12 Things You MUST Know Before Applying to PT School

Are you or a friend thinking about applying to Physical Therapy school?  If you’re not, you probably know someone who is.  The process is relatively straightforward, but can be overwhelming if you’re not prepared.  Becoming a PT is hard work and takes years of dedication, but the end result is worth it.  Here are some helpful points of advice for the aspiring young PT:

  1. Focus on your grades. Duh! While this may seem like a no-brainer, some students simply don’t realize how high your GPA needs to be until it’s too late. While you may find a few people who get accepted with a 3.2 or 3.5, it’s not the norm. Every school has different requirements, but if you want to stand out from the crowd, put the work in and do everything you can to get an A.  In EVERY class. Having a 3.8 to 4.0 GPA is a definite advantage when applying. A high GRE score is also a likely requirement.
  2. It takes a while. Physical Therapy schools are now almost universally doctoral level programs. This means you will need a bachelor’s degree to get in. Most bachelor’s degrees take 4 years to complete, but this depends on your work load every semester. Don’t be surprised if you end up taking summer school courses in order to get done in 4 years. Physical Therapy school is another 3 years on top of that – so 7 years all together. Being a PT may sound good, but go into it with eyes wide open – that’s 7 years of higher education after high school. It’s not for everybody!
  3. Consider PTA school if you don’t think you can take that much school. Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant might be a fantastic option for a number of reasons. Maybe your grades aren’t quite high enough for PT school. Maybe you don’t want to go through 7 years of college. Maybe your family situation just won’t allow for it.  In short, PTAs can do most of what a PT can do, except for evaluate patients, re-evaluate patients, alter plans of care, and a few other things. The salaries aren’t quite as high either, but not too far behind.
  4. Choose a major wisely. Again, this may seem obvious, but it’s worth reinforcing. Common undergraduate majors include: biology, chemistry, kinesiology, psychology, etc. Each PT school has their own set of pre-requisite courses, and the common science majors will make it much easier to meet. As a rule, if you want to be a PT, it doesn’t make much sense to major in 17th century French literature.
  5. Start getting volunteer experience early. 100 hours of volunteer or work experience is a common requirement for admission. Whatever the minimum requirement for your school is, do your best to exceed that number. Your goal is not to be a minimal or average candidate – make yourself stand out!
  6. Develop good relationships. You will likely be required to submit letters of recommendation with your application. Being a hard worker pays off. Being consistent pays off. Being on time pays off. Make life easier for your professors and the PTs you volunteer under. Good letters of recommendation are like GOLD.
  7. Get experience in different settings. Outpatient orthopedic clinics are popular locations for volunteers. That’s a good thing. Get experience there, but don’t LIMIT yourself to that location. Look for a variety of clinical settings to log some volunteer hours. Here are some settings that you may not have thought of: acute care hospitals, rehab hospitals, burn units, nursing homes, pediatric clinics, and home health agencies. The wider the variety of experience you have, the better your application looks.
  8. Get involved in on-campus clubs. Examples may include fraternities, sororities, the pre-PT club, running club, or yoga club. Whatever. Just involve yourself in campus life. PT schools want well-rounded individuals in their program. Show them you have interests outside of physical therapy.
  9. Run for leadership positions within any organization you are in. THIS can really set you apart. Run for president, vice-president, secretary or treasurer. Leadership is lacking in society as a whole, but especially in the health care industry. We need strong leadership in the physical therapy profession, and schools highly value leadership skills in their applicants.
  10. Get involved in community activities and/or charities. Do you help your local community? This is a definite plus when applying! Are you involved in your church? Do you help serve or do you just attend? Check with community organizations like the YWCA for volunteer opportunities. Local charities ALWAYS need volunteers.
  11. Don’t limit your choice of PT schools. We all have our favorites. I get it! But, PT school is highly competitive and as your grandmother would tell you, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Look into at least 20 programs before narrowing down your choices. You don’t have to apply to 20, but that will make finding your top 3 to 5 much easier.
  12. Don’t apply late in the deadline timeframe. Whatever your timeframe for applying to PT school, start NOW! Start looking at schools and write down what deadlines each school puts out. When you have everything ready, apply as soon as they allow it! Procrastinating is definitely a bad idea. PT schools are pretty strict, and they rarely make an exception for people who miss their deadlines.  Bumping up against the deadline usually means rushing, and rushing usually means mistakes.  There are simply too many applicants that are able to do it on time and mistake-free for you to not! 

Do you have any other questions on PT school applications? Get social below! Are you a PT with additional advice? Let us know!

Becoming a PT is hard work and takes years of dedication, but the end result is worth it.

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