Student Spotlight: Johnny Herrera discuses the APTA National Student Conclave

Name: Johnny Herrera, Class of 2021, Colorado APTA Core Ambassador in 2018-2019

Undergrad: Grand View University

Hometown: Santiago, Dominican Republic

Fun Fact: During my junior and senior years of high school I only had class on Saturdays

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A couple of weekends ago, I had the pleasure of attending the National Student Conclave (NSC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For those of you who don’t know me, during my first year of PT school I was involved with the APTA through a position as the Colorado APTA Core Ambassador (feel free to contact me about what this position is!). I chose to attend this conference because it is the only conference that the APTA offers specifically for students, and it is also the only conference that is mainly put together by students. I believe NSC was put together as a conference where students vote for the upcoming term of Student Assembly Board of Directors (SABoD), and the students from the previous term hand over their positions. I figured I’m only a PT student once, so I might as well see what the APTA offers during a conference made for students. Most people viewed me as being nuts for leaving town during Halloween weekend, but when I look back on my time at the conference, I can truly say it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Here are a few reasons why:

  • During my time as core ambassador, I worked under supervision of the SABoD. The SABoD is a board of current students from all over the country who serve every SPT/SPTA in the country and improve their interactions with the APTA. When I began this position as a first year student, it was daunting to think that I could have any sort of impact on other students. I had put the members of the SABoD on a pedestal for taking on such large roles within the APTA, and when I arrived at the NSC, I realized all of the members of the board during my term as Core Ambassador were there. Turns out, they’re a pretty cool group of humans. I had initially found myself intimidated because they were students who had these huge responsibilities and large platforms; but it turns out they were all just like any other student in PT school, just with a bit more responsibility. They are all broke college kids who study a ton, have doubts and fears about PT school and their futures, and love to have fun on the weekends with their friends. Being able to interact with them and get to know them personally was honestly refreshing. It was nice to see that those who had these high positions were no different than myself or any different than my current Regis classmates. They just had a passion for student involvement and they made sure to do something about it! I left having this renewed sense of ability to accomplish anything I really wanted to, and it was because of these amazing humans.
  • While reflecting about the NSC, I realized how similar it was to Regis DPT’s interview day. I know that for some, that day was super stressful, but for me, it was about getting to know people and further realizing why I wanted to join such an amazing profession. When I looked around at NSC, it was a huge melting pot of students from all around the country coming together to demonstrate their passion for PT and its future. It was so cool to hear about the amazing things that students all over the country are doing and how they’re making an impact within their communities.
  • People from all over the country recognize Regis, so when you tell them you go to school there, they WANT to talk to you. Selfishly, it was really cool to hear about how many students really wanted to go to Regis but didn’t get in (small pat on the back moment for getting in).
  • One of the talks was put together by Jimmy McKay, who is the CEO of the podcast “PT Pintcast”. For those of you who have never heard of it, definitely look into it and you might find some of our professors on previous episodes! The talk was a live podcast interview, where Jimmy interviewed Shante Cofield (AKA the Movement Maestro) and Josh D’Angelo (AKA founder of PT Day of Service) and then was interviewed by them. The point of the interviews was to share stories of how they used their passions to build what they now do for a living, and their stories ended by saying that all they had to do was ask. It sounds like such a simple thing, but when the worst thing that can be said to you after a question is “no”, then why not shoot for the stars? (I believe all 3 interviews are uploaded, so go listen to them for some motivation!) All weekend long, all 3 of these individuals were at some of the booths in the exhibit hall, so I got to meet them and have conversations with them. How often do you get to walk up to a stranger who you know has made a difference in the world of PT and just get to chat with them?!
  • Throughout the weekend, I was able to learn about a variety of travel companies, OP clinics, and residencies. I was even able to build rapport with specific clinic and residency directors, hopefully putting me in a good position in the future to pursue employment or a resident position within one of those companies if I choose to.
  • Lastly, the absurd amount of free stuff. Who doesn’t like soft t-shirts and pint glasses?!!
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The NSC Exhibit Hall

As exhausted (and possibly hungover) as I was during my drive back to Denver, there were so many good memories and great relationships built during that weekend. I hope I was able to give you some insight as to what these large conferences are all about. Last time I heard, NSC was going to be discontinued until the APTA found a better way of getting student involvement within the conference. That can change soon, so stay updated on NSC news, and if they decide to keep it rolling while you’re a student, I can promise you that the money and travel will be well worth it.

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about anything or if you want to know more about APTA involvement! Can’t wait for everyone to experience this at CSM this year!

10 Tips to Get You Into PT School

So, you’ve decided you want to be a physical therapist? Congratulations! That means you’ve decided to pursue pretty much the best career the world can offer. Unfortunately, the idea of actually applying to PT school can be pretty daunting, but I’m here to help! Hopefully I can make the process a little easier by passing on a few pieces of advice I found helpful back in my application days. These are either things I wish I had known when I was applying or tips I heard firsthand from professors, PT’s, previous students, etc. I hope they’ll be useful for you as well:

1. Think about what you want out of a school

One of the most difficult parts of applying to PT school is figuring out how you’re even going to start narrowing down the 220-something schools to just a handful that you are interested in. Before you dive in, make a list of characteristics you want your school to have. Some things to consider might be:

  • Location
  • Cost of tuition
  • Class size
  • Research opportunities
  • International opportunities
  • Clinical schedule/requirements
  • APTA Involvement
  • And many more!

Do some research and don’t apply to any schools that don’t fit ALL your criteria. If you want a large class, don’t apply to a school that will only admit 20 students. If you don’t want to move to Texas, don’t even look at the schools in Texas. Also, make sure you know why you are applying to each school—If you can’t explain specifically what jumps out to you about a particular school, you probably shouldn’t be applying there. The PT school application is just as much about you figuring out which is the right school for you as it is about each school figuring out who is best for them.

Some first years at the top of Estes Cone in October–funny how long ago that seems now!

2. Be honest with yourself as an applicant

Be a well-rounded applicant! Know where your weaknesses are and make up for them by being strong elsewhere. For example, if you don’t have the highest GPA, then you should take the time to study for that pesky GRE to boost your academic profile. Don’t make excuses about your weaknesses, but instead be able to articulate what you’ve done to overcome those setbacks. Find other ways to strengthen your application outside of academics: volunteer, get observation hours in a variety of PT settings, take extra time on your essays, or rack up some more extracurricular activities. Here are a few more things you can do if you feel like you might not stand out next to someone with a 4.0 who was president of 17 different clubs:

  • Apply to schools that conduct interviews so you can sell yourself in person.
  • Do a little extra research to find the schools that are going to look at you as more of a whole person rather than primarily emphasizing GPA and GRE scores.
  • Apply to schools with less applicant volume so you have less competition.
  • Look at the school’s acceptance statistics (e.g. what percent of in-state vs. out-of-state applicants they accept) to see what your chances are of getting in.

Survivor contestants and Jeff Probst: we take Halloween very seriously.

3. Don’t apply to too many schools

It might seem like applying to 20 different schools is playing it safe, but here’s the catch: not only does it take a lot of time to complete all those supplemental applications, but every school comes with a fee of its own and you have to pay to send your GRE scores to each one. Think about it: say you get into all 20 schools. You are probably seriously considering less than half of them, so you’ve already wasted time and money by just submitting an application to the schools you don’t really want to go to. My point is, only apply to schools you know you can see yourself at. You also need to take into account the cost of visiting each school, which brings me to my next piece of advice.

A post-finals ski trip to celebrate surviving our first semester!

4. Visit a school before you make a decision

The best way to get a feel for your fit in a DPT program is to go to the school and see it for yourself. You can email current students and professors all you want, but it’s not the same as actually seeing the campus and talking to those people in person. You would hate to show up for your first day of class and realize you don’t want to be there! On the flip side, you might be on the fence about a certain program and then fall in love with it once you’re there. If a school requires an interview, obviously you have to visit. That’s how I knew I wanted to go to Regis – everything about the interview day made me feel welcome, and I felt a better connection with the program than I had with either of the other two schools I had already visited. I had also gotten accepted into a program that didn’t have interviews, but when I visited the school on my own time, I realized I did not see myself there at all. So even if you get accepted to a school that doesn’t do interviews, you should definitely take the time to visit on your own before choosing it.

Trekking up waterfalls on the Subway hike during our summer break trip to Zion National Park

5. Location matters

You may be thinking, “PT school is only 3 years, so I don’t really care where I live as long as I’ll be at a good school.” Although location might not be a top priority for everyone, it’s still something to consider. Remember that PT school is hard, so you are going to need a sanity break every once in a while. That means you want to be in a location you know you would enjoy when you need to escape all the studying. (For me, and for a lot of us at Regis, having the mountains nearby is perfect.) Moral of the story: make sure wherever you end up, you have access to something you like to do for fun.

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Some of the first years took our service dog-in-training, Zuma, to Estes Park this summer!

6. Rankings DON’T matter

While it might feel pretty cool to get into the top ranked PT school in the nation, remember that every accredited program is going to teach you the skills you need to be a good physical therapist. Sure, you should look at academic statistics such as first-time pass rates, but what else about the school stands out to you? (See tip #1.) Don’t feel bad about yourself if you are not applying to super highly ranked schools—they will all ultimately get you to where you want to be! 

Trampoline parks aren’t just for little kids’ birthday parties

7. Student debt is real

They say ignorance is bliss, but you wouldn’t want to ignore all your loans until graduation and then find out you’ve racked up a ton of debt. This is, by no means, a lesson in finance, but you do need be realistic with yourself. Consider the cost of attendance of the schools you are applying to and figure out this will affect your financial planning. Also, try to have a basic understanding of how financial aid works so you are prepared to manage it while you’re still in school. That being said, you should still go with your gut when choosing schools and don’t base your decision on money alone. Remember, your education is an investment for you to pursue a profession for which you are passionate.

Giving snowshoeing a try at Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

8. Don’t procrastinate

This seems self-explanatory, but coming from personal experience, it is really easy to put things off and end up submitting your applications a little too close to the deadline for comfort. Give your references plenty of time to write their recommendations, but more importantly, give yourself more than enough time to write your essays and personal statement. Know the individual requirements for each school so you aren’t scrambling to get things together at the last minute. If you’re like me and you can never seem to kick the bad habit of procrastination, make your applications like homework or a job. Set aside a few times per week to work on them, and assign yourself deadlines (that you will actually stick to—be realistic and make manageable goals!) to hold yourself accountable.

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And that’s a wrap on semester 2!

9. Be able to explain why you want to be a physical therapist

Your personal statement is one of the most important aspects of your application. It is every admissions team’s snapshot into who you are as a person. Before you start, you should write a mini essay about exactly why you want to be a PT (this was a requirement for me in an undergrad class, but I would recommend doing it because it was extremely helpful). Go below the surface-level answer, of “I want to help people” and instead make it personal: add your own anecdotes, style, and voice. Also make sure your reasoning isn’t too general; describe specifically why you were drawn to PT, and don’t allow the same reasons to be applicable to other careers. Make it clear that you understand what a PT does! It’ll be challenging, but once you are able to put all that into words, you will be able to transfer a lot of it to your real personal statement, no matter the prompt. Then you should get it proofread as much as possible. Ask a PT, your favorite professor, your high school English teacher, your neighbor’s son’s girlfriend’s uncle—whomever you think would provide good feedback and help you make your statement as strong as possible.

Learning new skills at the APTA Colorado Chapter’s spring conference

10. Take a risk and be adventurous!

Finally, this is my own personal piece of advice. The closest PT school to my home in Portland is only 19 miles away. The closest school I actually applied to is a whopping 996 miles away. Why? Don’t get me wrong, I love the Pacific Northwest and I by no means wanted to “get out.” It’s just that I stayed in Oregon for undergrad (go Beavs) and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and try somewhere entirely new for a change. Maybe that mindset isn’t for everyone, but whether you’re coming straight from undergrad or starting a whole new career, taking on PT school is life-changing no matter how close you are to home. It was definitely scary moving away from all my friends and family, but I love having this new home with new friends and new hobbies all separate from that other part of my life. So just consider stepping a little further outside of what you’re comfortable with; it might be fun to take on a little extra risk and you will be all the more stronger for it.

Taking in the views at our campsite in Zion National Park

I hope these tips ease some application anxiety and help you feel a little more prepared for the fun that is PTCAS. If you stay organized and keep this advice in mind as you tackle your applications, the whole process will be a lot less stressful. Good luck!

Kelsie Jordan graduated from Oregon State University and is currently finishing her first year at Regis. Kelsie loves to line dance, the outdoors, and is the admissions representative for the Class of 2019.

 

 

 

Meet the Class of 2019 President: David Cummins

Name: David Cummins, Class of 2019
Hometown: Cortez, CO
Undergrad: Fort Lewis College

Fun Fact: I’ve moved 17 times since graduating high school

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When I received a letter from Regis University notifying me that I’d been accepted into their DPT program, I panicked. I had been working hard to get into PT school, but the reality of the impending changes caught me off guard. As a non-traditional student who had been out of school for more than 10 years, I was nervous about leaving the career I had worked so hard to build. The thought of surrounding myself with young, smart, successful, and ambitious classmates only added to my anxiety.

By the end of the first week of classes, I realized I had found my new family. Classmates surprised me by being genuinely interested in my academic success. They shared study guides, strategies for achievement, and—most importantly—support. There is now a palpable (Ha! Get it?) mentality that we’re all going to get through this program together;  that has made my anxiety melt away.

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David and his classmates climbing a 14er with some time off from school (PC: Elizabeth Johnson)

I was honored when someone nominated me for class president and elated when I was elected because the role will give me a chance to foster the supportive environment that got me through my first few weeks. The position comes with a lot of extra stress, but I’ll be working with an incredible group of elected officers who share the same vision of creating a healthy and supportive environment that is conducive to academic growth and overall success.

The 14 elected officers come from a wide variety of different backgrounds. Some have extensive experience working with physical therapists, some have worked in completely unrelated fields, and some are coming straight from undergraduate programs. Together, we represent a holistic cross-section of knowledge and viewpoints. We will utilize our combined skills and knowledge to build upon the foundation that previous classes have established and add our own projects and ideas to make this experience our own.

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The new officers for the Class of 2019

We’ve already been through a lot in the 11 short weeks we’ve known each other. The support and encouragement I’ve experienced has been overwhelming. Over the next 2.5 years, I hope to cultivate a supportive cohort based on the values we all share: we will be a community that promotes shared academic success and continues to motivate us to be the best, most compassionate physical therapists we can be.

President: David Cummins

Vice President: Katarina Mendoza

APTA Rep: Grace-Marie Vega

Fundraising Rep: Kassidy Stecklein and Celisa Hahn

DPT Rep: Nina Carson

Media Rep: Courtney Backward

Diversity Rep: Stephanie Adams

Ministry Rep: Sarah Collins

Service Rep: Amber Bolen

Move Forward Rep: Sarah Pancoast

Clin Ed Rep: Josh Hubert

Admissions Rep: Kelsie Jordan

Secretary: LeeAnne Little

Treasurer: Jennifer Tram