You might already know Jasmine Marcus from her blog. She is a physical therapist who graduated from Columbia University in 2015, and has written several guest posts on New Grad Physical Therapy. I started reading her blog when I was an undergraduate student and was still figuring out what career I wanted to pursue. I’ve learned so much from her, and she was an inspiration for starting my own blog.
I can relate to this post so much because I used to stress WAY too much about getting A’s in PT school. I knew that it didn’t matter, but I wanted to excel in grad school because I wasn’t proud of my undergrad GPA and I also really wanted to be competitive for a TA or GA position through my program. Once I earned several B’s, I started to snap out of my unhealthy mindset and realized that there were so many more important things that I should have been focusing on throughout my entire first year.
I really hope that you take the advice that Jasmine has thoughtfully written, and make sure to head over to her blog for other great posts!
From following Katie’s blog throughout her time in PT school, I can tell that she usually gets great grades. And while that is great for Katie, I wanted to use my guest post to provide a different viewpoint on grades: while it is great to have top grades in PT school, it isn’t actually that important. The most important part of PT school is learning and gaining experience in the clinic.
You can learn a lot and be an amazing future-physical therapist without getting 100 an every test. Most tests in most physical therapy programs are multiple-choice in order to prepare students to take the boards. And while choosing between A, B, C or D is great prep for the NPTE, it has almost zero correlation to what it is like to work as a physical therapist. You can learn all the right information and be ready to apply it in the real world, but get tripped up by a tricky multiple-choice question. My professors constantly told me in my first year of graduate school how good I was at choosing the second best answer on the test. They could tell I understood the material and I was able to explain my thinking correctly, but unfortunately this lead to more B’s than I ever wanted to see.
More important than my test grades, were my stellar performances on practicals and my rave reviews during clinical experiences. These are what made me feel prepared to actually work.
Not to mention there is little practical use for good grades in the real world. My employers never asked about them, and it would be ridiculous to bring it up in conversation with a patient. It’s not like you walk into the room to introduce yourself and add in, “By the way, I got all A’s in physical therapy school!” Instead your patients will judge you based on your bedside manner, knowledge, confidence, and a host of other characteristics. They care about the results they’re getting, not the grade you earned in neuroanatomy several years ago.
There are a few caveats to this attitude, however. It is important to get great grades in high school and as an undergraduate so that you can get into a great college and graduate program, respectively. It is also important to keep your grades in the passing range during PT school. In my program, the cutoff was 70, and several people failed out for falling beneath this floor. Additionally you need to check to see how your GPA affects your tuition. By keeping my grades above a certain level, I saved a few thousand dollars each semester by earning a merit scholarship.
But beyond these exceptions, stressing about grades is missing the point. PT school is about learning new things and building relationships, not torturing yourself in the library to get an A+.