Tips for a Competitive Application for PT School

Are you interested in becoming a physical therapist?  Physical therapy (PT) is one of the fastest growing professions in the country, and as a result, the number of applications to PT schools have skyrocketed.  Are there ways to make your application stand out from the crowd?  The answer is YES!  Here are some tips that can help you be more competitive in the application process.

Make good grades (obviously!)

Your GPA must be competitive – if you barely meet the minimum requirement for GPA, your application will likely be passed over.  Why?  Research has shown that your undergraduate GPA, particularly your science GPA, is a predictor of how successful you will be in PT School.  Use smart study strategies, such as recording and reviewing lectures, asking questions in class, study groups, etc. to maintain a high GPA. And if you need help in a class, get help through tutoring or other services offered through the university.

Make a positive impression on your professors

Making a positive impression on your professors is important because you will be asking at least one of them to write a letter of recommendation for PT school.  How can you make a positive impression?  It’s really pretty simple:

  • DO: show an interest in class, ask relevant questions, meet with the professor outside of class, volunteer to help when needed, make sure everything that you turn in meets or exceeds expectations
  • DON’T: fall asleep in class, skip class, turn in late or incomplete assignments, carry on side conversations during class, do the least work possible just to get by

Letters of recommendation that contain specific information and reflect a positive impression of a student are much stronger than letters that seem generic and reflect a neutral or negative impression.

Make a positive impression on professionals when volunteering

Most PT schools require volunteer or observation hours in a PT clinic as part of the application process.  When volunteering or observing, you need to make a positive impression on the PTs in the clinic.  You will likely ask one of the PTs to write a letter of recommendation, so you want to be remembered in a good way.  How can you make a positive impression?  Again, it’s pretty simple:

  • DO: show up early, ask relevant questions when appropriate, show an interest in what the PT is doing, dress professionally, offer to help whenever you see a need, smile and be friendly
  • DON’T: show up on time or late, fail to show up when scheduled, look bored or uninterested, dress inappropriately, sit around waiting for someone to ask you to help

Letters of recommendation from a PT can have a big impact on an application, so make sure the folks in the clinic remember you in a good way.  A neutral or negative letter will likely have a negative impact on your application.

Demonstrate compassion for others

Physical therapy is a profession that helps others, so showing compassion through activities such as community service/volunteering can indicate that you would be a good fit for the profession.  Many PT schools are taking a more well-rounded approach to admissions, which means that factors other than grades are considered.  Your resume should reflect a commitment to service/volunteer activities rather than an occasional day of volunteering here and there.

If you are interested in becoming a physical therapist, feel free to stop by and visit with one of the professors in the UMHB Doctor of Physical Therapy Program.  We are always happy to talk about the profession and encourage future PTs!
Dr. Barbara Gresham

Dr. Barbara Gresham

Dr. Barbara Gresham, PT, PhD is Associate Professor and Director of the developing Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at UMHB.  She earned her physical therapy degree at UT Southwestern in Dallas and completed her PhD in Physical Therapy at Texas Woman’s University in Dallas.
Dr. Barbara Gresham

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Dr. Barbara Gresham

About Dr. Barbara Gresham

Dr. Barbara Gresham, PT, PhD is Associate Professor and Director of the developing Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at UMHB.  She earned her physical therapy degree at UT Southwestern in Dallas and completed her PhD in Physical Therapy at Texas Woman’s University in Dallas.