With the internet and all, I think applying to most graduate programs has been made (somewhat) easier than in the past. Even just 10-15 years ago, for whatever school you wanted to apply to, you would have to obtain a separate application for each program, individualized to that specific program – get hard copies of EVERYTHING for each school, compile, send, and hope to God that your materials didn’t get lost in the mail.
For Physical Therapy, you can use something called PTCAS – Physical Therapy Centralized Application Service. Most accredited schools applications are available through this website. It makes it nice because you can compile your transcripts, grades, personal information, documented volunteer experience, extracurricular work, job experience, etc in one place, logged only ONE TIME and send out the same information to multiple schools at once – all you have to do is pay an arm and a leg for each school, but hey, you save time. You do one personal statement, a prompt written by PTCAS that gets sent to each school you send your application to, and most schools also have their own individualized essay prompts that you are required to do in order to apply to that school. Several schools also require you to complete supplemental applications on their own websites which yes, cost more money. In total, I think I ended up writing around 13 essays, and if you know me, I LOATHE writing essays. TG I’m good at them though because wow, it was a rough few months.
Overall, before you apply, you are going to need to:
- Request transcripts for PTCAS from each institution you have ever attended (sometimes you have to separately send schools these in addition to the ones that PTCAS sends for you – stupid, I know)
- Take the GRE – for this, I recommend the KAPLAN book and an online website, Magoosh.com – it gives you short video lessons on different parts of the test and tips on how to do well on them (good for short attention spans). It also had a plethora of mock questions that compile your scores and give you a mock score of what you would get on the actual test. My score almost exactly matched the score I received on the actual exam. These two things saved my life and I only put in half effort studying for about a month
- Line up Letters of Recommendation – I recommend doing this AS SOON AS POSSIBLE as professors have busy lives too, and will appreciate you asking them WAY AHEAD OF TIME (makes for a better letter too).
- *Note on this: Since all applications are electronic now, the professors themselves submit the LOR’s and you will likely never see them. A lot of the time the electronic app site will ask you if you would like to waive your right to see the letters – STOP, although you may be tempted to not waive your right (I was), because you want to see all the nice and happy things your mentors and professors write about you, schools see this as a negative thing, as it insinuates a bias of the letter if the professor knows that you are able to see the letter they wrote about you (hope that made sense).
- PLAN AHEAD – yes, applications have deadlines, but the sooner you submit them, the sooner you are able to interview and I believe, DOES increase your chances of getting accepted (I did not realize this when I was applying)
- Time management – Completing applications take up A TON of time and I worked on mine almost every day over a span of 3 or 4 months. Do not wait to try and do them in a few days span because not only will you want to die, your application will not be as strong as it probably could be