Cost of Schooling

According to, the average cost of a four-year college degree at a public institution is $7,605 for those who attend one in their state of residence and $11,990 for out of state residents. If you decide to go to a private college or university, the average cost of getting a four-year degree is $27,293 per year in tuition and fees. Also keep in mind that most students do not pay the full price because they qualify for financial aid, grants, and scholarships.

Tuition and other fees are just the basic costs to attend classes and get a degree. There will be a lot of other costs associated with college. You may have to pay for expensive books, supplies, transportation, rent for a dorm or apartment, and other bills such as utilities, food, laundry, and living expenses. Even personal costs like cell phone bills will contribute to your total expenses. If you have a family, you will need to continue supporting them as well, and that could include paying for things such as day care.

Although going to school is not going to be cheap, you can do a lot of things to keep the cost down. You may decide to go to a community college or technical school close to home so you do not have to pay dorm fees and purchase cafeteria food. Tuition is likely to be cheaper at a community college. Most of your basic courses should be offered at a smaller community college even if have to go elsewhere to complete your degree. It is also important to make sure that any classes you take at a smaller college transfer to other universities as undergraduate credits and prerequisites for physical therapy school. You may want to go to school part-time, which is cheaper, but you will not qualify for financial aid, and it will take longer to complete your studies.

Working part-time while in school to defer some of the costs is also a possibility. While it is not easy to work while in school, it is not impossible and most students do. Many places on or near campuses provide flexible scheduling for students that includes time off during exams. It may also help you structure your time and use it more effectively. It will also help when applying to a professional program because the admissions committee will take into account that you worked while an undergraduate. If you keep your grades up while working, it will demonstrate that you could handle multiple responsibilities and manage your time. And if you do not have the best grades in the world, the committee can see that you were juggling a lot of things at once.

The tuition for physical therapy school varies and is higher for out-of-state residents than for those who are residents. If you search the internet, you will find the average in-state and out-of-state tuition for physical therapy schools by city and state. Again, this is just basic tuition. All the other costs you dealt with as an undergraduate you will also deal with while in physical therapy school.

If you are going to school in a state where you are not a resident and would like to pay in-state tuition, obtaining residency in the state, whether in undergrad or physical therapy school, is something to consider. Each state has different requirements for residency (how long you have to live there, property owned, reason for being in the state, etc.), and the registrar’s office at your school should be able to help you apply. There is no guarantee your request for residency will be granted, but it can’t hurt to apply. If you get it, you will pay the in-state tuition.

Thinking about money can be overwhelming, but do not let it deter you from pursuing the education you need to achieve the career you want. Seek out financial advice and talk to those who have gone through postsecondary education about finances to get some more insight into how to get through school without going broke.

Financial Aid

Physical therapy school is going to be expensive like any professional school, and you likely will have to ask for financial aid from the government. The goal of financial aid is to ensure that anyone who wants to go to college can without worrying about not being able to afford it. To get financial aid, the government and university will decide how much you qualify for based on what your family makes in a year. The government will give you financial aid in the form of loans. The two main categories of loans are subsidized and unsubsidized. Unsubsidized loans accrue interest from the moment you start school, while subsidized loans do not accrue interest until after you graduate.

Financial aid can often come in the form of grants and scholarships. These differ from loans in that you do not have to pay them back. They can come from the government, the educational institution, small organizations, companies, and individuals who create a scholarship fund. It’s important to start looking into this when you are applying to schools because, like your application to get in, there are deadlines for financial aid, grants, and scholarships. Financial aid will not only pay for your schooling but will help you cover living expenses while in school so you hopefully will not have to work.


Scholarships will ease the financial burden of school without the worry about paying the money back. They can be very small amounts that will help you buy books, while others will pay for half or all of your tuition. Colleges and universities often get money to set up scholarship funds from estates and organizations that want to encourage students to go into a certain profession. Scholarship committees will want to know the kind of person you are and your past achievements to determine if you are a good candidate to receive their scholarships.

Scholarships are often given based on academic achievement and financial need. They are given to people who did well in their undergraduate studies and who display academic excellence in physical therapy school. This is another reason it is important to maintain a high GPA when obtaining your bachelor’s and while in physical therapy school. If you earn a scholarship that is given to you annually, one of the requirements will most likely be that you maintain a minimum GPA or it will be taken away.

Many educational institutions and organizations that give out scholarships want to see that you are a leader in your community. This is why volunteering and/or having a part-time job in college is also advantageous. It will show that you manage your time effectively, are responsible, and truly care about making your community a better place. Volunteering and/or working will hopefully provide you with excellent letters of recommendation from supervisors and managers, which will give the scholarship committee insight into your character and work ethic.

The major components of applying for a scholarship are the application, an essay, and at least one letter of recommendation. When applying for a scholarship, you will have to fill out an application that lists your academic achievements, employment history, and extracurricular activities. You will also most likely be asked to write an essay on a topic, which may ask you what you are going to do once you get out of college or how the scholarship will help you. Sometimes you might have to describe something that makes you stand out from the average physical therapy student (culture, demographics, returning to school after working, etc.) Also, they will require at least one letter of recommendation from someone explaining your character and why you deserve the scholarship.

Some scholarships are for students who are going into a health profession, and physical therapy would fall under that umbrella, while other scholarships are given by specific physical therapy schools. The APTA gives out several different scholarships for those in physical therapy school.

Before you even get into physical therapy school, check out the school’s websites and call the academic office to get information on scholarships. If you know for sure that you want to go into a health profession such as physical therapy while in high school, talk to your guidance counselor and see if they can get you a list of scholarships for which you might qualify. This will help you pay for undergrad and is another achievement you can list on your future scholarship applications.


In both undergraduate and physical therapy school, most students will qualify for loans as part of their financial aid package. They typically come from the federal government, and you will qualify for a certain amount based on need. You can also get private loans. But remember that loans given by the government have a lower interest rate compared to private loans. Be sure to look into government aid first. The loans will have to be paid back after you graduate, so make sure not to borrow more than you can pay back once you start working.

All loans will accrue interest. Loans from the government will not accrue interest until after you graduate from physical therapy school, so you want to get as many of those as you can. Other loans are unsubsidized and will accrue interest while in school, so you will want to minimize the amount of these types of loans.

When you apply for most financial aid, you will do so through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form (FAFSA). You can apply online and renew it every year. With FAFSA, you can get Perkins loans, Stafford loans, and work-study. With work-study, the government will subsidize wages you earn while working up to a certain amount. Many jobs on campus will require that you qualify for work-study because that is money they do not have to pay you.

Once you graduate, you will get a certain amount of time to work and earn money before you will have to start paying the loans back. Although you may cringe when thinking about paying back these loans, it is possible to get some of them forgiven. Teaching full-time in underserved communities is one way to do that. Going into the military and volunteering with organizations such as AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) can get some of your loans forgiven, too. In addition to loan forgiveness, these organizations will also provide a stipend for living expenses. And many hospitals and other facilities offer loan forgiveness as a way to recruit physical therapists. So when you are looking for jobs, remember to ask if they have any loan forgiveness programs for new hires.

If you are having financial difficulties once you graduate from physical therapy school, it is possible to defer the loans. If you get more education or have an internship, residency, or fellowship where you do not make a lot of money, they will be automatically deferred. If you need to defer them, you have to fill out a form and explain why you cannot pay your loans back at that time. Also remember to keep your personal information (address, marital status, etc.) up to date with your institution after you graduate.


Just like loans, you need to apply to FAFSA to determine if you will qualify for grants. Grants are given out by the federal government, state governments, and colleges. Most grants are given out at the undergrad level, but you should try to seek out grant money while in physical therapy school. They may have received an endowment you are unaware of, so it never hurts to occasionally go into the academic office and ask for a list of available grants.

If your family made less than $20,000 in the previous year, you will qualify for a Pell Grant. They typically are for undergraduate students, but they will also fund those who are receiving a professional degree for the first time. There is a maximum amount per student each academic year that depends on government funding. Most students do not receive the maximum allowed.

Another need-based grant is the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), which is offered to students who also qualify for the Pell Grant. However, those at the top of the list for this grant will be students whose families can contribute the least to paying for their education. It is only for undergraduates, and the amount of money given ranges from $100 to $4,000 depending on where you are going to college, how much funding the grant has, your economic needs, and the rules and regulations of your institution’s financial aid office.

Grants given out by colleges are given based on merit, need, and field of study. Many athletes receive grants to attend a college, but if you receive one for athletics, you will have to maintain a minimum GPA and exhibit exceptional talent in the sport. Many colleges rely on endowments, which is money or property that is given to institutions to give out as grants. A lot of endowments come with conditions. For example, if a person who was a physical therapist donates their estate when they die and wanted to promote the profession, the money could be given out only to students who want to pursue a career in physical therapy.

Grants at the graduate school level will often pay for things such as internships and research opportunities. They are a little bit harder to come by but usually are bigger amounts of money. Employers may offer grants to employees who want to get a master’s degree. Often, the reward is not only an education but also a pay increase. But employers will expect a return on their investment, and the expectation is that you will continue to work for them.

On the American Physical Therapy Association website, there is a grant for physical therapists just beginning to pursue research on health policy and administration. You submit a proposal outlining your research (the objective, how you will gather data, etc.). If it is selected, $5,000 to $10,000 will be given to you for one year of research related to health policy and administration. It is important to note that the money must be used for your research, or it can be taken back. However, like scholarships, grants do not have to be paid back later, which allows you to take less in loans.

Financial Aid Advice

If your parents still claim you as a dependent, you will qualify for financial aid based on the total income your family made the previous year. When you fill out the FAFSA, you will find out what kind of loans and grants you qualify for and how much. Financial aid in the form of loans is provided by the federal government and private companies. The government offers subsidized loans that begin to gain interest after you graduate from school, while private companies offer unsubsidized loans that accumulate interest while you are in school. You want to maximize subsidized and minimize unsubsidized loans. Overall, you want to take out the minimum amount and still have extra money for living expenses. You will have to pay these loans back, and it can take some people ten years or more.

Grants come from the federal government, states, and colleges and are given based on financial need. In addition to being given out to individuals, they can be given to small businesses and school districts. Scholarships are typically awarded by institution and organizations based on academic achievement. Each department will have its own list of scholarships with their qualifications. Large organizations and companies may also offer scholarships to members or employees. But organizations and employers who offer scholarships may want you to volunteer or work for them for a certain period as one of the terms of the scholarship. The advantage of getting grants and scholarships is that they do not have to be paid back and allow you take the minimum amount of loans out.

To get more information on financial aid go to Student Aid on the Web, which will provide you with a wealth of information on what types of financial aid are available. Although the internet can be helpful, it is important to talk to someone about all your options for financial aid. While in undergrad and physical therapy school, talk to an advisor about scholarships that might be available. Advisors have a lot of students to advise, so it is helpful to put a name to a face with your advisor. Go to the financial aid office at your campus if you have questions about your options. Also remember to apply for financial aid using FAFSA as soon as possible. There are deadlines for applying and a set amount of federal money put aside for financial aid that changes with budget cuts and deficits, so it is important to secure that funding before it runs out.

Student Finances

While in physical therapy school, it will be important to manage your finances. Money issues can be a major distraction that can cause a lot of stress and affect your studies. When you get financial aid, it is usually more than the tuition so you have some extra money to pay for books, supplies, and living expenses.

The first big stressor will probably be how to pay for tuition. But with financial aid, scholarships, and grants, you should be able to pay for it. Do not let tuition be a barrier to a good education. You need to think of school as an investment in your future. With a physical therapy degree, you should be able to find a well-paying job, pay off your loans, and live a nice lifestyle.

Next, you should think about living expenses. Those will vary from student to student. There will be living expenses, such as rent, utility bills, laundry, and transportation. Your cell phone bill and any other things you pay for on a regular basis fall into that as well. If you have a family, there might be day care, tuition if your kids are in private school, a mortgage, and possibly two cars to maintain. If you have a significant other who works, that can help offset costs, but it can be a difficult transition from a two-income to a one-income household.

The best thing to do is make a list of all of your monthly expenses and determine what you need and what are luxuries you can do without while in school. Physical therapy school will keep you busy, and it is unlikely that you will be watching television every night, so if you currently have cable, that is an expense that you can probably eliminate. You may want to think of ways to cut the cost of necessities, such as living with roommates so you can split the rent and other bills. Maybe you live close to campus so you can take public transportation, which is usually offered at a discount or included in tuition for students. Maybe you can live at home with your parents and minimize or eliminate the cost of rent.

Set a budget for yourself and limit how much you spend in a week. Use coupons when grocery shopping and purchase generic items. Eating out can get expensive, so learn to make quick meals and save the leftovers for the next day. You will have to make sacrifices, such as not going on a shopping spree to the mall every week or buying new music that comes out. Those things will still be there when you graduate and are making a good salary. Do not use credit cards because it is easy to rack up debt without thinking about it until it is too late. And most colleges and universities offer free things to do on the weekends, such as live music and other groups putting on different events.

Even though your job is to be a student, you might have to work. There are usually student job center websites that list jobs on campus. Many employers on and near campus are very flexible. If you still have concerns about handling money, you may want to talk to a financial planner who can help set up a budget for you.