My Pre-PT Story and What I Would Have Done Differently

It was a couple days before I started my first day of PT school. I was standing in our school’s parking lot looking up at the Wasatch Mountain range just a mile from where I was standing. It was quite magnificent for a Midwest girl who had just moved west for the first time. My dad had just called and during the conversation he asked, “Now Kristen you ARE 100% sure this IS what you want to do, right? You know that’s a lot of debt you’re going to accrue, I just want to make sure before you go into it.” 

“Yes dad, of course, this is what I want to do!” I remember this moment so vividly, answering that question with a positive “yes!” but actually thinking “I’m not 100% sure but I just feel it’s going to to get me where I want to go.” 

As a high schooler I thought I had to have my whole life figured out at age 16, and when I was a junior in high school I decided I wanted to be a physical therapist. So that’s what I set out to do once I started college. I decided on pursuing PT through an undergraduate degree in exercise science.  

Everything I did in college was geared towards getting INTO PT school: get the grades, do the observation hours, take the right classes, take the GRE,  and complete the applications. I remember a couple of the PTs I shadowed for my observation hours being frustrated with their job (most specifically the paperwork and the time they were working overtime unpaid everyday) and I also remember thinking the days I spent in the general outpatient clinic I was shadowing at were quite boring *yawn. But, my optimistic 20 year old self just thought quite confidently that that would never be me! I won’t get frustrated with paperwork, I’ll just get it done, and I’m not going to work in a clinic like this anyways, I’m going to work with athletes because I am one and I understand what they need!

I grew up playing softball, basketball, and soccer. Athletics were my life. I ended up running cross country and track in high school just because I needed a fall season sport and thought it’d be a great way to stay in shape. I ended up falling in love with running and went on to run cross country and track in college as well. I loved every moment of college athletics and towards the end I had small thoughts here and there that it would be awesome to coach cross country and track at the collegiate level. 

You know that question that gets asked at some point - “If money weren’t an issue what would you do for a living?” or “What is something you could do every day that wouldn’t feel like work?” Yeah, my answer to that wasn’t physical therapy but it was to COACH cross country and track. But being a coach didn’t pay what I thought I wanted to make so I quickly dismissed that thinking and thought I’d just help coach some day.  

Fast forward to my first few years as a PT and I realized what I thought I’d be doing as a PT and my life and the enjoyment of my life was FAR from what I expected it to be. As I mentioned above - the optimistic pre-PT Kristen thought she’d work primarily with athletes in the clinic one day. But I was just seeing a general outpatient population in a smaller town in ND where I was living and I had no time or energy to do any coaching like I thought I’d be able to do. Outside of opening up my own clinic or doing something on my own my options for working with more athletes let alone runners was quite limited. And I was realizing that JUST taking a 40 hour per week job was not even enough to make a student loan payment that would pay off my loans in ten years.

I knew I wanted something more but to be honest at the time I didn’t know exactly WHAT. I started doing some online health coaching while working full time. But at that time I didn’t really know what I was doing, I hadn’t niched down WHO I wanted to help, AND I didn’t have a mentor to look up to. 

I tell you all this so far so I can bring you to where I am TODAY and so I can share with you what I would have done DIFFERENTLY while I was still in school if I knew what I know today. 

TODAY I am creating an online business where I help runners go from injured to PR without nagging injuries. I provide coaching, strength training, nutrition, rehab, and injury prevention advice all online to help other runners achieve their running goals! I’ve found a mentor who’s life is one I aspire to and I have niched down who I want to help. In the process of creating this online business I am also working a combination of PRN and taking travel assignments as needed. I have goals of providing mobile cash based PT services one day, but I am taking it one step at a time. I am working WITHIN my passion and I have never felt more fulfilled as a PT. 

"The people you surround yourself with on a daily basis will have a much greater impact on your life’s projection than on anything you learn in school!"

I wanted to share ALL that because when I look back on when I was a pre-PT and then as a PT student, I KNOW there are some things I would have done differently had I KNOWN what I know now and I wanted to share them below:

  1. I would have spent time as a pre-PT shadowing and/or talking to MORE PTs. I would have looked for a couple PTs that I really aspired to be like one day. Like REALLY aspired to be like - what does their lifestyle look like, their family life, their professional life? And is their whole life a life I aspire to lead? Not just their professional life. Then I would have asked them how they got where they are today.
  2.  I would have done a better job to understand the financial implications paying for PT school would have. I worked throughout PT school (even though many advised not to) and was quite frugal with my money but that did little to make a dent in the loans I’d have coming out of school. If I could rewind time I would have created something that would have created financial benefits even after I graduated to help me pay for my student loans after graduating. Something like an online business or agency! Obviously I couldn’t work as a PT yet but I could have used my background in exercise science and running to help coach runners online OR I could have created an online strength training platform OR I could have learned a couple new skills and helped other PTs promote their business online. These are just a couple ideas. You likely have different experiences and backgrounds that have shaped your life so far and I have no doubt there is a way you could use these talents to help others and in the process increase your finances as a pre-PT and then PT student
  3. This one’s important - I wouldn’t have been scared to share my true passions and WHO I really wanted to help!! I always knew I wanted to help runners once I became a PT but didn’t talk about it as much in fear of being told that wasn’t possible. In the age of technology I truly believe you can work with WHOEVER you want to as long as you have the right tools and resources. If you don’t know who you want to help yet - don’t worry! Your greatest passions often come from your greatest pain points/struggles.  

Lastly, this isn’t something I would have done differently but I wanted to end this post by encouraging you to surround yourself around like minded individuals! No, I don’t mean you have to agree on everything, but surround yourself around people who lift you up and support your dreams and aspirations. The people you surround yourself with on a daily basis will have a much greater impact on your life’s projection than on anything you learn in school!  

I hope this has helped in one way or another. You can also reach out to me via email at [email protected]. Thank you for reading!!

-Dr. Kristen Schulz



Thank You For Your Attention!

As always, please feel free to Contact Us at and ask us any questions! We are here to serve YOU!



How We Serve You!

Our Pre-PT success course helps passionate Pre-PTs gain clarity, direction, and confidence when applying to PT school without wasting time or money.


We have the #1 online course for all Pre-PTs. What would it be like to have everything mapped out for you on your PT Journey? Our all in one exclusive lifetime program covers everything from PTCAS to Finances to low GPA's and more! This course includes over 60 lessons with a private facebook group of winning Pre-PTs, SPTs & DPT mentors taking you through our program every step of the way.. We have everything you need to know in order to SET YOURSELF APART as a winning Pre-PT student.


The Mini Course to Get You Into PT School!

What's Inside the Kickstarter Mini Course?

15 video lessons to kickstart your application process! Cover the basic essentials to set yourself apart and make yourself stand out! Kickstart your application & Get Accepted!



We currently are editing PTCAS and supplemental essays for this application cycle! If you are interested in having your essay read and edited, email us at [email protected] and we will give you more information on this process!

Free Content!

Put your anxiety at EASE. Understand your next moves in your Pre-PT Grind and DOMINATE this application cycle! Check your worries at the door with this checklist and GET INTO PT SCHOOL this cycle! Click here to get your FREE checklist!

Are you interested in learning the Top 10 Things that will help you WIN as a Pre-PT and set yourself apart from other DPT school applicants? Click here for a FREE Cheat Sheet!

We also have a FREE E-book of the Top 10 Tips to get into Physical Therapy School! Click here for the FREE 10 tips!

Pre-PT Grind Podcast: Experience is the best teacher, preferably the experiences of others. A weekly audio experience to serve you on the go. Listen to the Pre-PT Grind Podcast on iTunes & Libsyn.


Pre-PT Grind Store!

Ready to ROCK OUT some awesome Pre-PT Grind Merch to all of your friends? Head over to the Pre-PT Grind store to pick up t-shirts, crewnecks, and sweatshirts! Click here to get access to the store!




Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.


50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.