Apr 24, 2017
8
1
Status
Non-Student
Hey guys! So, I apologize if this is a little bit of a personal-info dump, but I feel like I have about a million plates spinning, and I'm trying to make sense of it. I was hoping someone here could help me kind of sort some of this out.

I'm looking to make a total career change to Physical Therapy, and I really want to do it as quickly as possible since I'm already 30 years old. I live with my wife, who is a full-time student studying software engineering. She has about 2.5 years before she's going to graduate and start working. I've been supporting myself and my wife by working in finance the past 4 years, and I was recently laid off, which was really kind of like a mercy-kill as I was completely miserable in my job.

I already have a bachelor's degree, and I started taking my prereqs over the summer. After this semester, I should only have 4 or 5 classes left to knock out, and so my plan is to move the wife and I back in with my parents and get those all done in the Spring 2018 semester. My undergrad was in business management, and my GPA was okay - 3.73. I'm hoping that I can get a 4.0 science prereq GPA, or close to it. I think without having to worry about work, it's totally in the realm of possibility, so I don't plan on returning to the 9-5 office job world. I have almost 0 observation hours or volunteer experience, and I haven't taken the GRE yet. Right now, though, I'm only enrolled in two classes (didn't predict I would be laid off), so I have plenty of time to get my shadowing in and study for the GRE.

Here's where it starts to feel overwhelming: I live in Arizona, and there are only 3 schools to choose from here. There's Midwestern, AT Stills, and NAU. NAU is, hands-down, the best option, but it's also very competitive. Midwestern and AT stills are ranked lower, and they're WAY more expensive. So much so that it almost doesn't even make sense to apply to them. NAU would cost me about $15k per year, and AT Stills and Midwestern are closer to $40k. NAU is a 2.5 year program, and the other 2 are each 3 years. As I've been talking to other prospective PTs in some of my classes, though, it seems like my chances of getting accepted into NAU for the class that starts in 2019 are pretty slim. Applications are due by October 2018, and everybody has been telling me to apply to a bunch of different programs, and just go for the best one that accepts me.

This is where it gets difficult, though - I don't really know how any of this works. If I were to move out of state, a.) I would have to be separated from my wife until she graduates and can move to wherever I'm going to school, and b.) I have no idea how I would even afford to live while in PT school. Do most schools offer some kind of living stipend? It seems insane to me that the difference in cost from NAU to just about every other school I've looked at is THAT drastic, so is there something that I'm missing? Does it seem like it's even realistic to assume that I could be accepted into ANY program by the end of 2018? Up until now, I've been counting on grades, GRE and interview-skills to make up for my lack of actual experience in the field, but is that even realistic? Should I be focusing on something else?

There's also one more dimension of confusion here for me: Since I got my bachelor's degree in 2010, a lot of my most basic prerequisites like English, Math, etc. were completed about 10 years ago. I called NAU, and they said that because my Bachelor's degree was completed in 2010, it doesn't matter when those prereqs were completed, but what about other schools? Is it common for people who already have degrees to have to go back and re-take classes?

I guess I'm looking for an "assess my situation" type of response. Any advice/guidance would be greatly appreciated.
 

jblil

7+ Year Member
Dec 1, 2010
1,185
715
East Coast
As I've been talking to other prospective PTs in some of my classes, though, it seems like my chances of getting accepted into NAU for the class that starts in 2019 are pretty slim.
Don't listen to "prospective PTs"; check NAU's website (and the websites of schools you're interested in) and see if they show the stats of each entering class. Most schools make that info public. See how you stack up against the "average" accepted student.

Do most schools offer some kind of living stipend?
No, unless you snag a Teaching Assistant spot or something similar. See if your state has grants or low-interest loans for folks going into a medical profession and agreeing to work in an underserved area for some time after graduation. I did that, and the total tuition cost for me ended up being just $16K for all 3 years. The less expensive the school, the stiffer the competition. If you apply to private schools, you'll certainly get accepted - in exchange for a 6-fig tuition bill.

Pre-reqs from long ago
Check each school's policy. And be sure to read the fine print. My pre-reqs (except for Anatomy) were from 20 years earlier and they were accepted fine.
 

Smash Atoms

2+ Year Member
Mar 23, 2017
134
81
Status
Physical Therapy Student
Following, similar situation here. Will reply in full when I get my laptop back from repair (hate using the phone)
 
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CareerSwitcheroo

2+ Year Member
Jul 4, 2016
349
140
Status
Pre-Physical Therapy
Fellow hopeful career-changer here. How long will it be until your wife graduates? Can you wait until then so that you'll at least have one full-time income?

There's no such thing as a living stipend as far as I know. It just comes down to loans, loans, loans, unfortunately.

And yes, many schools require that your prereqs are no more than 7-10 years old, so you may or may not have to retake some depending on the program. You'll just have to check with each one and ask.
 

Second*Adulthood*Rocks

2+ Year Member
May 30, 2016
39
22
East Bay Area, Northern California
Status
Pre-Physical Therapy
Hi Herman. I am also a student returning later in life. I will share my plan and path to give you some perspective. Hopefully it will help you as you make your upcoming decisions.

I live in the Bay Area of CA, have a family here, home, etc. We have more school options in CA, but I am applying to only the two schools in my local area of Northern California since I have a life already established here. Samuel Merritt is my first choice because I am a kinesthetic learner and they have 42 weeks of clinicals (which is on the higher end). I just applied for early decision at SMU, but if I am not accepted for early decision I plan to also apply at UCSF this cycle. Univ of Pacific is an option, but I am not sure how I like the program being condensed into 2 years there instead of 3. It sounds like it would be difficult to really learn at the same depth in that short of time (to me). I am also thinking about the DPT FLEX Program at Univ of St. Augustine, which you may want to look into. It is a hybrid program that is 4 years, but with online didactic classes, then you fly to a campus location (closest to me and you would be San Marcos campus) 2 weekends a month for labs. I didn't know programs like that existed until these forums. I'm still weighing the pros and cons of Univ. of St. Augustine, but I'm touring and learning more about it. So, like you, I am considering only about 3 schools, with one particular school being my first choice. (Unlike you, all of my choices are expensive).

Each person has their own priorities, but for me, moving away from my husband while I'm in a demanding school program just didn't make sense. My children are grown, so that wasn't the issue. My husband is my rock and best friend, so removing that from my equation just didn't seem like a good strategy for self-care.

Over the past 2 years I did retake all of my classes that were over 10 years old. Some schools require it, some don't. On the positive, it does allow for time to refresh your best strategies for learning and memorizing information. Learning strategies that worked for you 10 years ago may need some tweaking and readjusting now since you are a different person than you were 10 years ago. Renewing prereqs allows you to explore that. Plus, if it's required... well... it's just required.

I personally believe that with maturity comes invaluable life experience and that can be a major asset. Add to that a high GPA, proof of determination by renewing prereqs over 10 years and some fantastic recommendation letters. If I were on an admissions committee I would see that as a very strong applicant. If you really want NAU, meet with the admission counselor, talk to them regularly, build relationships with people associated with the school...maybe observe and volunteer with previous alumni PTs or adjunct professors who also work in the field. Make a wonderful impression on and ask them to write your letters of recommendation. Use all of the professional knowledge and skills you have acquired on relationship building to your advantage.

Side note, I volunteered with a pre-physical therapy team in Mexico and the lead PT was out of Arizona. She was fantastic. We actually drove into Mexico from Arizona for this international service learning opportunity. It was amazing. You get to be an active member of the treatment team instead of just observing. It was through ISL: Physical Therapy | ISL

In one week, you get 32 or more hours of official PT observation time, but beyond that it is just a transformative, life changing experience. I highly recommend it! Good luck with your classes and making a decision. :)
 
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OP
H
Apr 24, 2017
8
1
Status
Non-Student
Fellow hopeful career-changer here. How long will it be until your wife graduates? Can you wait until then so that you'll at least have one full-time income?
Thanks for your response!

My wife isn't going to graduate for another 2-3 years. I know that the smartest thing to do would be to wait until she starts working, but I just can't accept that timeline. I feel like I've already wasted nearly a decade of my life on unfulfilling jobs that made me miserable Monday through Friday, and the thought of doing that for another 2 - 3 years is really hard to stomach. Plus, I'm really excited about Physical Therapy! I've been trying to figure out what I want to do with my life since I was a teenager, and now that I've finally found it, I want to go all-in.

Hi Herman. I am also a student returning later in life. I will share my plan and path to give you some perspective. Hopefully it will help you as you make your upcoming decisions.
Thanks for sharing your story! I was wondering - when you had to retake prerequisites, did you have to re-take the really basic ones, like English and Algebra, or just the ones that the PT program lists on its prerequisite page? I've been assuming that as long as I have a bachelor's degree, worst case scenario is that I just have to re-take a couple classes like Psych 101 and Statistics.

I'm definitely going to look into the pre-physical therapy program you mentioned. That sounds like a great opportunity! I've been looking into St. Augustine as well. My goal is to get through all of this without having to work another 9 - 5 job, but we'll see. I'm lucky that my parents have a big empty house, and because of boredom, they actually want the wife and I to stay with them for a bit, but I don't think we can do it much longer than a semester or two which means that if I don't get accepted into a program next year, I'll probably have to take another 9 - 5 and maybe look at the flex program you described.

Again, thanks to everyone for the responses!
 

CareerSwitcheroo

2+ Year Member
Jul 4, 2016
349
140
Status
Pre-Physical Therapy
Thanks for your response!

My wife isn't going to graduate for another 2-3 years. I know that the smartest thing to do would be to wait until she starts working, but I just can't accept that timeline. I feel like I've already wasted nearly a decade of my life on unfulfilling jobs that made me miserable Monday through Friday, and the thought of doing that for another 2 - 3 years is really hard to stomach. Plus, I'm really excited about Physical Therapy! I've been trying to figure out what I want to do with my life since I was a teenager, and now that I've finally found it, I want to go all-in.



Thanks for sharing your story! I was wondering - when you had to retake prerequisites, did you have to re-take the really basic ones, like English and Algebra, or just the ones that the PT program lists on its prerequisite page? I've been assuming that as long as I have a bachelor's degree, worst case scenario is that I just have to re-take a couple classes like Psych 101 and Statistics.

I'm definitely going to look into the pre-physical therapy program you mentioned. That sounds like a great opportunity! I've been looking into St. Augustine as well. My goal is to get through all of this without having to work another 9 - 5 job, but we'll see. I'm lucky that my parents have a big empty house, and because of boredom, they actually want the wife and I to stay with them for a bit, but I don't think we can do it much longer than a semester or two which means that if I don't get accepted into a program next year, I'll probably have to take another 9 - 5 and maybe look at the flex program you described.

Again, thanks to everyone for the responses!
Regarding the timeline: I understand - I feel the same way. I personally should have waited a bit longer and saved more money before applying, but I have so much anxiety about wanting to move on to something new; something I am actually excited about. With that said, we must accept that it's going to be very tough for a while, especially financially. Unless you are accepted to a local public state university, you're going to be $100k+ in debt at the end of it. More if you need to relocate and pay for living expenses also. This is of course something you should speak with your wife about, and get her thoughts on how this is all going to work out, short-term and long-term.

Piggybacking off the above conversation, I just applied to USA's Flex DPT program (in Austin, TX). My husband and I plan to relocate there if I am accepted (we're just itching to move somewhere new anyway), however, the Flex option offers me the freedom to work part-time to at least help out with some of our living expenses and lessen the burden a bit. If I really wanted to, I could continue living/working in Virginia and fly to campus every other weekend. Some students do that, apparently. Anyway, yes it is for-profit and yes it is expensive, but it's just another option to consider if you're feeling hopeless about getting admitted anywhere (like I was).

In comparing schools, you'll see that most of them require the same basic prereq courses. You'll only need to take/re-take the prereqs that the DPT programs require (typically A&P, Bio, Chem, Physics, Human Growth & Dev, Med Term, etc.). I personally had to do all of mine from scratch - 12 courses total. It took me a year to complete most of them while still working full-time. Luckily my local CC offered them all online.

Feel free to ask any other questions. I enjoy paying it forward! :)
 

Second*Adulthood*Rocks

2+ Year Member
May 30, 2016
39
22
East Bay Area, Northern California
Status
Pre-Physical Therapy
Thanks for sharing your story! I was wondering - when you had to retake prerequisites, did you have to re-take the really basic ones, like English and Algebra, or just the ones that the PT program lists on its prerequisite page? I've been assuming that as long as I have a bachelor's degree, worst case scenario is that I just have to re-take a couple classes like Psych 101 and Statistics.

I'm definitely going to look into the pre-physical therapy program you mentioned. That sounds like a great opportunity! I've been looking into St. Augustine as well. My goal is to get through all of this without having to work another 9 - 5 job, but we'll see. I'm lucky that my parents have a big empty house, and because of boredom, they actually want the wife and I to stay with them for a bit, but I don't think we can do it much longer than a semester or two which means that if I don't get accepted into a program next year, I'll probably have to take another 9 - 5 and maybe look at the flex program you described.

Again, thanks to everyone for the responses!
It's interesting to hear different stories. Many of the schools on the west coast don't seem to accept the online classes for prerequisites. Labs are required and online courses either aren't accepted or have to be approved for many schools out this way (which is good for me since I am a kinesthetic learner anyways).

Herman, I retook the prereq courses that were "required" to be renewed...and a few that were "recommended" to be renewed, but I didn't renew everything (like English, algebra, etc).

Although...Physics and chemistry could be HARD without brushing on up algebra. Since I didn't renew algebra/trig I basically had to re-teach myself all the algebra rules I forgot. Trig stuck in my memory banks (probably because I'm visual and have good spatial awareness), but algebra rules.... not so much. Maybe it wouldn't be as hard for someone that has been working in fields where linear thinking is utilized. To get A's I would brush up on algebra and equation manipulation so it's not holding you back, even if it's not recommended to renew algebra/trig, etc. Unless you don't need to renew physics/chem... then I wouldn't even worry about it.

I love learning about people, so I would happily take even more psych/human development/human biology than I already have. We are such complex, interesting creatures.

That being said, I have only applied and haven't been accepted yet so take all of my advice with that in mind. ;-)
 
OP
H
Apr 24, 2017
8
1
Status
Non-Student
Thanks, guys, this helped a lot. It looks like my strategy is going to be to apply to a lot of different schools and hope to god that I get into NAU. I know it's something I probably just have to learn to accept, but I'm someone who has never really carried any debt other than a car payment, and being 100k in debt scares the crap out of me. I think I actually have a shot at a 4.0 science GPA, and I think that if I apply myself I can do really well on the GRE, so hopefully those two things will set me apart enough for NAU. If not, well...most people have mortgages, right? I suppose it's the same thing, but instead of investing in a house, you're investing in an incredibly rewarding career.
 
May 16, 2016
17
9
Status
Pre-Physical Therapy
Hi Herman!
I am in Arizona as well. I think PT is one of those fields you sacrifice to go into if it's really what you want to do in life. I am doing the transition in my 30's as well. It's unnerving being surrounded by people in their early 20's who apparently already know what they want to do with their life enough to invest $100k in it.
Family makes it a little more complicated... If you've looked into NAU already, you know that they get something like 1400 applicants for 80 seats. So pick your battles.
Some people WILL hold out and apply to the same place, I have heard of a girl who just got into her top choice- but waited 6 years to do it. That is an option.

Your anatomy has a shelf life of about 5 years. You need to do your homework on every place you apply to- I applied to 17 schools this year and got pretty good at comparing them. Pull up an excel sheet and do the leg work of recording the specific requirements of each school. You'll notice many are similar. Highlight the dissimilar requirements, and you'll start to get an idea of the cross-section of programs you can apply to. The most accurate information will come from the school's PT department website, but you can get a good overview with the following process:
google: "ptcas <school name>"
this will retrieve their ptcas info sheet. Check each requirement for each school. Many DO have requirements on how recently you've taken the GRE, anatomy and physiology (usually 5 years). NAU happens to have a 10 year requirement for all prerequisites.

The family considerations are a tough one... I wish I could help in that area. It's difficult to ask someone to wait for you/go with you... I honestly don't know what I will do in this situation either, and I have some big decisions to make soon as well.
 
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