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Pre-Physical Therapy

What is a Physical Therapist (PT)?

Physical therapists (PTs) are health care professionals who diagnose and treat individuals of all ages, from newborns to the very oldest, who have medical problems or other health-related conditions that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives.

PTs examine each individual and develop a plan using treatment techniques to promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function and prevent disability. In addition, PTs work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility before it occurs by developing fitness and wellness oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles.

Physical therapists provide care for people in a variety of settings, including hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, home health agencies, schools, sports and fitness facilities, work settings and nursing homes. State licensure is required in each state in which a physical therapist practices.

What should my major be?

Most physical therapy (PT) programs do not require a specific major, just that you complete an undergraduate degree. Therefore, you may major in almost anything. You should consider a major that you enjoy, in which you will perform well and may serve as a basis for further graduate work or employment should you choose not to apply to or are not admitted to physical therapy school. Many students will choose to major in Health Sciences (Pre-Physical Therapy) at UC, as it requires the majority of the courses that will satisfy admissions requirements for PT programs

What is so hard about being pre-physical therapy?

For many students, the most difficult task is to acquire the study skills and self-discipline necessary to attain academic excellence. The success of your transition to college level work depends not only on ability, but also upon preparation, motivation, organization and how well you learn how to learn. It is important that you really learn the material, not just memorize it, as it is crucial to develop your critical thinking skills. The rigorous curriculum of a pre-physical therapy student demands tenacity and stamina. Spending time outside of class-time studying (2-3hrs outside for every hour in class) is essential. Using the extra teaching provided through the University of Cincinnati Learning Commons is part of the essential outside study time.

Is it difficult to get into physical therapy school?

Yes, it is extremely competitive to gain admittance into physical therapy school. You must be well informed, well prepared, extremely determined and work very hard to gain admission. You should also actively explore alternative careers.

What are the admissions requirements?

Common prerequisites for health professions programs

*NOTE: Some health professions schools will not accept prerequisites taken online. All prerequisite courses are recommended to be taken in-person.

Generally, most physical therapy schools require one year of general biology, anatomy and physiology, general chemistry and physics designed for science majors. All courses should have laboratory components. 

Many schools also require statistics, psychology, sociology, exercise physiology, medical terminology and additional requirements may apply depending on the schools to which you plan to apply. Students should speak with a PPAC advisor and consult the admissions literature for the specific requirements at each school in which you are interested. 

Competitive pre-PT students also possess these important qualities: competitive metricsstrong personal attributes and have meaningful pre-PT and other professional experiences. Observation of PT's is also required. Visit the PTCAS Directory  for more information about these critical components of your application and meet often with a Pre-Professional advisor. 

What is the GRE?

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is a standardized test that measures analytical writing, verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning skills. Most of these skills have been acquired over a long period of time and are not related to any specific field of study. PT programs require that you take the GRE prior to admission. We suggest familiarizing yourself with the GRE early on so that you can plan for the test. Understanding the test can positively affect what you learn in class and how you choose to retain that knowledge. Stretch yourself in general education courses at UC and by reading beyond class requirements. The training will serve you well when you take the GRE.

Many PT programs require the GRE; however, not all do. Typically, you apply to PT programs before the beginning of your senior year (or a year before you plan to enter), so you should plan to take the exam by the spring or summer after your junior year. The GRE is usually offered five or six days a week and may be taken by appointment at UC Testing Services or Prometric Testing Center. More information regarding the GRE may be found at Educational Testing Services (ETS). 

What do physical therapy programs consider when evaluating applicants?

The criteria for admission varies from school to school, but usually include academic record (GPA), standardized admissions exam (GRE), letters of recommendation, demonstrated knowledge and commitment to the profession through experience and personal attributes, and in some cases a personal interview.

To be a competitive applicant for PT programs, it is required that you complete observation hours with a licensed physical therapist. Many programs require that you observe in both in-patient and out-patient settings. View the Summary of Requirements for program specific observation hour requirements. 

What GPA do I have to have to get into physical therapy school? 

This varies from school to school. However, the majority of students accepted to physical therapy school have a GPA of approximately 3.6 or higher. It is particularly important that you perform well in your science (biology, anatomy and physiology, chemistry, physics and math) courses. It is important for those considering professional school to be realistic about the extent to which performance meets admissions expectations.

Is it all over if I have a bad semester?

Admission committees look at the "big picture" as they evaluate applicants. They realize that every student does not hit the ground running when they enter college. Admission committees expect an excellent academic record, but may make some allowances for a problem semester, slow start or rough spot. If academic problems arise, you must bounce back and perform better than ever to show that the problem was an exception, rather than the rule. Use resources such as professor and T.A. office hours, the Learning Commons and other Academic Excellence & Support Services offices.

Will I need letters of recommendation? 

Yes. Most programs require your references come from Physical Therapists you have shadowed.  A second or third recommendation may come from a science professor you had in college. In addition, as noted earlier most programs require significant PT shadowing.

Is financial aid available?

Amounts and types of aid vary from school to school, as does the cost of your education. You should investigate the costs early in your undergraduate career. Knowing that you are probably going to incur a substantial loan debt for physical therapy school may affect the way that you borrow for your undergraduate education. Most applicants are eligible for government originated aid; apply during January of your application cycle, even if you are still waiting to find out whether or not you have been accepted. Apply for aid at For more information on financing your education, visit Scholarships and Debt Management.

Health Professions Scholarship Program is offered widely via the US Navy and on a limited basis via the Army PT Program. The Army PT program requires that you attend Baylor University for PT School to gain this opportunity.  This program typically covers 100% of tuition and fees, along with a bonus or stipend.

If you are a low-income applicant you may be eligible for the PTCAS Fee Waiver. This will help offset costs of applying to physical therapy school.

How can the Pre-Professional Advising Center (PPAC) help me? 

Preparing for admission to physical therapy school requires careful long-range planning and accurate information. The PPAC specializes in providing you with necessary information and helping you develop good planning skills. The staff of the PPAC provides you with help through each step of the way. PPAC provides services including course selection, career exploration, time management tips, information on individual programs, admissions test preparation advice, managing letters of recommendation and links to ways to get experience in health care settings.

What resources are available to pre-physical therapy students?

Please visit our Pre-PT Resources web page for a list of helpful resources.