPT degree is just a foundation. Most of your skills come from self-learning, continuing education, and experience.
9) Prepare for the Interview
Come up with some answers to interview questions ahead of time. Most of the questions are predictable: what makes you want to be a PT? What are your weaknesses? Describe a difficult problem you had to overcome? What are qualities you think a PT needs? ect.
You should also do some research on the schools program and ask them questions too.
Physical therapy is a great profession and it’s an important job, especially with the aging baby boomers and the challenges of today’s society on the human body. I love my job and waking up to go to work is a pleasure. I’d be miserable if I was waking up everyday to sit at a desk and stare at a computer for 8+ hours. So don’t let anyone stand in the way of what you want to do. I feel that this quote sums it up the whole process pretty well:
- “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” ―Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The main reason I do this blog is to share knowledge and to help people become better clinicians/coaches. I want our profession to grow and for our patients to have better outcomes. Regardless of your specific title (PT, Chiro, Trainer, Coach, etc.), we all have the same goal of trying to empower people to fix their problems through movement. I hope the content of this website helps you in doing so.
If you enjoyed it and found it helpful, please share it with your peers. And if you are feeling generous, please make a donation to help me run this website. Any amount you can afford is greatly appreciated.