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For Non-Trads: Things I Wished I Knew

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jblil

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I have been meaning to write this up for some time, but was always too busy with schoolwork to do it. I am on break now so here we go…

First of all, if you are thinking of getting into this field, let’s get our expectations straight. The average starting pay for a new DPT is around $60K-$70K. I have been on this board for 2+ years, and have seen many posters expect a 6-fig salary when they graduate. Ain’t going to happen. This should have a big influence on where you choose to go to school. Getting $200K in loans for a degree that will pay $65K/yr is, IMO, a very poor investment. If money is the main driver for you, get a PA or NP degree. Or if you don’t mind slogging it for at least 7 years, apply to med school.

There is a thread on SDN that talks about the starting salary for DPTs:
http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=931151
I update the survey regularly (results are posted on the Wordpress link), so I implore you to take a look at it if you’re still exploring your options. I’d hate for anyone to go to DPT school thinking s/he will make big bucks upon graduation, then be cruelly disappointed –and neck-deep in debt- when reality sets in.

Ok, now that we got that out of the way, I’d like to tell you what has been my experience as a non-trad. And please chime in, I do not want this to be a monologue.

Us non-trads have a crucial advantage over the traditional applicant: we have been in the workforce for a few years before deciding to go back to DPT school (in my case, 25 years). So, in addition to being generally more mature, we have a rich lode of anecdotes to draw on when we write our personal statement (PS). Leverage it to the max. Weave your background into the PS such that it stands out. To paraphrase one of the faculty members who sometimes posts in this forum: “99% of the applicants talk about how they, or a family member, have benefited from PT and how this event has made them decide on PT as a career. Yet we also benefit from interacting with MDs, teachers, engineers, policemen, etc. Why don’t we aspire to be MDs, teachers, engineers or policemen? “

So, find a way to leverage your past career when writing your PS. For me, it was the realization that my background in engineering can be useful in designing new “things” (assistive devices, smartphone apps, etc) for this field. We bring a new perspective and a fresh way of looking at things to the table. So my first recommendation is: If at all possible, find an angle to weave your background into your PS. It’d make for more interesting reading for the Adcom, and help you stand out from the crowd.

Second recommendation: take steps to improve your memory, starting right now. As with most medical fields, the first year is extremely heavy on memorization. If you have a photographic memory, I guarantee that you would ace 95% of the first-year tests. In the first semester, you will have to memorize 100+ muscles and at least 4 items for each muscle. And that’s just one small part of Anatomy. Other classes will also make heavy demand on your capacity to remember and regurgitate facts. It gets a bit easier as you progress: some of my 2nd-semester classes are now calling on our clinical reasoning skills; however, there’s still a ton of memorization needed.

You will keep hearing that our (= non-trads’) memory is not as good as the younger folks’. I don’t know if that’s true or not but improving your memory can be done, and can be fun. The best book I’ve read on the subject is “Moonwalking with Einstein.” Please let me restate it: train your memory, now. Just like with physical exercise, it will take a month or two before you can see the results. You want your memory to be in good shape when school begins, just like you’d want to be fully trained when you’re on the starting line for a marathon. Training just one week before the race would not get you anywhere. If you are not good at memorizing stuff, you WILL struggle and you may fail some of your classes. And depending on how strict your school is, this can get you kicked out of the program. If that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will…

Third recommendation: after you have sent in your application, or after you have been accepted, enjoy your last few months of free time before school starts. It’s akin to taking a big, deep breath of air before you free-dive. My first semester of school was tough and kept me busier than when I had a full-time job. 50- or 60-hr weeks were not uncommon. But I have absolutely no regrets.

The above was somewhat geared to folks who are thinking of DPT school or who have not yet started the first semester. In the next installment, I’ll talk about my experience in school. Anybody else with experience, please chime in!
 
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NewTestament

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Anybody who has explored these boards knows that going any more than $100k into debt for this profession is a bad idea. I know some of my classmates who are paying for both tuition and living expenses. They can plan on working in a SNF or in home health in the middle of nowhere for at least five years to pay off those loans. They'll have to wait to have a family and kids too, as that will not be feasible until they pay off those loans.

I'm a non-trad and I find that academically, the traditional students have an easier time dealing with the workload. They've been in school for four years and have that momentum. Non-trad students have a harder time, but they still manage to pass. I'm just saying they struggle more than the younger students. It has nothing to do with the age of the mind. The ability to retain information doesn't change in your 20's and 30's. Also, exercise science and nutrition majors do better than non-trad students, probably because they have already been exposed to some extent to the material in PT school: biomechanics, physiology, therapeutic exercise, etc. For example, I did fine in anatomy because I had already studied it on my own, but struggled in biomechanics. I'm NOT telling you to get a degree in exercise science. That's a terrible thing to do because if you decide you don't want to go into PT, then you have a junk major. Better to major in Pre-Medicine or Biology. Plenty of students, however, majored in unrelated majors, Geography, Philosophy, Business, Marketing, etc.

Yes expect 50-60 work weeks, and don't expect your weekends to be relaxing either. I study at least six hours on both Sunday and Saturday. I'm at school 10-12 hours a day during the week, and often go home and study more. I don't know how students manage to balance school with a relationship, or marriage. If you're not in a relationship now, don't start one until you pass your board exam. PT school can ruin relationships.

I agree that memory techniques are invaluable in PT school. Unless you have a photographic memory, you will need to find some way to retain large amounts of information. Your ability to do well in PT school depends entirely on how well you can process and remember information. You'll be studying on your own most of the time, so really challenge yourself when you study.

As for your PS, read the feature article this week, 'Personal Statement Failures.' Please don't say you want to help people, and don't talk about your experience in PT. That's boring, trite, and uninspiring. Instead, write that you want a profession where you can think and apply knowledge. Hardly anybody says that.

Kevin
 
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19081307

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Thanks for the input. I'm a non-trad student and start PT in June. I keep telling my friends/family I want to take a brief break between school and work. This validates my feelings. I apparently also need to read "Walking with Einstein" this is the 2nd time in a month that I've heard a PT student reference the book.

Can you give any insight on your living situations? Do you near campus or have a commute? I am curious if my quality of life will improve if I shorten my commute time to campus.
 

jblil

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I want to take a brief break between school and work
(..) I apparently also need to read "Walking with Einstein."

Can you give any insight on your living situations? Do you near campus or have a commute?

If you can afford it, by all means take a break before starting PT school. You won't regret it.

My living situation: I am fortunate to live 3 miles from campus, and take the bus. I keep telling myself I should jog either to or from school, so that I can get my exercise in for the day. But I haven't done it yet.

Here is a link to the book:
http://www.amazon.com/Moonwalking-Einstein-Science-Remembering-Everything/dp/0143120530
 

DPTHopeful2012

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Thanks, jblil! I do agree with you about writing about past career in the PS. I worked in pharma research/health care and brought it up in my PS and in interviews and I think it made me stand out a bit because interviewers always wanted me to talk about it.

Thanks for the tips on memory. This is one thing I'm worried about because I'm not taking any classes until I start PT school in August. I have a really good memory and I've always been able to memorize very easily, but I'm scared that 8 months of not memorizing will make me lose it. I will pick up the book you mentioned. And I do plan on studying A&P this summer before I start PT school.

I'm really scared of failing a class or getting kicked out. In the program I will be attending, if a student gets 2 B- (in an overall grade for a class), then they are kicked out of the program. I know a few current students in the program and they told me if they can make it through, then so can I but that still makes me scared.

I worked full-time and took 2-3 classes each semester for 2 years and I'm hoping that experience will help me adjust to being so busy in PT school. I had no time to do anything else except for work, class, & study, and it was even hard to find time to eat. I'm just hoping that PT school won't be a huge shock since I've experienced being in classes & studying all the time, with no time for anything else. I just hope I can adjust to being super busy.

And thanks Kevin for the words also!
 
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yuns554

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Question: For your applications how would you go about getting letters of recommendations from a professor seeing as some non-traditional applicants haven't been in school for awhile?
 

jblil

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Question: For your applications how would you go about getting letters of recommendations from a professor seeing as some non-traditional applicants haven't been in school for awhile?

My way out of it, if you can't think of any prof. who could help, would be to take a science class just to establish a relationship with the instructor. All schools that I've applied to require that your A&P be taken within the last 5 years so hopefully the prof would still remember you.
While doing my pre-reqs, I ended up taking a couple of extra microbiology classes (not required) because I found the subject fascinating. The prof who taught those classes wrote a very nice LOR for me.
 

Junta87

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Anybody who has explored these boards knows that going any more than $100k into debt for this profession is a bad idea. I know some of my classmates who are paying for both tuition and living expenses. They can plan on working in a SNF or in home health in the middle of nowhere for at least five years to pay off those loans. They'll have to wait to have a family and kids too, as that will not be feasible until they pay off those loans.

I'm a non-trad and I find that academically, the traditional students have an easier time dealing with the workload. They've been in school for four years and have that momentum. Non-trad students have a harder time, but they still manage to pass. I'm just saying they struggle more than the younger students. It has nothing to do with the age of the mind. The ability to retain information doesn't change in your 20's and 30's. Also, exercise science and nutrition majors do better than non-trad students, probably because they have already been exposed to some extent to the material in PT school: biomechanics, physiology, therapeutic exercise, etc. For example, I did fine in anatomy because I had already studied it on my own, but struggled in biomechanics. I'm NOT telling you to get a degree in exercise science. That's a terrible thing to do because if you decide you don't want to go into PT, then you have a junk major. Better to major in Pre-Medicine or Biology. Plenty of students, however, majored in unrelated majors, Geography, Philosophy, Business, Marketing, etc.

Yes expect 50-60 work weeks, and don't expect your weekends to be relaxing either. I study at least six hours on both Sunday and Saturday. I'm at school 10-12 hours a day during the week, and often go home and study more. I don't know how students manage to balance school with a relationship, or marriage. If you're not in a relationship now, don't start one until you pass your board exam. PT school can ruin relationships.

I agree that memory techniques are invaluable in PT school. Unless you have a photographic memory, you will need to find some way to retain large amounts of information. Your ability to do well in PT school depends entirely on how well you can process and remember information. You'll be studying on your own most of the time, so really challenge yourself when you study.

As for your PS, read the feature article this week, 'Personal Statement Failures.' Please don't say you want to help people, and don't talk about your experience in PT. That's boring, trite, and uninspiring. Instead, write that you want a profession where you can think and apply knowledge. Hardly anybody says that.

Kevin

This post is a huge downer, I think my marriage will survive my busy schedule:rolleyes:
 
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Azimuthal

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This post is a huge downer, I think my marriage will survive my busy schedule:rolleyes:

Mine is doing just fine.

I'd like to second the memory training. I know I could have used it myself, gross anatomy was challenging for me.
 

Junta87

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Mine is doing just fine.

I'd like to second the memory training. I know I could have used it myself, gross anatomy was challenging for me.

Are you still in school? Has it been hard on your (husband/ wife?) since you've been in school? The thing that is scaring me more is going from two to one incomes :eek:

Yuns554- do you have any prereqs to take? If so, do well in the class ;) and get one of the profs to write your LOR.

FYI- I am a non-trad starting a DPT program in June. I'm 25 and have been out of school for four years. I majored in German, definitely a different route ;)
 

DPTHopeful2012

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The thing that is scaring me more is going from two to one incomes :eek:

Yeah we've already discussed cutting down our expenses. Luckily my SO will still be able to pay for our mortgage & household expenses without my income. I just know it'll be hard for me to not have a steady income coming in. I'm so used to having my own money and it's going to be hard to adjust.
 

Junta87

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Yeah we've already discussed cutting down our expenses. Luckily my SO will still be able to pay for our mortgage & household expenses without my income. I just know it'll be hard for me to not have a steady income coming in. I'm so used to having my own money and it's going to be hard to adjust.

Yes, I agree! My husband can pay the mortgage and bills without my income, but literally nothing else, so the fun money will be gone. It's weird to go from being an adult with a disposable income back to a student budget. On the bright side, my parents will be seeing me more since I'll probably be stopping by to raid their fridge ;)
 
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jessser987

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I have been meaning to write this up for some time, but was always too busy with schoolwork to do it. I am on break now so here we go…

First of all, if you are thinking of getting into this field, let’s get our expectations straight. The average starting pay for a new DPT is around $60K-$70K. I have been on this board for 2+ years, and have seen many posters expect a 6-fig salary when they graduate. Ain’t going to happen. This should have a big influence on where you choose to go to school. Getting $200K in loans for a degree that will pay $65K/yr is, IMO, a very poor investment. If money is the main driver for you, get a PA or NP degree. Or if you don’t mind slogging it for at least 7 years, apply to med school.

There is a thread on SDN that talks about the starting salary for DPTs:
http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=931151
I update the survey regularly (results are posted on the Wordpress link), so I implore you to take a look at it if you’re still exploring your options. I’d hate for anyone to go to DPT school thinking s/he will make big bucks upon graduation, then be cruelly disappointed –and neck-deep in debt- when reality sets in.

Ok, now that we got that out of the way, I’d like to tell you what has been my experience as a non-trad. And please chime in, I do not want this to be a monologue.

Us non-trads have a crucial advantage over the traditional applicant: we have been in the workforce for a few years before deciding to go back to DPT school (in my case, 25 years). So, in addition to being generally more mature, we have a rich lode of anecdotes to draw on when we write our personal statement (PS). Leverage it to the max. Weave your background into the PS such that it stands out. To paraphrase one of the faculty members who sometimes posts in this forum: “99% of the applicants talk about how they, or a family member, have benefited from PT and how this event has made them decide on PT as a career. Yet we also benefit from interacting with MDs, teachers, engineers, policemen, etc. Why don’t we aspire to be MDs, teachers, engineers or policemen? “

So, find a way to leverage your past career when writing your PS. For me, it was the realization that my background in engineering can be useful in designing new “things” (assistive devices, smartphone apps, etc) for this field. We bring a new perspective and a fresh way of looking at things to the table. So my first recommendation is: If at all possible, find an angle to weave your background into your PS. It’d make for more interesting reading for the Adcom, and help you stand out from the crowd.

Second recommendation: take steps to improve your memory, starting right now. As with most medical fields, the first year is extremely heavy on memorization. If you have a photographic memory, I guarantee that you would ace 95% of the first-year tests. In the first semester, you will have to memorize 100+ muscles and at least 4 items for each muscle. And that’s just one small part of Anatomy. Other classes will also make heavy demand on your capacity to remember and regurgitate facts. It gets a bit easier as you progress: some of my 2nd-semester classes are now calling on our clinical reasoning skills; however, there’s still a ton of memorization needed.

You will keep hearing that our (= non-trads’) memory is not as good as the younger folks’. I don’t know if that’s true or not but improving your memory can be done, and can be fun. The best book I’ve read on the subject is “Moonwalking with Einstein.” Please let me restate it: train your memory, now. Just like with physical exercise, it will take a month or two before you can see the results. You want your memory to be in good shape when school begins, just like you’d want to be fully trained when you’re on the starting line for a marathon. Training just one week before the race would not get you anywhere. If you are not good at memorizing stuff, you WILL struggle and you may fail some of your classes. And depending on how strict your school is, this can get you kicked out of the program. If that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will…

Third recommendation: after you have sent in your application, or after you have been accepted, enjoy your last few months of free time before school starts. It’s akin to taking a big, deep breath of air before you free-dive. My first semester of school was tough and kept me busier than when I had a full-time job. 50- or 60-hr weeks were not uncommon. But I have absolutely no regrets.

The above was somewhat geared to folks who are thinking of DPT school or who have not yet started the first semester. In the next installment, I’ll talk about my experience in school. Anybody else with experience, please chime in!
im not going to lie, this post really scared me. i am 27 and starting pt school in June. i was a dance major in college and after graduating moved to chicago to dance professionally. after doing that for 3 years, i decided i wanted to go into PT. I have many reasons for my decision to change careers, but one of the more practical reasons is more money! i was barely surviving off of 20,000 a year with a dance career. 70k sounds pretty amazing to me. HOWEVER, im going to be paying for school on my own with loans and also living off of loans. i have no one to help me (financially at least) with school and considering my schools tuition, i will most likely be taking out just under 200k in the end. i also have no savings. its hard to do making 20,000 a year. (my schools tuition is 26,000 a year)

i will be 30 when i graduate. im not married, but i would like to get married and have a family at some point in the future. i am a female, so therefore im going to have to birth a child at some point before 40 if i want a family lol. im so excited to go to pt school, but im getting nervous about money. im dont care if im making 6 figures, i never cared that much about money. i just want to make enough to pay my bills at the end of the month without being nervous im going to overdraw my bank acct!!
 

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Jesser-
This is how I see it. You'll be making a difference of about $45K each year, so be as thrifty as you are now and pay off the debt in 5-6 years, or be a little more relaxed, have the family (duel income) and pay it off in 10 years. And yes, I understand that the interest rate sucks and that is costs more to pay it off in a longer time period, but what's the alternative? Keep making $20K a year or be so worried about paying it off ASAP that you forgo having a life/ family? In the long run it'll be more lucrative than where you are currently. If you are not particularly attached to PT perhaps you may want to take a little time to research other careers to be certain that you will have no regrets about going to PT school. Just my two cents :)
I'll be about $100K in debt and it isn't stressing me out anymore, I did the math and am a financially conservative person and will be working a job that I enjoy. I can only suggest that you do the math for your situation and find out how long it will realistically take for you to pay of the debt, and if you are okay with that, leave the stress behind! Also, 26,000*3= 78000, where in the extra $122K coming from? Is the area really that pricy? I think I'm missing something because $40K each year to live off of is luxury living, during PT school anyways. Anywho, hope you don't stress out too much about it!
 

DPTHopeful2012

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Yes, I agree! My husband can pay the mortgage and bills without my income, but literally nothing else, so the fun money will be gone. It's weird to go from being an adult with a disposable income back to a student budget. On the bright side, my parents will be seeing me more since I'll probably be stopping by to raid their fridge ;)

Lucky!! Wish my parents lived close to me so they could buy things for me, just like when I was in college haha :)
 

Azimuthal

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Are you still in school? Has it been hard on your (husband/ wife?) since you've been in school? The thing that is scaring me more is going from two to one incomes :eek:

Yuns554- do you have any prereqs to take? If so, do well in the class ;) and get one of the profs to write your LOR.

FYI- I am a non-trad starting a DPT program in June. I'm 25 and have been out of school for four years. I majored in German, definitely a different route ;)

It's def harder on my wife. We have a 7 month old. To cut expenses, we moved in with my in-laws. They help watch the baby while my wife is at work. I attend school out of state. Finances aren't bad, we saved and planned a few years back for it. It was a 2/3 income cut. The surprise was the baby, but again, you'd be surprised how planning and a supportive family can help! I thought the baby's expenses were going to be crazy but a baby shower set up up pretty good. I never understood those things before, but wow. We have clothes, toys, etc. packed away up to when she turns 3-4. Well after I graduate.

A big challenge for me was def all the raw memorizing. As a business major I was used to a global learning environment/ system. Another challenge was fun money. I try to live as modestly as possible, especially with a wife and child to worry about. When I was working full time, money after savings was never an issue.
 
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Azimuthal

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Yes, I agree! My husband can pay the mortgage and bills without my income, but literally nothing else, so the fun money will be gone. It's weird to go from being an adult with a disposable income back to a student budget. On the bright side, my parents will be seeing me more since I'll probably be stopping by to raid their fridge ;)

My sister is 32, married, has two kids and both her and her husband make six figure salaries. She still raids our mom's fridge. Some things shouldn't change ;)
 

jblil

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I understand that many non-trads are giving up a job (in some cases, fairly well-paying gigs) to go to PT school. The more fortunate among us have a spouse, or savings, we can rely on. Others will have to live off loans. Here are a couple of financial moves that may help you soften the blow:

If you or your spouse have some earned income (i.e., you will not be relying exclusively on loans, which are unearned income), then you should definitely look into opening a 529 account for yourself, in your state. Many states will give you a tax deduction for putting money into a 529. In my state (NC), a couple can put up to $5K a year into a 529, and that amount will be deducted from your taxable income for state taxes. The way I see it, we will have to write a tuition check to the school anyway, so we might as well cycle our money through the 529 account to get the tax deduction. By that I mean you put your money into the 529, and when tuition time comes, you request that the 529 write a check to your school. A caveat is having money in a 529 account may impact your financial aid status. Different states have different limits for contributions and deductions, so check it out carefully.
http://www.finaid.org/savings/state529deductions.phtml
When putting your money into a 529, I recommend you pick a stable investment vehicle (a money market fund or a guaranteed savings account). The time horizon is too short for riskier investments.

This probably won’t come in handy till your second year of PT school since you’ll be too busy in the first year: consider doing tutoring, esp. if you have a solid background in the hard sciences (math/physics/chemistry/biology). Sign up with Wyzant.com or a similar service and advertise your expertise. They will do the marketing and the paperwork for you, in exchange of a percentage of your earnings. A good friend of mine is currently tutoring high-school juniors and seniors in Biology and grosses about $350-$450 per week. He charges $40/hr, and Wyzant’s cut is tiered: the more hours you have tutored, the smaller their cut. There is a big demand for math and physics tutors so if you are good at those subjects you will easily find students. This is in-person tutoring (as opposed to on-line tutoring).
 
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easb

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i will be 30 when i graduate. im not married, but i would like to get married and have a family at some point in the future. i am a female, so therefore im going to have to birth a child at some point before 40 if i want a family lol. im so excited to go to pt school, but im getting nervous about money. im dont care if im making 6 figures, i never cared that much about money. i just want to make enough to pay my bills at the end of the month without being nervous im going to overdraw my bank acct!![/QUOTE]

jessser987, when you become a smart PT, you will meet a smart man with a good job to marry and your financial situation may become much better and you will be able to pay off your loan sooner than you think:), and besides you will get the family you are dreaming of! At your young age, you have plenty of time to achieve all your life dreams. 3-year-PT-school delay is a very short time period in comparison with the whole life, right:)?
 

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i will be 30 when i graduate. im not married, but i would like to get married and have a family at some point in the future. i am a female, so therefore im going to have to birth a child at some point before 40 if i want a family lol. im so excited to go to pt school, but im getting nervous about money. im dont care if im making 6 figures, i never cared that much about money. i just want to make enough to pay my bills at the end of the month without being nervous im going to overdraw my bank acct!!

jessser987, when you become a smart PT, you will meet a smart man with a good job to marry and your financial situation may become much better and you will be able to pay off your loan sooner than you think:), and besides you will get the family you are dreaming of! At your young age, you have plenty of time to achieve all your life dreams. 3-year-PT-school delay is a very short time period in comparison with the whole life, right:)?[/QUOTE]
thanks guys i feel a lot better now. NattyB- I am definitely attached and 100% committed to PT school. I just get nervous about money. I'm definitely not in it for the money, but I am definitely excited to start a career that makes more than 20k. I also think i can live conservatively for 5 years after i graduate. i also do not want a family right when i graduate. I was just saying sometime before I'm 40. I know that I will have plenty of time after pt school and can have a family later. the original poster just kind of freaked me out and maybe i misread it but i was getting the impression that it would take me 15-20 years to pay off my loans.

anyway, thanks for all the advice guys. I cant wait to start PT school in a couple months! yay!
 

jblil

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jessser987 said:
i was getting the impression that it would take me 15-20 years to pay off my loans.

Put the loan amount and your estimated repayment period in this calculator, and it will display the monthly amount. I think the rate for most graduate loans now is 6.8%.
http://www.finaid.org/calculators/loanpayments.phtml
It will also show an estimate of "what your annual salary should be, in order to afford the loan."
 

Ngozi Onyema

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As a PTA I'm familiar with the whole memorization of the muscles and the 4 parts (origin, insertion, action and nerve). I graduated the PTA program in 2006 but I remember how difficult it was to memorize all those muscles and the 4 parts. It was grueling.

I expect and hope for the DPT program to be a good amount like the PTA program I went through. Although we don't go specifically in to each individual muscles in the field like we learned in PTA school, I hope those muscles are still in my mind just buried and that I won't have a hard time digging them back up to the surface.

One tip I have for memorization is SLEEP. During REM sleep your mind files what you study in to your memory bank better. So I think it's good to study throughout the day but most importantly right before you go to sleep. At least that's what I read somewhere sometime and I've tried it and it works for me.

I'm also curious as another poster here on how NattyB is only paying $26,000/year for PT school and yet is going in to close to $200,000 debt.

My school tuition is $25,500/year. I think that's relatively cheap considering average costs for DPT programs. I don't know if I'm traditional or non-traditional. I might be in the between. I'm a PTA who's worked in the field since 2007. I spent the years between 2007 and the end of 2010 out of school and working full time before I decided to return to go to PT school. So I had some time out of school (4 years) and working full time but at the same time I was in the field. I've been in a position that has allowed me to be able to save money from those 4 years of working and I also made a good investment in those years I was working plus I'm still working now and have been working 40 hours a week since this last Christmas without benefits so the hourly pay is higher in order to save more money for DPT school. So I guess I'm not following that "take a break before DPT school starts" suggestion. I guess my mind will be more at ease knowing I'll have the money to pay for school without going in to debt (at least for the first year). The DPT program that I am going to is also a weekend program so that leaves some room for me to still work even if only a fourth of the time I work now, that 1/4th of the time work would be enough to keep me out of debt. They recommend not working more than 20 hours a week but I think I can be okay financially working only 10 hours a week. The great thing is that I won't have to leave the job I have now as the DPT school I'm going to is commute distance from where I've been living. Getting accepted to this school was definitely a blessing for me. There is no better school for me.

I'm single (and will be 34 when I finish DPT school) but I see one benefit of a family is the family health insurance only one spouse needs to have so the other could work without benefits and thus make a higher hourly salary and still have healthcare through the spouse employment healthcare plan.

Wow DPT school starts in 2 and a half months for me. Good luck to everyone.
 
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jblil

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A few more things I learned after completing almost a year of DPT school:

Study groups are very useful. After much trial-and-error, I found out the best strategy for me is to learn the stuff by myself, then get together with a small group to discuss it and quizz each other. Each person will see the material in a slightly different light and have a particular way of memorizing it which may be easier than your own method. Also it helps if the folks in your group have different backgrounds. There are 4 folks in my study group: 2 are Biology majors, one in Exercise Sc. and myself (Engr.). We complement each other well and usually have deeper insight into stuff that falls into our field of study. So we explain it to the others and the whole group benefits. I think it will take you some time to find the “right” folks to study with as well as the “right” method to study by, but for me group study has been extremely useful.

Pay attention to the “study guides” that profs give out, because those guides give you invaluable insight into the level of details each prof expects. They all say “I want you to know the essentials, not the minute details” but what is “essential” for them may be super-detailed for us. They know the stuff inside out and many have been teaching it for decades, while for many of us, this is the first time we ever see it. You can also talk to the 2nd-year or 3rd-year students to get an idea of what the tests are like. Of course I wouldn’t ask them what specific questions would be on the tests as that’s a flagrant violation of every school’s Honor Code (I have the sneaky suspicion that profs give out the same exams year after year, with very few changes); however a general question like “do we need to know every single step of the Krebs cycle with its associated enzymes, or will a high-level understanding be enough?” is perfectly legit IMO.

To be continued…
 
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NewTestament

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Study groups have their advantages and disadvantages. I think you should have no more than three in a study group, otherwise, as my anatomy professor said, it becomes "social hour." Study by yourself, and then start working with a group a few days before the test. The benefit of studying in a group is that you can ask each other questions, quiz each other, and talk about things out loud. Reading the notes and writing things down helps you learn about 80% of the material, but you really need to explain the concepts to someone. When you can explain or teach something to someone, then you know it.

In my study group, I think I'm the only one who doesn't have an exercise science major. I don't know what I add with a Geography major, but my vocabulary and writing skills are certainly better, maybe because of the number of papers I had to write in college.

It's hard to tell how different exams are from one term to the next. I doubt professors re-write the entire exam. They simply don't have the time or the will to write 50 or 60 brand new multiple-choice, case-study questions. No wonder students who retake an exam end up killing them. It's perfectly within the honor code to ask students what they need to know and what they shouldn't study. We're simply trying to manage our time wisely. Telling another student what to expect, what kinds of questions to expect, and what concepts are on the test is not a violation of the honor code, but telling another student a specific question definitely is. Be careful.

These days, there are so many study guides floating around. Students make them, and then spread them to their classmates, who pass them on to junior students. Don't become too dependent on them. You need to listen in class, read the required readings, and write your own notes in a way that you understand them. The study guide might not be comprehensive, and the professor might add new content in later se/trimesters that is not on the study guide.

Kevin
 
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jblil

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These days, there are so many study guides floating around. Students make them, and then spread them to their classmates, who pass them on to junior students.

I agree with you, on the student-made study guides. But most of my profs do issue a study guide (may be "exam guide" would be a better term) a couple of weeks prior to a test. Those were the guides I referred to.
One of my profs sent out an extensive exam guide with about 30 questions for us to focus on. On the day of the test, we were surprised to find that every single question on the test was indeed on the exam guide. So the folks who studied more than the exam guide "wasted" some of their time.
 

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One of the misconceptions I was given from PIIs and IIIs is that "if you show you try, meet with professors, etc., the academic board will keep you should you obtain a C in a course". They obviously knew no one who had to go through that situation. We have a no retake (on written) and no curve policy. Our exam reviews (if any) consist of: everything. I assume most schools enforce the same. I've lost a few good friends from the first term alone. Unfortunately, 1/3 were non-trads, and we account for less than 10% of the cohort.

From day 1, half the non-trads will be at a disadvantage. Those years working instead of practicing those memorization skills will show. Work hard from day 1. Review lectures after every class day. Learn to recite the materials in your own words. Never fall behind. Hate to be the debbie-downer on this one but consider it a reality check. Take what the PIIs and IIIs say with a grain of salt.
 
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NewTestament

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That's disconcerting that your program would remove students because they wouldn't let them retake a class. I don't see how it would hurt to let students do that. As long as they're willing to pay, and they've been accepted, why not? It makes me wonder why a school would accept non-trad students in the first place, if they make up most of the students who are ejected. Because that student has been ejected, they've wasted thousands on living expenses and tuition, and now have no future as a PT. If a program's standards are so high, perhaps they should only accept those students who can, without a doubt, meet those standards. Better to be rejected than to be ejected after one term.

So if you're a non-trad, you need to consider what the program's policy is regarding retaking classes, and how many C's you can receive before you're removed. Two D's in my program results in dismissal, but you can withdraw from a class if you feel you won't be able to pass with a C or better.

Kevin
 
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jblil

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To echo what Kevin just said: check out your school's policy regarding dismissal from the program. Us non-trads have more "baggage" than traditional students, so giving up a career to go to DPT school and ending up being dismissed from it would be a major disaster.
At my school, you can only have 6 credits with a final grade of less than 80; and there is no re-taking of classes or exams.
 
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Azimuthal

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Also, and I hate to be the one who says this, older non-trads who are looking to go 100% clinicals in the next 20+ years should be in pretty decent physical conditioning. Or should consider a shorter stint in clinicals and cross into administration or other interlinking fields.
We had one student who was less than 20 years eligible for full SSI benefits. This student couldn't manage the stress associated with the intensity of the program and the student's physical health eventually declined - in a nose dive. The student withdrew.

PT, for the most part, is a physically demanding field. Know this goin in. Okay, no more debbie-downers.
 
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jdaniels360

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Hey now, if you have any more debbie downers, i'd rather know now than later and save myself the hassle!

Joe
 

aalegria

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yes! more of everything! This information is great to have for everyone starting or applying to dpt programs.
 

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thought i could add my insight. I was not a true non-trad but I was a music student previously. I've read a lot on here about people improving via memory techniques. I think another strategy to you may want to look into is to figure out your learning style. This helped me so much. A memory technique can be more useful for some people than others. I am a very visual and logical learner. I need to see it or draw it out and/or talk it through. I make study guides for the readings and often draw pictures. For anatomy I used flash cards or made out charts and lists. Prior to just the memorization part though I had to look at a lot of pictures and really take to the time to see it on the cadavers. Once I could picture it in my head memorizing the OINAs became a lot easier. Always keep up with the material and put in the time, it builds up quick.
 

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This piece of advice is for folks who will start PT school soon: if your school is like mine, there will be oodles of PT-oriented clinics, clubs and activities vying for your attention (and time) in the first week of class. They all want to recruit first-year students into their folds, and us starry-eyed first-years are usually happy to sign up. My advice: DON'T DO IT. Or if you do it, only sign up for one club or activity.

This advice is even more pertinent for us non-trads who have kids and other responsibilities around the house. Those PT clubs are not going anywhere, they'll still be around next year and the year after next. The first semester, you'll be drinking out of a firehose and you will not have time for anything else but study. If you sign up for a club or activity, you'll feel guilty if you don't participate fully, and you'll kick yourself when it's your turn to staff the clinic on the eve of a big exam.
 

nomattic

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This piece of advice is for folks who will start PT school soon: if your school is like mine, there will be oodles of PT-oriented clinics, clubs and activities vying for your attention (and time) in the first week of class. They all want to recruit first-year students into their folds, and us starry-eyed first-years are usually happy to sign up. My advice: DON'T DO IT. Or if you do it, only sign up for one club or activity.

This advice is even more pertinent for us non-trads who have kids and other responsibilities around the house. Those PT clubs are not going anywhere, they'll still be around next year and the year after next. The first semester, you'll be drinking out of a firehose and you will not have time for anything else but study. If you sign up for a club or activity, you'll feel guilty if you don't participate fully, and you'll kick yourself when it's your turn to staff the clinic on the eve of a big exam.

Along similar lines, my school has emphasized opportunities where students can participate in research being conducted by professors and other faculty. I'm really interested in this aspect, but since it's extra work on top of normal courses/labs, is it a bad idea to get involved if you want to sleep at least once every 24 hours (which I would like to continue doing)?
 

nomattic

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Oh, and one more question for you other experienced non-trads: I'm working and finishing up my last pre-req before starting school this June. Since I'm only in one class, should I be using this time to brush up on anatomy (took it last year, been a while), etc., or should I keep chillin' before the onslaught commences?
 

jblil

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Research with profs: most profs run research projects that span several years. Take your time picking one, because a project that seems interesting when you are in your first week of PT school may not sound so hot once you've learned a few things in your classes. I chatted up my profs during the first semester and am gradually zeroing in on a couple of projects that sound interesting - but I still haven't made any commitments yet. Where possible, pick projects that have something to do with your previous career or undergrad major; that way you can contribute a lot more. For ex., my school runs a joint program with Duke where its engineering students pair up with us PT students to design contraptions or devices to help handicapped folks accomplish certain tasks; often the device has to be customized to the specific handicap and needs of the person, so these are one-off items. Big biomed companies wouldn't be interested as there is no money in it.

As for studying anatomy ahead of time: you can start studying the stuff, but unless you use it every day (as you would, in PT school) or can touch the muscles, arteries, nerves, etc on a cadaver, you won't remember much. It's just too "abstract" to learn that stuff out-of-context. That was my experience, but YMMV.
 
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riseboi

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As a non-trad grad, I'll throw in my 2 cents.

First, a brief background. I had originally graduated from undergrad with a double major in business. My first job was in the FInance/Insurance industry. In spite of earning a good living, for personal and professional reasons, I began to be drawn toward Healthcare and PT, specifically. In an attempt to find a compromise in my educational background and my future aspirations, I found myself in a management position for a couple high-end health clubs in So. Fla. Unfortunately, that job did not fulfill my ambitions and decided to quit after a couple years. From there, I enrolled in a community college to fulfill my prereq's and began the application process for PT school. I was a single, male 29 yr old when I began PT school. To my benefit, I had accumulated a good bit of savings and the great fortune of having financial support from my family.

With that said, here are some of my thoughts/experiences on some of the topics brought up in this thread

- As a non-trad student, I came in with a clear focus of what I wanted to accomplish. That's not to say that the traditional students didn't want to do well in school as me. But, as someone who was getting a second chance of sorts, I was not going to be deterred.

- My previous work history had allowed me to hone my interpersonal skills. This benefited me greatly in making longterm connections with not only my professors, but also with all the clinical instructors, physical therapists, department heads, and other health care workers I had the opportunity to interact and work along with.

- Memorization during the first year is certainly a focus but it goes beyond that. From my own experience as a 1st yr, working with the following classes as a tutor, and working as a gross anatomy graduate assistant while I studied for the Board exam, memorization only goes so far. Far too often the biggest disconnect I found with struggling students was the inability to recall and connect the information they memorized to what was tagged on the cadavers with limited time.

- I don't believe advanced age, specifically, is a factor in a person's ability to get through the physical demands. More important would be the person's physical conditioning. My anatomy professor was in his early 50's when he graduated from PT school in the early 90s. To this day, he remains very physically active, albeit he no longer practices in the clinic anymore. I've treated 25 yr olds who move like they're 60, and 60 yr olds who move like they're 25. As Aaliyah one sung, 'age ain't nothin but a number."

- Study groups. Personally, I prefer to do both; study by myself and then with a group. While I often did do group study with the same small group of people (mainly because it was the same group of people who arrived at school early), I also tried to study with others just to get different "takes" on certain subjects/ideas.

-Family. I began school as a single guy and graduated the same so I can't offer a whole lot other than relationships can be difficult, but are certainly doable. I've seen some of my classmates end their long term relationships because of school and I've seen just as many stay together the entire time in school. IMO, it's a matter of how much each person works at it, because, yes, it isn't easy. But, it is possible. As far as kids, my opinion is if you can hold off, then hold off. If not, then it is what it is. It certainly won't be easy, so just make the best of it. One of the girls in another class gave birth between her 2nd and 3rd yr. From what I've seen, her classmates really came together to help her early on. That kid now has a lot of surrogate aunts and uncles.

- Workload. It's graduate school and you're now looking to earn your doctorate. Of course, it going to be demanding. You will need to devote the proper amount of time after school for studying. But don't be afraid to live life. Devote time to breaks and days off from studying. Focus on prioritizing and managing your time well. It's one thing to devote 4 hours of time to studying after school, but if you're only productive for 1 of those hours, you've failed and wasted time IMO.

- Prior to starting PT school. I agree, take a break if you can. If not, oh well, its not the end of the world. Don't worry about anatomy right now too. Unless you're going to be working during school, IMO there's no significant benefit to starting now.

I'm sure there were some other topics I was going to comment on, but my mind is starting to stray, so I'm going to take a nap and enjoy the rest of this Sunday afternoon. :)
 
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englishivy

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It's great to hear of your experiences, riseboi.
I have a question for you and/or all the other current/past non-traditionals: As a non-trad, did you ever feel like an outsider in your cohort or that you were treated differently (for better or worse) because of your age?
 

jblil

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As a non-trad, did you ever feel like an outsider in your cohort or that you were treated differently (for better or worse) because of your age?

In my case, absolutely not. And I am easily double the age of most of my classmates.
 
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