By: Mathew Hilton, University of Delaware Physical Therapy Class of 2017
With the physical therapy application slated to open up on June 30th, many applicants are compiling their application materials and figuring out how they are going to answer the 2016-2017 PTCAS personal statement prompt. Beyond preparing for the admissions process, applicants should also carefully reflect upon the list of schools they plan on applying to.
Selecting where you want to apply to physical therapy school is a confusing, yet crucial part of your application process. You’ve worked hard throughout your undergraduate career to build your best application and you want to be sure that you’re receiving the best education possible in return. But what things should applicants consider when deciding which schools would be the best for their physical therapy education? Here is a list of important, yet usually overlooked, reasons for choosing a physical therapy program:
1. Student Outcomes
Remember that your primary goal as a future student physical therapist is to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) to acquire your license. Schools are mandated to publish statistics for prospective students such as their PT licensure exam pass rate and 6-month post-graduation employment rate.
These statistics should easily be in the 90+% range, and you can use these numbers to determine how well the program will prepare you to pass the licensure exam.
2. Your Future Goals
Are you interested in aspects of the physical therapy profession that are not purely clinical? Maybe you want to explore research, become a future clinical instructor, or open your own private practice. Maybe you are determined to work in a particular physical therapy setting in the future, such as sports physical therapy or neurological physical therapy.
Does the program offer any additional training or education to cater to these specialized interests? While every DPT program must prepare their students to pass the NPTE, prospective students can use these elective paths to decide which programs align with their interests and future goals.
3. Clinical Affiliations
The job market for physical therapists is strong, with employment expected to grow by 34% in ten years. While this is great news for students, we cannot expect to acquire our dream jobs immediately as new grads by simply handing out resumes. Contrary to popular belief, many jobs as a new grad are acquired through a student’s professional network, through the people they have met and worked with. This means that it will be increasingly important to choose a program with a broad range of clinical affiliations for your rotations, where you will be able to build a strong network with the professionals you meet.
Be sure to ask DPT programs about their options for clinical affiliations. Even better, ask the program if you can see the list of clinical affiliations. These affiliations represent opportunities for you to secure a job upon graduation, and you want to know that you’ll have options that interest you.
These are a few criteria that you should reflect upon when deciding where to apply. Overall, every program must prepare its students to pass the boards, so some may argue that the school doesn’t matter. However, the DPT program’s educational philosophy and network will influence your growth and career trajectory as a future professional. Therefore, you should critically consider the above criteria when selecting your list of DPT programs to apply to.