You Are More Qualified Than You Think
Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes
You and I both have what it takes to become a great candidate for any doctor of physical therapy (DPT) program.
I believe that I can make this bold claim because of the work I put into it to become a qualified candidate.
As a recent undergrad from the University of Rochester (UR) with a BA in psychology, I took almost all of the prerequisites necessary for most physical therapy programs throughout my last 3 semesters as an undergrad.
I applied to 4 physical therapy programs and was accepted by one and offered an interview by another. Here's where I say I'm now on my way to physical therapy school, right? Wrong. I actually declined both schools' offers.
"But you wanted to go to physical therapy school, why would you do that?"
After getting those offers I realized that I probably needed a little more clinical exposure and base-academic knowledge to prepare me to excel in school.
Now, fortunately for me, my journey to become a PT doesn't end there. I'm actually enrolled in prerequisite classes and getting more experience in a clinic as I write this. But after an underwhelming first round of responses from physical therapy programs from across the country, my fire wasn't burned out—if anything, it got bigger.
My need to continue toward my goal of getting into a program and choosing physical therapy as the career for me grew deeper. Those rejections weren't a negative, they were the lesson and motivation I needed to pursue my passion for the physical therapy profession.
Here are 4 lessons learned thus far on my path to becoming a physical therapy student and future clinician.
Lesson 1: Navigate your career path, eyes wide open.
To find your path is to thoroughly explore careers that you are interested in, learn about related fields, and do your research about the journey needed to get there.
While your career decision isn't final—I'm sure we all know people who have changed careers at various points in life—the goal in this case is to understand what you're getting into and to make sure that it makes sense for you.
Consider what happened before I had a clear understanding of my desire to become a PT.
In undergrad I only took courses that were interesting to me personally. I never researched the entire breadth of one profession over another and what it entailed to get there. I was drifting and left indecisive.
Throughout my time at UR, I changed my major 5 times. I dropped many courses along the way and had no idea what I was working toward, and, therefore, I didn't have any goals in mind.
Now consider what happened when I decided to define my career path toward becoming a physical therapist.
I thoroughly researched the profession, what it takes to get me there, and insight on how to be successful as a future clinician. I spent time talking to mentors, friends, and family about my thoughts on this career choice, and received advice along the way.
Lesson 2: Don't let anyone or anything derail you from pursuing your goal.
Along this journey there will be doubters, naysayers, and everything in between. The workload might get menacing. There will be inconvenient aspects associated with your prerequisites. You may feel incapable of succeeding. From experience, I can tell you that none of that can stop you.
You were created with capabilities far greater than you can imagine. Believe this, even if you cannot see the fruits of your labor just yet, exercise your ability to have faith and work toward your goals, whether that's getting into physical therapy school or something else.
For me, when I committed to pursuing a DPT degree, there was a small amount of sand left in the college hourglass. Time was the least of my worries though. I viewed my impending success based on my previous successes. Through this paradigm, it seemed nearly impossible to achieve my goal.
My high school health sciences background seemed weak at best. My highest math was pre-calculus, my highest biology and chemistry were both the minimum needed to graduate, and I never took physics. Furthermore, I had very little experience with the natural sciences in college. I had never taken a collegiate biology or physics course. The last time I took general chemistry course in college was freshman year, and I barely passed it. Finally, because of all of this, most of my friends who saw me as a physical therapist admittedly carried a little doubt on my behalf.
Knowing all of this, how did I move forward? I chose to stop seeing my potential in terms of past successes or failures, and I started to believe in myself and nourish that belief. I soaked up literature and music, which reinforced this notion. I treasured the love and support of my family and it reinforced my worth. I befriended others who were also chasing difficult dreams, and we strengthened each other, like iron sharpening iron. I also embraced the notion of self-care. In other words, if you don´t nourish your body, then it cannot perform at its best every day. This is how I moved forward and started my prerequisite requirements for most physical therapy schools.
Lesson 3: See your failures as a means for greater success.
Rapper Andy Mineo said it best: "It´s win or learn, no losses." The key is to learn from your failures so that you can later meet those goals.
I had many goals, some were as simple as managing my responsibilities, sleeping enough, and mastering my prerequisite courses. I missed the mark on all of my goals at least once. Instead of continually missing these goals, I learned how to improve.
To manage my responsibilities, I learned how to pencil in meetings and appointments in my Google calendar as soon as I learned about them. As a result I became more reliable. To sleep enough, I followed the National Sleep Foundation's guidelines, and I learned that I can function on at least 6 hours of sleep a night. To master my courses I learned many things. I learned that studying with other like-minded peers is a game changer. The topics I found irrelevant were the ones my peers found integral; suddenly, I found myself doing well on tests that I was once failing. I learned how to study for other courses with the help of a tutor who taught me how to save hours of study time by emphasizing conceptual understanding over memorizing processes.
Lesson 4: Remember your original "why?".
You may know the basic, big picture reasons as to why you went down the path to become a physical therapist, but I strongly urge you to remind yourself of these reasons weekly, or even daily. Life gets difficult. School gets difficult. You´ll get discouraged, and you´ll forget why you started this journey in the first place. Times like these are when you need to remember your reasoning to keep your vision clear.
I often have to remind myself of why I'm working so hard. I remember some of my peers telling me that that I studied too much and even labeling me a "workaholic." And I'll admit I've been tempted to give up so I could have time to goof off into the sunset. Some days I gave in and procrastinated, but these times failed to define my year. What kept me focused and helped me make the most of my year was ultimately my goal and desire to become a physical therapist. Whenever I felt like quitting, I reminded myself of my original intent and it helped renew my vision and therefore my determination.
I truthfully believe that I was nowhere near the ideal DPT degree candidate when I first started this journey. Moreover, I truthfully believe that some of you reading this are way more qualified than I was at the time. So find your compass for your career path; no one else can do it for you. Then refuse to let it go. Learn from your failures so you may excel later. Finally, never forget why you are doing this and find ways to remind yourself of that.
As A.A Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh, once put it, "...You´re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." You can be a great DPT degree candidate. If I can do this, then so can you.
Joshua Klepes is a Pre-SPT student hoping to attend physical therapy school in the coming year.