It’s Tuesday, so you know what that means: newpost! I feel like Friday’s post was a good “segway” into today’s post, as observation hours usually lead to at least one recommendation letter. Like the previous post, I am going to give a general overview of recommendation letters, share my personal experience, + share a few tips!
What is a recommendation letter?
A letter of recommendation (LOR)/reference is written by someone who can vouch for your skills, achievements, work, and/or academic performance. They are recommending you for the DPT program, and stating that they are confident that you will succeed as a student and eventually as a physical therapist.
Recommendation letter requirements (number and evaluators) vary across DPT programs, so check with your prospective programs to make sure you receive the correct types. Common evaluator types include:
- Physical Therapists (most programs will require a letter from at least one that you’ve shadowed)
- Physical Therapy Assistants
- Professors/Teaching Assistants
- Healthcare Professionals
PTCAS Reference Process
For PTCAS applications, you can enter up to 4 evaluators, and there are 2 parts to the reference process. For part I, the evaluator responds to the following questions through PTCAS:
- How long have you known the applicant?
- How well do you know the applicant?
- Select the role that best describes your primary interaction with the applicant.
- If you selected “Instructor/Professor” above, list all courses in which you have had the applicant.
- Approximately how many references do you submit on behalf of physical therapy applicants each year?
- Are you a licensed physical therapist?
- If you are a physical therapist, please indicate the physical therapy institution from which you graduated.
- If you are a physical therapist, please indicate the state in which you are licensed.
- If you are a physical therapist, please enter your PT licensure number.
- Evaluation Ratings (5 = Excellent, 1 = Poor)
- Overall Recommendation (select one)
For part II, the evaluator uploads a letter of recommendation (that they personally write on institutional/organizational letterhead) via PTCAS.
Before you submit the reference request through PTCAS, you are required to indicate whether or not you want to waive your right to inspect or review the letter. Programs may view references as more honest if you waive your right to see them. More information about this is on the PTCAS site.
For my program, I had to have one recommendation letter from a professor, one from a physical therapist I shadowed, and another from a person of my choice. I ended up having 2 letters from DPT alums of my program, + a letter from my favorite professor, who was also the dean of my major’s undergraduate studies. I believe having recommendation letters from program graduates made me more “credible”. Of course, every program values the opinions of its past students, so it was a good move to have two alums recommending me for the program.
I contacted my evaluators in advance to confirm that they would be willing to write me a letter. This is important, because you want to give your evaluators enough time to actually write good letters. Letting the evaluator know in advance allows them to think about what they want to say, + maybe even start on the letter early. As soon as the application cycle opened, I emailed my evaluators to let them know that I was sending the reference request through PTCAS. I also let them know my program’s deadline. In this email, I included my resume, my PTCAS essay, and my program’s supplemental essays, so that my evaluators had most of my accomplishments and experiences right in front of them.
- Request letters of recommendation EARLY! You don’t want a rushed letter, so be proactive, and don’t wait till the last minute to ask.
- Only request letters of recommendation from evaluators that you believe will speak highly of you (obviously!). The worst thing you could do is have a negative recommendation letter, so be sure that you have formed a good relationship with the evaluator. Don’t just ask anyone for a letter. For example, if you weren’t that attentive during one of your shadowing experiences, it would probably be best to avoid asking any of the therapists from that setting to write you a letter.
- When asking for the recommendation, make sure that you specify that you want a strong and personalized letter. A generic letter is almost as bad a negative letter, so make sure you are upfront about what you want from the evaluator. These letters could definitely make or break your PT application, and you want your evaluators to present you in a positive light. If there are any skills, qualities, or accomplishments you want them to highlight, let them know! This is about you, so do whatever you can to make sure that they will write you a great letter! I would make sure to at least send them your resume or curriculum vitae (CV), and also let them know how you decided that you wanted to become a PT, + your future career goals.
- Keep the contact information of the people you think you’d want to write you a recommendation letter, as you will have to eventually enter this information into PTCAS.
- Try to have someone connected to the DPT program write you a recommendation letter (graduates, faculty, etc.) if possible.
- Have patience, but don’t be afraid to remind your evaluators if they forget to complete your recommendation letter. They have lives as well (+ are probably really busy), and sometimes things happen!
I hope that this post was helpful! On Friday, I will tackle the GRE, so I hope you come back to check that out! Make sure that you are on my mailing list (you can sign up below) so that you never miss a post!
Thanks for reading, and I am grateful for everyone that has been keeping up with this series!