If you are serious about becoming a physical therapist, the best strategy is to plan ahead. Graduate programs in physical therapy are highly competitive and difficult to get into. Doing well as an undergraduate is essential to becoming a competitive applicant for graduate programs in physical therapy. Graduate programs want students with a high GPA, but who also have additional volunteer experience, and have good communication skills. Communicating with clients and patients is an integral part of the job of a physical therapist.
Take the necessary prerequisite courses in college. The prerequisites for physical therapy are rigorous and you normally need a very high GPA to get into graduate school. Prerequisite courses include anatomy, general biology, human physiology, chemistry, math and general physics. You should take the prerequisite courses during your freshman and sophomore years.
Devote your junior and senior years to upper level classes. Graduate programs are interested in students whose knowledge is well-rounded and thorough. Build up your knowledge by taking classes such as psychology, organic chemistry, exercise physiology, microbiology and sports medicine.
Gain additional experience through volunteer work. Graduate physical therapy programs desire applicants who have hands-on experience working in physical therapy environments. Many programs require students to have 50 to 100 hours of volunteer experience. Find volunteer opportunities in your area, such as with comprehensive care centers, hospital physical therapy departments, sports medicine facilities and athletic programs.
Investigate and select physical therapy programs that interest you. Go to the American Physical Therapy Association website at apta.org to find information and requirements for graduate programs in physical therapy.
Make arrangements to take the GRE general exam. You should take the exam in your junior year. Your GRE score is used by many programs in evaluating prospective students. Books and study aids available to help you prepare for the exam.
Request letters of recommendation from professors and supervisors. Letters of recommendation also play a crucial role in the evaluation process. Request letters from professors familiar with your academic achievements and work experience, and who can also describe your personal characteristics. Letters of recommendation represent an honest and critical evaluation of your academic and personal credentials.
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