Pre-Physical Therapy Timeline

Pre-Physical Therapy Timeline


  1. Focus on academics- This is the time to establish strong study skills and habits that will enable you to excel in upper level courses. #PRE-HEALTH LEARNING
  2. Start shadowing- Get into the clinic or hospital and begin to shadow physical therapists.  Use this opportunity to become sure that physical therapy is the career for you.  Check out other health careers as well (OT, RN, NP, PA, MD, RDN, etc).  Physical therapy programs want to know that you have a clear idea of the career you’re getting into- start gaining this understanding early and often.  #CLINICAL EXPERIENCE
  3. Choose activities wisely- Physical therapy programs want to see that you care about people.  Get involved in organizations and activities that get you out into the community.  It doesn’t have to be a health-specific activity, just something that shows a drive to help others.  Start an activity now and carry it through the next four years.  #SHOW YOU CARE
  4. Meet with a pre-health advisor in the spring semester- Even if this person is not your major advisor, it’s good to establish a connection with someone who will help guide your academic and extracurricular decisions as you aim for physical therapy school.  You should routinely evaluate your academics and activities, and an advisor helps you think realistically and objectively before making big decisions.  #PRE-HEALTH ADVICE
  5. Consider study abroad opportunities- Most students can fit in study abroad (typically during junior year) with careful planning and guidance from their advisors.  Most biology majors choose the programs in Denmark, Kenya, New Zealand, and Australia, though other programs are certainly an option.  Even if you decide not to go abroad for a semester, consider these summer opportunities:  Health Care Delivery (Kenya), Extreme Physiology (Africa), Neuroscience of Fear (Denmark), Learn Spanish in Nicaragua (Health Careers Language and Internship) (Nicaragua). #EXPERIENCE THE WORLD
  6. As the year is ending, consider applying to be a TA for next year- As a TA or tutor, you will be tasked with communicating with and supporting students in their learning.  This is an excellent way to keep your knowledge of a particular topic fresh in your mind and will challenge you to communicate information in creative ways to help others understand.  And not to mention the great letter of recommendation you’ll get from the profs you work with…. #BE KNOWN
  7. Sign up for the SLU Health Careers Listserv  to get all of the latest information.  #BE IN THE KNOW

Sophomore Year

  1. Stay focused academically- You will encounter tough courses this year, so draw upon the skills you developed as a freshman and learn new ways to study as you move into upper level courses.  #PRE-HEALTH STUDY
  2. Keep up with shadowing.  Most physical therapy programs require a certain number of observation hours and some even require a recommendation letter from a physical therapist when you apply.  Identify 5-6 programs you plan to apply to and make note of their requirements. Even after you achieve the required number of hours, you should continue to periodically shadow physical therapists to demonstrate sustained interest in the field AND to observe different practice settings/fields.  (Identifying your target schools will also enable you to be sure you complete their unique pre-requisite courses.)  #MORE SHADOWING
  3. Keep up with extracurriculars- Be sure to make some time for the people-focused activities you started last year.  #CONTINUED CARE
  4. Consider research- An increasing number of students who get accepted to healthcare programs have research experience.  This doesn’t necessarily have to be research in biology or chemistry, but can also include projects in psychology and sociology.  Talk to a professor whose course you liked or approach faculty whose projects sound interesting to you (read up on the department websites!) to find out what opportunities might be available to you.  Even if you don’t get involved as a sophomore, you can make plans to apply for a SLU Fellowship or external summer research programs.  Involvement in research shows that you’re interested in new ideas and continuing to learn. #ASK QUESTIONS
  5. Consider applying for SLU Health Coaches- This is an excellent opportunity to get patient experience.  In the fall semester, you will learn the foundational concepts for working with patients to achieve change, and in the spring semester, you will meet with your patient and help them follow their care plan.  Apply during the spring semester for the course next fall. #SLU HEALTH COACHES
  6. Meet with your pre-health advisor again in the spring- Be sure you’re still  #ON PRE-PT TRACK.
  7. Use your summer- This is a great time to do more shadowing or work/volunteer within the health care environment.  Even if you have another non-health related job, reserve some time to work on the clinical experience portion of your #PRE-PT PREP.

Junior Year

  1. Academics, shadowing, extracurriculars- You get it by now, maintain your #PRE-PT FOCUS.
  2. Make your plan for studying for and taking the GRE exam- This exam is required for application to physical therapy programs.  Take some scored, full-length practice exams during the spring semester.  Don’t wait until the last minute to “pre-test” yourself, in case you need to study more to improve your score.  Since most PT applications are due in the fall of your senior year, you could study for the exam during the summer and take it in August before returning to campus- this will work IF you have time to study during the summer around your job/activities.  If you will not have time during the summer, then you should begin studying during your winter break and take the exam during the spring semester of junior year. #GRE PREP
  3. Before Thanksgiving break, attend the HCC informational meeting- Learn about how to prepare for your HCC interview in the spring semester.  Complete the form stating the list of faculty you would like recommendations from and turn it in to the biology department secretary ASAP, so your recommenders get an online link for their comments.  Stop by their offices and make your request of faculty members now, so they have plenty of time to complete the forms in a non-hurried manner. #HCC INTERVIEW PREP
  4. Over winter break, complete your HCC Interview paperwork- In order to best represent yourself, you will need to complete these forms in a thoughtful manner.  Waiting to work on this until when you get back to campus for the spring semester is not the best idea, since you’ll be busy with new classes.  Spend time on your personal statement in particular.  #SELF-REFLECTION
  5. Complete a HCC Interview in February/March- Be prepared to discuss your submitted interview materials.  You will meet with the HCC chairperson after your interview to gain feedback. #HCC FEEDBACK
  6. Consider applying for a SLU Fellowship to perform summer research with a faculty mentorStart planning this in the fall semester. #SLU SCHOLAR

Senior Year

  1. Don’t slow down before reaching the finish line- Continue to challenge yourself academically and don’t ease up on your dedication to courses. #LIMIT SENIORITIS
  2. Stick to the plan that’s gotten you here- Don’t give up your people-focused community activities.  Taking time to help others helps to keep your life in perspective. #MAKE A DIFFERENCE
  3. When you begin to submit your applications, take a moment to consider your online presence.  “Google” your name to be sure that no concerning content appears.  Change your Facebook and other social media accounts to “private” and verify that all publicly viewable information and profile pictures are appropriate.  Graduate and professional schools will look at these media sources when considering your application.  Be sure that any media or online resources linked to you provide a positive, professional impression of who you are. #PROFESSIONAL PRESENCE
  4. Finish your applications.  Ask for any additional recommendation letters well ahead of time to allow your recommender time to complete the submission process.  #APPS COMPLETE
  5. Go to interviews- Research the schools at which you will be interviewing- become familiar with their curriculum and the unique aspects of their program.  Have specific questions to ask if given the opportunity.  #PT SCHOOL OPTIONS