How to Get into Physical Therapy School

People who suffer traumatic injuries often face significant challenges, such as a lack of mobility or chronic pain. Physical therapists can provide critical assistance to these patients by offering hands-on therapies and prescribing targeted exercise regimens along the road to recovery.

If you’re interested in becoming a physical therapist, you’ll need a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree . You’ll also need to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) and obtain a license to practice in the state where you want to work.

Here are some things to think about as you explore this exciting career path and consider pursuing a DPT degree.

How hard is it to get into physical therapy school?

Getting into physical therapy school can be challenging because DPT programs are fairly competitive, so students are encouraged to apply to more than one program at a time. Even though the admissions process is competitive, being accepted is possible with some hard work in the classroom, good preparation and a commitment to submitting a strong application. 

If you’re not offered admission the first time you apply, you can apply again in future years. Just be sure to improve the weaker parts of your application — submitting the exact same content is never a good idea.

What are the requirements for a DPT program, and which college courses should I take? 

DPT programs have different admission requirements , so it’s important to check with the program(s) you’re interested in to make sure you complete the required credit hours for each prerequisite category. 

In general, you’ll need to take courses in anatomy and physiology, chemistry, physics, statistics, biology, and psychology. If it’s been more than seven years between the date you completed a course and the date you’re applying, you’ll likely be required to take it again.

Do you have to take the GRE to get into a DPT program?  

This can vary by program. Some doctor of physical therapy programs put an emphasis on GRE (Graduate Record Examination) scores, while others don’t consider it in their application review. It’s important to check with the program(s) you’re applying to so you can make sure you’re fully prepared. At George Fox, we do not require the GRE , nor do we consider it during the application review process.

What’s the average college GPA of students who get into DPT programs?

For George Fox University’s entering DPT class of 2021, the average overall GPA was 3.73, and the average prerequisite GPA was 3.69. 

What major should my bachelor’s degree be in?

There’s no required area of study for your bachelor’s degree, but fields related to health care are good preparation for a doctorate degree in physical therapy. The core requirements of these undergraduate programs typically align with most (if not all) of the DPT prerequisite courses. Some good examples of degrees to consider are pre-physical therapy, kinesiology , exercise science, athletic training and biology .

How do I apply to a DPT program?

Many DPT programs use the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS) offered by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) to accept applications. PTCAS allows you to submit one application to multiple programs. When you’re completing the application, you’ll see questions that are viewable by all the programs you selected. In addition, each program has its own custom questions that you’ll need to answer.

What if I’m a PTA – does that change anything?

If you’re a physical therapy assistant (PTA), some programs may give preference to you based on your experience, while others may not. Regardless of this, being a PTA provides great experience in the field while helping you gain observation hours , which many physical therapy schools include as part of their admission requirements. 

What can I do to make my application stand out?

George Fox’s DPT program looks at applications holistically, meaning every part of an application is important to us – academics, observation hours, references, essays, etc. 

That being said, standout applicants typically have these qualities:

What does George Fox look for when evaluating applications?

We seek applicants who come from a variety of backgrounds with diverse experiences and perspectives. We also appreciate students who are teachable and curious, and who demonstrate the ability to do well academically in a doctorate program. Finally, we’re looking for students who align with our program values, which are rooted in a commitment to service, a spirit of innovation and a belief in the power of community. We want our DPT students to be a good fit for George Fox, and we want George Fox to be a good fit for them. 

Whether you’re looking at George Fox or another DPT program, make sure your application reflects your personal values, life experiences, academic strengths and professional goals. That will give your application reviewers a holistic view of your personal qualities and potential for success.

What else should I look for in a DPT program?

As you explore various DPT programs, consider how well they align with your passions and interests. Excited about a particular field of physical therapy? Take a look at the program’s faculty to see if there are experts in that field who will be teaching you.

You’ll also want to make sure the program is accredited by CAPTE (Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education). This organization is dedicated to ensuring and advancing excellence in physical therapy education, and it regularly assesses the overall quality of programs across the nation.

Every physical therapy program is going to have its differences, so it's important to make sure you research where you want to be. Reach out to the admissions counselors for the program you’re applying to so you can stay well informed and equipped as you go through the application process.

Questions?

Megan Bos is the admissions counselor for the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at George Fox University. Prior to her arrival at George Fox, she worked for a local nonprofit in the fundraising and volunteer outreach departments. She is an alumna of George Fox.

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