By: Mathew Hilton, MS, SPT, ACLS, PALS
University of Delaware Physical Therapy Class of 2017
Now that summer is over and students are beginning another school year, many may wonder what they should be doing to build their best advantage to physical therapy school. There are many aspects of school that you can get involved with, but in order to optimize your time, here are some things that you should focus on:
1. Get Settled With Your Classes
The bottom line is that your GPA is important. As you begin your courses, you should definitely take a week or two to understand the workload involved with each course. Look through the syllabus, talk to former students and discuss the workload with the professor. If you’re anticipating a busy quarter/semester, then it may be best just to just to focus on performing well, especially if you’re enrolled in many prerequisite courses for physical therapy school.
In addition, this is also a great opportunity to begin building a solid relationship with your professors by attending office hours (think about those letters of reference that you'll eventually need). As someone who attended a large university, I can understand how this can feel daunting, but it does not have to be!
Each week, you should schedule in your planner the time in which the professor has office hours. Treat this like a part of the class that you must attend. Throughout the week, write down any questions that you have on a sticky note and then just read down the list while you're in office hours. It’s that simple to build some quality face time!
2. Find Consistent Volunteering
This will be your next priority if you find that you have about a 4 hour block once or twice a week that you can spare. Look up local physical therapy clinics and try to find settings that you have not explored yet, such as skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), acute rehab, pediatric clinics and/or hospitals.
Logistics also important because you don’t want to burden yourself by traveling far from your university to volunteer. So if an outpatient clinic is your only local option, then volunteer there (or better yet, try to acquire an aide position). Ultimately, you want to be sure that you’re diversifying your experiences and learning new aspects of the profession.
3. Get Involved With Your University's Pre-PT Club
These clubs are a great opportunity to network with fellow pre-physical therapy students like yourself. These students will likely be in your classes and you all can form study groups to help each other succeed. Join their Facebook page and look out for events that feature PT speakers and admissions officers. Some students even post PT aide openings! In addition, these clubs present leadership opportunities from within the club which can also reflect well in your application to PT school.
4. Join a New Intramural (IM) Sport
Physical therapists need to know how other people move, especially in sports. In PT school, your time is limited and the curriculum will likely not cover all of the different movement patterns of every specific athlete. Also, if you are a kinesthetic learner, then your best learning strategy is simple--get out there and move!
Therefore you should take the time to participate in a new sport, dance team, martial arts gym or any other new activity. Take advantage of your university's gym and facilities while you still have access as a student and have some fun while you take a break from classes!
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