What To Consider When Choosing A Physical Therapy School

In a way, it's kind of exciting when PTCAS gets closer to opening. The list of schools  where you might want to apply is becoming finalized, you're adding programs as you go, and you begin to envision where you could see yourself living and going to study everything about physical therapy for the next few years. Those are great times, but what if you don’t know where you would like to go to physical therapy school? What should you really consider when choosing a physical therapy school? vYou know that PT is what you want to do, but don’t know how to decide which program is right for you. It's my hope that this blog can help you as I give you three things to consider when deciding which program is the right fit for you.

Besides the basics of NPTE pass rates, cost and percentage of students who find jobs within 6 months of graduation, let's talk about other things you might consider when deciding on which physical therapy school is best for you. Don't get me wrong, those things are important, but at the end of the day, physical therapy schools are supposed to make sure you are ready to enter the workforce. So, let us assume that every program will offer those things, and if they don’t then there are bigger problems we can talk about later. Based on my experience, I think that location, networking, and faculty are important things you should consider when choosing a PT school. 


I was born and raised in the biggest state in the United States, not Texas or California, but Alaska. It's great here if you like the outdoors, snow and the beautiful northern lights. But unfortunately, there is a PTA program but no DPT programs in Alaska. When I was applying, I knew I was going to have to leave the state. I asked myself, "where would I like to be?" I wanted something different than what I had experienced in Alaska. I want to live in a big city, a warmer climate, and have the ability to drive and explore other states instead of driving 300 miles and still being the same state. So what I did was identify states I could see myself living in and apply to schools in the area. Is that a risk? Yes, because I could have been narrowing down my options quite a bit by using location as a criteria and missed out on a potential good fit for me. But it was something I was willing to try because I had never really experienced life outside of Alaska for a significant amount of time and this was going to be my first time being able to do that. It was important for me to try something different because I needed to figure out where I would see myself living once I am out of PT school. It could be back in Alaska, but it also could be in another state and I owed it to myself to give it a try even though it is scary to think about. 


This was so important for my process. Living all the way in Alaska, I wasn’t able to attend physical therapy school open houses and talk to faculty and current students in person. So I had to use the next best thing- emails. I emailed programs with a list of questions I wanted answered. Not just about things that could be found on their website, but thoughtful, open ended questions that would require more than a simple yes or no response. I was just trying to get as much information as I could from programs without physically being there. The programs are usually really good at responding to emails, especially questions because they want you to feel comfortable enough to trust their program and apply there once the application cycle opens. Use that knowledge to ask any and every question you may have. If you have a bad feeling about an interaction or response, trust your gut, it's not usually wrong. 

I also searched for specific programs that I was interested in on Facebook and Twitter to see if there were groups or students on there that I could message about the program they attend or attended. People are usually really eager to respond if they see you are interested and will more than likely tell you the truth about their experiences at their respective programs. Use all your resources to help gauge the information you are getting. The research you have done and what faculty and students are saying will help you make the best decision for yourself. If you get invited for an interview, you can name drop and talk about what you learned from whoever you were able to talk to and hopefully you get to meet those people in person and build genuine relationships.


Once you get accepted into physical therapy school and decide to commit, you will most likely be spending 2-3 years in that program. Your learning will be enhanced by your new professors, many of which have years of experience in the physical therapy field. Figure out if there are professors who specialize in an area you are interested in, whether it is sports, cardiopulmonary, pediatrics, geriatrics, neuro, or whatever it may be. Check and see if your prospective programs have faculty that specialize in the field you are interested in. Shoot them an email and show your interest in what they do. People like to talk about themselves, especially if they are considered experts in a certain field. But do your homework. Read up on research articles they have wrote, projects they have completed, podcasts they have appeared on, or anything else about them that stands out. Pick something that you have genuine interest in that the professor has been a part of. Not only will you get to learn more about the topic, but the professor will probably remember you down the road if they come across your application. This is ALL about building relationships early and showing genuine interest.

There are so many things that go into deciding which physical therapy school is best for you. I found in my experience that location, networking and faculty I might be exposed to were the most important factors in my decision. If I had found that NPTE pass rates were low or the school wasn’t accredited, I would have had further follow up questions and it would definitely weigh in my decision. But if those pass rates and accreditation status weren't issues, I would have to look at what would make me happiest and where I could gain the greatest experience over the next three years. If cost came into the equation and I really enjoyed the school and thought I would get the best experience, I would make it happen. I would look for scholarships, side hustles, jobs, or anything that would be needed to try and reduce those loans. 

Pre-PT Grind took care of me and educated me on the process of applying and how to pick the right program for me. Shoot them a message at www.contactpreptgrind.com and see how they can help you on your journey. It will be a message that you will be happy you sent.


- Farimang Touray Jr.



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