The DPT Application Process: Transcripts, GPA, GRE, Hours, Experiences, & Finances
The upcoming Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS), offered through the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) cycle, is approaching for admission to Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) programs. As this is one of the most important times for aspiring physical therapy students, we wanted to share a few things to keep in mind prior to the application opening. PTCAS allows you to apply to multiple programs using a single application portal, similar to the Common App for students applying for their undergraduate schools. Before the portal opens for the 22’-23’ cycle, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Based on our experience, as we are currently in the process of applying, and additional advice from a 2021 applicant, we compiled tips to help you navigate the process.
First, a little bit about who we are. My name is Aiyannah, I am currently applying in the 22’-23’ cycle. At first, the process was a little challenging as there seems to be no real guidance on the process. Having PTIS throughout this process has helped me out tremendously and I am feeling more prepared for when the cycle opens.
My name is Rachel, I plan to apply this upcoming 22’-23’ cycle similar to Aiyannah. My process so far has been mostly organized through Google sheets and YouTube videos. I have found comfort in PTIS through their guidance with both certified physical therapists, student PTs, and other Pre-PT students in the same boat as me.
Acquire your transcripts early! A transcript is an unofficial copy of a student’s academic history which entails each course taken and the grade received. It is important to gather transcripts from your four-year institution and any other transcripts from either universities or community colleges where you may have taken prerequisites or degree-bearing coursework. By requesting transcripts earlier, you can avoid receiving them too close to the application deadline and review it for accuracy. Make sure to check if your college offers both electronic and hard copy transcripts or if they only offer one form of your transcript.
Look at how your GPA measures with your PT school(s) of interest! Your grade point average (GPA) plays a significant role in the way graduate programs perceive you as a student. The average overall GPA required by most PT schools is 3.0 but it varies from student to student. There are three kinds of GPAs that you should be aware of: the overall GPA, science and math GPA, and lastly the prerequisite GPA. These vary from school to school and will be detailed in the admission requirements portion of the program. If you're having trouble finding your science GPA, the APTA provides further directions and some universities provide these resources within their portals. It’s important to look into specific GPA requirements for each program, as some schools may require you to have a minimum of a C in the course which may result in a student needing to retake the course.
Take the GRE! Similar to the SAT/ACT for undergraduate admissions, some graduate schools may require students to take a Graduate Record Examination (GRE) as a portion of the admissions process. The GRE consists of three sections, analytical writing (writing portion), verbal reasoning (English portion), and quantitative reasoning (math portion). This exam is approximately four hours long and generally takes a few months in advance to prepare for. GRE is available both online and at multiple testing centers. Besides the time commitment, there are additional fees when taking the GRE such as the study resources or materials (range between source and student), transportation to the exam, and the exam itself which is $205. For the unemployed, there is a GRE fee reduction voucher that could relieve some of the financial burdens. Students are allowed to send their scores to four schools at no cost, each additional school will cost approximately $27. It’s beneficial to take a practice test before studying to understand where your strengths and weaknesses are. Most importantly, it's not about the highest score but rather making sure that you're above the minimum, as certain schools require a minimum score of 150.
Get observation hours! Clinical hours of observation also known as experience hours are hours dedicated to observing a licensed physical therapist within their practice setting. It’s valuable and recommended to observe in at least two settings (i.e. outpatient orthopedic, skilled nursing facility, acute care, etc) to see different treatment techniques and populations (i.e. geriatric, pediatric, orthopedics, sports, etc). The number of hours required for observation varies from school to school and it’s important to meet the minimum but any extra could benefit your learning experience. Building a relationship with the PTs helps with future letters of recommendation, mentorships, and job connections.
Participate in extracurricular activities (academic & non-academic)!
Non-clinical volunteer hours and experiences play an important role in the way a graduate program sees you as a person rather than just a student. You want to be a well-rounded applicant. There is no requirement or minimum of volunteer hours. It’s easiest to get volunteer hours through clubs and organizations both through your university and outside resources. For example, our organization, PTIS offers a large number of volunteering hours online. The PTCAS portal includes a section for these hours called “experiences” which includes any work, volunteering, extracurricular activities, or research opportunities that a student has completed throughout their undergraduate and post-undergraduate career. Volunteer hours aren't limited to a physical therapy clinical setting, a student can choose anywhere from a soup kitchen to an animal shelter and it will count.
Stay on top of your finances! Graduate school could be expensive and depending on a student’s financial background, overwhelming. There are resources to relieve some students of their financial burden such as merit-based or general scholarships and loans. Additionally, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) is a resource most students use throughout their undergraduate and graduate careers for income-based financial assistance. There are other scholarships through the DPT programs and outside sources that may also help to reduce the cost of attendance. Most commonly, tuition and expenses are paid through savings or loans. It could be beneficial to the student to organize and file their related finances such as GRE fees, application fees, program-specific fees, travel expenses, and personal expenses to get an overall view of the cost of applying.
Despite the many aspects of the portal, the previous steps should help guide you through the application process for the upcoming 22’-23’ PTCAS cycle opening. It’s important for a student to keep themselves organized and on top of their deadlines in order to successfully complete their application. Additionally, don’t hesitate to contact the admissions office of the programs with any questions you may have. We will continue to work our way through the application and share advice in the upcoming blogs and Instagram posts!