Whether you just became interested in becoming a physical therapist or it’s been your dream to be a PT since you were a child, these tips will help you achieve your goals.
1. Keep your grades up
Physical Therapy school is so difficult to get into. If you have any spare time, check out some schools that you might be interested in the future and figure out the average GPA for accepted students. They usually range from 3.4-3.7, depending on the program. Schools will choose students that they know will succeed in their program and will pass the NPTE at the end, so your GPA is a really important factor to getting accepted to PT school. Your high school GPA does not go on PT school applications, but you do have to input the grade for every college course you’ve ever taken. No matter what career you choose to persue, it’s so much easier to get into future undergrad and graduate schools if your GPA is high.
2. Start observing early
Most schools require a certain number of hours of observation with a physical therapist, just so you can get a better idea of what their career is like and what patients you are most interested in treating in the future. It’s best to observe early to see if being a physical therapist is what you really want to persue.
You likely have plenty of time to observe, so there’s no need to rush to get all your hours done as soon as possible. Instead, try to observe in as many different settings as you can, like outpatient, inpatient, women’s health, and pediatrics. Anywhere from a few hours per week to being a full-time aide will give you a better idea about the career field. Make sure to form relationships with 1-2 physical therapists so they can write you strong recommendation letters.
For more information about observing, read my Guide to Observation Hours!
3. Speak to current physical therapists
You’re already doing that by reading blogs, and that’s really awesome! I learned so much about physical therapy by emailing or calling physical therapists and doing an informational interview. I sent out lots of emails, and was able to talk to about 10 physical therapists to learn more about their careers and how there are so many different things that physical therapists can do. Chatting with a PT for just 20 minutes can really help you decide if PT is the right job for you.
You can also reach out on twitter, facebook, or linkedin. PT’s and student PT’s are more than happy to talk to you, so don’t hesitate to start a conversation! Make sure to take a look at my list of social media that you should be following.
4. Start saving money
Everybody knows that PT school is very expensive. I ended up with 6-figures in debt upon graduation. Unfortunately, a majority of students need loans to pay for tuition and costs of living. If you have enough time before PT school begins, I recommend working and saving as much as you can.
I know that everyone always says to save money, and as a pre-PT student, I ignored that advice and didn’t much saved. I had to rely on my parents for travel expenses and living expenses, especially because my student loans did not arrive until 2 weeks AFTER school started. I regret not saving, so please try to think about ways that you can live a bit more frugally or limit your spending.
5. Volunteer for your community
Volunteering isn’t necessary to be accepted into physical therapy school, but it’s one of the most important things that everyone should do. I learned so much from volunteering as a camp counselor, at an aquatic program for children with special needs, at a wildlife rehabilitation center, and fostering kittens. Volunteering is useful for any future career, as it helps build skills like leadership, communication, teamwork, time management, and problem solving. It doesn’t matter where you volunteer, but try to leave the classroom for a little bit and make the world a better place.