Applying to PT school is a huge step, so you want to make sure that you are 100% prepared before you start this process! As a pre-PT I was definitely organized, but I didn’t really have a good “system” together when it came to preparing for applications. I was sort of shooting in the dark, and didn’t have much guidance. I don’t want this to be the case for you though, which is where this post comes into play! I want to save you as much time and money as possible.
Whether you are applying during your junior year of undergrad, after you’ve graduated, or after a career change, I suggest you follow these 5 steps before you begin your applications:
Step 1: Create your “applicant profile”
Making an applicant profile for yourself is the first thing that you should do before you consider applying to PT programs. In this profile you should include things like your GRE, GPA, observation hours, prospective references, prerequisite courses, achievements, etc. I wish I would have done this, but hey, at least now you are learning from my mistakes! An example of what my profile would have looked like before I applied is below:
I hope that this has given you an idea of how to fill out the profile. Of course, your profile does not have to look like mine. Every applicant is different, and this is just one example. Overall, you want your application to be well-rounded. A high GPA isn’t everything! If your GPA or GRE is weaker, obtain more observation hours or volunteer more. There are lots of ways to strengthen your application; it is not all about the “numbers”. The link to this template is below! Download it, print it, and fill that sucker out ASAP!
Step 2: Research your prospective programs
The next thing that you should do is research your prospective programs. While I only applied to one program, most applicants apply to more than one. You could apply to 5, or you could apply to 15. Every program is different, and while some requirements may overlap, others will not. This can get very confusing very quickly, and can also become overwhelming. Before deciding to apply Early Decision, I spent a lot of time going back and forth between my prospective programs’ websites. It wasn’t until maybe a month or so before applications opened that I decided to write some of this information down in a notebook. It would have been nice to have all of the information that I was constantly looking up compiled in one place earlier, but better late than never right? I want you guys to be better prepared than I was, so I have created an excel spreadsheet for you to use to organize all of this information. An example of this spreadsheet along with a link to download it will be below. I also have a post all about what factors to consider when choosing PT programs, so check that out for a more in-depth explanation of this step. For now, here is a quick overview of the types of things you should be looking at:
- Application due date
- Deadline type
- Firm? Do they have rolling admissions? Do they participate in Early Decision?
- Start Date
- Winter/spring vs. summer/fall
- GRE information
- Minimums, maximums, averages, GRE code
- GPA information
- Minimums, averages
- Reference requirements
- Number, type
- Observation hour requirements
- Number, setting requirements, recommendations
- Course prerequisite information
- Grade needed, credit hours, how retakes are considered
Also be sure to pay attention to requirements (what you need) vs. recommendations (what you should probably have). For example, a program may REQUIRE 100 observation hours, and they may RECOMMEND that you score in the 50th percentile for each GRE section. In my opinion, I would only consider programs that I meet the requirements and recommendations for.
Step 3: See how you match up
Of course it is okay to have a few “reach” schools, but you don’t want to apply to a program that you wouldn’t realistically be accepted into. If their minimum GPA is a 3.0 and yours is only a 2.8, I wouldn’t risk applying. Use the spreadsheet mentioned above to visualize how you match up to each program you are considering. As a rule of thumb, I would make sure that you meet each program’s GPA, GRE, reference, prerequisite course, and observation hour requirements. Applying without meeting these requirements could easily get your application thrown out, and we wouldn’t want that now would we? My number one tip is to be honest with yourself throughout this process. There is a school out there that will accept you.
Step 4: Consider your finances
Applying to schools can get really expensive really quickly. If you are applying through PTCAS, it will be $145 to apply to your first program and $45 for each additional program. Here is a chart that should help you figure out how much money you will spend applying through PTCAS:
PTCAS also has a Fee Assistance Program. According to their website: “A limited number of PTCAS application fee waivers are available to financially disadvantaged applicants and are granted on a first-come, first-served basis. PTCAS will decide if you qualify for a fee waiver based on your income, or your parent’s income if you are claimed as a dependent, as reported on the most recent federal income tax return. No other documentation is accepted. If you receive a fee waiver, you may apply to 1 program in PTCAS for free. If you choose to apply to more than 1 program, you will pay a fee of $45 for each additional designation. The PTCAS waiver applies to the PTCAS application fee only. You could still be responsible for supplemental application fees, regardless of your PTCAS waiver status.” After you’ve paid your PTCAS fees, some programs also have supplemental fees. As an example, my program’s supplemental fee was $50. In addition to the PTCAS and supplemental fees, you want to also consider interview travel fees (flights, hotels, gas, spending money, etc.). You should be prepared to pay the associated interview fees for every program you apply to, just in case you are offered an interview. If you are not financially ready to apply, it is okay to postpone your applications for a cycle or two. Take this time to save up, and strengthen your applicant profile.
Step 5: Tie up any “loose ends”
Lastly, make sure that you are the best applicant that you can be at the time of your application. Finish up your observation hours, take that summer class, reach out to that last reference! Like I mentioned earlier, you want to be 100% prepared before you apply. Remember that there is no rush in applying to PT school. You will get there!
Well folks, that’s all I have for you today! If you have any questions, suggestions, or requests, feel free to leave a comment, shoot me an email (email@example.com), or DM me on Instagram (@thecurlyclinician)! Also reach out if you are unsure if you are ready to apply, I’d be happy to help in any way that I can. Stay tuned for more application advice!
(I’d like to give a shoutout to Erin over at Stethoscope & Sparkle, the inspiration behind this post and the templates! She has a post similar to this for PA school, and I thought it would be a good idea to do it for PT school!)