Today one of my close old coworkers had an interview for the DPT program at my school. I was beyond excited because I know she will make a great physical therapist and she will do great in this program. I thought I would take the time to talk about my experience through the interview process and what to expect if you have an interview to PT school.
Many schools do not do in person interviews anymore which is extremely disappointing. I do not look good on paper. I am not a 4.0 student and never have been. If you are applying to a school that does not have in person interviews, you have to have above a 3.5, preferably a 4.0. The sad thing about this is that just because someone has an outstanding GPA does not mean that they have the personality or personal skills needed for physical therapy (which is crucial!!!). Lets just say I didn’t get into 5 out of 6 schools I applied to, and this happens very frequently. The school that required an in person interview was the one I got into. To be completely honest, I don’t want to go to a school that can’t see my potential! Do not take it personally, they have to make decisions and not all of them make the right decision. haha.
The school I am currently going to takes students 3x a year: fall, spring, and summer. I had applied for the fall term, but got an email asking if I would like to push my application up to the summer term because they had spots available and I had finished all of my prerequisites. I took that opportunity and got an email a week (this was in Feb 2017) later saying that I was going to have an interview in 2 weeks! A complete mix of excitement and nerves bundled into one!
How I prepared was by researching more information about the school. What did they have that other schools did not have? This particular school was not research based so they had a primary focus on clinical skills, and they have a huge focus on professionalism to get you prepared for a work environment. Keep a couple of facts about the school that interest you on hand because they may ask you why you want to go to their school instead of another PT school. DO NOT say “location” or “because everyone else rejected me.”
You can also look up questions on different forums and prepare answers in advance. Running the scenario of yourself talking to the interviewer in your head and thinking about what you would say is very helpful as well.
And think about your outfit in advance!!! Make sure it is not wrinkled, dress professionally, try on the outfit and make sure it is comfortable and not something you have to keep tugging at or tucking in. Wear a little pop of color! Why not? I wore a royal blue button up top that made me stand out in the sea of 100 black suits.
The day of the interview, go to bed early and wake up early. Give yourself time to get ready and don’t rush yourself. Eat a good breakfast because who knows when lunch will be. Leave your house early so if you get lost or if parking is tough you have time to figure it out without stressing yourself out. Make sure you know the game plan when you get there. If they say do not arrive before a certain time, sit in your car for a little bit. Bring the documents that you are told to bring. Things run smoothly for people who are prepared, and yes, they take into consideration if you are late or not prepared.
Once checked in, I sat in a classroom and met some of my potential classmates until everyone had arrived. They had a couple of speakers come in to talk about what to expect from the program, about the campus, etc. They then placed you into groups of 2-3 people to be interviewed in front of one of the staff members, mostly professors. This is where you get questioned and you have a chance to ask them questions. ASK THEM QUESTIONS. Ask them about what volunteer opportunities they have or what the clinical experience will be like. Ask them about their research or areas they work in..you always want to ask them questions.
I was asked only like 3 or 4 questions total. When she said that she did not have anymore questions for us, I felt really disappointed. I felt like she did not hear my whole story or knew anything about why I would be great in this program. So I started asking questions like, “I am very interested in working in low income communities, are there volunteer opportunities at this school where I can get experience in the community?” and things like “I am also interested in working with amputations, is there staff on this campus that are experienced in this area?” See how that works? I am asking questions and adding things about myself to show that I am right for this school.
Questions that commonly come up include:
What would you do if you had an argument or disagreement with another PT?
How do you relieve stress?
What is your learning style?
What is your past experience with physical therapy?
What is the hardest class you have taken and how did you handle it?
There are many many more out there that you can look up on forums, but the important thing is to just be yourself!
In the end, you walk out of there feeling like you do not know what happened, you don’t know if you did well or not. About 2 or 3 days later you sit there panicking that maybe it went terrible and they hated you and you did not read their facial expressions correctly. And then you suddenly get an email saying congratulations, you made it into the program and you have exactly 7 weeks till your first day of school. At least it was for me since they pushed up my application and was part of the last interview group. Some people found out 6 months earlier and had more time to prepare themselves.
And before you start school, take a trip! I mean it! Take some time for yourself. Take a month off from work and spend some extra time with your family! As soon as I found out I got in, I put in my two weeks and we went on a week long trip to Cancun, Mexico. When I am stressed at school I close my eyes and think about sitting by that pool on the beach…and about that time that I tried snuba diving (its a little different than scuba diving because you don’t have a tank on your back) and went into underwater caves. It was the scariest experience of my life. I bought the super expensive $50 for 2 8×10 photos of me swimming in those caves just so I can frame them and put them over my desk and say “If I can do that scary shit, I can get through grad school.”
Whatever works right?