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Physical Therapy School - Application Process

The Application Process

Most Physical Therapy (PT) programs admit students once a year, most commonly for Summer Term.

Applications are submitted at least 10 months in advance of the desired enrollment date. However, the timing depends on when you will complete your degree and the necessary coursework, and successfully take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) if necessary.

While applying early in the cycle has advantages, the best time for you to apply is when your application is the best it can be.

Requirements vary from program to program. Research schools early for specific information about requirements.

Before submitting applications, have people with an unbiased eye go over each entire application to catch any errors. Your Preprofessional advisor is happy to do this for you

The PT Application process includes 5 main components

  1. The Graduate Record Exam (GRE)Most programs
  2. Primary Application
  3. Letters of Recommendation
  4. Supplemental Materials—Programs
  5. Interviews

Most PT programs require the GRE. The GRE is administered throughout the year. It may be repeated, but the best strategy is to prepare thoroughly and take it once. Taking the exam by spring the year before you wish to enter PT school will enable you to apply earlier. More information on the GRE, including sample questions, can be found here

August is the last GRE accepted by most schools for their following summer or fall entering class.

GRE structure:

  • 2 multiple choice sections which are scored on a scale of 130-170
    • Verbal Reasoning
    • Quantitative Reasoning
  • 1 Analytical Writing essay that is scored on a 6 point scale

Primary Applications are processed through a central application service called the Physical Therapy Centralized Application Service (PTCAS)  Primary applications are not school specific. The same information is sent to all schools to which you are applying.

Deadlines: PTCAS is available online in mid to late July through early June. Program deadlines range from August – January. The University of Utah Physical Therapy (UUPT) program’s deadline is October 1, but recommends completion by September 1.

Because many schools use a rolling admission process (they begin reviewing applications and admitting before deadlines), it will enhance your chances if you submit your application early regardless of when you take the GRE.

Make sure you will have plenty of time to fill out the application. Completing the application will take at least one week, and most students take several weeks. READ ALL INSTRUCTION MANUALS AND DIRECTIONS CAREFULLY!

The PTCAS Application will include:

  • Your GRE score, if applicable
  • A list of all college classes taken, as well as official transcripts from each college where you have earned credit.
  • A list and descriptions of your activities since graduating from high school
  • A Personal Statement outlining your motivation for pursuing a career as a Physical Therapist
  • Letters of Recommendations

NOTE: To help us advise other students, we would appreciate it if you would release your statistical information from your applications to the Health Professions Advisor when prompted. This information will always be kept confidential.

The personal essay is about you and your motivation for pursuing a career as a physical therapist. Remember, why you want to be a PT is different from how you were inspired to become one. Describe your current passion for the field with specific examples from recent experiences. Try to choose a theme rather than random thoughts. The primary application activities section provides a list of accomplishments. Your personal essay is an opportunity to provide additional, more in-depth information.

REMEMBER, your audience is smarter, has more medical knowledge, and knows what is like to be a physical therapist. Don’t try to impress them with your knowledge of the field.

Get feedback! Have 3 or 4 people you can trust to be honest with you (professor, PT, PT student, parent, advisor, Writing Center, tutor, etc.) read your essay and offer feedback.  Do not ask too many people to read it. Having too many opinions can become confusing.

Dos and Don’ts

DO answer the questions “Why do you want to be a physical therapist?”

DO concentrate more on actual experiences rather than speculation about future accomplishments.

DO focus more on what you can give rather than on what you can get by becoming a physical therapist

DO limit the number of “I” statements you use

DO share your background if it is appropriate

DO describe meaningful experiences

DO use all five senses as you tell your story

DO pay careful attention to grammar, spelling, and punctuation

DO NOT devote too much space to writing about other people (family, patients, physical therapists you shadowed)

DO NOT summarize or simply repeat what is on the activity list on your primary application

DO NOT use overly flowery language or words you do not know how to use

DO NOT overuse medical terminology or abbreviations

DO NOT assume everyone knows what you know

DO NOT try to make jokes

DO NOT use foreign language

DO NOT begin your essay with a quote

Submitting Letters of Recommendation

You will have your letters submitted to PTCAS. From there they will be distributed to the PT programs to which you apply.  These programs will request Letters of Recommendation (LORs) after they receive your PTCAS Primary Application, so do not delay submitting your primary application while waiting for letters to arrive.

Requirements for letters vary between schools, so research schools early and know what you need. Most schools require 3 letters.

Requesting Letters of Recommendation

  • Ask if potential writers if they feel capable of writing a supportive letter. If anyone is hesitant, you should probably try someone else.
  • Get business cards with your recommenders’ contact information.
  • Ask if recommenders would welcome any written background material. You could include a brief biographical sketch or resume, your interests and activities, career goals, and motivation toward your intended profession. You could also include a snapshot, a copy of a paper or assignment from their class, or transcript.
  • For recommenders who are unsure of how to write a good letter, the PPA Advising office provides a Guide for Letter Writers.
  • Always give recommenders ample time. Two to three weeks at a minimum. Follow up to make sure that your letters have been sent.
  • Send thank you notes.

For more detailed check out our “How To” Guide

In addition to the PTCAS application, programs might require you to send a supplemental application, fee, and other materials directly to that institution. Supplemental applications and materials are requested by the program, graduate admissions office, and/or the university. Examples of supplemental materials include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Graduate school application
  • Supplemental fee
  • Official GRE scores
  • Results of a physical examination
  • Immunization records
  • Final transcripts

The deadline for supplemental applications and materials may or may not be the same as the program’s PTCAS deadline. Review the PTCAS Directory or contact the program directly to obtain supplemental instructions or materials.

Program-Specific Questions on PTCAS Application

Some programs require applicants to respond to custom questions in addition to the standard PTCAS application questions. The PTCAS application will automatically prompt you to respond to any program-specific questions when you designate programs that require them. You will not be able to submit your application until you have responded to all required program-specific questions for all of your selected programs. Any program-specific essay will be seen only by the program that requested it. You cannot edit your responses to these program-specific questions once you have submitted your application.

The final stage of the application process is the interview. If you receive an invitation for an interview, that is an indication that a program has decided that you are a qualified applicant and they want to get to know you better. Most PT programs hold “interview days” where they bring in a group of applicants for a day that may consist of some or all of the following: Interviews, written essays, school tours, and opportunities to meet students and faculty. Remember, the entire day is the interview, not just those times when you are in a formal meeting. Be on your best professional behavior all day!

Interviews can take many forms, so it is important to research your schools and be prepared for each kind. The Preprofessional Advising office can help you with preparation tips and practicing your interviewing skills.

The most common types of interviews are:

  • One on one interview—Usually one or two 30-45 minutes interviews
  • Multiple Mini Interview (MMI)—7-10 rooms with a different prompt or scenario posted on the door. You are typically given 2 minutes to think about the prompt before entering a room, and 5-8 minutes to respond to the prompt and any follow up questions, or play out the scenario with a trained actor.
  • Group interview—May be either one applicant interviewed by several interviewers, or in a group of applicants interviewed by one or more interviewer.


  • Applications are submitted at least 10 months in advance of the desired enrollment date. However, the timing depends on when you will complete your degree and the necessary coursework, and successfully take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) if necessary.
  • It is helpful to create a timeline for yourself when applying to medical school but your timeline should be flexible. Course scheduling, extra-curricular activities, deadline changes, etc. all contribute to the need of having flexibility in your timeline.
  • For specific application deadline dates, you should always check the PTCAS website.
  • Talk to potential writers of your Letters of Recommendation. Give them plenty of time to write the letters. The PPA Website has helpful information on asking for letters and guidelines that you can give to your writers.
  • Continue with your volunteer, work, and other activities. Do not stop these activities until you have an official offer of admission. It may take two or more application cycles to gain admission, so you need to be continually improving your application until you do.

July - August

  • Primary Applications through PTCAS opens in mid to late July. Begin to fill out primary applications as soon as possible. Read instruction manuals carefully
  • Order official transcripts from ALL colleges and universities that you have attended to be sent to PTCAS
  • Request LORs to be sent to PTCAS
  • August is the last GRE accepted by most schools

September - January

  • Make sure LORs have been sent
  • Complete secondary/supplemental applications AS THEY COME IN
  • Complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, FAFSA , in October
  • Complete PTCAS Updates in December and/or January
  • Prepare for and attend interviews. Interviews occur from December - April
    • The PPA Advising office offers mock interviews so you can practice. If you have an interview scheduled, call the office 801-581-5744 and ask to schedule a mock interview
  • Programs can start requiring seat deposits after January 15


  • Make final decision on where you will attend and withdraw other admissions offers promptly as per APTA Traffic Rules.


Last Updated: 3/27/19