Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze? | Modern Manual Therapy Blog - Manual Therapy, Videos, Neurodynamics, Podcasts, Research Reviews

Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?

Is the juice worth the squeeze?”– this question was posed to me by Jimmy McKay (@PTPintcast), host of the PT Pintcast podcast, when I was fortunate enough to be interviewed as a guest on his show back in July (episode 14, for those interested).

If any of you are unfamiliar, Jimmy is a third-year PT student at Marymount University in Arlington, VA (coincidentally right next to my hometown). We were discussing the cost of PT school and what the future might hold for new-grad PTs when it comes to paying off those loans.

Although paying off graduate school loans is not something we usually look forward to, there are some who view that as a fortunate problem to have. The recent struggles of a colleague of mine currently applying for PT school got me reflecting upon Jimmy’s question from several months ago.

(For a full review of PT-related podcasts, see my previous post: Are you listening…to Physio podcasts? )

Let’s call my colleague “Ashley,” (because it’s her actual name). Ashley has been in the process of applying to PT school over the past two years. She has already gotten into one school, but is hoping to get into two others. The other two are closer to home and more importantly, much less expensive. I have been quite surprised at some of the challenges she has faced given her qualifications, especially since one of the schools that she is applying to is my Alma mater. I am fourteen years removed from applying to PT school and I know that some things have changed. However, I was disappointed to hear about some of what she encountered along the way.

Just on the surface, Ashley appears to be an ideal candidate for PT school. But take a deeper look, and I would assume she would be a no-brainer. She is a 2014 graduate of the Health Sciences program at James Madison University with a GPA of 3.89. She was a competitive cheerleader and even received a scholarship her freshman year at JMU to study and cheer in Hawaii. She is currently working full-time as a rehab tech in the clinic I work in, and on the side teaches youth cheerleading in the evenings and weekends. If that wasn’t enough, she also took it upon herself to become level 1 FMS certified. Regardless, Ashley was already denied from one PT school the first time around, and “red-flagged” from two schools (Virginia Commonwealth University and Old Dominion University), for taking a couple courses at a community college. In contrast, I took ALL my science credits credits at community college, including Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Anatomy & Physiology, along with Pre-Calculus and Public Speaking, and that did not negatively impact my admission into the same school. So I have to wonder, what’s different now?

I used my connections with my Alma mater, VCU, to set up an interview with Ashley with the head of admissions even though they normally don’t meet with students, a similar practice to Old Dominion University, another public institution. This is something else I’ve never understood. When I was applying to school, both Shenandoah University and Marymount, private schools in Virginia, conducted Interviews. But VCU did not do it as a regular practice, and apparently, still doesn’t. Perhaps because it’s a public institution and has more applicants than they can handle for interviews? Or perhaps because they don’t allocate resources to do so. Either way, I don’t have an answer. But in my opinion, physical therapy, as we have so often discussed, is a relationship business. Shouldn’t schools want to to see what their prospective students are like in person as opposed to just on pieces of paper?

Unfortunately, Ashley did not have a positive experience with the interview that I had helped arrange. In her words, it felt more like an interrogation–she was critiqued regarding her GRE scores and the fact that she had taken some courses at a community college, even though she had been told 1 1/2 years earlier that community college classes were not a problem. Ashley was also encouraged to take a cell biology course, even though it was not required. Coincidentally, they had told me the same thing when I went and spoke to the then-head of admissions, but I decided against it, and it had no adverse effect on my academic performance. In fact, I was in the top 10% of my class. This is not meant to brag, it’s meant simply to demonstrate that at least some institutes of higher learning vastly overstate the importance of entry level science classes and standardized test scores. It’s similar to how a physician may disproportionately consider the findings on an MRI scan for an individual with LBP without considering the person as a whole. And we all know what the research says about that.

What struck me as most disappointing with this situation was that as a matter of practice two schools did not take advantage of an opportunity to talk to a prospective student who is obviously excited and motivated about coming to school there. A PT school candidate is not simply a collection of GPA and GRE scores. Clearly, some schools (VCU and ODU, at least in Virginia), weigh them more than others. I hope this is not a trend across the country, as it’s often the intangibles that can be major the difference makers. (If you want any further evidence of that, just go on Twitter and see all the new-grad PTs and PT students on there working on changing the world: @RyanSmith_ATC, @Babcock_DPT, @TuckerFurbush, @Erik_in_AmERICa, to name a few)

As always, thanks for reading. Comments and discussion welcome,


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