One of the most well-known and respected rankings of college and universities in the United States is done by U.S. News & World Report College and University rankings. Since 1983, they have gathered data from educational institutions from surveys they conduct each year and more recently through the school’s website. For graduate programs in health, which includes physical therapy schools, the U.S. News and World Report uses a peer-based survey. Only accredited physical therapy schools are ranked, and every one that was surveyed is sent the same number of surveys. Deans, other administrators, and/or faculty are sent surveys, and the questions about the program’s academic quality are answered using a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being marginal and 5 being outstanding. There are two main factors the questions are divided into: “input” and “output” measures. Input measures can be thought of as what factors go into creating a high quality graduate education. You will recognize these measures as the incoming GPA and ACT and/or SAT scores of the incoming freshman class. The faculty to student ratio and amount of research money coming into the program are also important input measures. “Output” measures are data that shows how well a program has done in producing successful professionals and includes job placement rates and the percent of students who pass their licensing exams.
The most recent ranking of physical therapy schools done by U.S. News & World Report in 2008 placed the University of Southern California at number one. They offer several different programs through the division of biokinesiology and physical therapy. If you want to go into research, you can obtain a master of science in biokinesiology and go into their PhD program. If you want to go into clinical practice, you can earn a doctor of physical therapy degree. And there is also the opportunity to specialize by entering residencies programs in the areas of sports, orthopedics, and neurological physical therapy.
Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, tied for second place with the University of Pittsburgh. They offer every level of training in their program, from a doctor of physical therapy for those who want to go into general practice to a postprofessional doctor of physical therapy all the way up to a PhD if a career in academia suits you. Residencies and fellowships in different areas of physical therapy are also offered for those who want extra training. The Department of Physical Therapy in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh offers a master of science with a focus on musculoskeletal and neuromuscular physical therapy and a doctor of physical therapy degree.
Admission to Physical Therapy School
Getting admitted to any professional program is rigorous and competitive. Being admitted to physical therapy school is no different. You will have to apply to each program you are interested in, and there will be three important things required for admission. They are your bachelor’s degree, a high grade point average, and letters of recommendation. You will need to obtain a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college. You can get a “pre-physical therapy” degree that will allow you to meet the prerequisites in addition to taking some of the classes you may have to take later. While obtaining your bachelor’s degree, it is very important to maintain a high grade point average so the admissions committee can see you can learn the material and have the drive to succeed in a professional program. You should also volunteer, shadow physical therapists, or work in a health care facility, so when it is time to apply to physical therapy school, you will have people to write a letter of recommendation that will give the admissions committee insight into your character and your potential success as a physical therapist.
Admissions committees for all professional programs do look at your grade point average (GPA). It is important to keep it up, since you will not be able to change it, and a good GPA will increase the chance that you will get into physical therapy school.
Your GPA is an indicator of how well you learned the material taught to you and also shows you are determined and work hard. Physical therapy school classes will be intense and cover a lot of material in a short amount of time, so the committee wants to know that you are capable of succeeding. All physical therapy schools have a required GPA level, and the minimum required is usually above a 3.0.
Often when applying, they will look at both your overall GPA and your prerequisite GPA and take the higher one. Your overall GPA is the cumulative GPA for every class you ever took in undergraduate. Your prerequisite GPA is the GPA of all the classes you are required to take to get into physical therapy school. If you obtained a bachelor’s degree in a subject in which the prerequisites were required, it is to your benefit to have a high prerequisite GPA.
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation are required because this gives the admissions committee an idea of your abilities, interpersonal skills, and character. This committee is going to determine if you are going to be a good fit in their school and ultimately succeed as a physical therapist. The best letters of recommendation will come from physical therapists you have shadowed because they will have the best insight into your strengths and weaknesses and whether you would make a good physical therapist.
All of your letters of recommendation do not have to come from a physical therapist. If you have volunteered somewhere like a community center, a letter of recommendation from your superior would also be good. He or she will be able to tell the admissions committee how you interact with the people you helped and how you have made a difference in your community. If you worked in a medical facility, a letter from a superior will tell the committee you are a hard worker and have a good bedside manner. And if your GPA is not where you would like it to be, excellent letters of recommendation can boost your chances of getting admitted.