7 Reasons You Should Take a Gap Year Before PT School

Name: Courtney Hardin, Class of 2018
Undergrad: Washington State University (GO COUGS)
Hometown: Spokane, WA
Fun Fact: I’m obsessed with my dog.

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If you’re currently reading this blog asking yourself, “Is it a good time to go to school right now? Should I take a year off before I apply? Should I even take 2?” Well, this blog is for you! I took a year off before going to PT school, and it was the best decision I could have made for my soul and–of course–for my professional career.

Here are 7 reasons why taking a year off could be the right choice for you:

1. Make Sure PT is the Right Career Choice

I didn’t have enough experience with multiple disciplines of PT, so I volunteered at an inpatient rehab facility for a few months and got a job as an outpatient PT aide. I ended up getting a lot of experience and gained a passion for PT that I didn’t have in my undergraduate pursuits.

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Halloween at the clinic

2. Polish Your Application

I needed to bump up my GPA a little before applying. So, I ended up retaking a couple of the core classes at a local college (anatomy and physiology… #amiright). Whether you need more hours in the clinic or that pre-req grade, taking a year off will help you be the best applicant possible!

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Taking some time to reflect in Peru during my year off

3. Explore

I’d always wanted to travel abroad in undergrad, so I decided to backpack through South America. I went to Peru and hiked the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, then to a ski mountain in Chile, I toured the Wineries of rural Mendoza, cruised through Argentina by bicycle, explored the city of Buenos Aires, and hiked through Iguazu Falls. This trip changed my life and my viewpoint in so many indescribable ways. So, before you enter graduate school and a full-time PT gig, take the time to explore the world now!

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Machu Picchu!

4. Be There for Family and Friends

I wanted to spend some time with my family before heading off to grad school because hey—my family is pretty rad! If you’re considering PT school, sometimes taking a year to visit home, reconnect with friends, and get some quality family time in is key before you sign up for 3 grueling years of work.

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5. Give Your Brain a Break

I needed a break from the school books. I wanted to enjoy a good book (of my choosing), take time to run a few races, and live a bit more “stress-free” before embarking on the next school adventure. Regardless of if you take a year off or not, you will eventually get burned out in PT school from all the studying with no breaks. Many of my classmates agree that taking a year (or more!) before PT school helped delay that burnout onset.

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6. Do Some Things for YOU, not for your Application

I needed some relaxation time up at the lake cabin. If you take a year off, don’t spend every second on your PT application: have FUN!

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7. Grow as a Person

At the end of the day, I simply needed to just be me for a year.  Taking a year off doesn’t mean you’re putting your life on hold; it means that you get a whole year to find out more about yourself and fine tune what you want in life.

Without taking that time off, I wouldn’t have done all the necessary things to improve my application, my confidence, my PT experience, and—of course—my life experience. There is no specific time you have to apply! Schools don’t look at how much time you take off between undergrad and applications; they look at the person you are when you apply. And hey, if you’re ready to apply now, go for it—I know plenty of people who did that, too.  Bottom line: do what’s best for you, not what’s best for everyone else!

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at chardin@regis.edu.

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.

 

 

 

Taking a gap year before Regis PT school: Meet Mason Hill

Name: Mason Hill

Hometown: Tacoma, WA

Undergrad: California Lutheran University

Fun Fact: I think I have a cold.

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Congratulations are in order! You’ve completed the long and arduous process of applying to and interviewing for a position in a top-ranked physical therapy school. You should feel a genuine sense of accomplishment for being considered to be a part of the Regis DPT program.

This post is for the candidates that will unfortunately not be receiving a letter of acceptance this year.

When I first applied to PT programs I felt relatively good about my chances of acceptance. I had a strong resume and GPA, would be published in multiple scientific journals before graduation, and had just received the American Kinesiology Association Undergraduate Scholar award.

That being said, I failed to even receive an invitation to interview at my top choice, Regis University.

I did, however, gain acceptance to a program that shall remain nameless, and one which I knew very little about.  I started doing my research on the university’s staff, mission, and facilities and was not pleased with what I saw. I had been working toward PT school since I was 16, and I felt a considerable amount of pressure to accept the position.

After a long conversation with a current student of that program, I came to the conclusion that I would reject the position and reapply to my top choices the following year; it was far and away the best decision that I have ever made.

The odds are good that if you, the reader, were invited to interview at Regis, you have been accepted to some other program. I do not write this to discourage you from attending said program, but to encourage you to follow your intuition and reassure you that waiting another year and once again dealing with the dreaded PTCAS is not the end of the world. You’ve got plenty of options.

Here’s what my gap year looked like at a glance:

After crunching the numbers I decided that going to the UK for a MSc  program would not be financially feasible; so, after graduating college, I packed my bags to head home to Tacoma, WA to plot my next move. During those first few months at home I turned my attention to PT in developing countries.  After doing a bit of research into disability rates and the prevalence of physiotherapists in the developing world, I was hooked. Within a few weeks I was headed to Tijuana, where I spent the next two months volunteering in various clinics and at a school for children with special needs. During those two months I reapplied to Regis, was granted an interview, and made plans for my next trip to work for 4 months in a physiotherapy clinic in the Kingdom of Swaziland.

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When it came time to answer that all important question “what have you done to improve your application?”, I had too much material to work with. The beautiful thing is that not only was that year spent out of the classroom the most enriching and transformative time of my life, but it also enabled me to gain access to what I believe is the program that is best-suited to serve me as a student of physical therapy.

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If you are faced with a year away from academia (by choice or not), it will undoubtedly look different than mine. Just know that you can do with it whatever you like. (Personally I would suggest a bit of solo travel to a foreign country. In my opinion there is no better form of education.) However you decide to spend the next year, be sure to take the opportunity to grow as a person and future clinician.

If you have any questions about how I was able to fund my year of travel/volunteering, how to make connections and find opportunities in other countries, or anything really, feel free to contact me at hillmasond@gmail.com.

How to pick the right PT school: Meet Madeleine Sutton

Name: Madeleine Sutton

Hometown: Seattle, WA

Undergrad: Seattle University

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Last year was my year of uncertainty. I had no idea where I would be going, I had no idea if I would get into school, and I had no back up plan. I was a 20-year-old girl finishing up her undergrad degree at a small university in Seattle and applying to schools on my own. Just getting to the application process was a miracle. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, I had no adviser at my undergraduate university to help me with the complicated process. I felt incredibly lost in all the paperwork and application forms. I spent a lot of time crying, if we’re being honest.

I applied to 5 schools in 5 different states. All of them felt like they could be the right choice, but I had no idea. All of them were far away from home and my entire family. The decision was enormous: I had countless spreadsheets and pro/con lists, and yet I was no closer to making a decision than when I first sent in my applications. You want tissues? I had boxes. But, who cared? It was a big deal? I wanted mooooooore. (See that Little Mermaid joke? Yeah, I went there.) It wasn’t until I went on interviews that I really started to be able to eliminate schools.

I could get all cheesy and tell you that I knew from the moment I stepped on Regis’ campus I knew it was the right place, but that’s not the total truth. I was impressed with the faculty, the campus, and the current students. The problem was that I was impressed with other schools, too. Making a decision still felt impossible.

It wasn’t until a few weeks later–when I was down to two schools to decide between–that I came closer to making a decision. I thought back to my interview days. When I went to the other school to interview, it felt like they were letting me peek in on a super-secret club. When I went to Regis, I felt like I was visiting a group of people that wanted me there. I felt like the people I saw at Regis were part of a community, not just a class. In the end, that was it. My decision was easy when it came down to a secret club versus a community. I’ll take a community any day.

My first semester at PT school was a blur of anxiety and knowledge, but I never felt alone. The second year class became our mentors: they held a get-to-know-you picnic before school started for us to meet each other and them. Our faculty checked in on us frequently just to ask how we were doing and to say hi. We have class parties and dressed up as a class for Halloween. School wasn’t easy–and I felt overwhelmed a lot–but there was always someone there to comfort me. You are never alone in the Regis family.

In August, I packed my entire life into my car and I drove 1000 miles to find my new home. I love the concept of the word “home.” So many songs have lyrics like “take me home,” or “I’ll be your home.” It means so much more than just a place where you live: it’s peace, comfort, and a feeling of safety with people who love and care for you. It’s where everything falls into place…It’s home. Regis is home.

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Madeleine and some other first years with Takia, our service puppy

On the interview weekend: Meet Michael Young

Michael Young

Hometown: Madison, WI

Undergrad: University of Wisconsin, Madison

Fun fact: I visited 16 states in 30 days during an epic summer road trip.

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During the summer of 2014, I found myself in Denver, five hours early for a flight. It was a picturesque day: 82 degrees in the afternoon sun and even more comfortable in the shade. I saw a sign for Regis University and recognized the name as one with a PT program, so I took the nearest exit and walked around campus for the afternoon.  After wandering around the classrooms and watching part of a lacrosse practice, I felt like this was a place I could see myself spending the next three years.

Six months and many applications later, I was back at Regis—this time for an interview. I woke up early on the day and did some yoga in the room of my Airbnb. That’s not my normal routine, but I wanted to do everything in my power to calm my nerves. That morning, yoga took me to my happy place. I put on my suit, threw on my coat and started my three-block walk to campus.

This time on campus, it was cold. After living in Texas for five years, January in Denver made me remember my roots in Madison.  I had made the dangerous 6AM decision to skip my morning coffee; would I lapse into caffeine withdrawal and spend the day with a pounding headache? Or, maybe, would my pumping adrenaline take the place of that necessary stimulant? I worried about it for the next seven hours. It’s funny what really makes you nervous on interview day.

Looking back, I now realize that the interview was the easiest part of the day for me. As soon as I sat down with my interviewer, I knew that Regis was different from the other schools. My interview was a conversation about my past experiences and current hobbies in lieu of the usual discussion of GPA, prerequisite record and knowledge of the PT field. They didn’t ask why a political science major was interested in PT school; they told me how important it was to have people with diverse backgrounds integrated into the profession. They made me feel like my personality and individualism mattered.

The next 24 hours was an emotional roller coaster of second-guessing interview responses, dreaming of an aggressive interviewer who compared me to a chiropractor (gasp!) and an overwhelming feeling of relief and gratitude for the amazing day I had at Regis. As I sat at the Denver airport waiting for my 6AM outbound flight, I started daydreaming about coming back as an actual student. Regis was the school for me and I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else. When I got the acceptance email, I knew my life would never be the same. Now, six months into school, I haven’t been proven wrong.

Best of luck with your interviews, candidates! I hope you feel as at home as I did.

Coming from another career: Meet Katie Ragle

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I used to doubt whether or not I could hack it in PT school. I have a degree in broadcasting and digital media with minors in editing and publishing and theatre. I once had the hopes of a career in public relations and worked for a few years before realizing that I need to do something that I’m actually passionate about. I quit my job, took the prerequisites for PT school, and applied to several schools around the country. I was born and raised in Orlando, Florida, and attended undergrad in Ohio, and my husband and I were ready for a new adventure.

When I arrived on campus at Regis for my interview, I could tell that it would be different than other interviews I had encountered. Faculty and current students welcomed all those who were interviewing and encouraged us to ask our probing questions that the website doesn’t reveal. The entire interview day was incredibly people-focused. Everyone with whom I spoke emphasized how much people matter at Regis. They continually stressed that faculty do everything they can to help students thrive. I heard many times, “We start with 80 students in the class, and we want to finish with 80. We don’t want to weed people out. We want them to succeed.” As someone who has never taken advanced science classes and only took the minimum prerequisites to apply to PT school, I reveled at the thought of having people who would come alongside me if I needed additional help with classes.

After my tour of the campus and discussions with current students, I started to picture myself at Regis, but I wanted to see how my faculty interview went to verify all of the wonderful things that the students claimed about them. It didn’t disappoint. When I sat down in my interview with one of the predominant faculty members in the program, her first question didn’t deal with my GRE score or observation hours. She looked at me and asked, “So, how does your husband feel about your going to PT school? You’re going to need his support over the next few years. We don’t want to break up marriages.” We talked more about school-life balance, and she encouraged me that it would be worth it. She wasn’t trying to sell me on Regis, but she sure did.

After I was accepted to Regis, I wondered if the program would be as people-focused as the interview. It was. It terrified me to think that I would be a fish out of water surrounded by exercise science and kinesiology majors, but around 40% of the students in our class are career changers like me. Those who do have more of a science background are more than willing to help fill in the gaps for those of us who need it. Our class is more collaborative than I could have ever hoped for. Rather than competing with each other, we share study guides freely. We call our nationally recognized professors by their first name. Are the academics rigorous? Absolutely. PT school is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But I know that I’m not alone, and that’s how I know I made the right choice in Regis.

Good luck in all your applications and interviews! Don’t be nervous; you’ll do great!

Katie

P.S. On my first day of class, the professor who interviewed me ran up to me, gave me a hug, and told me how happy she was to see me. I get to have her for a class this semester. How cool is that?