9 Ways To Get A Head Start On Your Physical Therapy School Application

If you're planning to apply to physical therapy school in the future, here are some helpful tips on some things you can start doing to get a head start on your physical therapy school application:

As a first time physical therapy school applicant:

1. Start to look up programs

Come up with a list of “realistic schools” (schools that your GPA, GRE, and observation hours etc. align with their minimums) that you can apply to. Research the heck out of each program: look at class size, location, cost, clinical affiliations, everything about that program! If you don't meet the minimum requirements for a PT program, don't waste your money or time applying.  Most of the time, if you don't meet the minimum requirements, the school won’t look at your physical therapy application.

If there's a PT program that you meet the bare minimum requirements and want to apply to, go for it! Just be aware that there may be other competitive applicants that have higher "statistics" than you do. It never hurts to reach out to the program specifically, or any current students, to ask what their "typical" applicant looks like. 


2. Reach out to the admissions department of the PT programs you're applying to

Put your name out there- that's what they're there for. If you admire a professor and their work, ask the program how that professor responds to receiving emails from potential students. Some admissions committees are willing to give out that information and some may not. In the end, it is always nice to have someone on the inside of a program that knows your name and what great of a person and student you are. It helps them see what type of addition you would be to their program.

3. Make sure you have observation hours in the outpatient and inpatient settings

It's NEVER too early to start observation hours. Don’t wait for the last minute to gain some in various areas it’ll be hard to do it all and get a solid letter of recommendation from a physical therapist. If you do start early, make sure to get the information of the PT you are shadowing. I would get their email, phone number, and document all the times you went. This will be helpful to you when you contact them down the road to verify your hours. Look into different clinics in your area! Some specific populations you can observe: orthopedics, pediatrics, geriatrics, neuro, vestibular, wound care, skilled nursing, acute care, etc. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there! 

4. Letters of recommendation

Ask physical therapists, academic advisors, or whoever you would like to write you a  letter of recommendation know that you are thinking of applying to PT school. Ask if they would be okay with writing you one, and let them know that you will be contacting them in a few months when the application opens up. This just gives them a heads up way in advance so that you don’t have any issues finding letters of recommendation! For more information on how to ask for a physical therapy school letter of recommendation, check out this blog we wrote on it.

5. Community service

Get some community service under your belt and look for different opportunities in the area you live in. Reading to younger children, working at the food pantry, packaging food for a shelter, participating in garbage clean up, mentoring a child, any little thing that you do in your community will help big time! If you have the time, it will make you stand out on your application. 

6. Get involved in a club/organization

Be involved at school! It shows the physical therapy programs that you can handle a heavy course load, your interests, and other responsibilities. Physical therapy school is not easy by any means- they want to see that you can juggle multiple things. You can use the experiences you've had in your interviews too! If you were a student-athlete, make sure you put that on your application!

7. Work as a physical therapy aide/technician

This would be an awesome opportunity for you to gain invaluable knowledge in the field of physical therapy and make some money on the side! You'll be able to work directly with patients and physical therapists in an outpatient or inpatient setting. You can have the opportunity to lead patients through exercises, help administer modality treatments, and so much more. You will have a glimpse of what it's like to be a physical therapist and this will help you tremendously when you are in PT school. 

8. GRE

The white elephant in the room. Though the GRE may not be your favorite, you do need to take it in order to get into physical therapy school (however, there are a select few schools that do not require the GRE to apply to their program). You might have to take the test multiple times depending on if you get the score you wanted or not. We always suggest spending at least 8 weeks studying prior to taking the GRE. You can use Magoosh, Manhattan Prep, Kaplan, and other services to help you study. If you want to know how to CRUSH the GRE, check out this video on our YouTube channel! If you want some guidance after you've either received a 'good' or 'bad' score on the GRE, check out this video.

9. Start looking at essays

Once you have a solid list of schools you want to apply to, start to look and see if those programs have any supplemental essays you will need to write. You can get organized and start a Google Doc of the essay prompts for those schools and begin to brainstorm. You'll be putting yourself ahead of other applicants who most likely wait until the cycle opens to start their essay prompts!

With regards to the PCTAS essay, that prompt may change from year to year. We don't really know if it'll be the same prompt as the year before, but there's always a chance it will be. Usually at the end of spring/beginning of summer, there are rumors floating around online of what the prompt will actually be.

We hope this helps! Take some advice from these tips and you will be putting yourself in the best position to get into PT school!


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