How to Build an Admissions Profile for Physical Therapy
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Elias Miller in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
In this post, we discuss how students pursuing physical therapy can build a strong admissions profile.
Classes and Extracurriculars
To set yourself up to be the best possible physical therapist, you’ll want to focus on STEM courses in high school, particularly ones that focus on science and the human body. Anatomy, lab science, and life science classes will help you build an admissions profile that signals your interest in the medical field.
Extracurriculars are also crucial aspects of your admissions profile. Volunteering at a hospital or clinic, shadowing a physical therapist, or participating in medical research are great ways to get hands-on experience in the medical field while you’re still in high school. You can also join Health Occupation Students of America to start learning more about the medical industry.
It’s not common to get a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy; students pursuing a career in physical therapy typically plan to earn a doctorate. Your high school classes and extracurriculars should reflect that interest as you apply for a relevant undergraduate major. If you can build a strong admissions profile, you can get into excellent undergrad programs in exercise science, kinesiology, or other relevant disciplines.
Students pursuing physical therapy should consider taking SAT IIs in STEM subjects like biology, chemistry, and physics, as well as the Math II subject test.
It should be noted that subject tests are optional aspects of the admissions process at almost all schools, and their importance has decreased in college admissions over the last 15 years. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take them, especially if you feel good about your SAT or ACT performance. A high score on a subject test can help your application stand out among others.
As a physical therapy student, you should include several components in your application essays. Supplemental essays are great opportunities for you to explain your interest in physical therapy, as they often ask you to expand on why you want to attend a particular school or what draws you to a specific career path.
Begin these essays by explaining the high-level interest that influenced your decision, such as a particular science or an aspect of anatomy. You can then talk about your interest in helping others or any personal experiences with physical therapy that may have contributed to your career plans. Finally, wrap up a supplemental essay by explaining your goals: what you hope to earn your degree in, the subfields of physical therapy in which you may want to specialize, and any other specifics of your intended career path.
Schools to Consider
The best schools for studying physical therapy include the University of Delaware, the University of Pittsburgh, and Washington University in St. Louis. These three schools have excellent pre-physical therapy tracks. Others with great programs include Northwestern University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Southern California.
If you are set on physical therapy as a career, you may consider schools with high-level, pre-physical therapy (pre-PT) tracks, but keep in mind that you don’t need to attend a pre-PT program to become a physical therapist. Any school with a strong STEM program, of which there are many, will provide excellent preparation for a physical therapy career. Ultimately, your doctorate degree will matter more than your bachelor’s.
If you’re curious about your chances of getting into these schools or any others, you can use CollegeVine’s refined chancing tool to search for colleges using your own background information, including GPA, extracurricular activities, and awards. You’ll receive estimates of your chances of admission at hundreds of schools across the country.