So You’re Interviewing for PT School (and more specifically for REGIS!)…

Name: Erin Lemberger

Undergrad: University of Northern Colorado

Hometown: Littleton, CO

Fun Fact: I sing the national anthem at sporting events!

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It’s almost that time…interviews! I can’t wait to meet this year’s prospective students, and I know everyone else in our Regis DPT community is excited as well.

Those in the midst of or about to interview, I know this is a stressful and exciting time. Just a year ago, I remember the butterflies I was feeling, along with anxiety and anticipation. To start, take a deep breath, trust yourself, and know that this is the fun part. This is the time to find the program that is the right fit for you. You’ve worked hard preparing for this, so remember to take the time to enjoy it too. The more relaxed you are, the more you will be the best version of yourself on interview day.

Kelsie, the Class of 2019 admissions representative, received some questions about the interview process from prospective students last year. Carol, the Class of 2018 admissions representative, and her have shared some answers to these questions that you may be wondering about as well. I hope this helps assuage any concerns you may have!

Q: Should I bring anything to the interview (pen, portfolio, resume, notepad, etc.)?

A: No need to bring anything. You will receive a folder and pen, information about Regis, and a water bottle. Of course, you’re welcome to bring your own paper and pen, but there’s no need. Some people like having a notepad to jot down questions for the faculty or interesting things they learned throughout the day, but it is completely your own preference. Also, keep in mind, you will be carrying whatever you bring around campus during the campus tour.

Q: Are there any questions that stumped you or caught you off guard? What types of interview questions should I expect?

A: Interviews are now done in a group format, so not only will you have the opportunity to answer questions, you’ll be hearing and responding to what others have said. It really feels like the interviewers are sparking a conversation with each question. They want this discussion to be natural and give you the opportunity to be yourself. I really mean it when I say to be yourself as much as you can be. Regis is unique in the fact that they really look for people’s character during the interview, rather than solely admitting students for grades and GRE scores. When the faculty asks you questions, they are not seeking a right or wrong answer. They are seeking to learn who YOU are and how you communicate. With the group interview format, there is opportunity to listen and engage with the faculty as well as the other prospective students, so take advantage of these moments.

Q: How can I prepare for the interview?

A: Some advice is to look at the Regis website and see where the values of Regis fit into your life and how you can express that during interviews. Faculty biographies are good information to look at prior to interviews, and reviewing this information can give you an idea of questions you might want to ask faculty members. If you do feel stumped at any point, don’t be afraid to take a minute to gather your thoughts because they appreciate that more than a made-up answer. It also helped me to look up some common physical therapy school/traditional interview questions and brainstorm answers. Think about what you have experienced already and have those stories ready. If you have some solid examples of your experiences, you’ll be able to adapt to wherever the conversation goes. Finally, make sure you research the topics you’ve been given ahead of time so you can prepare and get your thoughts together. Another piece of advice is to perform a practice interview with friends or family members in a group setting. Practice speaking out loud and ensuring you are speaking clearly and loud enough as they ask you different interview questions.

Q: Is there a chance to meet current students?

A: YES! You will have multiple opportunities to interact with various students throughout your day. Also, from 4:30-6:30pm on both interview days, we will have a meet-and-greet off campus for prospective students to meet with current students. I hope to see you all there! That being said, this is by no means mandatory and your attendance will not affect your admission to the program.

Q: What should I expect from the group interview format?

A: The group interview will consist of two faculty members and three candidates. It is not designed to be all three of you taking turns answering one question at a time nor each of you competing to have the best answer; instead, it is designed to be more of a fluid, facilitated discussion of specific topics among everyone.

Q: What will the whole day be like?

A: Everyone will go through 5 different “stations,” so to speak. They include the interview, campus tour, student Q&A panel, a skills lab observation in one of our classes, and an anatomy lab presentation. They won’t necessarily be in that order, but the whole interview day will include all stations and conclude with lunch. You’ll also stick with the same student-led tour group between each part of your day, so you’ll have plenty of time to get to know them and ask them questions as they come to mind.

Q: What should I wear?

A: I would err on the side of business formal. Most men typically wear matching pants and jacket, a button-up collared shirt, and a tie. Most women wear slacks or a dress skirt, a blazer, and a blouse. Cropped dress pants would work too, and if dresses are your thing, then go for it. It is really important that you feel comfortable in whatever you end up wearing! That being said, when it comes to shoes, heels are great, but as long as you’re really comfortable in them. Flats are perfectly fine; in fact, if you opt to wear heels, I would bring a pair of flats along with you so you can change into them while you go on your campus tour. Also, be sure to bring a jacket in case it’s cold. There will be a coat rack available to store your belongings while you are inside. Simply remember this is a professional interview, so dressing professionally is highly recommended.

Best of luck, interviewees! Feel free to reach out if you have any more questions. I can be reached via e-mail at elemberger@regis.edu. We are all looking forward to meeting you!

– Erin, Kelsie, and Carol

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.