The Health Professions and Prelaw Center pre-physical therapy webpage offers information and ideas for how to follow a pre-PT path at Indiana University. Hundreds of IU students prepare for admission to PT programs, and many successfully apply to programs across the country.
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The DPT Degree
For people currently on the pre-PT path, the degree required to practice physical therapy is the Doctor of Physical Therapy, or DPT. The purpose of the degree is to prepare the PT student to successfully take the licensing exam, and become a practicing physical therapist.
You will sometimes see the DPT referred to as an "entry-level" degree. It is a post-baccalaureate degree (i.e., a degree you pursue after your undergraduate degree) conferred upon successful completion of a PT doctoral-level professional program. The standard DPT is a three-year clinical doctorate, not a PhD. “Entry-level” means that once students have completed a physical therapy program and passed the licensing exam, they are at once able to begin working in the field.
On occasion, you will come across PhD or ScD programs associated with PT, not to be confused with the standard DPT entry-level degree. Within the physical therapy profession, the PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) or ScD (Doctor of Science) are purely optional. They are referred to as "postprofessional" doctoral degrees; meaning, degrees that some people choose to earn after they have already completed their professional degree and earned their license to practice. Postprofessional degrees are designed for those who want additional formal education, or who want to undertake formal research within the field.
Again, the DPT is the standard degree for those who wish to become licensed to practice in the field of physical therapy.
This page is regularly revised and expanded, so it is important that you consult it often.
Do not make the mistake of merely looking at the prerequisite chart! The other information and suggestions here will save you a great deal of time and labor, and help you avoid common pre-PT mistakes. Even if you know for sure which programs you are applying to, continue to return here often, as this page contains critical pre-PT information, suggestions, and resources beyond what is covered on PA school web sites.
At the same time, do not let the abundance of information on this page overwhelm you. It is meant to be quite complete, but the linked outline in the right hand column provides you with a useful overview of its contents, and an easy way to navigate.
The page is coherently organized into discreet sections, and the links in the right-hand margin serve as an outline for the page. Familiarize yourself with what is here and then refer back to it as needed. While juniors and seniors visiting this page for the first time really ought to read it in more detail to gain a sense of where they stand in the pre-PT process, freshmen and sophomores don't need to become familiar with everything all at once.
We do not suggest simply printing this page, as there are sub-pages linked from it which contain important information. If you wish to print part of a given page, first use your mouse to select the section you want to print. Then, from the Print dialogue box, choose Print > Selection. However, always refer back to the complete HPPLC PT page / sub-pages.
A bachelors degree, along with certain specific admission prerequisite courses, is required for admission to all PT programs. While it is easier to work the PT prerequisites into some major programs than others, most majors offer adequate flexibility. Also note that whether you choose to earn a bachelor of arts (BA) or bachelor of science (BS) degree does not matter to PT programs. Within that degree, it's important that you choose a major which truly interests you - one you would choose even if you weren't pre-PT. None of the types of baccalaureate degrees (e.g., BA, BS, BFA, BSW, etc.) pose any inherent advantages or disadvantages compared to any other, in terms of competitiveness for admission.
IMPORTANT: PT programs do not care what undergraduate degree / major you choose! Most programs suggest that you choose a major in which you are genuinely interested, and in which you can excel; not one you merely think "will look good" on an application. Programs simply do not tend to screen applications in this manner, based upon major. This point is illustrated by the fact that, in any given year, the IU PT and OT programs admit applicants from 15 - 20 different majors, including liberal arts majors like English, history, philosophy, and so on.
If you are still deciding on a major, work with your academic advisor and utilize the resources on the HPPLC Other Health Professions site, in the section, Choosing A Preprofessional Undergraduate Degree/Major.
What grade point average is competitive for admission depends on a number of factors. Visit our GPA Range page to gain a general sense of what GPA goals to set for yourself, and how GPA figures in relation to other admission requirements.
Want to know what you should be doing now? How to keep on track? What your preprofessional timeline ought to be? Visit the preprofessional timeline page! Our detailed sample timeline can give you a sense of what you should be doing right now, and also help you with your long range planning.
Physical therapists (PTs) are licensed healthcare practitioners who diagnose and treat individuals of all ages, from newborns to the aged. PTs evaluate and develop treatment interventions for persons with health problems resulting from injuries, illness and disease. Their patients have medical problems or health-related conditions which limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives. PTs help individuals restore and maintain overall fitness and health by using physical and mechanical means. They also work with other health care providers to reach these goals. In addition, PTs work with individuals to prevent loss of mobility before it occurs by developing fitness and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles.
Physical therapists provide care for people in a variety of settings including, but not limited to, hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, home health agencies, schools, sports and fitness facilities, work-place settings, and nursing homes.
Physical therapists must possess problem-solving skills, resourcefulness, patience, manual dexterity, physical stamina, and the ability to work closely with a variety of people. PTs must work well independently, as well as with a team of care givers. From initial examination and evaluation through the discharge of a patient or client, the physical therapist's responsibility is to work with the individual to ensure maximal function. A love of lifelong learning, a positive attitude, and an outgoing personality would serve you well in this field.
As a prospective DPT student, you should take courses which develop your critical thinking, problem solving, and writing skills; which expand your understanding of social, cultural, emotional, and mental development; and which strengthen your physical science skills. You must also be willing to (and hopefully want to) work with people of all ages, in varying stages of health, in both inpatient and critical care settings. We encourage you to develop and hone these skills throughout high school and college, through coursework and volunteer opportunities (or through employment in PT settings).
Because more people apply to any given PT program than there are seats available, programs have selective admission. In other words, the PT admission process is competitive because programs can afford to be choosey, selecting only those applicants they consider most likely to excel in a rigourous, masters-level program.
The level of competitiveness varies dramatically across programs; for instance, cumulative and/or science course GPAs of those admitted might range from 3.00 to 3.80 or higher, depending on the program. Because some programs count prerequisites or science courses twice (i.e., as part of the cumulative GPA, and in a separate GPA), it is especially important that you do well in your prerequisite coursework. Sometimes a lower CGPA can be somewhat balanced by a higher prerequisite or science GPA, or vice versa, however this too depends on the program. Obviously your goal must be to earn excellent grades across your entire transcript. To this end, we urge you to utilize the HPPLC Time and Sanity Management Sheet, and to rigorously follow the academic tips therein.
For examples of some useful GPA calculators, click here.
In addition, many programs have "rolling admission" deadlines, meaning that they begin to fill spots as soon as their application cycle opens. Click the center of the video box below to play a lighthearted but informative short cartoon about rolling admissions.
[OUR APOLOGIES - the video will be fixed and posted as soon as possible]
Excellent grades, clinical observation (job shadowing) of PTs, successful completion of prerequisite coursework, Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores, an admission essay, letters of reference, and an admission interview can be among the admission requirements; though again, requirements vary by program. While GPA will always be the most critical admission factor, programs consider your entire application portfolio when making their decisions, and most place a heavy emphasis on other admission factors as well.
Bottom line: keep your record clean! College presents countless opportunities for success, but also opportunities to undermine your goals. While a misdemeanor on your record may not necessarily prevent you from being admitted to a program or from practicing in a given health field, why take the risk? Gross misdemeanors and felony charges are obviously much more serious, but the impact of any given criminal history will depend on various factors and circumstances, such as the nature of the offense, how recent it was, whether there is a pattern of offenses, and so on. While a single underage drinking charge from high school may not become a serious issue, a string of them could. Likewise, a DUI charge, for instance, is much more serious because driving under the influence puts other people in danger, which of course not only reflects an alarming degree of irresponsibility, but also contradicts the very nature of the health professions.
There are two potential points at which a criminal history could become an issue: during the process of trying to be admitted to programs and during the professional licensure process, once you have completed the program. You should always be honest when you are filling out disclosure forms. Many programs, and the licensure process itself, will require that you submit at least a limited criminal background check, and if there are differences between what you yourself report and what the background check reveals, you could run into difficulties. Such a disparity would imply or reflect a degree of dishonesty which programs and state licensure boards are not likely to overlook.
If you already have charges on your record, then again, be honest during those parts of the application which ask you to disclose this information. During the licensure process there is usually an opportunity for you to offer an explanation of a mark on your record, and to explain what you learned from the experience. You can also add a similar addendum to program applications.
Physical Therapy at Indiana University
IU Bloomington does not offer a physical therapy program, but pre-PT students may fulfill the admission requirements at IUB and then apply for admission to the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) at IUPUI (IU's Indianapolis campus) to complete the Doctor of Physical Therapy degree (DPT). Admission to the IU DPT program requires successful completion of a baccalaureate degree, prerequisite courses (which can be worked into most undergraduate degrees), and other admission criteria, as explained throughout this page.
Indiana University does not offer an undergraduate PT major (most schools do not). You may choose almost any undergraduate major as long as you also complete the PT prerequisite courses. In a given year, the IU PT program accepts applicants from a dozen or more different degrees and majors.
The DPT program itself requires three years of post-graduate study on the Indianapolis campus, and consists of about 100 semester hours of full-time coursework distributed over nine consecutive semesters, including didactic study (i.e., classroom instruction) and 18 full-time weeks of clinical experience. A new cohort of students is admitted to the program each fall.
NOTE that other PT programs will have different requirements and enforce different policies. You must thoroughly research other programs in order to plan your prerequsites and other admission requirements, and the timing of your courses and the application itself.
Admission to the IU Physical Therapy Program at IUPUI is very competitive. Clinical observation (job shadowing) of PTs, successful completion of prerequisite coursework, Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores, an admission essay, and an admission interview (new for fall 2011 admission, for those who qualify) are all part of the admission process.
- The minimum cumulative GPA and minimum math / science prerequisite GPA required to apply is 3.20.
- While no minimum GRE score is required for any component of the test, the verbal portion is weighted as 50% of the admission formula.
- A minimum grade of "C" is required in all prerequisites ("C-" not acceptable).
- Important details pertaining to each admission component are provided throughout this page.
Course numbers pertain to IUB, and the prerequisites listed below are specifically for the Indiana University Physical Therapy Program (Indianapolis campus).
Some important points to bear in mind as you plan your PT prerequisites:
- Each PT program has its own set of prerequisites, and we urge you to research and apply to multiple programs.
- Many other PT programs require some biology (what course/s depends on the program), developmental psychology, and / or abnormal psychology. As you plan your prerequisites, utilize the prerequisite summary and other resources located on the HPPLC Researching Accredited Programs page. Carefully read all of the information there pertaining to the prereq summary; it does not include information for all PT programs!
- Some courses are taught only once each year, and others have strict prerequisite or corequisite requirements. Plan your prerequisites carefully! Check the most recent College of Arts and Sciences bulletin and Bulletin Supplement for pre and corequisites to your pre-PT courses.
- Avoid overlapping the 5 credit lecture / lab courses. Students usually struggle when they take these classes in the same semester. Avoiding this overlap more or less necessitates consistently taking one 5 credit class each semester.
- All but two of the prerequisites must be completed by the time you submit your application to the IU DPT program. (Many other programs will have similar policies, which you must research in order to know by when you must complete your prerequisites)
- If admitted to the program, you must complete your undergraduate degree and all prerequisites by June 1 in order to enter the program in the fall. (Detailed application information provided elsewhere on this page.)
- Special Credit: You may fulfill up to one IU DPT prerequisite with Advanced Placement (AP) credit. Note that some PT programs may not accept AP credit, credit-by-exam, or exemption from degree requirements in place of admission requirements, or may only accept such credit under specific circumstances. Check with each of your programs to confirm its policies.
- FRESHMEN: During freshman year, begin working in 5 credit prerequisites, hopefully one in each of fall and spring. It does not matter whether you begin with chemistry or anatomy, but try to get one or the other - whichever is open and works with your schedule. We do not recommend physics for most freshman, though this does depend on your high school preparation.
- SOPHOMORES AND BEYOND: Try to take a 5 credit prerequisite each and every term. Summer prereqs might be necessary, depending on your situation.
- Carefully read the IMPORTANT NOTES associated with the courses listed below.
A minimum grade of "C" is required in all prerequisites ("C-" not acceptable).
Principles of Chemistry and Biochemistry I: CHEM-C 117 / 127 (CHEM-C 103 not acceptable) 7
(You should take the Chemistry Placement Exam prior to enrolling in C117 / 127. On the CPE page, read about your placement options and eligibility requirements. If necessary, discuss with your academic advisor.
|Principles of Chemistry and Biochemistry II: CHEM-C 118 2||5|
|General Physics I: PHYS-P 201 or PHYS-P 221 (221 is calculus-based physics)||5|
|General Physics II: PHYS-P 202 or PHYS-P 222 (222 is calculus-based physics)||5|
|Medical Science 1||Cr|
|Human Anatomy: ANAT-A 215 (be sure to closely follow the A215 study tips)||5|
|Human Physiology: PHSL-P 215 or BIOL-P 451 Integrative Human Physiology (P451, P: senior standing or permission of Instructor)||4 - 5|
|Medical Terminology: CLAS-C 209 (2 cr), or online instruction with certificate of completion
|The IU program will accept STAT-S 303 Applied Statistical Methods for the Life Sciences; or any one of PSY-K 300, SPEA-K 300, CJUS-K 300, STAT-S 300, SOC-S 371, ECON-E or S 370, LAMP-L 316, or equivalent statistics course, at or above 300-level. Most programs will accept almost any 300-level stats. Some programs specify a requirement for "inferential statistics" (statistical inference, regression, correlation, analysis of variance). The latter courses will likely fulfill the requirement. As always, you will need to confirm your prereqs with each of your prospective programs.||3 - 4|
|Humanities and Social Science||Cr|
|Introduction to Psychology: PSY-P 101 or equivalent 4||3|
|Lifespan Development: SPH-F 150, EDUC-P 314 5, or PSY-P 315 6. (Some programs, like those at Indiana State University, require Developmental Psychology; therefore, PSY-P 315 may be a more flexible option than the other two, depending on the preferences of the programs to which you are applying. If you take Developmental Psychology, it must cover the full lifespan, birth to death.)||3|
|Humanities: Choose two 3 credit hour courses from the following departments / categories: Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology, Art, History, Philosophy, Literature, Religion, Music, minority studies (various departments), Journalism, Folklore, Classical Studies||6 total|
|Total preprofessional credit hours for IU PT program||44 - 48|
- All chemistry, physics, human anatomy and human physiology courses used to fulfill admission requirements must be major-level courses and include a lab. Avoid taking more than one lab course in a given semester.
- If you are contemplating pursuing medical or dental school, we advise that you do not take CHEM-C 118. Instead, we advise you to take CHEM-C 341 and 342 (Organic Chemistry Lectures I & II), CHEM-C 343 (Organic Chemistry Lab I), and CHEM-N 330 (Intermediate Organic Chemistry). IU PT will accept N330 in place of C118.
- Statistics courses generally assume minimum proficiency at the MATH-M 014 (algebra) level, but some assume more previous math experience. For instance, finite math is a suggested prerequisite for SPEA-K300; either finite math or calculus is recommended prior to PSY-K 300; MATH-M 119 or equivalent calculus is a prerequisite for MATH- K 310. Double-check bulletins and course descriptions for detailed prerequisite information, as prerequisites vary, and can change unexpectedly.
- PSY-P 151, PSY-P 155 (generally recommended only for psychology majors), or P106 (Hutton Honors College students only) may substitute for P101.
- EDUC-P 314 Life Span Development prerequisite: PSY-P 155 or P106 by itself; or PSY-P 101. (See note 4 re. P155 and 106.)
- PSY-P 315 Developmental Psychology prerequisite: PSY-P 155 or P106 by itself; or PSY-P 101 and 102, or P151 and P152. (See note 4 re. P155 and 106.)
- With possible exceptions, most graduate-level programs require that most science prerequisites be major-level courses. CHEM-C 103 is not a major-level course.
Here are some optional ideas for elective courses you might consider taking. (Pay particular attention to the first item below.)
- Many PT programs require biology courses among their prerequisites, along with additional courses that IU PT may not require. Consult related information and resources in the Researching Accredited PT Programs section.
- SHRS recommends:
- Additional Chemistry, sometimes including organic chemistry (CHEM-C 341). Note: Many programs explicitly state that prereqs must be major-level courses. In this case, the IUB Survey of Organic Chemistry, C340, would not fulfill the requirement.
- Additional writing courses, including, but not limited to: Argumentative Writing (ENG-W 270), Advanced Expository Writing (ENG-W 350), Professional Writing Skills (ENG-W 231), or any Intensive Writing course offered by the College of Arts and Sciences.
- Medical Terminology (CLAS-C 209)
- Abnormal Psychology (PSY-P 324)
- Biomechanics (SPH-K 391)
- Computer Literacy (including, but not limited to: CSCI-A 110, SPEA-V 261, BUS-K 201)
Additional Admission Requirements
Before you proceed any further, please read about professional conduct during your research and application process, on our Researching Accredited Programs page. We have seen applicants denied admission for not following the kind of advice given therein - something which is completely avoidable.
|IMPORTANT: After you read the information below, read the HPPLC Clinical Observation page for important details about how to arrange clinical observation, how to log your hours, and how to document your experiences for the benefit of your personal statement and possible admission interviews.|
Clinical observation (job shadowing) is required for admission to most programs. It is also the best way for you to see the day-to-day responsibilities a given profession involves within a specific setting, and can thereby help you determine wether the profession is one you wish to pursue, or whether you need to explore other fields. Shadowing can also strengthen your personal statement, letters of recommendation, and admission interviews, as well as benefit you during your clinical rotations within the DPT program itself. PT programs may require or recommend anywhere from 0 to 100 or more hours of observation (or sometimes specifically, volunteer work) in one or more PT settings.
IU pre-physical therapy clinical observation requirement:
- Prior to submitting your application, the IU PT program requires that you complete a minimum
of 40 hours of clinical observation, volunteer work, or other work experience in both inpatient (hospital based) and outpatient physical therapy settings. Doing so will enable you to appreciate how a PT's responsibilities differ from one kind of setting to another.
- Complete a minimum of 20 hours in each of at least two different settings.
- All experiences must be supervised by a licensed PT only (not a PTA, PT, RN, MD, etc.).
- Each experience must be of sufficient time to enable the supervising physical therapist to adequately complete the IU PT Clinical Observation Experience Form.
Other PT programs will have their own shadowing requirements, and many will have their own paper or electronic forms that you will need to ask your DPTs to complete. See the suggestions below for tips on how to manage this process.
Note that about half of all PT programs in the United States require that applicants apply through the Physical Therapy Central Application Service (PTCAS), which itself has specific requirements for reporting observation hours. See the PTCAS site for instructions, and feel free to call PTCAS if you still have questions. Consult the PTCAS directory for a list of participating programs. The IU PT program may in the future require application through PTCAS, but currently does not.
Again, be aware that non-PTCAS programs will have their own procedures. If it is not clear to you from a given program's website how they want you to report hours, do not hesitate to call the program and ask.
Be sure to read the HPPLC Clinical Observation page for important details about clinical observation!
|IMPORTANT: After you read the information below, visit Gathering and Submitting Letters of Recommendation, where you will find important information and tips about how, from whom, and when to collect and submit recommendations, information about central application services, and much more.|
The IU PT admission process does not require letters of recommendation (though they do require Clinical Observation Experience Forms from the PTs - see the section above); most programs do, however, require that you submit two or three recommendations. Visit the PT Central Application Service (PTCAS) Program Prerequisites page, where you will find information about which PTCAS programs require or accept which kinds of letters.
Remember, though, there are dozens of programs which do not use PTCAS, and which therefore are not included in the PTCAS information. Check individual non-PTCAS program websites to learn what their recommendation requirements or preferences are.
Be sure to follow the link in the box above!
|IMPORTANT: After you read the information below, thoroughly read the HPPLC Graduate Record Exam (GRE) page, which includes important information and tips about when to take the GRE, preparing for and arranging to take the exam, how scores are reported, and how to decide whether or not to retake the exam.|
As part of the application process, most physical therapy gradaute progarms require that you take the GRE revised General Test.
The IU DPT program requires that you take the GRE prior to applying. While no minimum score is required for any component of the test, the verbal portion is weighted as 50% of the admission formula. (Neither the total score nor the quantitative score is taken into account in any way for IU DPT admissions.)
Be sure to follow the link in the box above!
Indiana University Physical Therapy Program essay requirement
The IU DPT program requires that you submit a personal essay in which you respond to the question, “Why did you decide to pursue the PT profession?” The essay should be a maximum of 500 words, and be double-spaced. Compose your essay in a word processing document and follow the application directions for submitting it electronically through PTCAS (Physical Therapy Central Application Service).
Many physical therapy programs require you to submit a personal statement or personal essay (it's the same thing) with your application. Since the theme of Why do I wish to pursue PT? is essentially what all programs are looking for in the essay, you can usually use the same essay for each program to which you plan to apply. (See important suggestions and information below.)
Note: Some programs may also require you to submit written responses to additional questions during a secondary application process once you have submitted the primary application (whether through PTCAS or directly to the PT program itself). Applicants can often pull paragraphs or sections from their primary essay and revise them according to secondary application questions.
Essay timeline: Sometimes applicants begin generating ideas for their personal essay early on, but they usually wait until the year prior to applying before they begin in earnest to spend time writing the essay itself. Draft your essay over time; do not rush the process! The essay can carry great weight with some programs, so rushing it could undermine an otherwise strong application. We recommend that you complete your final draft close to the opening of your earliest rolling admissions cycle.
- A personal essay is not a résumé in paragraph format! Follow the suggestions in this section to avoid this potential pitfall. The essay is not a list of what you've done. It is an opportunity for you to reflect on the experiences you have undertaken to learn about the profession, and a self-assessment in which you explain why you chose this particular career.
- Undertake clinical observation in a variety of PT environments, and follow the suggestions on our Clinical Observation page. You can use your observations as a launch pad or brainstorming tool for your personal statement, and to enhance the essay itself.
- Some programs have specific essay requirements or particular questions they want you to address, so check the web sites of individual programs to which you plan to apply. Check the same with regard to possible secondary applications.
- Most applicants find that the question, "Why do I want to be a PT?" becomes an integral part of their personal statement. Again, you should also check the web sites of individual programs for specific essay or personal statement requirements, which can vary from program to program.
- Personal statements can take many different forms, both stylistically and content-wise. One central purpose they should all share is building the applicant's credibility: it is important that you demonstrate to admission committees that you are 100% devoted to pursuing PT; that you have worked hard to develop the academic and personal skills, and gained the experience necessary, for success in graduate school; and that you are equally devoted to excelling within the profession itself.
- Following from the above points, remember that within the health professions the focus is always on service to patients; on the caregiver-patient relationship; on effective rapport-building and communication within that relationship; on working effectively with other healthcare professionals on behalf of your patient; and on patient advocacy. Some aspect of this patient-centric approach should play a role in your personal essay. In other words, not to put too fine a point on it, but it's not all about what the profession can do for you (though certainly you want to find your career personally fulfilling), it's about the patient.
- Specificity is crucial to a successful personal essay. Therefore, use your shadowing journal as a launch pad or brainstorming tool for your personal statement:
- Recall in detail some specific PT-related volunteer experiences you might have had, and some interactions you had with a given PT while shadowing, which impacted your decision to pursue the profession, or which taught you something you did not previously know about yourself in relation to the profession. It is not mandatory that you include detailed accounts of shadowing or volunteer experiences in your essay, but most applicants find that doing so helps them demonstrate their interest in the profession, and their preparedness for embarking upon the intensive formal training process. Vagueness and over-generalization are the enemies of a strong personal essay. In fact, applicants will sometimes be as specific in their essay as, "...For instance, once, when shadowing a PT at such and such a place, I observed this and that, and here is specifically how that particular experience reinforced my understanding of the profession, my decision to be a PT, and/or my own related skills and attributes, such as this particular skill and this specific attribute." This level of specificity can greatly enhance a personal statement. It can reduce the chances that admission committees will have to read between the lines and guess what you mean, or worse, assume that you really have not thought much about your goals and your reasons for pursuing them.
- Maintain patient privacy when describing clinical observation and direct patient care experiences. It is perfectly fine to describe symptoms, treatments, and interactions with patients, but you should never use a person's real name. Instead, you can refer to them using pronouns (he, she, they). It is also standard practice to substitute a made up name for the real name if it will help your writing flow better; for example, "One clinical observation experience which had a particularly profound impact on my decision to pursue the profession, was with a man - I'll call him Ted - recovering from a stroke...". (HIPPA - Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)
- Because the average personal essay runs about 600 or 800 words, you will need to be selective and very pointed with what you choose to write about, and what you decide to describe in more detail.
- The above points all reflect another core purpose of the personal essay, and one to which most admission committees pay close attention: your ability to self-assess - to reflect upon your own experiences and draw conclusions from them about your goals, skills, and attributes; your ability to learn from your experiences; your dedication to learning from your mistakes, and your willingness to challenge your own preconceptions; your ability to effectively assess your goals and your reasons for pursing them; and, equally important, your ability to convey this information in a coherent, professional manner.
- Stylistically, it is common practice to write the personal statement from the first person (I / me) perspective. This is your opportunity to tell admission committees the three or four most important things about yourself and your pre-PT experience prior to (hopefully) the interview. In fact, you could look upon the personal essay as the interview before the interview.
- Avoid needless redundancy - repeating the same thought, sentence, or phrase, unless there is a valid stylistic or rhetorical reason for doing so.
- Along the same lines, remember that vagueness and over-generalization are the enemies of a strong personal essay. Specificity is key.
- Avoid clichés like, "I am very passionate..." Generalities and clichés can give the impression that you have not thought in detail about your reasons for pursuing the profession, and have not done a thorough assessment of the specific experiences and attributes that will enable you to be a successful graduate student, and an excellent practitioner in the profession. Generalities and cliche's tell admission committees nothing about you. You may indeed feel passionate about pursuing the profession (in fact, if you don't, you should be pursuing something else!), but you need to demonstrate how the passion developed, and how you have channeled that energy into your preparation. Do so by using specific language to describe how your shadowing, academics, and so on, clearly reflect your devotion to the profession.
- Your essay should be perfectly free of typos and spelling / grammatical errors. Some admission committees stop reading after two or three such mistakes, and literally drop the offending essay onto the "No" pile. Professionalism is crucial. Just as college is a step up from high school, graduate school is a step (or two) up from your undergraduate degree.
The IU DPT program will invite a certain portion of qualified applicants for an interview:
- To qualify for the IU DPT interview, you must have completed all admission requirements (with the exception that you are allowed to have two prerequisites remaining at the time of the interview - refer to IU DPT prerequisite information), and rank in the top 80 -100 applicants based upon academic criteria (cumulative GPA, Math/Science prerequisite GPA, and GRE scores).
- Those who meet the above criteria will be invited to the IUPUI campus for an interview in November to be scheduled between 8:00am - 2:00pm. This is the only day and time during which interviews will be conducted!
- For those invited, the interview is mandatory for both in-state and out-of-state applicants, so be prepared to make travel arrangements to the IUPUI campus.
Whatever the interview format, expect to be asked questions that address core competencies such as communication skills, ethical and moral reasoning, professionalism, and knowledge of the profession. Here are some examples of questions you might encounter during an admission interview:
- What does a physical therapist do? (Remember that PTs work in many different settings...)
- Why do you want to be a physical therapist?
- Tell us about some of your clinical observation / shadowing experiences. What did you learn about the PT profession? How did these experiences inform your decision to pursue PT?
- Have you researched and / or shadowed in other professions? What did you learn from these experiences.
- What do you think the career prospects are for the PT profession?
- Why did you apply to this particular PT program?
- Why did you choose your particular undergraduate degree / major?
- What will you do if you are not accepted into this program? (Hint: You should be applying to a good many PT programs.)
- Are you a leader or a follower?
- How do you handle stress?
- What is your greatest strength?
- What is your greatest weakness? (And the sometimes unspoken question, How have you turned it into a strength, or learned from it?)
- Why will you be an effective PT?
- What strengths and attributes would you bring to our PT program, and into the profession? How will your presence be a good addition to our PT program?
- An interviewer might present you with a theoretical ethical dilemma, and ask you to explain how you would respond if you were to find yourself in that situation.
- Do you have any questions for us? (It is not good to arrive with no questions! See pointers, below.)
If you follow our advice and apply to multiple PT programs, the pointers below can be of some help as you prepare for interviews (which usually take place in late fall or early spring):
- From the perspective of the interview committee, one central purpose of any admission interview is to determine whether you, the applicant, have done your research, and not only understand what the profession involves, but have also taken the time to become familiar with the given PT program.
- The Interviewers will also be gauging your communication skills, as well as your level of professionalism.
- Oftentimes, a certain question is posed not because there is a particular right or wrong answer, but in order for the interviewers to gauge how well you think on your feet, or to gain some insight into your thought processes, your personality, or how you might interact with peers, clients, and colleagues when the time comes.
- As you consider your responses, remember that your top priorities as a practitioner in your field will be to do no harm to your client, to act as an advocate on behalf of your client, and to conduct yourself ethically and with professionalism with regard to both clients and colleagues.
- There is always a way to respond to a question in a manner which is both honest and which illustrates your strengths (even the "What is your greatest weakness" question!).
- Before the interview, re-read your personal statement.
- Don't try to anticipate every question or memorize canned answers beforehand. Being well-prepared (by researching the profession, the schools, your reasons for choosing this career) will allow you to be spontaneous during the interview, which will in turn help you be more relaxed and natural.
- Become at least somewhat familiar with the city / area in which the program is located. Oftentimes university websites post and / or link such information for prospective students. You can also roam around the city and state tourist bureau websites.
- The interview is also your opportunity to ask questions about the program, and to gauge whether the program seems like a good fit for you. Research the program as part of your interview preparation, and come prepared with two or three questions you want to ask; for instance, about the program, the faculty, the clinicals. You can ask anything relevant, and to which there is no obvious answer to be found on the program's website, or for which you would like additional details not provided elsewhere. Going to the interview prepared in this way also shows that you are conscientious and inquisitive, two characteristics that are critical to success as both a PT student and a PT practitioner.
- Check the web sites of individual programs and see if they provide more specific information about the manner in which they conduct interviews. It also okay to contact programs and ask if they can tell you a little bit about the interview process. Some programs have applicants meet one-on-one with two or three different program representatives (faculty, admission directors, etc.); others have interview committees; some hold individual interviews, some hold group interviews; and so on.
- Conduct yourself professionally, and dress at least business casual! The IU Career Development Center has some useful suggestions related to manner of dress. (Focus on the section, "Suggestions for dressing business casual.")
- Bring a notepad and pen / pencil to the interview. It's okay to jot down notes, or the gist of a question you are asked, so that you have something to refer back to as you respond, if needed.
- You might bring copies of your résumé to offer during the interview. Even if they decline to take them, at least you've offered.
- It's okay, and probably advisable, to bring a bottle of water to the interview, but set it aside and don't cling to it as a nervous outlet.
- After the interview, send a brief, professorially written email thanking the admission committee for the interview, and for taking the time to answer your questions. Reiterate your interest in the program, and tell them that you look forward to hearing back from them.
Prior to beginning professional coursework, many programs require that you become certified for adult, child, and infant CPR, commonly referred to as BLS certification, Health Care Provider CPR, or CPR for the Professional Rescuer.
Training courses are offered for a fee through the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross. The IU Bloomington course, SPH-H 160 First Aid And Emergency Care (3 cr), also includes all necessary instruction, including use of the Automated External Defibrillator (AED). Upon completing H160, students are eligible to complete CPR/AED certification for the Professional Rescuer and Health Care Provider, and can also become first aid certified.
Spend time around a variety of people:
As you go through physical therapy training, and as an inherent dimension to the profession itself, you will work with people from diverse backgrounds, ranging in age, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, and so on. It is important that as you proceed along the pre-PT path, and into the profession, that you make a conscious effort to gain experience working with and being around diverse populations. There are many ways to achieve this goal, for example: through community service, clinical observation of PTs in different settings, and participating in events or student groups at IU that tend to attract a variety of people from diverse backgrounds.
Refer to HPPLC's list of volunteer and job opportunities for pre-PT students for examples of experiences which will not only present occasions for you to be around a variety of people from diverse backgrounds, which is of central important to those working in the health professions, but through which you can further develop interpersonal skills that can help you become an even stronger graduate student, and, ultimately a more effective healthcare professional.
Have a contingency or back-up plan:
Refer to the contingency planning (back-up plan) section of this page.
- The minimum cumulative GPA and minimum math / science prerequisite GPA required to apply is 3.20.
- A minimum grade of "C" (not "C-") is required in all prerequisites.
- If you are accepted into the IU PT program, you must earn a minimum grade of "C" in remaining prerequisite courses.
|Fall 2010 Admission Statistics||GPA|
|Cumulative GPA range||3.460 - 4.00|
|Average CGPA admitted||3.769|
|Cumulative math / science prereq GPA range||3.440 - 4.00|
|Average M/S GPA admitted||3.753|
|Graduate Record Exam (GRE)||Score|
|GRE verbal range (IU PT does not consider quantitative scores)||350 - 710|
|Average verbal admitted||502|
|IMPORTANT: After you read the information below, visit the HPPLC Researching Accredited Programs page, and thoroughly utilize those resources throughout your preprofessional process! There, you will find important tips and information about how to identify accredited programs, how to decide where to apply, how to organize your research process, competitive GPA information, and much more.|
We strongly recommend that you consult only the lists of programs linked from the Researching Accredited Programs page. Other lists are incomplete, outdated, driven by marketing, and may even contain non-accredited programs. Be sure to research and consider both PTCAS and non-PTCAS programs! There are dozens of programs that do not use PTCAS.
If you are a freshman, you should focus on your academics and your transition to college, not on program research! During freshman year, begin working in 5 credit prerequisites, hopefully one in each of fall and spring. It does not matter whether you begin with chemistry or anatomy, but try to get one or the other - whichever is open and works with your schedule. We do not recommend physics for most freshman, though this does depend on your high school preparation.
If you can, do some clinical observation over winter or spring break, and then continue with shadowing over the summer; but when classes are in session, focus on developing excellent academic skills and time management.
Sophomores and beyond
Try to take a 5 credit prerequisite each and every term. Summer prereqs might be necessary, depending on your situation. Visit the preprofessional timeline page. Our detailed sample timeline can give you a sense of what you should be doing right now in addition to coursework, and also help you with your long range planning.
If you are currently an IUB sophomore or beyond, or a graduate of IUB, and have not yet met with a HPPLC advisor, you may call to schedule an initial appointment. If you have not decided for sure whether you will pursue this profession, we can help you with your decision. On the other hand, if you are in fact sure, then HPPLC advising can help you plan your preprofessional timeline, up to and including the application and (hopefully) interviews.
Visit the preprofessional timeline page. Our detailed sample timeline can give you a sense of what you should be doing now, and what can wait. Remember to attend the spring Health Programs Fair to speak with PT program representatives. Each year, a dozen or more PT programs visit IU to meet potential applicants!
Read FAQ number 2 in our Physical Therapy FAQ section, which has important information about varying degrees of competitiveness across PT programs.
Be sure to utilize the the HPPLC Researching Accredited Programs page!
IMPORTANT: Every year people apply for admission to the IU DPT program who are ineligible due to incomplete prerequisites, ineligible GPA, or errors on the application. Therefore:
- Read the related PT program research tips and suggestions.
- Triple-check all admission requirements for each and every program to which you plan to apply.
- Research prerequisites early so you can complete them on time.
- Apply early to leave leeway for problems that might arise.
- Once you apply, check with each program to make sure your application is complete and correct.
- Be aware of any restrictions on the timing of prerequisites (see below for an example of such a restriction, related to IU PT admission).
Each program has its own application cycle, as does PTCAS. The PTCAS application cycle usually opens during the first week of July and closes during the first week of June of the next year.
Note: Be aware of financial aid deadlines, which can arrive during or shortly after your application period!
DPT deadlines and requirements
Many DPT application deadlines fall in October, but not all. In addition, some PT programs admit students in January instead of the summer, and hence have different application cycles; and some programs admit students at two or three different times each year.
For deadline information for each program, refer to program websites, or the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) site's listing of programs, where you will find this and other information by clicking on the names of programs.
The IU DPT program requires that applicants apply through the Central Application Service for Physical Therapists (PTCAS).
Other factors in the IU DPT application process:
- Refer to the GPA information above for minimum IU DPT GPA requirements, and to get a sense of where you might stand compared to previous successful applicants.
- IU DPT application deadline: The program accepts applications from August 1 through October 1 for admission to the program the following fall. Try to submit all application materials several weeks before the deadline to allow leeway in case there is something you overlooked or need to correct. All application materials are due by October 1.
- Try to complete the GRE at least four weeks before you plan to submit your PT applications, in case there are any delays in score reporting.
- All but two of the IU PT prerequisites must be completed by the time you submit your application to the IU DPT program. (Many other PT programs have similar policies.) You may complete the final two prerequisites in the fall and / or spring semester prior to the start of the DPT professional coursework.
- You must complete all admission requirements, and the IU PT program must receive all your materials, on or before June 1 (including final spring grades) in order for you to matriculate into the program (i.e., start PT school).
- Applicants who are not IU students need only to complete the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences application; there is no need to complete a separate IU application.
"Early Decision" is an admission practice whereby programs admit a certain number of especially strong applicants well before the standard application deadline.
The Early Decision application option usually comes with some caveats. For example, some programs offer an Early Decision application option through PTCAS, but you may initially apply to one and only one PTCAS program, and then must wait until that program decides whether or not they will admit you. In the meantime, you will not be allowed to apply to additional PTCAS programs. If they do admit you, you are required to accept. If they do not admit you, you may then apply to additional PTCAS programs. An additional caveat may be that while you are waiting to hear back about your Early Decision application, you may miss the optimal application window for another program (but wether this is the case depends on the timing of rolling admission cycles, if any, for your other programs).
PTCAS offers useful Early Decision FAQS with regard to PTCAS programs, as well as a list of PTCAS programs that offer Early Decision as an application option. For non-PTCAS programs, check program websites.
If you have an admission interview and then learn that you have been put on an admission waitlist, immediately contact the program to express your continued and enthusiastic interest. Sometimes applicants who take the time to do so are among the first to be contacted if spaces open up. If after doing so you don't hear back for a week-and-a-half or two weeks, feel free to contact them again to express your interest.
The possible pros and cons of dropping or retaking classes
It is not uncommon for an applicant to include a dropped or retaken class on the application. Read about related pros, cons, and options on the HPPLC Retaking and Dropping Classes information page. If you have multiple drops and/or retakes, also refer to the application addendum information, below.
IU program course retake policies
The IU PT program currently (as of Fall 2012) allows for Indiana University's "Extended X Policy," by which you can petition to have the grade replaced if you repeat a course. SHRS will allow you to replace up to 15 credit hours of prerequisite coursework (though the IUB policy currently allows only 9 credits). See your IUB academic advisor to discuss the limitations of the policy, and directions on how / where to file the X Petition.
The IU PT program currently (as of Fall 2012) does not allow for "Academic Bankruptcy."
Always double-check policies with the SHRS Director of Student Enrollment Services in case things have recently changed.
An addendum is a brief supplemental document sometimes included with an application, in which the applicant explains extenuating circumstances he or she feel could adversely impact the application. Visit the HPPLC Application Addendum page to read more about what an addendum is, and whether/how to include one with your application.
Being an Indiana resident or a graduate of Indiana University, or submitting materials early, does not provide any advantage during the admission process.
Some programs may offer you admission on condition that you complete all remaining prerequisites prior to the start of the professional program, and maintain minimum grade and GPA requirements.
It is a good policy to keep in touch with the people who have a say in whether or not you are admitted to a given program, so we recommend that you communicate directly with each program to which you plan to apply. You can double-check to make sure your IUB coursework will fulfill their admission requirements, ask more detailed questions about their program in particular, and so on. Always keep a log or file of all your communications with programs, and always conduct yourself with cordial professionalism in all phone calls, emails, and other correspondence.
The PTCAS site contains other excellent research resources as well, including an application checklist, so consult it thoroughly. Be sure to make use of the Application Instructions, linked from the left of the PTCAS application portal. You should read through it before you apply so as to gain a general sense of the application, and then consult it section by section as you complete the application.
Admission to the IU PT program is very competitive. While strong academic performance can help you become a competitive applicant, it is important that you develop a contingency plan in case your first plan doesn't work out. HPPLC advisors strongly urge you to research the admission requirements of other PT programs and apply to at least 6 or 8.
Still, it is not uncommon for people to change their goals and ambitions, or for circumstances to arise which impede plans or necessitate their deferral. Consider developing a contingency plan, or back-up plan, just in case. At the very least, we urge you to use available resources (e.g., our Other Health Professions page, and other resources linked therein) to explore a number of career options. You might discover something you had never considered before, or, at the very least, you might confirm that the path you are on is indeed the one which best suits you.
Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA) programs
Physical Therapy Assistant, or PTA, is an alternative sometimes considered by pre-PT students. The APTA site includes information explaining what a PTA is, PTA education and training, and a list of accredited PTA programs. PTAs works directly with patients under the supervision of a physical therapist. A two-year degree from an accredited institution is required to be eligible to sit for the PTA licensure exam.
You are also welcome to call HPPLC and arrange an appointment to consult with one of our preprofessional advisors to discuss other career options within the health professions.
Click the center of the video box below to play a lighthearted but informative short cartoon about the importance of contingency or back-up planning.
[OUR APOLOGIES - the video will be fixed and posted as soon as possible]
Click HERE for resources related to researching scholarships and grants, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and FAFSA application timing and deadline information. (When to file will depend on when your program begins. The January prior to the start of your program might be a useful benchmark, but it is your responsibility to confirm the timing.)
The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) administers the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE), which prospective physical therapists must pass to become licensed practitioners. PT programs are specifically designed to prepare prospective PTs for the exam.
As of spring 2010, the vast majority of physical therapy training programs have converted to DPT, and by 2016 all programs will be required to be at the doctoral level. After 2016, unless grandfathered in under previous professional certification requirements, a DPT degree will be required to practice as a physical therapist. Those who have completed a PT baccalaureate or master's degree and garnered licensure prior to 2016 will be grandfathered in and be able to continue practicing. Note that state licensure is required in each state in which a physical therapist practices.
(US Department of Labor / Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook (OHH), "employment of physical therapists is expected to grow by 30 percent from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations."
- For detailed salary estimates, consult the OHH.
- Job opportunities are primarily in general medical and surgical hospitals, offices of physicians and other health practitioners, home health care services, and nursing care facilities.
- You can do additional career and job research at
The Bureau of Labor Statistics's Occupational Outlook Handbook
The Occupational Outlook Handbook's section on physical therapy
Pre-PT students often ask if the PT program they attend will make a difference in their job prospects. Refer to How to decide where to apply for some thoughts to take into consideration.
Additional Physical Therapy Resources
If you are an IUB Pre-PT student and have not yet joined the Health Professions and Prelaw Center (HPPLC) pre-PT email list, we urge you to log in and do so now. It takes just seconds, and will help keep you in the loop on important announcements related to admission requirements, PT program visits to IU, the Physical Therapy Central Application Service, the GRE, the IUB PT Club, and more.
Having clear, realistic projected GPA information is especially important for preprofessional students, who are usually pursuing admission to programs with moderately or highly competitive admissions. This is one of the reasons we recommend applying to multiple programs. For examples of some useful GPA calculators, click here.
We strongly encourage you to follow the advice on the Health Professions and Prelaw Center's Human Anatomy (ANAT-A 215) Study Tips page.
Click HERE for resources related to researching scholarships and grants, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and FAFSA application timing and deadline information
If you are an IUB Pre-PT student, consider joining the IU PT Club, which meets two to four times each fall and spring semester. The PT Club is sponsored by the Health Professions and Prelaw Center. Among other activities, a variety of professional speakers share their PT expertise with club members. To join, simply attend a meeting and talk to one of the club officers.
APTA FAQs (located under "Prospective PT / PTA Students") An excellent source of information about the physical therapy profession, and about PT educational programs. Every pre-PT student should consider the APTA FAQs as required reading.
- American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
- Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) Licensure and licensure exam information.
- Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) The agency responsible for accrediting PT and PTA programs, and assuring that each program is up to standards. The site includes resources for preprofessional students.
- World Confederation for Physical Therapy
If you are interested in other health professions that are advised through HPPLC, we encourage you to sign up for the HPPLC email list associated with your area(s) of interest. Feel free to sign up for more than one list. Also refer to the HPPLC handout, Health Professions Descriptions.
Director, Student Enrollment Services
IU School of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences
Coleman Hall 120
1140 W. Michigan St.
Indianapolis, IN 46202-5119
This information was prepared for Indiana University Bloomington students by the Health Professions and Prelaw Center. Please note that specific requirements and policies can change at any time without notice. Students are responsible for obtaining the most current information directly from application and testing services, and the schools and programs in which they have an interest. Refer to each program's web pages, bulletins, and other publications for the most current information. Students are responsible for understanding degree course requirements, as well as other requirements, policies, and procedures related to the degree(s) they are pursuing; for enrolling in appropriate courses; for understanding IU policies/procedures; and for following through properly with regard to all of the preceding.