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Successful Applicants—Physical Therapy

Successful Applicant Profiles to Physical Therapy Programs

Success Stories by Year of Matriculation

2023 Matriculants

Headshot: Ben Bleier

Name: Ben Bleier
Major: Human Biology
Overall GPA: 3.74
Graduation Year: 2022
Matriculation Year: 2023

Q: Which school will you be attending?
A: Columbia University Program in Physical Therapy

Q: What drew you to this particular health field?
A: I was drawn to the physical therapy field after witnessing my father's determination and recovery as a patient in physical therapy. I spent much time in the PT clinic, learning exercises and observing the therapists' understanding of the body and their creativity towards movement. The emotional impact of my father's injury drove me to help him on his journey by educating myself on his condition. His recovery made me see physical therapists as professionals who can improve one's quality of life and inspire them to lead healthier lives.

I pursued a major in human biology and started working in PT clinics as a technician in order to further my knowledge and to gain experience in the field. Physical therapy appeals to me because it allows for direct patient care and long-term relationships with my patients. I also find the field very intellectually stimulating and it provides me with an opportunity to stay physically active in my career.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A: In terms of clinical experience, I worked as a physical therapy aide in both inpatient and outpatient settings: in the hospital, orthopedic clinics, and a multidisciplinary wellness clinic. These experiences gave me insight into what my future career would entail. I truly recommend working or volunteering at a variety of places in order to better learn to interact with diverse patient populations and to experience various business models while working alongside a variety of professionals.

In addition to physical therapy experiences, I investigated other medical and wellness fields. I worked as a personal trainer, I volunteered in an internal medicine clinic, and I attended virtual clinical shadowing events such as ClubMedSHU and WebShadowers.

Working alongside professionals in health-related fields helped to solidify my choice to pursue Physical Therapy.

Finally, I was a member of the Hunter Hillel chapter, and a part of the Jewish Learning Fellowship, which was an opportunity to connect with my peers and discuss culture and religion and its relevance in modern times.

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A: About 50 hours a week, or 3 hours per credit.

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A: No. To prepare for the GRE Exam, I used the Kaplan and Princeton Review workbooks and the two official GRE online practice tests. The official GRE website also has additional paid practice materials available.

Q: Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?
A: I took a gap year to gain more physical therapy experience. I knew additional experience would help me stand out as an applicant. Most importantly, my various experiences gave me the inspiration to continue on this path and prepared me as an incoming student.

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A: The strongest parts of my application were my clinical experiences and my essays. By the time I applied, I had over one thousand clinical hours, across three outpatient clinics and a hospital. I recommend prioritizing in-patient hours, as these opportunities are more difficult to find.

Additionally, my essays were all rewritten and revised by others. I recommend utilizing the Writing Center in the Hunter Library and the Pre-Health Office for help with essay writing, and especially what to include in your essays and how to structure them. It is important that your personal statement is well written and that your school specific essays reflect enthusiasm for each school, so be sure to investigate each one in depth.

Finally, a major strength to my application was that I applied fairly early in July. Most schools will accept students on a rolling basis; therefore, applying early will increase your chances for acceptance.

Q: Did you apply nationally?
A: No.

Q: How did the Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
A: Kemile Jackson guided me throughout the application process and provided me with revisions on my personal statement. I believe my personal statement was a strong aspect of my application and, therefore, the assistance of the Pre-Health Office was critical to my success as an applicant to DPT programs.

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A: Pursuing any Pre-Health track at Hunter is difficult and stressful, so I recommend that you remind yourself why you’re following this path, and how rewarding it will be to finally practice your desired career. Furthermore, ask for help from others. Don’t be afraid to reach out to current graduate students for advice. There is also a Rehabilitation Therapy Club at Hunter College for pre-OT and pre-PT students so get involved and connect with other students who have similar professional interests. Finally, utilize the services and resources provided by the Pre-Health Advising Office for application help and the Writing center for help on your essays.

In terms of applications, most PT schools give priority to early applications, as there are more seats available. In order to apply earlier, start your application before your current cycle opens. Reach out ahead of time so that your letters of recommendation can be submitted right when the application opens. Set a GRE (or other standardized test) date for at least a month before applications open so that there will be enough time to submit them to the DPT programs you are interested in. Finally, look at last year's personal statement and school specific essay questions, (available either on PTCAS or on Reddit), and draft out your responses, as they will likely be similar to last year’s questions.

Investigate the DPT programs that you plan to apply to, and think about what they can offer you and why you are a good fit there. In your applications, show your passion and excitement about the PT field and about the programs you are applying to. Additionally, add any nonclinical experiences that will demonstrate who you are as a person. For example, on my application I included that I have a passion for gardening because I like to nurture and work with my hands, skills that translate to my desired profession in physical therapy. Finally, as a pre-PT student, prioritize attaining your inpatient hours because these opportunities are more difficult to obtain than outpatient hours. If there aren’t any technician positions available, call up your local hospitals with a physical therapy department and ask them if you can volunteer.

Good luck!!!

2021 Matriculants

Headshot:  Carla Foster

Name: Carla Foster
Major: Human Biology Honors
Minor: Spanish (Mini Concentration)
Overall GPA: 3.8
Graduation Year: 2021
Matriculation Year: 2021

Q: Which school will you be attending?
A: Hunter College DPT.

Q: What drew you to this particular health field?
A: I was drawn to Physical Therapy because of my background as a ballet dancer. Beginning dance at the age of three, and then earning my way into a professional ballet company at the age of seventeen, physical therapy clinics became my second home and DPTs were like family. However, when I suffered a career ending injury in 2015, it was physical therapy that became my passion. My dream ever sense has been to work with performing artists and other accomplished athletes and help them continue to live out their dreams by providing healing and preventative care as a DPT.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A: I participated in biomolecular research at Hunter, as well as clinical research at Mount Sinai. I was a Pre-Health Mentor to two pre-med students, and an Anthropology tutor at the Skirball Science Learning Center at Hunter. I was also blessed with an opportunity to volunteer and shadow surgeons at NYU, and during my last year of college, I received a job as a PT Technician at SPEAR PT, and earned my ACSM CPT as well, allowing me to train my own clients. In the little free time I did have, I enjoyed going for bike rides, working-out (taking dance or Zumba classes), going to the movies, and exploring the city.

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A: On average, I spent about 20-30 hours a week studying for my courses.

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A: I did not take any Test Prep courses.

Q: Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?
A: I did not take a gap year.

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A: My strengths in my application were my letters of recommendation, GPA, extracurricular activities, jobs, internships, volunteering, and research experiences, and my passion for and knowledge of the field of the field of physical therapy based on my personal experiences as a ballet dancer.

Q: Did you apply nationally?
A: I did not apply nationally. I only applied to Hunter College, as that was my primary choice. I was fortunate to receive an early acceptance into the Hunter DPT Program.

Q: How did the Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
A: The Pre-Health Advising Office provided workshops that helped me tremendously with receiving internships, research, and volunteering opportunities. The Office also provided me with a mock interview session with one of the advisors, which bettered my chances of acceptance into PT school. The Office further kept a record of my letters of recommendation throughout my four years at Hunter after opening a Pre-Health file, which provided efficiency when applying to PT school.

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A: Have a strong resume, make connections and build relationships by knowing how to network with people, and self-reflect to discover what makes you special and different from every other applicant out there. Find out what you can bring to the table that no one else can, as a competitive GPA is only one aspect of the what you need to be accepted into DPT school.

2018 Matriculants

Headshot: Larissa Heron

Name: Larissa Heron
Major: Human Biology, Special Honors
Minor: N/A
Overall GPA: 3.96
Graduation Year: 2018
Matriculation Year: 2018

Q: Which school will you be attending?
A: Hunter College's Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program.

Q: What drew you to this particular health field?
A: The PT profession strikes a perfect work-life balance while providing countless avenues to optimize patients' quality of life across a spectrum of abilities, motivate patients to achieve feats they never believed possible, and see patients through the course of their rehabilitation journeys.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A: Research Experience: 1) Burke Neurological Institute (Summer Science Scholar), 2) Hunter College Biological Anthropology Department (spring semester student researcher); Leadership: 1) Human Biology peer mentor, 2) A&P tutor at Hunter's Skirball Science Learning Center; Community Service: 1) Volunteer with Project Ezra at the Riverside Premier Rehab & Healing Center Nursing Home, 2) Volunteer trainer with Achilles Kids; Observation: 1) Alta Physical Therapy (100 hours out-patient), 2) Mount Sinai West Hospital (130 hours in-patient rehab and 20 hours acute med-surge oncology); Clincial Work Experience: PT Aide at Professional Physical Therapy.

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A: ~35

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A: I prepared for the GRE using the ETS books, including The Official Guide to the GRE Revised General Test and their Official GRE Quantitative Reasoning Practice Questions. I also utilized ETS's free practice exams as well as the free practice exams from: Manhattan Prep, Crunch Prep, Kaplan, and Princeton Review.

Q: Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?
A: Yes, I did. The gap year offered me the opportunity to gain further experience in the field of PT as a PT aide, to develop my teaching skills as an A&P tutor, study and sit for my GRE exam, write personal statements and complete my PT school applications.

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A: My strengths included: GPA, GRE scores, research experience, leadership positions, personal statements, and interview preparedness.

Q: Did you apply nationally?
A: No. I only applied to schools in New York.

Q: How did the Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
A: I worked closely with Nina in developing my personal statements for research programs, internships, and ultimately, DPT programs. I further worked with Nina on mock interviews. Kemile assisted me in countless ways during advising sessions.

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A: GPA, GRE scores, and clinical experience will decide whether you are invited for an interview. But what sets you apart from the crowd of applicants? I met fellow applicants with experience as a swim coach, in athletic training, a high school math teacher, a husky dog trainer, an event planner, and the list goes on. Determine what makes you unique and how the skills you have cultivated throughout your life are applicable to your chosen profession.

Furthermore, to gain exposure to a variety of PT settings. Consider that PTs work in schools, at homes, in hospitals, out-patient facilities, aquatic therapy settings, and in nursing homes, etc. Rather than thinking about observation hours as a requirement, consider them an opportunity to determine first, is this profession the right fit for me? And second, if so, which niche do I potentially see myself in? Third, do not passively observe the session. Engage with the therapist, ask questions about what you are seeing, and establish a rapport with the patients. Keep a journal log of what you learned that day. Finally, if you have the opportunity to work as a PT aide, you will gain unparalleled experience as a team member in the field of physical therapy.

If you are unsure where to look for research experience, start at Hunter! Work as a volunteer in the lab of a Hunter College faculty member or consider applying for the Spring Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Meet regularly with your advisors: Hunter's CDS' internship advisor, Paula Wicklow, Pre-Health advisors Nina Ledis, Kemile Jackson and Veronica Mitchell, and your major peer advisors. Apply for a summer research opportunity.

Spend your summers at NYU's RUSK HCOP program shadowing PTs, at Burke's Summer HELP program, or engaging in cutting-edge research at one of many undergraduate programs across the US! Work as a tutor in one of Hunter's tutoring centers, a TA, a peer mentor, a student ambassador, or in another position where you will grow as a leader, a researcher, and/or as a teacher.

Apply EARLY! Many schools follow a rolling admissions model and fill up their interview slots on a first come, first serve basis. You're called in for an interview. What now? Schedule several mock interviews and research everything you can about the PT school before the interview date: their curriculum, faculty, research, etc., and prepare your questions accordingly.

Be proactive and never lose sight of why you want to be a PT! Good luck.

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