9 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Getting into Physical Therapy School

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.

Make time to volunteer and observe

Make time to volunteer and observe

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.

Give them a phone call, ask some questions, have them send you some information

Give them a phone call, ask some questions, have them send you some information

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.

Jesse knows the importance of science

Jesse knows the importance of science

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.

Visiting schools is a good excuse for a road trip

Visiting schools is a good excuse for a road trip

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.

You can always take up rhythmic gymnastics to diversify your application

You can always take up rhythmic gymnastics to diversify your application

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.

Don't just go for the best, consider many different schools

Don’t just go for the best, consider many different schools

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.

Be prepared for anything during the interview

Be prepared for anything during the interview

Bottom Line

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.



30 responses to “9 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Getting into Physical Therapy School”

  1. Krista Zelizney

    I currently go to Ole Miss and I want to go to physical therapy school. I have tons of questions for you and things I am very worried about especially gpa and applying to schools & money. Please shoot me an email. And thanks so much for this entertaining post.

  2. Jeff Fishel

    Thank you so much! This is helping me tremendously. I have just recently decided that i wanted to try and obtain a career in PT and was just wondering, specifically, about a few things. First, my GPA is very low. I have made a plan of retaking some classes to help boost it, but my realistic goal is pretty much a 3.0. does that automatically disqualify me to enter school? I have been trying to look for places to start observing but I’m not sure if I need to be in some sort of program first. Can I just call an office and say I want to observe? These are just a few of my questions. This website has helped me on my way though. Thanks!

  3. Isabel

    I made physical therapy my dream career and goal since I started my undergrad career. I’m hoping all the hard work will pay off. Thanks for this post. It is very helpful and entertaining as I apply to PT school this summer.

  4. Chris

    Hi! I go to a small private college and I’m entering my senior year. I decided that physical therapy was the career I wanted to pursue during the end of my sophomore year of college. Your article has helped me tremendously, but I still have a lot of questions. I’ve talked to other PT’s and many students, but it can be hard to get real answers from people who will “sugar-coat” them because you are standing right in front of them. I was wondering if you could shoot me an email when you are able. Thanks!

  5. Chelsea

    This was an awesome post and just what I needed, I applied to PT school last year and was really upset about not getting in anywhere my first time around. I was wait listed at one college, so I guess that is still a possibility, but I am constantly stressing out about what I’m going to do if I don’t get in a second time, so this post helped a lot in terms of how I should go about applying again. Thanks!

  6. Kirk Painter

    Very good information. Better than most I have seen on the web. As far as grades, the PTCAS average for all applicants is ~ 3.5/4.0. As far as the GRE, if you have not done well, then take some prep. course, study guides or go to your university library to see if there are T.A.’s that can help you. Check the PTCAS site for school requirements and do like this site recommends and contact each school, namely the front person in their P.T. Dept.
    As a P.T., doctoral candidate, P.T. school interviewer, and author on this subject, I add these things. Check the blog for updates. http://beatherapist.us/

  7. Alieshaia

    This article has the best info and probably most honest info I’ve heard yet! I am currently a Senior at a small private college. I have a science GPA of 2.9 and an Overall GPA of 3.0. I am retaking a course, and plan on retaking a couple more to hopefully boost my GPA, otherwise I know my chances of being accepted into PT schools are slim. I know I have the personality but not the grades. How do you suggest I stay positive about this and achieve a higher GPA without spending TOO much time retaking courses?

  8. Rachel Bing

    I’m going down the road to applying to PT schools and have worked hard to get where I am today but my advisor is not very encouraging at all to the point of him telling me to think about another profession. Anyways I was wondering if you could email me because I have some questions for you and would really appreciate it!

  9. Matthew D

    Thanks for the blog. I found some things very useful. I graduate this May and planning to apply to schools in July/August. My GPA is realistically going to end up being a 3.4-3.5 range but I have taken 1 science class over again(Did well the 2nd time). Do they look at repeated classes negatively? I also wondering about volunteering experience. Is there an specific amount of different facilities that is preferred or looked at favorably? Anyway thanks for the blog and I would really appreciate if you can email me back.

  10. Sabrina

    I found this very helpful and inspiring. However, no denying numbers are a huge component. I just had a few questions regarding calculations on GPA, extra curricular activities, and a few other questions. I would very much appreciate an email from you to discuss this from a person who has taken a road I am about to start.

  11. Brooke

    I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to create this post on your blog. It’s written in a style that makes it entertaining and informative to the reader. While I stumbled across it for personal reasons, as an administrator in higher ed, it will be a resource I point students considering DPT in their future.

    Many Thanks!

  12. Frank Kumi

    Hi, I have a few questions regarding Physical Therapy program. In your opinion do you think that a GPA of about 3.3 and 200 hours spent volunteering in a Physiotherapy Clinic at a Hospital working with Geriatric patients will be enough to get me into the PT program?

    Thank you for your time

  13. Kye

    As a mom helping my Junior daughter in high school explore options for PT I appreciate the information. She is feeling overwhelmed with looking not just at undergraduate programs that will get her prepared for grad school, but grad schools she would like to go to and their requirements. She knows there are know guarantees, but she wants to make sure she goes in with clear expectations and gets the required prerequisites as she is deciding on undergrad programs. She is also looking direct admit. I’m proud of her for her enthusiasm and determination. Any advice for us as she goes through the college process to help her make her decision.

  14. Cameron Arcaro

    Hi, I really enjoyed all the extra tips that you included. I know that Physical Therapy is my dream job and will bring me joy in helping those who need it. I currently have a GPA of 3.4 I am rounding my last semesters and am looking into schools most have an average acceptance rate around 3.5 GPA. Do you think this means I would have a chance I will be retaking two classes I had gotten C’s in so I will raise the GPA just curious.

  15. John Bohard

    I am going into my junior year and I have always wanted to be a PT. I was wondering if retaking classes hurts and if you do it too much will that make it worse. I go to Oregon state which means we are quarters not semesters which so we have 3 terms a year and then a summer term. I got a C in 2 of my anatomy labs (got Bs and A in the lecture) and got a C in my second term of physics (got a B first and third term) I have a 3.07 right now. I was wondering if It would be ok if I retook these classes to raise my GPA and am hoping for around a 3.2 when I graduate if I retake the classes wondering if I should do it or not.

  16. Paris Brown

    Great info! I’m 4 years out of Engineering undergrad and have just decided that Physical Therapy is the field for me and best aligned to my passions. I know, I’m late…

    The problem is, while I went to one of the best schools in the country, got one of the hardest degrees, and have 4 years of work (unrelated to PT) experience, I had a VERY low GPA in undergrad. As in, I’m not sure that I can just take a few of the pre requisite courses to boost the number.

    Is there even a point to applying to any schools with far below a 3.0? I know you mentioned there being a minimum for admissions to even look at the application.

  17. Crisma

    Hi I am curretly taking my prre recs for PT, I have seen in multipe posts where people say they have retaken some classes to boost their GPA . My current school requires for us to get a C or lower to retake a class. i am confused… what do i do?????

  18. Eric

    I know I’ll get the same answer from the other comments about GPA numbers. I applied to 5 PT schools so far. Is that enough? It is my first time applying to PT schools. Right now I am currently working as a PT tech for the year, full time. Also, how helpful is it to my application that I have one of my letter of rec from a physical therapist for the Chicago Bulls? I used to be one of his patients before he got the job with the Bulls.

    I have A’s and B’s in my prereqs, excpet C+ in A&P II and Chemistry II and a C in Chemistry I. My fear is that I am going to end up wait listed and wait 5 years to get into a program. So Im stuck deciding that if I don’t get accepted into any of the 5 PT schools, whether I should continue working as a PT tech on top of retaking classes or take the PTA route, save up money and get 2-3 years of PTA experience and then apply to PT school. (Over GPA is 2.89, prereqs are at about 2.9-3.1)

  19. Adriene Pessel

    if you had to choose between NYU and Duke
    which one and why?

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