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getting organized

Discussion in 'Pre-Physical Therapy' started by katelly, Apr 10, 2015.

  1. katelly

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    I gotta be honest, when I read through some of these threads my heart starts racing a little bit.. There is so much to think about in terms of applying to school. I want to apply this coming cycle, but I will be hurrying to get everything done in time- particularly if I decide to apply early admission to University of Montana, which I would really like to do. So my question for you guys is, what has helped you stay organized and avoid feeling overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done?

    These are the kinds of things that I am thinking of--

    GREs- Study schedules that have helped you stay on track while juggling other things?

    Shadow hours- Have you guys done these in big chunks or tried to do a few hours a week? What has worked?

    Asking for recommendations- I have a friend who made folders for everyone she asked with a profile of herself and what was important to to the schools (this was for med school.) How much did you prep the people you asked for recs?

    Researching schools- Any way you found to organize who requires what, who you have talked to, etc?

    Actually applying- I can't visualize the application because its not open yet- how many hours did you spend on this? How much does it increase for each school you apply to?

    Scholarships- Anyone?

    And then there is maintaining my grades in school (I'm taking quite a few pre-reqs that I didn't get when I was an undergrad.)

    I would love to hear what you guys have done to manage all this!
     
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  3. camiosyz

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    This is what I did, but I can't say that it's the best way or even recommended. Any feedback is good feedback, right? For reference, this was my first application cycle, I'm a non-traditional student with no undergrad background in science, I work full-time, and I was fortunate to get accepted.

    GREs- I would honestly take one of the online, timed practice tests from ETS to see where you sit with scores. You might be surprised and not need to study as hard as you originally thought. I signed up for a date, decided I wanted to reschedule, realized I passed the reschedule deadline (procrastinated and waited until 2-3 days before), freaked out because I hadn't studied AT ALL, took a practice test with decent scores, and did just fine test day (161V, 157Q, 4). No, the scores aren't fabulous, but it was more than good enough for PT school, and I didn't have to re-take it. If your practice scores aren't so hot, you can focus more of your time on the types of questions that you didn't do so well on or the section that was lower overall. Magoosh has excellent study plans of varying lengths that allow you to focus on one part of the test or the whole thing.

    Shadow hours- I only had one summer to get all of my hours, so I shadowed at a SNF/LTAC 2x a week for 4-6 hours. I then shadowed outpatient for full days a couple of times. Each place will be different and each therapist will be different. I was able to get glowing recs from both even though I only spent 26 hours at the outpatient facility because the therapist felt really comfortable with me. That said, I preferred the more frequent, shorter days.

    Asking for recommendations- PTCAS has a questionnaire that your recs have to answer as well as an open field for a more traditional letter. I provided my resume and a concise personal statement that highlighted what I wanted emphasized. The rest I left up to them to write about me. I felt that if they were willing and confident enough in me to write a letter, they had specific things about me that they thought were worth mentioning.

    Researching schools- I used a combination of Excel and a notebook. Excel I used to keep a cheat sheet with general requirements for admission (prereqs, letters of rec, observation hours, estimated tuition, min gpas/GRE, location, deadline). Then I used my notebook to keep track of the more specific things about the programs that I liked/didn't like, what I would need if I didn't already meet any of the requirements, points of contact, etc.

    Actually applying- For PTCAS schools, you will have the general requirements gathering, PTCAS essay, and sending transcripts. Then each school has the option to include any other questions they want, but you only see those after you select a school. Some of these will take you less than 5 minutes while some will require you to write 2+ full essays. Some schools will also make you fill out a separate graduate application to their school directly and/or pay additional fees. I spent quite a bit of time on this because I had to write a lot of essays outside of the general PTCAS essay, but I couldn't say how many hours exactly.

    Scholarships- From reading around here, a lot of scholarships are tied directly to GPA and will be offered to you when you are accepted. I didn't receive any though :(

    Sorry for the super long response, but hope it helps at least a little bit!
     
  4. katelly

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    Wow thanks for the thorough response, that's great! I especially appreciate your thoughts on asking for recommendations and researching schools. I have started using excel and taking notes, but sometimes I come across something I want to follow up on, a forget to write it down, and then can't remember which school it applied to! I think my usual habits of trying to keep everything in my head is going to catch up with me soon :/

    I have taken a couple practice GRE's and my scores fall right in there, about like yours actually. I was hoping to bring up my scores to help buffer a cumulative GPA that is only ok. (It would be hard to bring up my GPA itself much since I already have so many credits.) Its interesting to hear you say that GRE score isn't super important as long as its in the range.

    Applying for schools seems like it will get pretty time consuming- especially because from what I can tell almost every school has its own app in addition to PTCAS.
     
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  5. dptnm2014

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    Hi! I think I am just as neurotic as you lol, in a good way! I always wrote everything out, just like you are now, it really helped me get my brain organized....
    • GRE- I signed up for the GRE in July and started studying a few weeks after my spring semester was over. I made a schedule that I tried to stick to... I took a practice test once a week and evaluated where I needed to make progress, etc. As I got closer I took a practice test every 3 days, which I think really helped. I saved the free practice tests from ETS for the last two tests. Then the 5 days before my test I did nothing but maybe review a few equations and some vocabulary! Also make time to type out several (at least 3 each) of the written essays, its different than just thinking about it in your head.
    • Shadowing- stay consistent! I started shadowing summer of my freshman year of college, but don't panic if this isn't you. I tried to do 3-5 hours a week, per a semester in one setting; so for a 16 week semester that is 48 hours then I would move to a different PT setting (ask your current PT for a contact in another field! connections are everything!!). I didn't do this every semester, just the final semesters leading up to applying. This made it really manageable for me, and I felt that I made great relationships with the PTs as well. If you don't have that much time do 2 settings simultaneously. 10 hours a week is not that bad.
    • LORs- I asked my people in August and told them I was aiming to have everything submitted by 10/1, which left a month of wiggle room just in case something crazy happened (all my apps were due by at least 11/1). I felt that the PTs knew me really well, but I also e-mailed them my transcripts and resume so that they could have more solid facts. One PT interviewed me about my background (like my family, how I grew up, etc) so I knew that would be a nice letter. For the professor, I also attached my resume and transcript and reminded him of my time spent in his class. Don't forget you might need to ask a PT to verify hours, so stay in touch with all of them even if they don't write you a letter!
    • Application- the easy part for me was entering all my basic info; take your time so it is correct. The essays ended up taking wayyy more time than I anticipated, it was also my last semester in undergrad which I think is common for some. I would estimate the essays took me about 4 hours for a couple weekends in a row while I was proofreading, editing and hassling friends and family to read them.
    • Maintaining grades & enduring shadowing- keep your eye on the prize! I did not want to have to apply twice so that really helped me push myself to make sure I only got As in my pre-req classes. Also shadowing can be painfully awkward sometimes but it is seriously so sweet when you finally get that acceptance. All those free volunteer hours were worth it!
    I am going to attach my spreadsheets for applying and then another that I had for making a decision on a school after interviews. Don't make fun of my type A personality lol! I hope these spreadsheet helps someone else, I love excel! They really helped me research and decide which schools to apply to and then ultimately attend.
    Stay organized and try to stay calm and focused and you will be fine!
     

    Attached Files:

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  6. DesertPT

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    Personally did them mostly in big chunks, but I had a couple of experiences spread out over the course of 5-6 weeks. It doesn't matter at all, schools only see the total number of hours. Do whatever is most convenient to schedule for you and the PTs you are shadowing.

    Personally I sent a CV to each person but that was about it, should have probably done a little more. A well-polished CV and a personal statement of some kind is definitely helpful. the more they are able to write specifically about you the better. Also it depends how well the person knows you. For example my boss wrote one and we'd worked together daily for 2+ years at that point so she didn't need anything.

    Not including writing your essay, you should be able to fill the whole thing out in a day. The only really time consuming part is entering every class you've ever taken in via PTCAS' dreadful sea of pop-up windows and unnecessary clicks.

    If the school doesn't have supplementary essays, only as long as it takes to find the schools name on the list and click on it. Obviously lots of schools have supplemental questions that are short and easy (eg. have you ever applied here before, yes/no). Plenty have full-length additional essays too, and if it's a state school they'll generally want you to fill out and submit an application to their graduate college which can take an hour or two. So the answer to your question is that it depends on what schools we are talking about.
     
    #5 DesertPT, Apr 10, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2015
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  7. tweaze

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    I totally understand your stress – I felt like I had at least a low level of anxiety more or less constantly throughout the application process.

    GRE: I took it last June, and planned to take it again in August if I didn’t do well enough. I checked with the schools I had selected to make sure that August would still be early enough to send updated scores. About two months out, I started studying for three to five hour chunks every couple of days, and two weeks out I studied every day for a couple of hours. I took about 1 timed test a week, trying to mimic test conditions as much as possible (timed breaks, no distractions, etc). I ended up with 150Q, 164V and 5.5 A.W. To be honest, while not great, the quantitative score was still quite a bit higher than my practice test results (146 on average), so I decided not to retake it. I really struggle with speed on math, and I didn’t think that a retake would be worth the stress.

    Shadowing: I did my shadowing over a year, and tried to line up one place to start as the other ended. Sometimes it overlapped, but I tried to do a few hours weekly over a few weeks so the PTs would get to know me better over time. I kept an excel spreadsheet that I updated after every session with the name of the facility, how many hours, the setting and the particular type of therapy I observed that day, and kept the contact info for each facility in the spread sheet. I was lucky and didn’t need to have any of my hours verified, but if you do, communicate that to the therapist in question so they are not surprised and can go in and verify your hours when you are done.

    Recommendations: I did not provide a resume/info to any of the people writing my LORs. The professor in question stated he did not need one when I asked, and I had three other folks offer to write letters that I knew well over a long period of time. I ended up with an abundance of letter writers, and did not choose as carefully as I could have. PTCAS only allows for four letters TOTAL, so you have to make sure that the four you end up with satisfy each of your schools.

    Researching schools: I kept two excel sheets – one with information I compiled as I researched schools (mostly location and cost), and then one with info for the schools I actually applied to. In my final sheet, I kept track of deadlines, extraneous requirements such as supplemental apps and fees, and an exhaustive list of to-dos.

    Actually applying: It took me two or three evenings after work. It’s tedious, but if you have all of your info organized (transcripts, observation info, EC info, etc) you can power through it pretty quickly. As mentioned before, supplemental apps and essays are the biggest time suck. I worked on my essays over about a month.

    Lastly, I was also taking prerequisites, so a lot of this took a backseat if I had exams. Grades are the most important thing.
     
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  8. TheDarkKnight14

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    If you're gonna apply this cycle especially with an early adm, you're gonna need to prioritize the observation hours/GRE now. The observation hours are important too because you'll want at least two different settings. Outpatient is easier, but getting one in an inpatient setting is typically more of a challenge. This is also the time when you should think about getting a LOR from the PT.

    Applying itself isn't that time-consuming. Obviously the essay will take the most time. Not sure what the prompt will be this year, but last year's was a bit of a curve ball. haha...
     
  9. mrleroyfashion123

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    YOU CAN DO IT! I'll tell you my story. So I graduated from high school in 2012 and came into college with 17 credit hours from AP tests. I decided to graduate a year early this time last year, so I am graduating in May! This decision was VERY last minute! I had my wisdom teeth (4 impacted) a few days after finals. Then 2 weeks later I started summer courses. I took physics 1 and 2 last summer and that was 10 weeks. I was in class 4 days a week then worked Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at a pool at least 18 hours total. Then about a week after my classes ended I took the GRE and I BARELY studied. I wound up getting a 159 (you want at least a 150 to be competitive). I researched schools during the summer. While everything else was going on I was working on my PTCAS application! Once the fall semester started finishing essays was difficult, but doable!

    GRE: Honestly, just review basic math and try to do some vocab. The vocab section of the GRE is really hard. There's no way to memorize all of the meanings of words. Go through a GRE prep book to see what you should expect.

    Shadow hours: I started shadowing at the beginning of my second year, so fall of 2013. I would do a few hours a week stretched over a couple or few months. I observed at 5 different places over the course of about 14 months. I completed 157 hours total and observed at a Women's Health Clinic, 2 outpatient ortho places, a nursing home, and I observed an early intervention PT who went into other people's homes. Try to get different locations! Do about 25-30 hours at 3 or 4 places!

    Recommendations: I asked PTs that liked me and my favorite professor that holds a higher position in the science department. For the PTs, they'll write about how you were when you observed and how they think you'll be as a PT. My professor asked me to put together a sheet about myself going over what I'm involved in, GPA, etc. Ask early, because they may not have time and you need backups!

    Researching schools: http://www.ptcas.org/DirectoryProgramsList/ I used this site! I wanted to stay close to home so I looked at schools in Wisconsin and Illinois. Just look at your state and the tuition, size of the program, pass rates, how their program is, etc. Whatever is important to you!

    Application: This took a while! The essays and specific school questions took the longest! Start at the beginning of May when the application opens! Get the essays done ASAP because when the semester starts it will be very hard to keep going! Plus many schools I applied to were due October 1st! Some are due mush later, but others are due at the beginning of October. Entering all of your coursework was a pain too!

    Scholarships: I haven't found many :/

    Also, I applied to 8 school (one of them not on PTCAS) and sending out my GRE, what PTCAS charges, my transcripts, and what separate schools charge all cost somewhere around $1,000. So prepare to spend money!

    I was accepted by 4 programs, waitlisted at 3, and was rejected by 1 (I should have known better than to apply to Marquette considering they have a direct admit program and almost never accept people that aren't in it -_-)

    According to PTCAS (your GPA might be a little different on PTCAS because their GPA numbers are different depending on +/-, etc) my gpa is 3.82, my science gpa is 3.62, and my pt prereq gpa is 3.75. At my university my gpa is 3.856.
     
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  10. DesertPT

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    Also do a good search of the forum and read lots of threads. You will learn a lot. There has been a ton of advice given on the gre, observation hours and lots in the past
     
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  11. katelly

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    Thanks for all the detailed responses you guys! wow! One of the things that really stands out to me is that I need to start organizing my observation hours for into the future. The hours that I have done so far have been with a friend at a small clinic so it was easy to slide in, but I know it will be more time consuming to arrange hours at the hospital. I just found all my immunization records this morning.

    One thing that I didn't ask about, but maybe some of you have ideas about is- What kind of contact did you have early on with schools that you were interested in applying to? I have sent a couple of emails to schools that specified that they would like to be contacted that way. I have also left a couple of voice mail messages for schools who I have questions about pre-reqs for, with varying levels of success getting in touch with someone. I know its can be really helpful to establish a relationship with a school, but I feel like this is delicate. I don't want it to seem like I am just trying to be noticed, so I have limited contacting them to when I have very specific questions so far. Have any of you set up meeting with someone in the department to help you decide if it was somewhere you wanted to go, or was your first sit down with someone an official interview? Also is it appropriate to ask to speak to someone specific or better to just ask questions of someone who answers the phone..
    If you have any thoughts on handling this kind of thing I would love to hear them! Thank you!
     
  12. katelly

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    What have some of the past essays been? The curveball?
     
  13. DesertPT

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    This cycle it was basically "How will you embody the vision of the APTA as a PT?" based on the "transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience" vision statement they came out with not too long ago. Don't know what it will be this year. IIRC PTCAS has posted it on Facebook a bit before the application opened for the year, but I'm not totally sure.
     
  14. DesertPT

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    Its very unlikely that the person who answers the phone or responds to emails will be a member of the admissions committee, it is generally a coordinator or admissions adviser of some sort. Don't be shy about calling and just asking your questions, every PT admissions office I every called was extremely friendly and willing to answer questions. As far as getting yourself "noticed", there's not much you can do about that. Nobody will remember you at the schools that get >1000-1500 applications, and even at the occasional schools that only gets a few hundred it's not likely to effect your chances of admission. Call if you have legitimate questions you need answered, don't call or email just for the sake of it. Its a utilitarian thing, not a way to improve your odds.

    Yes. The only school I did this with was one that didn't conduct interviews, and I had an excellent tour and a long chat with one of the faculty. But whether they do interviews or not, most schools are perfectly happy to arrange this for you. In my case I did it because they school made their decisions based on a couple of supplementary essays rather than an in-person interview, and I wanted to be able to be able to say I'd been there to give credence to my essay on why I wanted to go there.

    As described in the first answer, if you are calling for a practical purpose it shouldn't really matter who you talk to. Don't worry about it too much, each student's "relationship" with the school before submitting an application only effects the odds of who gets admitted very, very rarely if you had a special circumstance.

    Unless you want to write a 6-figure donation check to the school prior to submitting your application - then by all means ask to speak to the director. ;)
     
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  15. TheDarkKnight14

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    You can look up some of the past essays but they were generally a variation of "What made you want to be a PT/Why PT".

    This year's was more about your mindset as a future PT under the scope of the new vision that was fairly recently put out.

    As for contact with schools, do it if you have legitimate questions. Even then, some schools might not get back to you. (I remember contacting two schools last year with some questions. Never got an answer and it definitely left a bad taste..haha). I really wouldn't put that much emphasis on "forming a relationship with the school" unless the school doesn't do interviews, I suppose. Personally, I would say let your stats/essay/app in general do the talking...and then actually talk during the interview.
     
  16. katelly

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    So I just looked at the Facebook page for PTCAS, they say the essay question won't change for this cycle. Good to know, I wouldn't have thought to look for them on Facebook.

    That was kind of what I was thinking about getting in touch with schools, what both of you guys wrote.. I just hear things like build a relationship with them, but it seems pretty hard to do in the context of submitting information.

    I have made a couple of phone calls that haven't been returned- definitely a little frustrating!

    Oh I'll just get my checkbook out!
     
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  17. SwampPT

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    If the essay will be the same then start working on it now. You need it to be as close to perfect as possible since it will be the most important paper you've written up to this point. You also want to apply as close to July 1 opening as you can. This can actually make a huge difference.
     
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  18. DesertPT

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    Unless you are taking classes over the summer that will positively impact your gpa...then wait til those are done before you submit.

    Submitting really early is only critical really at schools with rolling admissions...even then August is usually ok at most...I didn't submit until September and did fine at my rolling admissions school....this isn't necessarily true at all of them, but seems to be the case at many

    But yes in general earlier rather than later is good advice...my point is don't submit a lower quality app than you potentially could because you are rushing to get it done asap
     
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