**Disclaimer: This is a general overview of the Pre-PT timeline which is mostly drawn from UA’s admission guide and is also based on my personal experience. Take the subjective points with a grain of salt; do what works best for you. Pursue your passions as you complete the prerequisite work. Every applicant to PT school will have a unique story**
Fall and Spring Semesters
Pre-PT Advisor Activities
- Schedule an appointment with your advisor (Nieka Morgan for Kinesiology students; other majors will visit a pre-health advisor in addition to the advisor specific to their major)
- Introduce yourself and finalize your fall classes
- Discuss how to sequence your classes moving forward
- Attend Get On Board Day in the fall and spring or simply search organizations on the Source website. Look for the Pre-PT Society booth at GOBD and get involved in any other organizations that may interest you!
- If you are considering other pre-health careers (pre-med, pre-dental, pre-ot, etc.), I encourage you to shadow all fields, do online research, attend other pre-health organizational meetings (subscribe to email and follow their social media), and speak with your advisor and/or family friends within the healthcare field. The earlier you know what you want to do, the better.
- Find at least one organization through the Source where you can begin volunteering regularly (Project Health, Al’s Pals, Bama Tutors for Service, campus ministries, Beat Auburn Beat Hunger, Good Samaritan Clinic, Honors College, etc.)
- Begin shadowing a physical therapist as early as possible. This will not only help you confirm your interest in pursuing this career, but will help you obtain necessary shadowing hours early. The more hours in varied PT settings, the better. If you are enrolled in KIN 488, you will be required to complete 9 or 12 credit hours of shadowing, and each credit hour is 30 actual hours (so that’s a total of 360 hours!). Make sure to log these hours and the PT contact information in a journal for easy access during application season.
- Start forming connections with other pre-pt students, faculty members, and mentors on campus. This will be helpful when choosing which classes to take and for letters of recommendation.
- Begin taking the core 4 science sequences required for PT school. Most pre-pt students take one core science per semester since these are the most rigorous courses you will need to take. The order for all four years is usually Biology freshman year, Anatomy sophomore year, Chemistry junior year, and then Physics for senior year, but you can ultimately decide on the order. For instance, I started out with chemistry my first semester freshman year and then doubled up on sciences the next year so that I would be able to complete all of my core sciences prior to applying to PT school. This was a personal preference, however, since completing all sciences before senior year is not required; do what you know works best for you.
- Decide on your major. Because you have the freedom to major in whatever you desire as a Pre-PT student, advisors encourage you to major in what is most interesting to you. However, because most Pre-PT students major in Exercise Science, the Kinesiology advisors have more experience with Pre-PT students than any other pre-health advisors. If you are an English or Finance major, for instance, advisors for these majors may have a difficult time directing you on your Pre-PT prerequisites. This is why getting plugged into the Pre-PT Society early on can be an extremely useful resource.
- Go to your professor’s office hours. Professors are much more likely to be flexible with you later on with grades if the professor sees you in class regularly and sees you at office hours. Attend these hours to ask specific questions soon after they arise (may come to mind while doing homework or watching lectures). You don’t want to wait until it’s the last minute before the test or, even worse, after the test. If you perform well in the class (and the professor actually knows who you are), consider meeting with that professor about a letter of recommendation
- Consider getting involved in undergraduate research by reaching out to a professor (usually many opportunities among Kinesiology professors).
- How a Pre-PT student chooses to spend his/her summer is entirely up to the student. However, I encourage you to use this time wisely. If you are still not sure on which pre-health career to pursue, shadow multiple health care workers in a variety of settings. Remember to document the observation hours and the contact information for future reference. If you did not perform well in a class or switched majors and feel behind, I encourage you to retake the class or take the coursework needed to get you back on track. This can be done either through UA or a community college, though graduate schools often prefer that you complete the more rigorous coursework through your undergraduate university. Keep in mind that graduate schools like to see that a student is able to balance a full semester of classes with other activities during the school year. If you are certain of your career path, have been performing well in classes, and do not feel behind to graduate, I encourage you to do something you love, such as working a summer camp, volunteering in your community, or getting involved in research. PT schools like to see a diversity of experience.
Overall: keep working on the things you established freshman year. Prioritize good grades. Continue the volunteer work that is meaningful to you. Shadow in a new PT setting (outpatient, inpatient, skilled nursing facilities, home health, and nursing homes in the Tuscaloosa area). Run for officer positions and pursue other leadership roles.
Fall and Spring Semesters
Pre-PT Advisor Activities
- Check in with your pre-pt advising office; attend Pre-PT Society meetings, and make sure you are receiving information and updates, especially on your Crimson email
- Begin to layout your classes for your remaining 3 years at the University of Alabama using DegreeWorks planner too
Work and Activity Experiences
- Pursue or continue meaningful medically related activities, including volunteer roles, paid work, research positions, and/or leadership opportunities in health organizations
- Continue with next sequence of courses
- Begin to research the PT schools you are interested in attending following your time at UA. Make sure you are on track to complete their required coursework. Assess your competitiveness by reviewing the recent entering class’s average GPA and GRE scores.
- Begin thinking about when you will take the GRE and how you will prepare for this exam.
Pre-PT Advisor Activities
- Discuss with an advisor or faculty member to narrow down what PT schools you are interested in attending. Ask for their honest analysis of your competitiveness. This will include an analysis of your GPA, number of observation hours, and extra-curricular involvement.
- Ensure you are on-track to graduate on time. If not, discuss with parents on taking the required coursework over the summer or during a 5th year at UA.
- Register for the GRE. Begin studying using prep books (I used Princeton Review; other options include Kaplan and Magoosh). Take as many practice tests as possible. The more you familiarize yourself with the testing style, vocabulary, and types of quantitative problems, the better prepared you will be. Either dedicate a few hours per week to preparation beginning a few months in advance, or focus intensely on the material a few weeks leading up to the exam. I prepared intensely during Christmas break when I had no other responsibilities and took the exam right before spring semester started.
Academic and Extracurricular Activities
- Continue with the completion of required coursework. GPA matters.
- Take on leadership positions within the organizations you have been consistently pursuing during college. Continue volunteering in what most interests you.
- Keep shadowing a physical therapist. Strive to vary your PT settings. Apply to work as a technician if time permits. In addition to getting paid in these positions, you will receive valuable experience, numerous observation hours, and will form connections with physical therapists who will get to know you well enough to write strong letters of recommendation.
- Take the GRE either during this spring semester or during the summer after junior year. Give yourself enough time to retake the test if you do not initially receive your desired score.
- Identify the Physical Therapists and professors who would be willing to write you a letter of recommendation. Most schools require at least 3 therapist letters and 1 professor letter. A few schools may receive an optional letter from any adult other than your parents who knows you well and can advocate for your character.
- Schedule a mock interview with the Career Center on campus. Dr. Geary’s professional development class (KIN 388) is a good class to take during this semester.
- Continue working on what you have established thus far.
- Retake the GRE if needed.
- Continue obtaining observation hours. You will need all of your hours verified by the PT you shadowed for the PTCAS (PT school application), so set up your PTCAS early on in the summer. It sometimes takes a while for people to get back to you.
- Reach out to the Physical Therapists and professors you would like to write you letters of recommendation early on in the summer if not the spring semester of junior year.
- Complete your PTCAS application. I highly recommend that you complete this application (personal information, academic information, supporting information, and specific program materials) prior to the fall semester of your senior year. The essays can be time-consuming, and you want them to be reviewed by several professional eyes before submitting them. Furthermore, filling out the application while taking classes during the fall can become stressful. Your goal should be to complete the program’s application at least 1 month prior to their deadline.
- Submit PTCAS if you have not already.
- Wait to be contacted for interviews from PT schools. Prepare for these interviews by conducting mock interviews and doing research on these schools. PT schools want to see that you are genuinely interested in their program, so prepare with good questions to ask. Attend open houses if possible and reach out to current DPT students you may know for more information about the program they are attending.
- Continue doing well in coursework. Grades still matter, even after submitting the PTCAS.
- Continue shadowing or working as a PT technician.
- Continue pouring into your surrounding community both on and off campus. This is a good time to “give back” to the organizations which have helped carry you through the college experience. PT school interviews will want to see that you are genuinely passionate about your experiences and involvement.
- Grades still matter! Finish strong!
- Enjoy this final semester. Pour into those around you (organizations and volunteer work). Finish college on a good note.
- Continue to prepare for interviews. Stay positive. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get in immediately or it takes longer for them to get back to you: there is a wait list!!!
- If you know for certain that physical therapy is what you want to do, reapply the next year. Contact the schools that rejected you and ask how you could make your application stronger for the next round. Reapplying is more common than you think!
- Speak with your advisor about a Plan B., if necessary. If taking a GAP year, work as a technician in a PT clinic and retake the GRE and other classes if needed.