Thursday, July 31, 2014

Inside: Daily Life as a 1st Semester PT Student

After getting accepted I thought I had it made. I knew it would be difficult but I figured it would be a slight step up from undergraduate. I was in for a rude awakening.  The first trimester started off with anatomy and lab, physiology and lab, as well as all the other heavy hitting classes.  At first it started off really rough. I was at school from morn until eve, dawn until dusk, all day.  I would arrive at school somewhere between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. and would not leave until 8:00 or 9:00 p.m.

 Utilizing time management has been key.  I have learned new, effective study methods, because simply applying what I learned as an undergraduate was insufficient. After the initial shock of starting school, on average I now find myself at school in class and studying from about 8:00 am to 6:00 pm every day.  Here is a quick look into a typical day.

6:45     Wake up
7:00     Get ready for the day (shower, get dressed, pack a lunch)
7:45     Drive to school
8:00     In the library (listening to online lecture)
9:00     Anatomy lecture 
12:00   Lunch & hangout 
1:00     Anatomy lab
3:00     Break (look at Facebook, check email, play games on my phone)
3:30     Study (I normally just study for whatever test is coming next)
5:30     Break (just a few minutes to wake up)
5:40     Review (this is key to retaining what you study)
6:00     Finish up (after reviewing I just head home, on test weeks I will review until 7:00 or 8:00) 
6:15     I get home and relax.  This is when a lot of my classmates go hit the bars, workout, etc.  (I don't drink and I have a wife and two kids so this is when I play with my kids.)  

I by no means want to sugarcoat life as a student DPT but above all it is doable.  At times I feel like I am at my breaking point when it comes to studying but I just stop and take a 15 or 30 minute break to re-energize and get right back at it.  It does take up most of your time but I don't have any classmates that don't have at least some social life.  Honestly the load is heavy and the work is hard but its not impossible. 

I'm no expert but feel free to ask any questions about pt school in the comments box. I want to help pre-pt students in anyway I can. I was just in your shoes not long ago. 

Find me on Twitter: @dpt_usa

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Reality of Acceptance

Back to the waiting game. Checking the Student Doctor Network forum every day, every hour. Finally on a Friday evening at 8:00 p.m. I looked at my email and there it was, the school had sent me an email. After two long years of applying and waiting I finally received an acceptance to the University of Saint Augustin-ATX. I erupted with joy. After calling family and friends letting them know the good news it suddenly hit me; I have to move over 1,200 miles away in just a couple of months. I had been so wrapped up in the thought of going to graduate school the reality of actually going had never hit me.  I did not realize how much it would cost to move and get settled in a new state. The next few months blazed by. Getting packed was over whelming and tiring. Perhaps if I was only packing for myself it would not have been too bad but it was also packing for my wife and our two kids.  We made the long haul trip in two days and arrived in the great city of Austin, Texas.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Interview Day

After lying in bed through the early hours of the morning I finally decided to get up.  It was finally here. I put on my suit and tie, looked in the mirror and practiced my interview questions again.  I got to the school with a knot in my stomach. As I entered the amphitheater, the majority of the interviewees were already waiting. When they started to tell us how the day was going to be organized I counted how many people were there; I wanted to know my odds of getting in. There were about 75. Knowing they were only holding one interview gave me confidence; I had good chance of getting accepted.  They broke us up into three groups: tour, essay, and interview.

I started out getting a tour. It is such a small campus it did not take long to get that over with.

Then I was sent to write. When it came to the essay I was caught off guard. They handed me an envelope and the paper within had the prompt: Name 3 people that have influenced you to choose PT and how they have influenced you. As I talked to the other applicants afterward there were a variety of prompts. Some of which were why did you choose pt, why did you choose USA, what is your understanding of healthcare reform, what is the difference between PT and OT, and explain professionalism.

Finally when it was time to interview I felt comfortable and somewhat relaxed.  They interviewed in groups of four.  We were asked a question and then we would all go around and answer, taking turns responding first. I felt like being in a group made it somewhat more relaxed.  Some of the questions they asked us: 
  • Tell us about yourself.
  • What brought you to the decision to become a PT? 
  • How do you know you are stressed? 
  • How do you deal with this stress? 
  • What does professionalism mean? 
  • What does well-being mean? 
  • Tell us when you have shown integrity in your life?

As we were asked questions I felt like my answers were different than the other applicants. We were asked how we deal with stress and the other three applicants said they plan everything and exercise.  The interviewer said what about when you cannot plan; i.e. things that suddenly come up? This left the group struggling to come up with a response. When I was asked, I talked about keeping the big picture in mind, using time wisely, as well as short mediation breaks. When asked why we chose PT everyone else responded with the experience of having had an injury they had overcome through PT.  Conversely, I talked about my experiences in the clinic shadowing as well as my desire to serve the underserved (mentioning how cost effective PT is). When responding about well-being my group all talked about exercise.  I talked about the whole person; specifically about spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional well-being. 

Over all the day went great; better then I expected. Of the four in my group being interviewed, two of us are now in the program.

My suggestion for interviewees is:
  1. Practice, practice, practice 
  2. Be yourself, they want to see who you are.
  3. Find ways to stand out (dress nice, give answers unique to your experiences, ask questions)

Interview Prep

This was it, my one chance to get into physical therapy school. I started preparing the day after I received an interview invite.  I thought of questions they might ask.  I took every opportunity I could to practice.  Every night I looked at myself in the mirror and practiced. Every time I got in the car I practiced (I'm sure the cars around me thought I was crazy).  I asked myself questions not just in my head but audibly.  

I asked myself:

Why would you be a great PT?
Why do you want to be a PT?
What has led you to this point?
What does integrity mean and how have you showed it in your life?
How have you displayed honesty in your life and where did you learn to be honest?
What are some experiences you have had shadowing PT's?
What kind of people do you get along with?
What kind of people do you not get along with and how do you handle it?
What can you tell us about yourself?
Why did you choose PT over any other health profession?
How are PT's and OT's different?
Why did you not choose OT?
What is your understanding of healthcare reform? How does it affect PT?
What about our program makes you want to come here?
If you get accepted here and somewhere else where would you go?
What does it mean to be professional and how have you been professional in your life?
You live in Utah, why did you apply to a program in Texas?

Along with practicing by myself, I got others to ask me questions.  I found someone who consistently gave me very critical feedback. They even told me they hated my dress shirt during one of my practice sessions. This required some humbling and acquiring thicker skin but by the time my interview had come, I felt completely ready to go.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rejected: What Now?

It was a small fortune to pay for application fees and interview costs.  I applied to 14 schools and never saw the fruits of my labor. I was wait-listed at four schools and ultimately received rejections from all of them. To say it was discouraging is an understatement.  Thinking I truly had a shot of getting in and then facing rejection after rejection was crushing.  I considered giving up on my desire to become a physical therapist. I re-evaluated my life and where I wanted to be at the end of my career and physical therapy still felt right.

I researched and concluded I needed to look at quality over quantity. Looking at realistic options far outweighs just casting a wide net.  I came to the realization I had a really good chance of admittance to the programs at Texas State University and The University of Saint Augustine (USA). With some encouragement, I did it; I applied again.  Then the waiting game started. This is the worst part of the process, waiting and wondering. By following online forums, I knew the time was near. It happened again…. A rejection letter came in the mail. I was overcome by feelings of inadequacy; thinking I'm just not good enough. My only hope was USA; I prayed I would get an interview and it came. On a Saturday, of all days, I got an interview invite for the University of Saint Augustine. I was filled with excitement and I knew this was not the end. Having been previously interviewed, wait-listed, and ultimately rejected, I had to make this interview count.  I knew I had to knock it out of the park this time. My interview preparation had to begin immediately.

For help preparing for an interview check out some of my other posts or contact me.

If you are trying to get into PT school I would love to hear from you! Find me via:
Twitter: @DPT_USA
Facebook: Dalin Hansen