In addition to a strong GPA and specific pre-requisite courses, PT programs also look at exam scores, letters of recommendation, and experiences. Typically, programs want well-rounded applicants, so it is critical that you do not neglect these areas of the application.
Most PT schools require that applicants take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). The GRE consists of three sections: Quantitative, Verbal, and Analytical Writing. Although you do not need any specific course before taking the exam, you should expect to study for at least a couple of months in advance.
Average combined GRE scores for accepted students tend to be in the range of 305-310 range. Also, a score of 4 or greater on the writing portion is preferred.
Please visit the GRE website for more information, registration dates, and study guides. The Pre-Professional Advising Office has a Resource Library from which you can check-out GRE prep books as well as Study Rooms which can be reserved.
Most PT schools will require you to have at least a minimum of three letters of reference.
- Armstrong requires three letters of reference. Applicants must have at least one reference from a physical therapist who has observed or supervised the applicant in a clinical setting; however, the other two recommendations may come from a physical therapist, professor, supervisor, teaching assistant, PTA, or other individuals as listed on their PTCAS profile.
- Augusta University (formerly known as GRU), also requires three letters of reference. One of these must be from a physical therapist, while another is from a professor in the student’s major, and the final is from someone who can speak to the student’s character. This would ideally come from a supervisor of some sort, but could come from another PT or faculty member, if needed. All recommendations should focus on the applicant’s aptitude for clinical work, academic ability and responsibility in work or community settings.
- Breneau, much like Augusta, requires three letters. These must be from (1) someone practicing physical therapy that can address the applicant's potential as a physical therapist, (2) someone who can address the applicant's academic ability, and (3) someone who can address the applicant's character. A physical therapist, professor, and a supervisor would be recommended.
- Emory requires three letters of reference. They specify that they require one to be from a physical therapist with whom you have observed, worked or volunteered. The PT you select should be able to speak to your suitability for the profession. Another letter must be from a professor who has taught you at the undergraduate or graduate level and can speak to your academic abilities. The third letter, though, is up to the student’s discretion.
- Georgia State requires two letters of reference. At least one of the applicant’s letters of recommendation must be from a licensed physical therapist that has observed or supervised the applicant in the clinical setting. The other letter, though, is left to the student’s discretion.
- Mercer requires no letters of reference; however, students may still elect to include letters of reference in their application. This action is recommended.
- North Georgia requires three letters of reference. One letter must be from a physical therapist that the applicant has observed, but the other two letters are left to the student’s discretion.
- Georgia-PCOM requires three letters of reference. One must be from a licensed PT (not PTA), while another is recommended to be from a professor (not TA), preferably in the student's major. The final letter is up to the student's discretion and can come from any of the following sources: College professor, Employer/Supervisor, or other healthcare professional. Recommendation letters must be on letterhead and preferably signed and submitted electronically in PDF format to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that if you choose to apply to multiple programs, you will need enough letters to meet the requirements of all of the schools you choose to apply to!
Should I waive my right to view my letters of recommendation?
Yes. Letters that can be viewed by the student do not carry the same weight as those kept confidential.
Many schools require applicants have experience observing or shadowing physical therapists in action. Most programs require 100 hours at the least, but more is certainly recommended. Some programs specify the number of sites, as well as the types of experiences that students should pursue. It is usually expected, though, that students have at least one outpatient experience and one inpatient experience. It is also recommended that students get a wide variety of shadowing experiences and are well-rounded in terms of the hours they accumulate. The specific requirements and recommendations for each PT program can be found on their website, or their PTCAS profile page, if they participate it that service.
Admission committees consider a number of factors when evaluating an application, including: traits desirable in a future physical therapist, previous accomplishments, diverse life experiences, and significant knowledge of how to deliver health care. Experiences which demonstrate these traits may include: volunteer work, international mission work, military service, proficiency in foreign languages, unique life experiences, health training or certification, unique leadership positions, and biomedical research experience.