Applying to Physical Therapy Schools

It’s about time for the PTCAS cycle to open again and I decided to make an in-depth post about my application process. Hopefully this can help anyone who’s planning on applying soon.

Because I graduated with a different major, I had to take a gap year in order to fulfill all my science pre-requisites as well as improve my qualifications for this field. It sure was a stressful period for me since I didn’t feel qualified enough as others who had been preparing to apply for years. I guess I can say that as long as you do your best and work hard on the application, nothing is impossible.

PTCAS – If I didn’t forget, PTCAS cycle opens sometime around June/July. Make sure to get started with the application early. Go to the website here and check their program prerequisites and school lists. Most of the schools use PTCAS as their primary source of application, but there will definitely be schools that require an individual application not based on PTCAS (i.e. University of Minnesota). Other schools will have supplemental essays required on PTCAS. In order to be better prepared, get familiar with the application and supplemental questions. There will be a main essay required to be written on PTCAS – question can be related to your passion, movement rehabilitation, etc).

PRE-REQUISITES – I took a total of 8 courses at a community college to get all my pre-requisites finished on time while working part-time and volunteering at physical therapy facilities. Keep in mind that there will be some schools that won’t allow courses to be taken at a community college. Schools will also vary in their requirements, but most of the required pre-physical therapy courses include the following:

  • Anatomy and Physiology I +II
  • Biology I + II
  • Chemistry I + II
  • Physics I + II
  • Psychology
  • Statistics
  • Calculus

Make sure to research the schools before in order to ensure that you have all the requirements fulfilled. I know that some of the schools will require some courses not included, such as Advanced Biology or Medical Terminology (i.e. Columbia University). So.. DO YOUR RESEARCH. Research is KEY.

GRESome schools won’t require GRE, but most of them do. If possible, study and get over with the GRE ahead of time. There are a lot of online resources and practice tests that you can use, as well as books (I usually used Kaplan). I took my first GRE as an undergraduate junior and went on to attempt 2 more times after I graduated. Schools will not look at your best scores separately – they will look at one test as a whole. Most of them will require a minimum of 50th percentile for each section (i.e. 151 Verbal, 151 Quantitative, 4.0 Analytical) but it’s definitely better to get past that score. Patience is key when focusing on the GRE – it’s a very long test that requires you to sit in front of the computer for 4 hours. Practice on the time you’re planning on taking the test. For example, if you’re taking the GRE at 9am, wake up everyday at 9am and do a practice test. Helps to get your brain used to the cycle.

VOLUNTEER HOURS – Schools will vary in their volunteer requirements – settings, hours, paid/unpaid, etc. Aim to get at least 3 different settings and anywhere past 100 hours of volunteer. Accumulating a lot of hours could help, but it definitely won’t if all of those hours are from a single place. Switch it up and get at least 10-30 hours from different places, be it outpatient, inpatient, home based, etc. Outpatient facilities are definitely easier to visit – give them a call or go in-person and inquire about volunteer opportunities. In-patient facilities are definitely harder – some hospitals have a very long application process due to security, so make sure to apply ahead of time (I’d say about 1-2 months). Also, make sure to check if schools accept paid opportunities as volunteer hours in the application.

EXTRA CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES –  This will be a good opportunity to provide the admission officers with a glimpse of your everyday life. Show how you deal with leadership, social life, and engagement outside of school. Participate in club activities, create events for school, start fundraisers, get elected in the eboard, volunteer and go on missions trips, participate in intramural sports. Show that you are able to juggle academics while being active in other areas of life.

GPA – There is not a “perfect GPA” that schools will require, but I do recommend a minimum of 3.5 GPA. Of course, admission officers do not only focus on the GPA – they will look at your application as a whole. There will be schools that will have a lower GPA requirement, but having a good GPA will definitely boost the application.

RECOMMENDATION LETTERS – Building relationships with professors and physical therapists is crucial. Make sure to ask for recommendation letters from people who have known you for a long time (or at least know you very well). Schools also vary in the requirements for recommendation letters – I recommend getting two from physical therapists and a professor who can be indicative of how you excelled in school.

Take a look at the pre-physical therapy forum at StudentDoctor HERE to find out more about past physical therapy student acceptances. Most importantly, do not ever underestimate your ability to get accepted to a school. If you get rejected to one, it won’t mean you’ll get to rejected to all of the others. Schools will have different ways of assessing an application and this does not define your capability as a future physical therapist in any way.

Good luck! 🙂


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