PT School Application Process Advice - Balance Chicago Physical Therapy

PT School Application Process Advice

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A Shout Out

This blog is dedicated to all the interns/students trying to get into Physical Therapy (PT) school. This blog was inspired by the interns at Balance Chicago who ask the PTs for advice on how to get in. With the application process soon approaching, I thought it was only fitting to write about my own experience of getting into PT school. 

The Application Timeline

Applying to PT school starts way before the actual application process. As each program has its own requirements, you should start looking at the schools you want to apply to at least one year prior to applying. Some schools may require more shadowing/work hours, require additional classes, or require a certain GRE score, etc.

Be Real

You have to research realistic possible programs and narrow down which programs you want to go to. You have to “be real” about where you are applying. You want to think about logistics – can you picture spending the next 3-ish years at the school and in that particular area? Do not apply to a school just because you “think” you want to go there or “it would be cool” to go there. You should have the mind frame of “if you got accepted to that school, would you want to start there today?” You also want to look at the school’s graduation rate, national boards passing rate, and accreditation credentials. On average, students apply to 3-6 programs. 

If you have a top #1 school, I would recommend applying “early decision” (some schools call it early assurance decision). This means that before applying to a vast number of schools at the set standard application date, you apply early to only one school. If you get in, you are locked into the program and cannot apply elsewhere. You have a slightly higher chance of getting in because it shows you are really interested in the program. If you do not get in with early decision, they will most likely put your application into the general pool and will revisit your application with the applicants.

"Double-Dipping"- Pre-Requisite Style

Every school requires core science foundational courses (physics, chemistry, biology, etc). However, each school you’re applying to may require additional courses for that specific program. This is where it gets a little tricky (and expensive).

First, I would look up the programs that you are interested in applying to and see what additional classes they require.

Secondly, I would see if those classes can count as one of your Gen Eds. This way, you’re saving time and money by “double-dipping” – getting a 2-for-1 deal! However, if you do have to spend a little more money on a class, you’re gaining more knowledge… and you know what they say, “knowledge is power”.

With my experience, I was able to “double dip” for several classes, especially with my psychology classes, as it appeared to work out with my major. However, I ended up having to take Politics 101 for a pre-req for one of the schools I was applying to (despite not going into politics, I learned more about the US government and history than I ever have before)! It was also an easy overall GPA booster.

GPA, GRE, and Letters of Recommendation

The higher the GPA, the better. The higher the GRE, the better. This is crucial when applying to programs. It is really important to have a high GPA in the core science foundation classes. Schools will isolate the science/math course GPA from your overall GPA.

In terms of taking the GRE exam, I highly recommend using the program, Magoosh. It’s an online program that goes through everything you need to know about the GRE and tips/tricks to help you score well. You can take the GRE multiple times. However, depending on the school you’re applying to, some schools may require you to send in all your scores, while others may not. I studied for the GRE for a month prior to taking it. 

Start the application process the day it opens! Do not wait, there are many components that are outside of your control that take time for the application system to process. In addition, let those who will be writing your letter of recommendation know in advance, so they can plan ahead.  Ask your college professors and PTs, that you shadowed/interned with, that know you very well. 

Personal Statement

Your personal statement is the time for your true personality to come out! Each year, there will be a new “question” for each candidate to answer. Write from the heart, share your experiences that are fitting with the question. Make sure to proofread your paper and have 1-2 other people look at it/proofread it for errors! Do not let too many people read your essay, or else they may start changing your essay around and you want your essay to come from you.

This application process can get very overwhelming. Just take it day-by-day. To our interns, we truly appreciate the work you do for us. This internship is just the start of your PT journey. You never know, you may be working at Balance Chicago one day (fun fact, one of our PT’s used to be an intern…)!


The Balance Chicago Team is here to help you! For more information, or to schedule your appointment, give us a call or click the link above. We look forward to working with you soon!

Blog Written By: Dr. Isabella Badalament, PT, DPT

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