Applying to PT School
Applying to PT School
12 Things You Should Know
About Physical Therapy
By Zach Hall PT, DPT
A little about me..
• I am Aaron Hall’s older brother
• I am a WSU alumni from 2008
• I just graduated from PT school
in Aug 2012 form AT Still
University in Mesa, AZ
• I am currently working for Ideal
Physical Therapy which is an
outpatient physical therapy
clinic in Phoenix, AZ
• I bleed Crimson and Grey!
1. What to focus on in undergrad to
get a PT interview?
• Every PT school is looking for different values for
the following information
– PT observation hours (usually around 100 in a variety
– Cumulative GPA
– Prerequisite GPA
– Extra circular activities (clubs, sports, volunteer, etc..)
– Reference Letters (usually 2-3 and not from Grandma)
– GRE score (BLEH!)
– Essays… (again BLEH!)
2. What do PT schools want to hear in
• About You! – This is where you get to sell yourself
to the school. You shouldn’t expect your GPA,
observation hours, etc. to automatically propel
you into school, be your own salesperson!
– Schools get thousands of applicants a year for
somewhere between 30-70 spots
• Why you are interested in their school?
• Why do you want to be a PT?
• What are your life/career goals?
3. How can I improve my chances of
getting an interview?
• Study the schools – city, history of school, history of program
• Learn about what is cool, hip and happening in the profession
– Trigger point dry needling, manipulations vs. mobilizations, evidence
based practice (hint, hint: got asked about this in my interview at
UNLV, had no idea what they were talking about, big oops!)
• Learn about the specialties of professors
– What are they researching?
– What residencies/fellowships are offered post grad by school?
(Manual, neuro, pediatrics, etc.)
– What do all those letters mean after their name? – (COMT?
FAAOMPT? CHT? ZZUCRU!)
– Most of info on this slide can be found on PT school websites, but get
ready to research
4. What do they ask in the
interview/how do I prepare!?
• They ask about you…
– What are your strengths/weaknesses as
– Why are you interested in PT?
– Why are you interested in this school?
– Why did you get such a low score in chem? On the
GRE? In Bruya’s 199 class?
Make eye contact
Practice interview questions (google some or search APTA/PTCAS)
It is okay to pause for a second to gather your thoughts
Take a deep breath (breathing is important)
If you don’t know about something they ask, don’t make a song and dance
up on the spot (they will know).
– Tell them you don’t know but go on to say how you would go about looking it
up to learn more, how you would be interested in hearing more about the
topic after your interview, what resources you could use to look up more info
on the topic. This looks way more professional than sweating, making
something up or passing out!
• Be prepared to get hammered or surprised by a question!
– Be prepared to think on your feet a little, sometimes they will ask weird
questions like if you could be any animal what animal would you be and why,
just to see how you react and how well you think on your feet (the correct
answer of course is a COUGAR!)
5. Tips for Application Process
• Hedge your bets
– Schools are very competitive
• When I applied we accepted 62 students out of about 960
applicants. In other words 6.4% of those who applied got in.
– Apply to as many as you feel you can afford or want to go
to. The application process can be very expensive!
– Get your applications in early!!!
• Some schools operate on rolling admission or rolling interview
process. In other words first come, first accepted (if you meet
– Apply to a variety of schools (in state, out of state, private)
• In state students have best chance of getting into in state schools
• Best chance of getting into school is private but watch out!... They
are also the most expensive!
6. What happens if I Don’t get in to PT
school the First time?! =(
• Don’t sweat it!
• Keep plugging away – ask the schools what areas
they would like to see your application improve in
and then get to work on improving those areas
• Get a job as a PT tech – you get get paid for
getting observation hours… best of both worlds!
• Keep in touch with the school’s admissions
office/officer – this will show the school you are
7. What is the real cost of school?
• In state tuition<out of state tuition <<private
• In state will be cheapest – EWU, and that
gross unmentionable school in
Seattle…(although not really that cheap)
• Out of state, state schools next – UNLV, NAU
• Private Schools are mucho expensive! – UPS,
– Tuition is usually between $20,000 - $45,000/ yr
7. What is the real cost of school?
• Very hard (although not impossible) to work
during PT school so don’t forget about other
– Cost of living per city (living in San Diego, although,
nice, will cost more in loans than living in Spocompton)
– Living: Food, rent, coffee, more coffee, etc.
– School: Books, lab clothes, special fees, rotation fees
– This can all add up quickly, and although loans will
cover it, remember that you have to pay it back; so
8. What types of loans are available to
• Kiss those Grants good bye – most schools and
states don’t give out grants for grad school
• These are the types of loans I was able to get,
other schools may vary (contact the financial
office of the school you are interested)
– Subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans
– Grad plus loans – majority of loan amount, usually,
higher interest rates than Stafford
– Find scholarships (again contact financial aid offices at
schools you are applying for to get help)
9. Now that I am in PT school…how
hard is it going to be?
• No lies, PT school is tough!
• But, honestly, it is not the material itself that is tough, it is
instead the amount of material you are expected to learn
that gets ya.
• Learn to love your library
– Having 2 tests per week was an easy week, it was those week
you had 5 tests and a paper due in a week that began to run up
a Starbucks bill
• PT school, to me, was much more interesting than most
undergrad classes so it made studying easier
– You finally get to study the things you are interested in, instead
of why magnets are attracted to each other or gened 110
10. What classes will I take?
• Physical therapy school prepares you to work in all
disciplines of our profession. Thus, there are many
different classes you will take, which include:
- Acute Care
- and many more!
11. What Types of tests should I
• Expect multiple choice, written, and practical tests
• I am sure you are familiar with the first two..
• Practical tests usually consist of testing your ability to
apply what you have learned into treating a real live
patient (or in most cases a patient scenario)
– These tests at my school consisted of professors acting out
real patient diagnoses and grading you on a half hour
examination, evaluation, and treatment of the patient.
– First couple will make you sweat but then you get used to
12. What are rotations?
• All PT schools are required to send students on rotations.
This is where you get your hands dirty and work under the
supervision or a licensed PT.
• You are required to complete rotations in a variety of
settings (out patient ortho, acute care, neuro rehab, inpatient rehab) so don’t expect to get them all within one
• At my school our entire 3rd year was all rotations with other
shorter rotations in the 1st and 2nd years
– Overall we had about 40-42 weeks of rotations in my 3 years.
• I believe most schools will let you do rotations in any state
Helpful PT Resources
• Here are some good websites for answers:
– That of your local PT
Thanks and Good Luck!!!
• The field of Physical Therapy is a great and
growing profession with amazing job security. It
also provides an opportunity to meet and
network with a variety of people in the
community while you provide care to those with
injuries. It is a profession that is mobile, diverse
and continuously changing.
• If you guys have anymore questions feel free to
email me at [email protected], and good luck with
the application process!
• GOOO COUGS!!!