Pre-Physical Therapy Preparation at UHMānoa
(Text compiled from the American Physical Therapy Association website at www.apta.org, NAAHP’s Medical Professions Admission Guide: Strategy for Success, and the UHM 2013-2014 Catalog.)
Physical Therapy programs in Hawai'i: None
Physical therapists evaluate physical disabilities and help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent disabilities. A physical therapist’s responsibilities include the planning, evaluation, administration, and modification of treatment. Physical therapists advise and educate their patients, in addition to providing therapeutic and preventive care.
Physical therapists work in a variety of settings, including private practice, outpatient rehabilitation centers, hospitals and clinics, sports facilities, skilled nursing facilities, community and government health agencies, and home health agencies. Although most are involved in practice, some physical therapists conduct research or teach in higher education.
Although some programs still offer Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) degrees, most schools have instituted an entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree in response to the profession’s increasing complexity and responsibilities.
Related occupational therapy, rehabilitation counseling, athletic training, and personal training.
Becoming a Doctor of Physical Therapy, or DPT, usually requires 8 or more years of education:
Bachelors Degree (~4 years);
Physical Therapy School (~3 years);
Residencies or clinical fellowships (1+ years).
All accredited DPT programs require a completed baccalaureate degree and 2-3 years of specific course work that can often be completed within the baccalaureate. Generally, the DPT program is a 3-year curriculum of combined academic and clinical work. DPTs have the option to complete one or more residencies/fellowships to acquire more specialized training.
Students must graduate from an accredited program in order to be eligible to sit for the licensing exam, a state-administered national exam. All physical therapists must be licensed to practice.
Most importantly, remember that requirements vary from school to school! It is imperative that you research the programs you are interested in attending; the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) website, www.apta.org, includes a Directory of Accredited Physical Therapy Programs.
The following UHM courses are commonly required for admission to physical therapy programs:
BIOL 171/171Lab and 172/172Lab
Introductory Biology I and II
CHEM 161/161Lab and 162/162Lab
General Chemistry I and II
PHYS 151/151Lab and 152/152Lab
College Physics I and II
SOCS or PSY225
PHYL 141/141Lab and 142/142Lab
Human Anatomy and Physiology I and II
PSY 100 and 240 (or 371)
General and upper division Psychology
(usually developmental or abnormal)
In addition, PAC recommends the following UHM courses for students pursuing physical therapy:
Exercise and Sport Physiology
Additional requirements may include:
- CPR certification
- English composition
- social sciences
- computers (ICS 101)
- medical terminology (HLTH 110 and 125 at KCC)
- exercise physiology and kinesiology (KRS 205, 353 and 354/354Lab, 415, 416, 419, 420, 421, 463; HLTH 290/290Lab at KCC)
- human development and aging (PSY X4X, X7X at UHM, a variety of FAMR courses at UHM, or HLTH 270 at KCC)
- organic chemistry (CHEM 152/152Lab, or 272/272Lab and 273/273Lab)
- research methods (PSY 212)
- cell biology (BIOL 275/275Lab)
Work or volunteer experience involving direct contact with people with disabilities, illness, or other disadvantages is essential. DPT programs may require anywhere from 30 to 200+ hours of observation or experience and may request that one of your letters of recommendation come from a licensed physical therapist. Some schools specify a minimum number of different settings for observation/experience, and may even specify a minimum number of hours in each setting. Be sure to check the specific requirements for each school!
Experience opportunities are available at hospitals, nursing homes, senior centers, shelters, rehabilitation facilities, etc.; see UHM’s Pre-Health Advising Center for a list of possible contacts.
Schools need to be certain that the students they accept will be capable of completing the academic curriculum and are likely to become good physical therapists.
Are you capable of completing the academic curriculum?
Admissions committees are looking for students who have:
- successfully completed the prerequisites
- earned a Bachelors degree
- a high overall GPA
- a high science/math GPA
- performed well on the GRE
- balanced their course load so it is challenging yet realistic
Are you likely to become a good physical therapist?
Admissions committees look for students who have:
- the school’s designated observation/experience requirements
- familiarity with and detailed knowledge of the field
- demonstrated empathy, compassion, and a commitment to public service
- high ethical and moral standards and a conscientious work ethic
- demonstrated maturity (judgment, responsibility, dependability)
- a broad liberal arts education that includes the humanities and social sciences
- a well-rounded life that balances academics, community service, social activities, and personal interests (hobbies, skills, sports, etc.)
- excellent oral and written communication skills
- strong letters of recommendation
There are now over 200+ public and private DPT programs in the U.S., each one unique in its mission, philosophy, criteria, and strengths. Applicants can research schools using the Directory of Accredited Physical Therapy Programs on the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) website, www.apta.org.
Although there are resources that “rank” schools, the rankings are rarely pertinent for individual applicant or specific programs. More important is whether there is a good match between applicant and school.
To find schools that are good a fit for you:
- Assess your individual strengths and weaknesses, your professional interests, learning style, and personality;
- Start by considering all schools, which usually includes all 200+ schools;
- Create your “Long List” by omitting the schools that do not match your professional interests, learning style, and personality;
- Once you have your MCAT or GRE scores, create your “Short List” by categorizing the schools into ‘Reach’, ‘Match’, and ‘Safety’, ranking the schools by preference, and finally choosing how many schools to apply to.
If possible, visit the schools to see their facilities, talk to Admissions Directors, and chat with students.
All physical therapy schools require applicants to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
Preparation: Your most important preparation for the GRE is your undergraduate courses, many of which sharpen your writing and verbal reasoning skills. Remember that the verbal sections are not only the most accurate predictor of how well you will do at the graduate level, but also the most difficult scores to improve.
GRE Summary: The GRE is administered year-round, appointments are scheduled on a first-come, first-serve basis, and is available only in computer-based format. The test requires approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete and assesses your skills in Verbal Reasoning, Analytical Writing, and Quantitative Reasoning.
GRE Scoring: Scores for the Verbal and Quantitative sections each yield a scaled score of 130 to 170, in 1-point increments. The Analytical Writing section is scored on a scale of 0 to 6 in half-point increments, and you will receive a single score for your overall performance in this section.
Official Test Preparation Material:
- The Official Guide to the GRE revised General Test from ETS
- Practice Questions on GRE website
- Free diagnostic exam on GRE website
There are three general steps in applying to physical therapy schools: the primary application, the secondary application, and the interview.
1. Primary applications for most schools must be filed with the Physical Therapy College Application Service (PTCAS), which is a centralized application system. Once the application is complete, PTCAS forwards it to whichever schools the student has designated.
2. Secondary applications or supplementary forms are specific to individual physical therapy schools; schools send these to applicants after they have received the PTCAS application. Both frequently request additional information, essays, and letters of recommendation. Some schools may even screen applicants before the applications or forms are sent out. However, secondary applications and supplementary forms differ in that the latter is not a formal application.
3. Interviews: After reviewing the primary and secondary applications (or supplementary forms), physical therapy schools invite promising applicants to interview. Applicants are responsible for all costs of interviewing, including airfare, lodging, professional attire, and meals.
WICHE: Hawai’i residents are eligible to participate in the Professional School Exchange Program (PSEP), a service of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). In a competitive process, PSEP selects applicants to receive financial support from state funds; those students will be able to pay instate tuition if they attend a participating program on the west coast. WICHE applications become available in July and have a mid-October deadline.
Note: To be considered for this scholarship, you must apply one full year in advance of matriculation, so in the summer after your junior year.
- The more you know about the school, the better your chances of being accepted.
- Contact individual schools’ Admissions Offices to find out how they handle:
- advanced placement (AP) credits
- College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) credits
- courses taken at a community college
- courses taken for credit/no credit instead of a grade
- residency issues
- time limits on acceptable science courses
- course work taken outside the U.S.
UHMānoa’s Pre-Health/Pre-Law Advising Center (PAC) has reference books, lists of volunteer opportunities, academic planning worksheets, and one-on-one advising by peers who can help you prepare for and apply to physical therapy schools.
|UHM's Pre-Medical Association||www.hawaii.edu/premed
|UHM's Biology Club||www2.hawaii.edu/~bioclub
|American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)||www.apta.org|
|Physical Therapists Centralized Application Service (PTCAS)||www.ptcas.org|
|CAPTE Physical Therapy Program Directory||www.apta.org/prospectivestudents/programs|
|APTA Student Assembly||www.aptastudent.org|
|Sports Physical Therapy||www.spts.org|
|Graduate Record Examination (GRE)||www.gre.org|
|Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)||www.wiche.edu ; www.hawaii.edu/wiche|
|Preparing for Graduate School by the Honors Program||http://preparingforgraduateschool.weebly.com/|