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Are You Trying to Get Into Physical Therapy School?

Tips on Getting into Physical Therapy School

Getting accepted into physical therapy school is difficult. There are numerous ways to improve your chances, and I will go through a list of things you can start doing right now to increase your attractiveness to the school of your choice.

My Story: Why Should You Listen to Me

When I made the decision to go back to school, I knew I had to make myself stand out from the crowd.

I became obsessed with the process. I looked up every forum, internet site, and book on the subject. But I found more questions than answers.

Nothing told me how to prepare, or how to separate myself from the huge applicant pool. (The year I applied there were around 800 people competing for 50 spots. With the advent of PTCAS, the competition will get more intense—I will explain PTCAS later.) It was not clear what schools look for in applicants. I could not believe it was just grades.

So I thought about the people I had to impress to get accepted, which led me to do several things like reading anything that seemed pertinent.

I was told by one interviewer that I had one of the most impressive resumes he had seen, and I was accepted everywhere I applied, which gave me the chance to choose the school that fit me best.

And I attribute all of this to the work I put into learning about the process and my preparation for the interview. I believe anyone can experience that same results, but it does take quite a bit of work.

If you are interested, I wrote my thoughts on the whole application process below. I am not saying your path will mirror mine, but reviewing this article and the sites listed will help you start.

Here is an outline to follow (I will go into more detail about each point below):

  • Volunteer at a physical therapy clinic and decide if it is really what you want
  • Visit the PTCAS website and print out the prerequisite classes
  • Make a list of the schools you are interested in and investigate the faculty
  • Read texts and articles about the profession
  • Read interesting books that will improve your knowledge base

If you want to contact me, send me a message at Smith Performance Center

Do You Really Want to Go to Physical Therapy School?

Ask yourself if you actually want to go to physical therapy school. Since I started doing my own blog, I have been asked quite a bit if I think someone would get into school with their current resume and stats.

My first question back is simple: "Why do you want to be in physical therapy?"

If you cannot answer this question, then I think volunteering at a clinic or hospital will be the best way to begin improving your resume and allow you to answer the question confidently.

I hated trying to find a place to volunteer, but this is incredibly important. If you have previous experience at a clinic for rehab and enjoyed the process, then I would try that place first. Otherwise, get on the internet and research a couple therapy clinics in the area.

The hardest part is calling and putting yourself out there, but it is critical. Volunteer at several places then select the one you like the best and put in the hours until you know if you can see yourself in this profession. My strong suggestion is to do more than the minimum. If you show dedication, you can likely leverage it into a paying job.

The Basics: The Requirements That Must Be Met

When you apply to school, there are certain requirements every school has that must be met before you are even considered a 'real' applicant. If you don't have these requirements it is basically impossible to go where you want because this the first way for the schools to eliminate applicants.

1. Get Your Core PT Prerequisites

You have to take these classes and hopefully do well in them.

The high number of applicants does not allow for you to have a bad grade because this is where schools cull first. When schools begin to interview they need to cut down the invited people to a manageable number. So here is the first hurdle you must clear.

In my opinion, you need your grade average to be higher than the minimum accepted by the school which tends to be around a 3.0.

  • Anatomy / A&P I with Lab
  • Physiology/ A&P II with Lab
  • Behavioral Sciences I
  • Behavioral Sciences II
  • Biology I with Lab
  • Biology II with Lab
  • Chemistry I with Lab
  • Chemistry II with Lab
  • Physics I with Lab
  • Physics II with Lab
  • Statistics

2. Graduate Record Examination (GRE): Know the Minimum Score and Take it Early

Ah yes, the GRE. It was not fun for me. I was working full time, taking a prerequisite class (my adviser advised me to not take it several years earlier, but she was wrong), and reading everything I could find on the subject of physical therapy.

I decided to find out what score I needed. The school I ended up going to required a minimum Verbal Score of 440, Quantitative 550, and Analytical Writing of 2.5 (this was before the score change on August 1st, 2011, so you may have a different set of numbers. I will address this below). The averages of incoming students were much higher, but once again you need the minimum or you may be cut before getting an opportunity at the interview.

When you look at the list of schools you want to attend, make sure you locate the minimum GRE score required. In August of 2011, the GRE scoring format was changed from a 200-800 report to a 130-170 report. Therefore when you look at the school, this will, in all likelihood, be the numbers they list as the cutoff.

So here is my advice: head over to PTCAS and look at the schools that you are considering applying for. Write down the GRE score you need. For example, Creighton University has a minimum 146 Verbal and 140 Quantitative. Aim higher, but know the minimum.

My second piece of advice is to register for this test well before the application deadline. Don't put more pressure on yourself than necessary. Waiting for the last possible test that a school will accept is incredibly stressful.

Summary of the Steps Covered in this Section

1. Get the prerequisite classes done

2. Take the GRE and score above the minimum (or you will not be considered)

3. Take the GRE early

This will get your foot in the door and you will not be cut immediately. And remember, getting your foot in the door is all that matters.

How to Prepare for the GRE

I have had many readers email me to ask about the best way to prepare for the GRE. The books below were my resources. I think any will work, but you must commit to studying, especially for those who hate taking standardized tests. Take lots and lots of practice tests.

The Best Websites for Researching PT Schools

The first site to visit is PTCAS (Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service). This site will allow you to apply to a huge number of schools without duplicating your work, though it also allows other applicants to do the same. If you decide to actually apply after answering the question in the previous section, I would register in the PTCAS.

Now, it is important to remember that not all of the programs in the country can be applied to through PTCAS. Check out the complete list of programs in case there are some you are interested in. If you are worried about getting into school, those not enrolled in the PTCAS database will be less competitive due to the increased steps in the application process. So if you want some 'safeties,' those would be good schools to apply to. Go through the entire list of schools and start choosing some potential programs. Look up the faculty. Check out their publications.

Finally, print out or save on your computer all of the requirements and necessary prerequisite courses. These are not always the same from school to school. For example, some programs may require medical terminology while another requires both abnormal and developmental psychology, and another requires neither of these. If you accidentally skip a class, then your application could be delayed and you'll jeopardize your chances of getting in.

The other site is the largest physical therapy organization in America, The American Physical Therapy Association. This site has a wealth of resources as well as access to a large network of practicing physical therapists.

How to Prepare for the Interview: Focus on Personal Development

The two lists of books in the section below are great ways to begin the journey towards a career in physical therapy. The beginning of any journey is scary and the first step takes courage. Getting these books and committing to the path makes all the other steps easier, but there are many other reasons to read books.

Here are some benefits to reading books:

  • You may find that physical therapists are willing to write a letter of recommendation if you volunteer and show interest by talking about these books.
  • You may find that you are more passionate about physical therapy than you originally thought as your knowledge grows.
  • You may realize that there are ways to improve your own life through exercise.
  • You may be able to find mentors in the field of rehabilitation if you show others there is something special about attitude and work ethic.

I feel like I am still benefiting from the effort I put in to read these some of the books below. I found multiple therapists that I am still friends with that have been great contacts as I go through school. I don't think the importance of self-directed learning can be understated. Pick one and go for it.

Recently I was told in a message on my website that physical therapy students do not need to read anything before going into school. That is true, however it is short-sighted and to me seems extremely STUPID.

Please do not be a passive learner that only reads what a teacher gives you. Reading at this stage of the game only builds a better foundation that further teaching and mentoring will build. No matter what anyone says, you control your learning. Why wait? There are numerous free articles that can be found that describe physical therapy. If you cannot find any, just let me know and I will send you a few.

Side note: I feel like this goes without saying, but do not buy new textbooks at this stage. SERIOUSLY. Get an older edition and there will be heaps of information that is pertinent and helpful for your road to becoming a PT.

The List: Books You Should Skim (or Read) Before an Interview

Why should you get physical therapy related books before you even get into school? You will be far ahead of the competition if you have a working knowledge of the body in relation to therapy and express it during the interview. Take a few of these books and skim through them, taking notes on things that jump out at you.

People always ask me what books they should read, and I always say, "As many as you can find." But I get it, everyone has a life and a busy schedule. Here are my tips for working through a large text to retain a good amount of what you read without spending weeks on it.

  • Read the table of contents first.
  • Go to the end of every chapter and read the summaries.
  • Finally, go through the chapters that interested you from the summary and read the whole chapter or sections that you want.
  • Only do the last part after you read the summaries because this will reinforce the material you read, even if it's just bullet points.

Following this simple pattern does not give you all the details in a book, but it does provide you with an easy way to take on a challenging text. I still use this technique and record the summaries in a note taking software program so I can recall the information whenever I need it.

Review this list of books and you are preparing yourself for any questions that come your way.

  1. Movement by Gray Cook
  2. Gait Analysis by David Levine
  3. Orthopedic Manual Therapy by Chad Cook
  4. Observational Gait Analysis
  5. Muscles by Kendall

My Favorite Ortho Book

My Favorite Movement Book

Why You Should Read Interesting Books

You may think to yourself, "I bet they ask about my grades or why I want to be in PT school in the interview."

Well, they might ask you that, but during each of my interviews they asked me what I read recently. If you don't have a good answer, you are missing a great opportunity to stand out. I asked my wife who is also a PT what she was asked during her interview. She said she was never asked about what books she read. That just goes to show that there is really no way to know what an interviewer will ask, which is lame.

I found that reading books helped me quite a bit, but the biggest thing is to learn interesting things that allow you to talk to the interviewer intelligently.

Good Luck!

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, as does an ill-conceived amble you abandon after a few minutes.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, as does an ill-conceived amble you abandon after a few minutes.

I took the quote above from Switch, a great book by Chip and Dan Heath. If you are just beginning to think about school, the best way to start is to set up a direction and map out the plan. Remember that any work you put in now is only going continue benefiting you in the future.

So here is a quick bullet of things to start doing RIGHT NOW to shape your path:

  • Volunteer at a physical therapy clinic and decide if it is really what you want
  • Visit the PTCAS website and print out the prerequisite classes
  • Make a list of the schools you are interested in and investigate the faculty
  • Read texts and articles about the profession
  • Read interesting books that will improve your knowledge base
  • Finally if you have any other questions, let me know in the comments!

I hope this is of some value and good luck.

What's Happened for Me Since PT School

Presentation at American College of Sports Medicine

Presentation at American College of Sports Medicine

I wrote this article years ago when people were asking me how I got into PT school. My preparation at the time was a little insane. I read every single book I could find on physical therapy. I remember waking up at 3 am to read a book on neuromechanics. I understood about half of the words I read.

Now I am living my dream of practicing as a physical therapist and researching injury screening and prevention. The juggle of managing patients while writing and publishing articles has been an interesting growing experience. I feel that I was lucky to have mentors that gave me advice before entering school that really fast-forwarded my development.

If you want to become a PT, I hope this helps you on the path. I really love this profession. We help people every day. It is a gift that is sometimes lost in the process of getting into school and earning the degree. I was recently messaged by someone who was trying to get into school and who said they could not afford the books I recommended. I was shocked to say the least.

The intent of this article is to help you out. Explore the APTA website or the free articles listed. If you would like recommendations on others, just ask. You DO NOT need to purchase anything that is listed on this or any other article I have written. Buy old editions of textbooks. Go to your library. If you are still at university, get the book through interlibrary loan. All that really matters is that you are driven to join an incredible profession that is changing the lives of everyone it touches.

I truly hope you are lucky enough to join me. If I can help you in any other way, please message me or leave a comment.

P.S. If you want a more complete outline for preparing for your interview go to my article 7 ways to stand out during your physical therapy interview for more tips.

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Guestbook Comments

Amanda Newman on November 22, 2016:

Hi Craig!

I really appreciated your article.

I have a question about GPA-

I have Cs in many of my chemistry/biology courses for my pre-reqs (Associate's degree)

Will this affect my chances for getting into PT school horribly? I have good shadowing hours in and a really long list of volunteer experience abroad. I also speak a second language. Will these extracurricular things help me in the application process or is it all grades?

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on July 28, 2016:

Just start calling and getting out there. You can call or visit places that interest you. The biggest thing is to get out there and do it.

TomRob on July 24, 2016:


Thank you for your rapid response! Your input definitely makes me feel better about my possibilities and options following undergrad. I plan to work with my registrar to switch a class or two and get heading in that direction! Any advice when looking at volunteering at a clinic?

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on July 22, 2016:

Tom Rob

You absolutely have a chance to make it into PT school. Definitely finish the degree in Mechanical Engineering but I would also start to take the pre reqs as well. Do not be afraid of taking some pre reqs after you graduate from the ME degree.

Your GPA is not bad and is above the cut off. Make sure you do well in the remaining classes. Get into some PT clinics and make sure it is the right step for you. If you get an interview, having a degree in a hard program only shows that you have whats needed to be a successful PT.

Good luck!


TomRob on July 22, 2016:


I am currently going into my senior year of mechanical engineering. When I was younger I was never very interested in fitness etc. But as I have gotten into fitness the past 2 years and began to do more research and really become engrossed in physical activity and wanting to learn more about my body and others', my interest in a career related to this has grown. Physical Therapy greatly interests me, and I have several friends and acquaintances in PT school or in the industry and anytime I catch them talking about the work or labs that they do I find myself very interested. I love learning about all the things they get to do as part of their school work.

Long story short, I've done some research on the possiblities of PT school for a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering background and am finding the prospects very slim. I would not have some of the pre-requisite courses necessary for most good schools. What would you advise? Is it too late for me to try to alter my course, still obtaining my B.S. in M.E. and then pursuing a PT route?

One thing i considered is adding some of the pre-reqs i don't have to my senior year as I have a few credit hours to spare. I could add Chem II, a bio course, or anatomy 1, a psych course, and maybe one other but it's unlikely. That still leaves me with a few pre-reqs remaining which I could pursue after graduation if I thought there was a chance it would be worth my time...

There's also the issue of my GPA. I go to a school with a rigorous course load for M.E. (like most I'm sure) and limited resources which results in a low average GPA for M.E.s in my school. I could have the minimum required by some schools (3.2 from some of my research) but that still doesn't put me up in the ranks. Would PT schools put into consideration the engineering background and the difficulty of that course load?

I guess I'm just asking, is there still a way for me to work my way into a PT school with me being so far off track for such a thing?

Thank you ahead of time for your advice!

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on July 12, 2016:

No idea. That gets you past the first culling phase. It depends on your application and interview after that.

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on July 12, 2016:

I took two years off because I wanted to work prior to doing PT school. I think you can go either way, just do what you like :-)

Dana B on June 22, 2016:

Is a 3.5 science "pre req" with a 3.6 overall good enough to get into P.T school?

Sally on June 21, 2016:

Hello Craig,

I have been looking around for a blog that accurately portrayed the struggles and requirements to enter into a PT school and your blog tends to summarize all that I have been searching plus more. I just had a question about volunteering in local physiotherapy clinics. What would you say is the best approach to to inquire about any opportunities. Should I phone in and ask, or go straight to the clinic itself? Also, although my GPA is above 3.0 would not say that it is competitive. Other then volunteering in clinics, what would you recommend to spruce up my application?

Natalie C. on May 28, 2016:

Hi Craig,

I came across your article in my attempt to read about the experiences that PT students and practicing PTs have had before applying to school. I didn't see anything about this mentioned in your article and I would love your input on it - should I wait a year before applying to PT school? What are the pros and cons? Will the admitting personnel be concerned about that gap and me being anyway from the books for so long or will they find it better, seeing as though I took time to enhance my resume and gain more experience in the field? Right now, my options are 1) apply this year meeting all the minimum observational hour requirements and above average requirements for everything else but only for about 2 PT schools, or 2) apply by next fall with an additional year of volunteer experience in the field and possible employment as a PT tech/aide, applying to much more schools (and my number 1 choice right now). I truly love everything about the PT profession and can't wait to be one myself, however, I want to make sure the process in which I become one is best. So, taking my chances to get straight into grad school following undergrad, or waiting a year, or can I just do both??? Your insight is much appreciated!

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on March 21, 2016:

that is frustrating. what are the schools? Have you considered expanding the number of schools you apply to? That you are getting an interview is obviously a great sign. It means you are competitive and the focus needs to be on how you continue to improve. It is disappointing that you did not get better feedback, but we can always improve in some way. I am willing to look over your CV and provide some feedback. I am not sure what email you used or why I did not see it. Shoot me an email at craig@smithperformancecenter.com

You can use this year to get better and more prepared for the process. Read a ton on the subject of PT that you are interested in. Read the book "So GOOD they can't ignore you." It will help you stay strong when it gets rough.

Sandy Mahamed on March 20, 2016:

Hello Craig,

Thank you so much for getting back to me! I didn't expect such a speedy reply. The thing is the schools I have I applied to, I am always able to land the interview. However, I later get the rejection. I have contacted them and some have commented on my GRE as the only weak point that seems to be holding me back. However, other schools have not been helpful they only tell me to apply next year because I have a strong application, but the " pool of applicants just happened to be competitive fot that year." When I ask then if so why I didnt make the waiting list, i m told you JUST made the cut. Some of these schools dont have a minimum GRE even posted because they stated that it wasnt considered an important factor. I am not sure what else to do.

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on March 20, 2016:

How do you feel your interviews went?

To me, the best way to determine why you were wait listed or rejected, is to call the school and ask why. The programs expect this. If you take the advice seriously and work on it the next year, it will look really good when you bring it up next year. You will should dedication and motivation to become a great PT.

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on March 20, 2016:


I took several years off between under grad and graduate school. Not a big deal.

The process is the same I believe. If you have any questions, I would call the school that you would like to attend.

Do not be discouraged if this was not your first profession!

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on March 20, 2016:

Hey Sandy,

I am not sure about the email. Sorry about that.

The PTCAS includes all the courses that you have taken, even the classes you retake. Your first step is to call schools that you have applied to and find out why you were rejected or not given an interview. From there, you can determine what would be the best thing to focus on moving forward.

Have you applied this cycle?

Sandy Mahamed on March 20, 2016:

Hello Criag,

I came across your article and emailed you twice but sadly could not reach you. I have been trying to get into PT school sonce 2013 when I graduated May of that year.

My GPA is a 3.58, i have over 300 hours of work and volunteer work in various PT environments and I did research for a semester during undergrad. I plan on retaking my GRE'S bec I have a score of 151 in the Verbal and a 140 in the Analytical. However, I am struggling as to why i cannot get in? PTCAS for some reaskom when calculation my GPA shows it as a 3.1. They are including classes that when I retook should be omitted from being calculated in my GPA. What can I do? Help me I am desperate. I feel like in losing hope:(

Sarah on March 04, 2016:

I guess I should add that my GRE scores were 150 for verbal and quantitative and 4 for writing. This is about average for everywhere I have applied.

Sarah on March 04, 2016:

Hi Craig,

I wanted to say your blog has been very helpful. I applied to PT school this year and was wait listed at three different schools. Two have basically said that it is not likely that they will accept anyone from their wait list.

I am having a difficult time deciding where to go from here. I looked at my GPA on PTCAS, 3.6 overall and 3.02 pre-req. I thought about retaking some courses but like you mentioned I don't think that will do much good overall since both grades will be factored in. I applied with 250 hours of observation in inpatient, outpatient, acute care, and women's health. I have not only observed in PT clinics but also in a cardiac rehab facility. I have been out of undergrad for three years now but while in undergrad I held leadership positions, volunteered, worked on research projects with professors, worked independently on research, etc. Since I graduated I have been working as a nanny for two optometrists. I have completed two semesters of my MPH degree. I have volunteer as a youth sports coach at the YMCA and also with the high school track and field team. I have been active myself and I made sure to include these things in my application.

I am struggling to determine what I can do to strengthen my application for next year. So far I have made contact with a PT to work in the clinic at least 1 day a week. I will be continuing to work on my Masters degree and even transferring to my first choice PT school to complete my degree. I have also made contact with a non-profit to implement a health initiative within their organization, although I have not heard back. Do you have any other advice for me? The only thing I can think that would be holding me back from being an accepted student to a PT program is that I have not done enough since I graduated.

Thank you for your help,


Omni Ashford on February 03, 2016:

Hello Craig!

Do you have experience with or know of any aspiring Physical Therapists who have been out of school for several years, in another profession, but still have the desire to become a therapist?

Is the process the same for applicants who are more recent baccalaureate graduates being that classes have to be taken within 5 years of applying to PT school?

RoG33 on February 02, 2016:

Hello Craig,

Thank you for returning a comment. No, I didn't get an interview. I was denied to the schools where I've applied. Most schools have indicated that I do qualify based on the minimal GPA; however, they have received a large pool of applicants with much higher GPAs (3.6-3.7) and have had to stop reviewing my application. So, this makes me think that they did not review my application and instead only looked at my GPA. Filtering system. I didn't make it to the 2nd step, I feel because of my GPA. My GRE is also not at 50% for both verb and quant (142, 141). Would sending my resume separate to the application help? Should I take a few more classes to raise my GPA? However, it would take a bit longer to get even near 3.6 since I have a GPA of 3.2-3.3 (depending on some schools). And, yes, it has been a great experience learning how to develop my own research and go through the loop holes of the IRB application. I am just not sure how to highlight this. Advice? Thanks for your time!

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on February 02, 2016:


PTCAS uses every class you have taken to determine your overall GPA. They will also calculate the pre req GPA. Retaking classes is not the best choice in most situations. Look at some of my other comments on the subject. PT schools will not care what classes you took previously, just that you were successful in learning the material.

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on February 02, 2016:

Ariana Gardner

2 ACL tear?!! Horrible.

Should you retake any classes? As I have written before, I think this is a low return activity for the amount effort. Further, if you got a C the first time, you may not improve it. Only retake classes if you maximizing your potential in other areas.

Students that apply to PT school the second time around definitely have an advantage because they have gone through it before. However you must spend the next year improving your application.

Do not think that yet however since you still have some other applications for this year. Good luck!

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on February 02, 2016:


Apply whenever you are ready. If it is a rolling admission, apply sooner.

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on February 02, 2016:

I think the amount you are doing is sufficient. Running you own research project is not easy. By the way, did you get an interview?

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on February 02, 2016:


This is the rough part about the large number of applicants. Obviously you have a strong application and you are dedicated. Your research and experience along with a Masters Degree look great. It is a good sign that your pre req GPA is above 3.0.

Did you contact the schools about why you were denied?

RoG33 on February 01, 2016:


Also, would it be to my benefit to participate in as much research studies as I can? Since I have my own research study I am leading and conducting, would this look well on my application? I am also a part of my hospital's PT BRAIN Committee, which is a group of PTs and OTs that get together to analyze the best outcome measures to use for their patients' progress etc. I am not sure how to highlight this on my future PT application. Any advice? Thank you!

RoG33 on February 01, 2016:


I have a lot of experience (11 years) working with people who have physical disabilities (SCI, amputation, stroke, MS, CP, PD, cancer, TBI etc.). I have had great opportunities working with many of our PTs. In the midst of learning, I have been trained on using the lokomat, BWSTT, TRAM, Hoyer lift, track system, AlterG, etc. I help people reach their maximal functional potential either by helping them walk again, improve ADLs at home, and/or help improve endurance for a 5k walk. I have had a great opportunity to lead fitness interns over several years. I have been their mentor. What I am also most excited about is being able to create continuum of care programs for people with physical disabilities (help them maintain and improve on what they have learned in PT). My goal is to become a PT; however, although with my experience, my GPAs are not competitive. I am 33 years old and I have retaken chemistry and biology I. My undergrad cumulative GPA is 2.82. I don't think that I can do much about that? Because each school requires different courses, my pre-requisite GPA varies, from 3.2-3.3. I feel that this is low. My GRE is 142 verb, 141 quant, and writing was a 4. I have many many hours of PT observation (11 years worth) at my job (rehabilitation hospital); however, I have not started documenting until this past year (totaling over 200 hours). I have my Master's in Exercise Science and I am currently leading my own IRB research study (on Parkinson's Disease). I am not sure how to improve my application. It was denied this year. Can you help in giving advice? I have a full time job, am a landlord, working on my research study, and feel that I have little time to retake classes. However, I do plan on taking medical terminology in the summer since it is offered to help improve my pre-requisite GPA for a few schools. I should probably take Biology II. Some schools require this. However, this will have to wait until this fall of 2016 since it is not offered in the evening this summer. Advice? Thank you very much!

Tracee on January 11, 2016:

Hi Craig, your blog is great! Thanks for sharing your story. I'm 32 years old and I've decided to make a career change from Software Engineering to Physical Therapy. My heart just isn't in it anymore, and I've chosen to pursue a degree in PT (I won't bore you with the details as to how I arrived at this decision). Anyway, I'll be finished with my last prerequisite class in May 2016 but I'm torn about when I should actually apply to a program. Being a non-traditional student, I don't really know what the norm is. Should I apply right away in July once the application period opens? Or should I wait until the following year? I still have a couple things left to check off my list like taking the GRE, and getting more exposure hours (I have hours, but only from 1 place). So, I'm just trying figure out my timeline. Any advice you could offer would be great! Thanks in advance.

Ariana Gardner from Jackson, MS on December 21, 2015:

Hey Craig,

I love your article I have been currently applying to PT schools and I wish I had seen this article a year ago. I have a few questions that I would like to ask you.

Well first, my name is Ariana Gardner and I am a 21 year-old graduating senior who attends Jackson State University. I have been interested in becoming a Physical therapist for many reasons. 1) I have had 3 arthroscopic knee surgeries in the past 9 years. 2) I gained an interest in knowing how to deal with injuries and preventing them as well. 3) I want to become a PT/ATC for an athletic team. I find the profession very interesting and I would love to eventually become a doctorate of physical therapy.

I have taken the major per-requisites required by many of the schools that I researched. I made a I just finished my fall semester and I have a 3.477 GPA. My PTCAS GPA is a 3.4, but there is an error that I must call and correct (I received an A in my Organic Chemistry I Lab and they changed it to a B). During my sophomore year, I received a D in Bio statistics, a C in Trigonometry, a C in General Chemistry II, a C in Abnormal Pscyh and a C in a Microbiology Lab. I retook the Bio statistics and received a B. I wasn't planning on retaking the General Chemistry or Abnormal Psych because I listed my Organic Chemistry grades as my major chemistry pre-reqs and I received an A in Developmental Psychology. Being that I also want to pursue Athletic Training I am taking Medical Terminology, Advance Physiology of Muscular Activity (Sub for Exercise Science since no community colleges in the Jackson, MS area have the course) and First Aid/CPR. So I'm expecting to get A's in these courses and I'm hoping I can end with a 3.5 or better GPA. My first question is: Do you think I should retake any of the classes that I received C's in or do you think my GPA is solid enough?

I have applied to 5 PT schools and I have 3 more applications that I have to submit before January. I have been rejected by two schools and I'm hoping that I get accepted to the others. The Physical therapy school that I really wanted to apply to was LSUNO but I missed the deadline due to procrastination and injury recovery (2nd torn ACL). I have had a job the past year and I also have over a 100 community service hours and 100 + observational hours. At my school, we do not have Health clubs or PT clubs because not many people in the Biology department or the Therapeutic Recreation department are familiar with the PT application process. However, I will not use that as an excuse for me not having many volunteer hours. I took the GRE twice and on the second time I made a 145 on the Verbal and a 146 on the Quantitative and a 3.0 on the writing. I plan on retaking the GRE because most of the schools require a 300.

I recently was hired as a physical therapy tech and in case I'm not accepted I plan on working there for next year. I am going to redo my observational and try to get as many as I can. I have read other places that many schools accept re applicants and instate students more often than 1st year applicants and out of state residents. Do you think I would have a good chance of getting in LSUNO if I'm a first time applicant and an out of state resident? Another question I have is do you think it would be wise to resubmit the same essays I used this year for next years applications? (I thought maybe I should keep the same content just change it around a bit.)

I apologize if this seems like a lot of explaining and questioning, but I really want to become a physical therapist. I would love to be able to receive as much advice as I can and I feel like you could really help me out. I'm really looking forward to hearing from you.



Christina113 on December 18, 2015:

Hey Craig,

I am looking into changing my major from mechanical engineering to Pre-Pt. My biggest concern is when I apply to pt school, will they calculate my higher math and sciences into my gpa or will it just be those certain pre reqs? I have to go back and take the first two general physics and I have to go back and take trig. So this makes me think that Pt schools will be more interested in those rather than my electromagnitism physic class and differential equations.

Thank you!

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on October 29, 2015:

They may be pre-pt but most will not make it. Job market appears to be very strong.

Ryan Maurer on October 28, 2015:

I know the job market is good right now for PTs, but do you think it will eventually become saturated? It seems like half of my school is "Pre-PT."

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on October 13, 2015:

Hey Andrew,

Have you decided what schools? Also have you figured out what your prereqs GPA will be? Honestly the two lower grades will not be that impactful. You can definitely make it into PT school. Just make sure to round out the rest of your resume.

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on October 13, 2015:

I don't think America PT schools have it wrong. Its just a different perspective. It also sounds like you may be going about these classes in the wrong way. Check out this online class https://www.coursera.org/learn/learning-how-to-lea... It will help you a lot.

It will be very hard to get an interview if you do not meet the basic requirements.

Andrew on October 11, 2015:

Hey Craig,

So I attended community college right out of high school and long story short ended up with C's in bio and chem 1 but then failed chem 2 and got a D in bio 2 for health reasons, which I tried to have medically excused but the school denied it (on record). After repeating those two courses I got a B in bio 2 and C+ in chem 2. After I transferred to a 4 year university I was healthy and was able to focus on school more. Got my BS in bio and did well for the rest of my pre reqs (A's in a&p, A/B in orgo 1/2, B's in physics, A in psych etc) and graduated with a 3.5 from there. I've also been a certified personal trainer for the last 4 years or so and have volunteered at several places PTs for 130 hours. I'm really worried about those gen chem and bio grades. I've read that schools average the two grades so in the case of gen chem 2 my GPA would be close to 1 with the repeated course, this really has me freaking out. Is it time I give up on my dream or do I still have a shot? What do I do?!

Jordan(2) on September 27, 2015:

Well... the concepts go over my head and it takes me hours to understand the basics. I can spend an entire Sunday afternoon and evening studying physics and get minor breakthroughs. I then feel like I've wasted my time since I've gotten nearly nowhere and I still have heaps of homework to do in other classes. Tutors rarely help as they rush through the problems and don't seem interested in investing time in my understanding. I think I'm missing a concept or an idea clear down the line from middle school that it's almost impossible for the tutors to decipher where I'm having problems. (I almost recall nothing at all from middle school and high school math). Another problem is the physics teacher and his teaching style. He losses me so easily as he jumps through multiple steps at a time in solving problems. His notes might as well be in Russian.

As I mentioned above, along with the physics is math. I've always been horrible at math-- my focus, desires, hobbies are everything but math-involved. I easily get As and Bs in everything: English, Humanities, Social Sciences, Chemistry and other PT related courses, but math is always in the low Cs. I have no patience for it and find it hard to apply math and physics in my life when I know I won't ever use these subjects ever again, and if I do, they will be very minor and involve concepts I can understand.

Will American PT schools manage to overlook my failures and struggles in Physics and Math do you think? It's so bad that I'm strongly considering going to grad school in Australia where Physics, Calculus nor the GRE is required. Thank heavens the Australians understand what PT is all about. Thank you for your response!

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on September 26, 2015:

Why are you horrible at physics?

Jordan(2) on September 24, 2015:

P.S. I just realized the commenter before me was also named Jordan. I'm not him/her. Different Jordan.

Sorry, thanks.

Jordan on September 24, 2015:


I wanted your input on something...

I am absolutely horrible at Physics. It's a prerequsite for DPT school as we all know. If I completely bomb it but yet do well in Biomechanics, do you think that will be okay for applying? I would just hate for something as silly as Physics to keep me from my dream.

P.S. Do you really use Physics at all as a PT?

Morgan94 on July 30, 2015:

Hi Craig,

thank you so much for all of this info. Definitely the most comprehensive source I've come across so far- including academic advisers! I'm a kinesiology major and student-athlete about to start my junior year. Before this summer I hadn't considered PT simply because I thought there was no way I would be able to afford it...but I really do believe it's the right path for me so I wan't to at least give myself the chance. The problem I have now is that I haven't done much volunteering in this field yet and haven't shadowed a PT. I intend to start right away once I'm back at school but is it too late? If I want to apply to begin PT once I'm done with undergrad, do I have to have everything completed by the start of my senior year?

If I was to take a year or two off after college to work and save some money before applying, would this hurt my chances if the work wasn't strictly PT-related?

Also I have a 3.7 GPA and am an international student...

I would greatly appreciate any feedback!

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on July 05, 2015:

Hey Jordan,

I think some great books to read about if you like neuro. Here are a list of my favorites (I also asked my wife as she specializes in neuro aquatic therapy). If cost is an issue and you are a student, just get it through your library.

1. Neuroanatomy: http://www.amazon.com/Neuroanatomy-Through-Clinica...

2. Brain that changes itself: http://www.amazon.com/Brain-That-Changes-Itself-Fr...

3. Motor Control: http://www.amazon.com/Motor-Control-Translating-Re...

4. Phantoms in the brain: http://www.amazon.com/Phantoms-Brain-Probing-Myste...

As for the GRE scores, your score is lower than the average for a couple I looked up but above the minimum.

Jordan on June 29, 2015:


Thank you for getting back to me. I raised my GRE Scores for the Verbal to a 148 and for the Quantitative to a 151. I am planning on applying to Ohio University, Ohio State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis, and some safety net schools like University of Toledo. What are your thoughts in regard to these school with my GRE scores?

Due to working full-time and being a part-time student, I won't be able to really get in the clinic more until the spring next year after I have applied and interviewed with PT Schools.

I have a huge interest in working with patients who have suffered from a neurological deficit. Are there any books that you recommend that examine the neurological aspect of PT? Some of the used books I have found on amazon are closer to $50. Are there any more affordable ones?

Thank you!


Bellz on May 14, 2015:

Thank you for this amazing article, its really helpful for prospective PT students. My story is all ove the place but due to depression, on and off health problems, financial struggles and family sickness my grades have been horrible for the past 6 years that i've been in school working towards my bachelors. I've been at 2 4 year colleges and 2 community colleges due to moving and transferring and also being sick. My depression and lack of support lead to the point that i was academically suspended from a 4 year college, this was also after suffering a severe head injury and letting my grades slip because i didn't have money for books or transport to and from school. I now work at the top rehab in the washington Dc area and its made me realize just how much more i want to be a physical therapist. I've seen friends and former patients go from being paralyzed to actually walking. What can i do at this point to really bring my very low GPA up and be a good condaidate for pt school. I am still working towards my Bachelors and i have about 10-12 more science courses i have to take. Will those help my horrible GPA. I have over 100 observational hours in and outpatient and inpatient rehab hospital. I don't want to give up on my dream of being a physical therapist due to some mistakes on my end and horrible illness.

Thank you in advance

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on May 13, 2015:

That is above the minimum. Definitely not too low. What else are you doing to make yourself stand out?

Anon218 on May 12, 2015:

Hey Craig!

I was wondering what you think about my GPA and pre-req GPA, and if I should just give up trying to get into PT school, This summer I plan on shadowing PTs in different settings and studying for the GRE. My GPA is a 3.2 and pre-req GPA is a 3.28 and I graduate soon. My GPA is so low compared to what many schools want

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on May 10, 2015:


Your resume looks solid. As to the question about your GRE, what schools are you planning to apply to?

Read as much as you can. It is obvious during an interview if someone reads PT related material. I would get more hours in the clinic personally.

Finally, if you are ever worried about something being a negative on the application, do something that shows you are working on it or turn it someway to show you are growing. The goal is to stand out once you get an interview.

Jordan on May 07, 2015:

Craig, Wow! How luck are we future PTS (hopefully!) to come across this awesome, resourceful page. Thank you for your passion, hard work, and commitment. I know you get this question a lot, but I am curious for your opinion regarding my stats. I'm a non-traditional student who has been working full time and going to school part-time for almost 2 years. Prereq GPA = 3.67 Cumulative GPA = 3.6, GRE Scores - Verbal - 147, Quantiative- 147. Are my GRE scores too low to be accepted?

I know that scores can have minute differences between them and I'm worried that will hinder me from getting into grad school. Also, have 140 hours of volunteer experience (100 outpatient, 40 inpatient). I work in an emergency room of a hospital and I already know who will be writing my letters of recommendation. What are your thoughts? Thank you!

I also LOVE your recommendation of reading additional literature. I'm planning on taking neuroscience in the fall which should be fun!

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on March 28, 2015:

Where did you apply? What was different between you and your friend?

Give me some more details.

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on March 28, 2015:

Starting at a community college is fine. It will save you money as you knock out some general ed classes, however you need a degree to get in to PT school so eventually you have to go to a school that offers a Bachelor of Arts or Science.

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on March 28, 2015:


Per the PTCAS website:

"AP, IB, and CLEP Credit

Enter college credit earned for Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), and CLEP tests, including the grade and credit hours posted on your transcript. "

So it looks like they do. I feel like it would be very beneficial for you to experience physical therapy practice, as chiropractic is not physical therapy. I am not sure how a reference from a chiropractor would be viewed by the school.

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on March 28, 2015:

I know some schools are getting over 1200 applicants for something like 80 spots. To me, that is very competitive no matter what profession it is.

I truly have no idea what it takes to get into Med School. One of my brothers went that direction and I went for PT. My fellow applicants seemed pretty well rounded and intelligent. If you are trying to go the PT route because you think med school is too hard, I think you are making a mistake.

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on March 28, 2015:


Not a problem. I think the process can be confusing.

I hate to hear you had a death in the family. It is understandable that your grades took a dive.

You are asking a very pertinent question: what should I do when my grades do not meet the minimum. In my opinion, you really need to look at how taking a class will impact your GPA. Find a GPA calculator online or use the PTCAS one, and determine how much it actually improves. Remember that all of the courses get included so whatever class you do take, make sure it is an 'A'.

Showing an upward trend is always a good sign.

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on March 28, 2015:

Thanks for the feedback.

Melissa on March 27, 2015:

Thank you very much for this article, Craig. It is better than going to a career advisor!

na984489 on March 13, 2015:


Hi Craig, I appreciate you taking the time out to give an extensive outline to help people like me who are kind of confused in what their next step should be.

Unfortunately, i am still a little lost on what my next step should be.

I just recently graduated with a bachelors Degree in Biological Sciences. Ive' finished up my pre-reqs for the PT schools i taken the GRE, and have approximately 300 hours in an outpatient facility.

My confusion is that my Cumulative GPA is well below the cut-off mark (approximately 2.82). My pre req grades are started off bad with me taking bio I&II, chem I&II, and i have a C+ in physiology. However, all of my other pre-reqs i have a B's and A's, (anatomy, stats, psychology, physics). currently i am just taking behavioral psychology courses to boost up my GPA, but im not sure what i should do. should i continue taking random classes to boost my GPA? or should i retake the basic bio and chem courses to boost my GPA?

Also during my undergraduate career, I was academically dismissed from a university, due to my horrible grades and gpa for a year (which was due to a death in the family). However, my grades been improving after that incident, and have been on a steady increase. I am not sure how much this hurts my chances of getting into a PT even after my GPA becomes competitive.

Please advise

Ben on February 20, 2015:

Craig, I have been hearing from some people lately that PT school is becoming harder to get into than Med school. In your experience is this something you have observed as well? If so, why do you think this is becoming the trend?

Jasmine on February 17, 2015:

Ok so I feel like I'm in a bind. I'm a massage therapist, I have an associate degree in natural science graduated with a 3.59. Now this would seem great just 2 more years then go straight to DPT school however, I'm finding now that colleges are not accepting my credits. So that means I would have to do everything over again. I noticed in your article you only talked about GRE however do you know if the schools judge you for taking half your classes through CLEP?

I do not want to do these classes over to be honest I feel it definitely slows me down and at worse it probably will screw up my gpa. The books you recommended looks very interesting. I also currently work for a chiropractor. Does the recommendation letters have to be from physical therapist or can it be from any doctor that feels your a good candidate? This has been a tough decision. Try thinking about it so much your head hurts and constantly wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it.

If you could give me any info I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you!

Dylan00 on February 13, 2015:

Can you continue elaborating on this its getting me fired up! lets go PT

I hope that PTs become the primary care provider for musculoskeletal medicine. As it stands, I normally receive referrals with no true diagnosis, which requires me to make one. This will require more consensus among providers on terminology, a pathoanatomical model vs pathomechanical or combining both along a spectrum (if you are not sure what I mean here check out movement impairment syndrome vs internaational academy of orthopedic medicine), and tests and measures. I think we need more training in imaging analysis. One of the areas I am exploring this year will be diagnostic ultrasound.

PT needs to become the driver of preventative medicine. The current model uses bio markers like blood pressure to prevent future cardiovascular pathology. I would say that this has currently resulted in poor outcomes. PT needs to develop its own bio markers for musculoskeletal medicine and movement that allow us to prevent an injury prior to it happening.

PT needs to be the champion of the patient. If we stress relationship based healthcare, our outcomes will be better and the system will actually be healthier. This is a step beyond patient centered care that is currently stressed at most schools (it is important to remember that no matter how good you guys get at physical therapy, a patient will judge you on your 'soft skills' - that is your bed side manner. Patients literally have no idea if you are doing something right or wrong. The difference in my opinion from patient centered care and relationship based, is that provider is just as important as the patient. Focusing on the relationship allows for both parties to enjoy the process and receive the care and healing needed.

ThomasM62 on February 09, 2015:

SO I really like you blogs and have been reading them a lot lately. I just recently received all of my applications back from several DPT programs in Texas and have not been accepted. It is definitely discouraging, especially when some of my friends got in but I did not. I graduated with a 3.8 GPA and scored a 155, 157, and 3.5 on my GRE. I have also worked as a therapy tech for the last two years, and now have experience in inpatient, outpatient, home health, and neuro. I really felt like I should have had an interview but it seems like the DPT programs are more competitive then when I originally began this career path. Can you give me any advice on what I may need to do in order to improve my application more? I have thought about a masters degree or even getting my CES or RCEP from ACSM. I am only 24 but I just really feel stuck in a rut at this time.

softspokenking on January 16, 2015:

I'm currently not in school at the moment but I am very interested in the field of PT. I wake up every morning just to study A&P on my own from this great book I purchased from Amazon, and I'm currently re-reading a book titled "PT Made Simple How To Be Successful In PT" by Brain Grenda which is very helpful, but even though it's full of valuable information, I myself still don't know where to start. So I would appreciate it if you could give me a general guideline considering my current circumstance. My only option now is to attend a community college, which I have no issue with it's just a matter of not knowing what I'd have to do there to actually get into an official PT. Furthermore, following the great guidelines you've given us in this article. Do you know of anyone who has started there journey to be a physical therapist from a community college? If not, I would appreciate any info you give me regarding my question. Thanks.

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on January 08, 2015:

First, the musculoskeletal physical examination is on the decline. There is an over reliance on special tests and imaging or even worse, just the complaint of where the pain is (no one can accurately diagnose based on pain complaint alone). Pain complaint and location is confusing and can be local pain, referral pain, neuropathic or radicular so quite often the diagnosis I receive is not in the right body part. There are numerous studies that show physical exam skills of many medical professionals is not what it once was. Truthfully, there is not a true PCP for musculoskeletal medicine, which is where PTs can move. The ED is one area.

Clinical experiences and DPT programs do not stress imaging. You will take courses one the subject however its influence on practice is limited. X-ray is not helpful and many cases misleading. I feel the diagnostic ultrasound however could be a game changer from diagnosis to treatment.

I am not sure how the PTA/PT relationship used to be. I am not a believer that a physical therapist's value is related to one on one care. Obviously, the PT is the only that is able to perform the evaluation however having PTAs work with patients is great. My job is not a grind at all, however that is a big reason why you should see what practice is really like. If you think that you will one on one for hour with every patient, then you have to be in a cash based practice. I work with PTAs daily and in areas of deficiency in their clinical skill set is your responsibility to improve.

Kinda of a quick reply and I will get to the others later. In the mean time, I looked up somethings for you to check out. Let me know what you think.

Cook C. The lost art of the clinical examination: an overemphasis on clinical special tests. J Man Manip Ther 2010;18(1):3–4.

Feddock CA. The lost art of clinical skills. Am. J. Med. 2007;120(4):374–8.

Lysdahl KB, Hofmann BM. What causes increasing and unnecessary use of radiological investigations? a survey of radiologists’ perceptions. BMC Health Services Research 2009;9(1):155.

Summerton N. The medical history as a diagnostic technology. Br J Gen Pract 2008;58(549):273–6.

Gill SD, Stella J. Implementation and performance evaluation of an emergency department primary practitioner physiotherapy service for patients with musculoskeletal conditions. Emerg Med Australas 2013;25(6):558–64.

Suh MR, Chang WH, Choi HS, Lee SC. Ultrasound-guided myofascial trigger point injection into brachialis muscle for rotator cuff disease patients with upper arm pain: a pilot study. Ann Rehabil Med 2014;38(5):673–81.

Nagar VR, Hooper TL, Dedrick GS, Brismée J-M, Sizer PS. Effect of recurrent low back pain history on volitional pre-emptive abdominal activation during a loaded functional reach activity. Spine 2014;39(2):E89–96.

Also, good questions. None of them are senseless. I would say the biggest thing to know before going into PT is to acknowledge there will be growing pains in the new model. We have to produce great results with less time which means your diagnostic skills, treatment methods, and interpersonal skills are critical.

FuturePT on January 06, 2015:

Thank you for answering my questions so quickly! Very intriguing point of view, but I have some comments and follow up questions to your post. This would be really helpful in gaining perspective of the field. I apologize if some of my questions seem senseless.

What is the current PCP for musculoskeletal medicine? Why is it that the MD does not give a diagnosis when referring a patient to you and how has making the diagnosis on your own affected you?

Do DPT programs and clinical experiences not stress the use of imaging analysis for diagnosis? How can utilizing imaging analysis be improved?

I feel like nowadays PTAs do a lot more of the work PTs used to do and PTs are doing evaluations and documentation while supervising PTAs. Do you feel like PTs are pushed to grind out as many evaluations as possible in a given day as opposed to more personal quality care?

Interesting idea about the biomarkers, I took cardiac rehabilitation in undergrad and it did seem unreliable to me based on the various heart conditions out there. What sort of biomarkers do you think PTs could use and why?

I’m not sure what you mean by relationship based healthcare vs patient centered care. When you say relationship based healthcare do you mean working closely with other professionals or do you mean to build a quality relationship (sort of like what I mentioned above about grinding out as many patients as possible)?

Lastly, how often do you collaborate with these other disciplines? I haven’t learned too much about bone morphology yet, but is it not prevalent in the field of PT? What value can it add to the profession?

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on January 06, 2015:

If I remember right, its limited to one page or 4500 characters including spaces.

Is that what you were talking about?

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on January 06, 2015:

Hey FuturePT,

The future of PT is bright as long as the provider of PT does not continue to get squeezed due to diminishing reimbursements.

So what do I think the future will be? As you read this, just remember that I am biased towards prevention, ortho PT, and evidenced based evidence. I am leaving out the other very important areas of practice.

Here goes:

I hope that PTs become the primary care provider for musculoskeletal medicine. As it stands, I normally receive referrals with no true diagnosis, which requires me to make one. This will require more consensus among providers on terminology, a pathoanatomical model vs pathomechanical or combining both along a spectrum (if you are not sure what I mean here check out movement impairment syndrome vs internaational academy of orthopedic medicine), and tests and measures. I think we need more training in imaging analysis. One of the areas I am exploring this year will be diagnostic ultrasound.

PT needs to become the driver of preventative medicine. The current model uses bio markers like blood pressure to prevent future cardiovascular pathology. I would say that this has currently resulted in poor outcomes. PT needs to develop its own bio markers for musculoskeletal medicine and movement that allow us to prevent an injury prior to it happening.

PT needs to be the champion of the patient. If we stress relationship based healthcare, our outcomes will be better and the system will actually be healthier. This is a step beyond patient centered care that is currently stressed at most schools (it is important to remember that no matter how good you guys get at physical therapy, a patient will judge you on your 'soft skills' - that is your bed side manner. Patients literally have no idea if you are doing something right or wrong. The difference in my opinion from patient centered care and relationship based, is that provider is just as important as the patient. Focusing on the relationship allows for both parties to enjoy the process and receive the care and healing needed.

PT needs to collaborate intensively with other disciplines. This ranges from the current MD and bio mechanist collaborations to epidemiologists, computer engineers, geneticists, and anthropologists. For example, I recently started a study with an anthropologist looking at bone morphology. This will give us info that we can use in our practice everyday.

There is more, but I am out of time. To certain extent all of this is already happening but its needs to become more pervasive. Exciting stuff.

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on January 06, 2015:

You will have a competitive application in my opinion. I personally do not think where you went to school matters at all in PT, but doing well (like you have) does matter. Definitely get the GRE done so you can quit thinking about it.

The application sounds well rounded. What is making you feel like you in way over your head? Also, what would you do in your year off to improve your application?

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on January 06, 2015:

Hey Jo,

I did not realize that calculus was a pre req for physics. Are you sure it is or are you looking a physics with calculus class?

I do not think you should give up, but you really need to get a plan in place. I am more than willing to go over it with you. You need to get above a 3.0 GPA. If science is not your thing, I would guess that the problem is not that the material, but that you likely have poor studying skills.

How many hours have you taken?

MaPT on January 05, 2015:

When applying to DPT programs, how long would you say a personal goal statement should be?

FuturePT on January 05, 2015:

Hi Craig,

Just wondering what are your views on the future of the field of PT (advancements, improvements and anything else you can put a perspective on) and also what are your goals to be a part of that future you envision?


Hannah on December 31, 2014:


I'm a junior who is deciding whether or not to apply to physical therapy school this coming summer, or apply the following summer and take a gap year (during which I'd improve my application).

-I'm sociology major at a fairly prestigious university with a 3.7 GPA (overall and pre-req.) I can also speak pretty articulately about how my sociology major has given me a unique and important perspective to bring to PT.

-By the end of the school year I will have a little over 150 observation/volunteer hours in a variety of areas (mostly in outpatient orthopedics, inpatient rehab, acute care, and with an elementary school PT. as well as about 8 hours in a skilled nursing facility).

-I will also have been volunteering with an adapted fitness program for about a year, working hands-on with diversely abled clients

-I expect to do fairly well on the GRE once I study for it, since I did very well on the SATs (though I don't know if that's a good rationale)

-I also have been doing yoga for a year now and have been reading up a lot on how to incorporate it in to medicine (actually the reason I chose PT as a career)

However, I recently started looking into applying to school this summer and am starting to feel like I'm in way over my head. I'm most concerned that the amount of experience I have is not going to stand out, or that I don't have any sort of leadership position in a club (which I really have no time for).

I'm starting to wonder if it is worth applying this summer or if I should continue working on my resume through senior year and apply after graduation. Do you think my application will be competitive enough to be worth sending in this summer or do you think I should wait? (Ideally, I would like to start school right after getting my BS).

Jo on December 30, 2014:

Hey Craig, I failed Calculus 1 (which is a pre-req for physics) and Im not that great in science. Overall, I have a 2.88 GPA. Is there a chance for me to get into PT school or should I give up?

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on December 24, 2014:

Hey Jared,

You just have to plan to take them http://www.ptcas.org/Coursework/.

However I would also look at the school's website. If you have quite a few, I would call the school and ask if it seen as negative.

Jared on December 23, 2014:

Hi Craig, how many outstanding pre reqs can you have before applying?

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on December 18, 2014:

I personally would not. One or two classes will not impact your GPA that much.

Ryan on December 14, 2014:

Hi Craig, do you think it is a good idea to wait on taking the more difficult pre reqs until after you're accepted? That way your grade in them won't effect your pre req gpa.

jay on November 10, 2014:


For those with low gpa, other than bringing the grades up, what else do you recommend to bolster yourself from the rest of the competition? (other than experience/volunteer) I know that calling the school and being persistent is one thing, but what should I say when I contact these schools, and sort of be a "squeaky wheel". Thanks!

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on November 08, 2014:

Thanks Patrick. Let me know if you have any questions during the process.

Patrick on November 08, 2014:


Thank you for writing this. I started looking into Physical Therapy after Personal Training for 10 years, getting married, and then having a kid. I want to influence and help more people. Reading your insights into this process is EXTREMELY helpful and is really shaping my decision making process. REALLY appreciate it!

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on November 08, 2014:

Feel free to shoot me any other questions. If you have a lower GPA, the rest of the application needs to be good. When you get the interview, be ready to spin the low GPA into a strength.

Get a plan and go for it.

Apply this year and see what happens.

PTmylifeswork on November 08, 2014:

Its been two years of me trying. I've been so focused on my low GPA sometimes I forget my other strong points on my application. I will keep going and don't plan to quit. I'll do more research on different programs and will be sure to call them. Thank you for the great advice.

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on November 08, 2014:

GPA is definitely NOT all that matters. It is just a cut point that can eliminate applicants.

It looks like you have done a lot and your application otherwise seems very strong. My worry would if the school has minimum and does not consider applicants with GPA or GRE below certain levels.

My advice is to find school that does not list a minimum GPA criteria in the PTCAS. For example, Creighton does not list a minimum GPA but recommends 3.0 http://www.ptcas.org/ptcas/public/Listing.aspx?seq...

Don't let this get you down. Call the schools and be persistent. If you have a passion for it and are willing to move, you will get in. So again, GPA is NOT all that matters but it used a cut point to separate applicants.

PTmylifeswork on November 05, 2014:

Is GPA truly everything that matters? I have a BS in exercise with a minor in Holistic Health studies. I did my best to go back and retake classes and now I have an cGPA of 2.9, but if one calculates my last 60 credits I have a 3.1 GPA. With that said I have 90 volunteer hours in an inpatient setting and 1200 hours in an outpatient clinic. PTCAS calculates my cGPA to be 2.7. I have such passion for PT and am solely dedicated into getting in a DPT program. I not only focused on academics in my undergraduate career, but was a part of a lot of leadership organizations. Also, held more than one job in my undergrad career. Again, I ask is GPA really what these schools look at and my other credentials don't matter? What more can I do, besides retaking courses?

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on October 30, 2014:

That is a good question. To me if you know your GPA is on the low side, the goal is to create a big upside with other activities.

The first is that it should be a real experience that improves your skill set. It is a mistake to get involved superficially with a project. My first stop would be to go to idealist.org and see if there is a volunteer opportunity or experience that interests you. What's cool about this is that you can select anything that interests you.

Second, what opportunities are there at your campus (if still in school) or at work? Most the time there are opportunities to build your resume all over the place, we just overlook them.

Ryan on October 28, 2014:

What advice do you have about building your resume, especially for those who may not have a really high GPA?

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on October 07, 2014:

Will do then.

Ryan on October 06, 2014:


YES. That would be awesome if you could!

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on October 06, 2014:

Residencies are being pushed heavily in the current PT curriculum. Any residency, fellowship, or post physical therapy education is extremely helpful. Participating in any of these will improve your practice and get better outcomes for the patient.

I do think some are overpriced.

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on October 06, 2014:


I followed up with the email to PTCAS. They stated that you would have to send the transcripts from law school.


Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on October 06, 2014:


I have a ton of study tips. I am not sure I can give it all here as a response.

Would that be something you want me to put on here?

Ryan on October 05, 2014:

Do you have any study tips for specifically some of the tougher pre req classes such as chem and physics?

henry song on October 04, 2014:


Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer my questions! I currently have taken Chem 1& 2 , A&P 1 & 2, Bio II, and psychology. (all of which are 4 credits each, excluding psychology) I am taking bio I at the moment, and still need Physics and Stat, which i plan on taking at community, and possibly retaking the ones I've gotten low grades on. I will be lined up for an internship of my choice before I can graduate, accompanied with my current experience, and also looking for my new places to volunteer. I've read your article on the 7 ways to nail the PT interview, and i've already started to load my repertoire so I can have an advantage during application processes. Do you think by overcoming the GPA hurdle, that other parts of my resume can solidify itself and be enough to be granted an interview? Also if you don't mind answering..does it really matter which PT school one attends, as long as one is passionate and hard working at achieving their goal? Thanks a lot Craig!! You're an inspiration to all of us trying to reach our PT goal, much appreciated!!



Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on October 04, 2014:


To me what sucks is that your leaving law school was obviously a good decision and you may get penalized for it. PTCAS wants to provide all the schools with sufficient information to describe the applicants to school. You will likely have to report it (I sent an email to PTCAS asking about this in a general way to make sure I am right).

However there is good news. You contacted the school and found out that they do not care. On the description of your GPA from PTCAS, it will provide a cumulative GPA, graduate and undergraduate GPA. This allow for easy delineation. I would not hide it and hope it gets past the PT program. Instead, turn it and make it into a strength by describing the experience in your personal statement. Your hardship prior to finding PT could be a very powerful message that helps in getting into school.

If you are truly passionate about it, your efforts will not be a waste of time. I have no idea what kind of results your situation would yield. I wish I did. The other option is to investigate schools that do not use PTCAS for applying. That could get around this sticking point.

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on October 04, 2014:

Good questions Mohammed.

1. Study for the GRE and take it as soon as possible.

2. I am not familiar with the scale from Canada but I will do a little research and get back to you on it.

3. Retaking classes to me is always a low return on investment. I touched on it an earlier comment. I will repost it

"@michelle_2613: Michelle, Your resume sounds solid. To me, you need to sit down and do a comparison between retaking a class and doing something else that will be potentially helpful. Step 1. Plot in what an A in anatomy would do for your overall pre-req GPA when it replaces a B. Step 2. Estimate time cost for retaking a difficult class with the intention to receive an A. BE HONEST. Step 3. Look at the pre-req GPA of schools that you are interested in attending. (is your GPA already higher than the average?) This will not take you a long time. I think you will find that your pre-req GPA will rise maybe 0.1? Further, this does not eliminate the B from the record. If I remember correctly, you still report it in your application. This is where you get down to opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is a microeconomic theory, that explains your situation perfectly. If you choose to go to school, what alternative choice are you missing that you will be unable to do because of the time commitment to a hard anatomy class. I will not say that you shouldn't retake it, but for you it is important to set down what is the cost for retaking a class (TIME and money) as well as the lost opportunity on some other 'thing' (Your own happiness and free time with friends for example or volunteering at a boys and girls home or walking dogs at the human society etc etc etc)."

So you need to determine how much of change you want. If you can retake Physiology 1 and get an A, that might be valuable. If you retake it and get a C, that was a waste of time because the change will be incredibly small. Prior to signing up for that class, spend some time figuring out how an A will change the pre req score.

4. It is hard to know what classes are accepted. My advice is to always contact the school. PTCAS is an attempt to improve the application process but every program is still different. See if the A and P classes would work for a couple schools that you are interested in.

Was that helpful?

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on October 04, 2014:

Those are all good questions Henry. First off, it not too late to go around 25 (that's when I did) or 26 or 27. One of my colleagues did no become a PT until he was over 40.

First off, how many credits and hours have you taken that compose your pre-req GPA?

Here is what PTCAS calls its rules:

"Repeated courses are included in GPAs. All repeated courses are included, even if they are later repeated for a higher grade or excluded from the GPA on the transcript.

Failed courses are included in GPAs. All failed courses are included, even if they are later repeated for a higher grade or excluded from the GPA on the transcript."

I personally disagree with the method of including the GPA of classes that are retaken and will limit your ability to swing around the pre req GPA depending on how many hours you have done. This will be a big hurdle to overcome. You need to figure out a game plan. Going for the courses at the community college is smart. Get a 4.0 on all of them. What classes are left?

henry song on October 04, 2014:

Hi Craig,

I'm currently a senior @ college (delayed an extra year :( ) going for a B.S in exercise and sport science. By the time i graduate i'll be around 23 yrs old, however i don't plan on pursuing PT school right away. my gpa is pretty low, 2.7 and my prereq is even lower 2.0. I currently volunteer at outpatient rehab, and also am a rehab aide at the inpatient therapy department at a hospital. I know, obviously my weak point is my gpa. I plan to finish my degree asap, but figure i would hold on and take my remaining pre-reqs at a community college. So i guess, my question would be is, is it ever too late to apply to PT school? I expect to be around 25, 26 or maybe 27 by the time i apply and hopefully get accepted. I love this field with a passion, and i plan on becoming a personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach to bolster my resume. I know it sounds like i already answered my question above, but if it would be so kind to you, offer any advice on other steps that i can take that can bolster and fortify my resume, expecting my gpa to rise as well. Also would dominating the GRE's augment my chances of at least getting a shot @ an interview? ( i know my prereq gpa is super duper lower, and PTCAS takes into account old grades, so my prereq gpa still might not reach over that 3.0 mark.) Thank you so much for taking time for producing great content, and reading over my comments.



Ryan on October 03, 2014:

Thanks for the answer! I was recently looking into Sports PT residencies. Do you know anything about these or their benefit?

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on October 02, 2014:


Athletic training background is good to have, however it is obviously not PT. Where I have seen a problem is not understanding there is a difference. Both are good professions and being an AT may allow you to get a grad position while in PT school, however I do not think it puts you ahead of all other applicants.

It all depends on how you present the degree, no matter what it is.

Craig Allen Smith (author) from Tucson Arizona on October 02, 2014:


I would say the biggest thing people don't think about is life after the degree. I often hear about new grads that are crushed under debt. I would do everything to make sure that is not you.

The second part that keeps people from getting into school is that it is hard to take an honest appraisal of your weaknesses. If you have a low GPA that does not meet the minimum, then this has to be the first priority addressed. If you have a 2.1 GPA, you are probably going to be retaking quite a few classes.

Figure out where you are weak and make it into a strength.

Does that make sense?

AnnPo7410 on October 01, 2014:

Hi Craig,

I have started volunteering at a clinic and will soon start at a hospital to gain insight from an additional setting. Your advice is great and I need to ask you a question.

In Fall 2007 I enrolled and started my first semester of law school and subsequently failed out at the end of the Fall 2008 semester. I was pushed into going to school and did alright the first semester but I realized this was not what I wanted to do with my life at all and struggled with the material until I failed. Years later, I was still weary about jumping into an entirely different career that I wasn't sure about so I am a paralegal. I thought about other options but was not passionate enough to try them out, and I told myself that I wouldn't make a change until I found what it was that I wanted to do, if I found it all.

I have always been so passionate about physical health and just recently realized that a Physical Therapist is what I want to become after an injury I had. My undergraduate performance ended with a 3.82 GPA in Political Science and I will be starting the prerequisites next semester so that upon completion, with the required GPA minimum (and hopefully much higher) I can apply to a DPT program.

How detrimental will my law school stint be towards admissions. Do I have to include those transcripts? I contacted a DPT program I was interested in and was told over the phone that they weren't interested in law school transcripts, but everything I am reading from PTCAS is telling me differently. I am having a hard time believing what I was told over the phone. I don't want all of the time and effort that I will put in towards completing the prereqs to be a waste if I will likely be turned down.

Do you have any information on what kind of results my situation would yield?

Very truly yours,


musab23 on September 28, 2014:

Hey Craig,

First of all, this has been the most helpful article I have read on getting into physical therapy school as of yet. I wanted to thank you for sharing your info with us.

I am actually a Canadian student (I'm currently in a Canadian university) and am getting a degree in Specialized Honours Kinesiology Bachelor of Arts. My GPA as of right now (on a 9.0 scale) is a 6.86 which is a B here. I am hoping to bring that up to a B+ before graduating. These are all on the Canadian scale however. What I plan on doing is doing pre requisites that I didn't know I needed until recently at a community college in the states after graduating. These pre reqs would be the two chemistry courses and the two physics courses as well as the GRE's. I also received a C+ in Physiology 2 and a D+ in Physiology 1 so I will probably be repeating Physiology 1. Do you think this would be a good route? How early should I do my GRE's if I want to get into the 2016 class?

Also,I was a little worried when I read that the Anatomy and Physiology courses taken in Kinesiology program do not count as pre reqs, but in my university these courses are only in the Kinesiology program. how could I know if the pre reqs I have already taken would count in the American system, and how my GPA would be converted to the American scale?

Other than my GPA and being a Canadian student my resume looks pretty decent. I've been volunteering at two different clinics for many hours, I worked as a volunteer in a muscle research lab over the summer, I am extremely passionate about physical therapy and am an ambassador for the faculty of health in my university. What is your advice on making my application and GPA as strong as possible to apply as an international student?

Sorry for all the writing. Thanks so much for your help,


Ryan on September 25, 2014:

Hi Craig,

Does having a degree in Athletic Training help the chances of me getting into PT school?