On pre-physical therapy Facebook groups and message boards all over the Internet, there is one question asked repeatedly this time of year. The question is unique to applicants who are starting to get accepted by various physical therapy programs: what do you do when you get multiple acceptances to PT programs?
Unlike most undergraduate programs, which have similar application and decision deadlines – apply by the end of the year, be accepted by the end of March, have your deposit in by May 1st – most physical therapy programs have rolling admissions and decisions deadlines.
Although one would think that after being accepted, all the hard work is over, there are a few complications that result from being admitted into multiple physical therapy programs due to their varying timelines. Because most programs require you to submit a deposit shortly after acceptance, usually within two weeks, this can mean having to submit a deposit at one school before you’ve even finished applying to other programs. The situation can create a stressful situation for applicants, leading them to wonder if they should just accept a spot at the first school they get into, or forfeit their place, hoping to gain acceptance elsewhere. These may be “champagne problems,” but to applicants, they can cause a lot of stress. And there is another solution!
I know because a few years ago, I was in the same situation.
At the end of January during my application cycle, I interviewed at Columbia University, one of my top choice schools. About three days later, I was ecstatic to receive an acceptance via email. Although it wasn’t my first acceptance letter, Columbia was one of my top two choices, and the decision was thrilling.
Around the same time, I was also thrilled to be accepted into my other top-choice school. We’ll call this School X.
Both schools required deposits of about $500 placed within two weeks in order to secure my spot. However, I wouldn’t be able to decide within two weeks because my husband was also waiting to hear back from graduate schools and trying to secure a position coaching college basketball.
He eventually got into both Columbia and a university in the same city as School X, and we had a big decision on our hands: Which school was right for both of us?
Columbia, of course, has a great reputation and is located in New York City, near my hometown. School X would have required a cross-country move to my husband’s hometown but had an equally impressive standing. I had visited both schools, met great professors and students at both, and learned great things about both programs.
Neither of us felt comfortable making such a huge decision – where to study, where to live, where to develop contacts, and potentially work for the next several years – in only two weeks.
I decided to put down deposits at both programs, knowing that schools develop waitlists for just this reason: not everyone who accepts a position in physical therapy school takes it. $500 is not an insignificant amount of money, but compared to the price of actually attending PT school—and the potential cost of choosing the wrong program—it’s worth it to buy yourself some time.
Over the next several weeks, I did a lot of research.
I joined Facebook groups for both of my accepted classes to see what my future classmates were like. I emailed current students at both schools to get more information about what each program was like from the students’ perspectives.
I also used my multiple acceptances to leverage my financial packages.
I sent an email to School X letting them know that Columbia had offered me a generous merit scholarship based on my high undergraduate GPA. I asked if they might consider doing the same.
It was scary to ask so blatantly for more money, but I realized I had nothing to lose. The worst possible outcome was School X possibly denying my request. It’s not like they would have rescinded my admission.
And in the end, School X offered me a very similar merit scholarship!
As Ellen Pompeo, the lead actress on Grey’s Anatomy, said in a recent interview, “Decide what you think you're worth and then ask for what you think you're worth. Nobody's just going to give it to you.”
My advice to current pre-PT students is two-fold:
Keep your GPA up – not only will this make you a more attractive applicant, but it can also save you thousands of dollars
Don’t be afraid to ask for more money – if you don’t ask, you definitely won’t get it
My multiple deposit plan seemed foolproof until I received an email from Columbia’s director in March. She had found out from PTCAS that I had put down a deposit at a second school, and wanted to know if I still planned on attending Columbia.
Her email wasn’t angry; she simply hoped I was still coming and was looking for an answer soon. I wrote back quickly saying that I needed more time and would let her know when I had reached my decision.
By April, my husband and I had both decided upon attending Columbia. I contacted School X to thank them and rescind their offer and emailed Columbia letting them know I was definitely coming.
While physical therapy school was tough at times, and it often felt like graduation day would never arrive, I never doubted my place in the program. The extra time spent deciding where to study meant I had thought through my decision carefully and was confident I had made the right choice.
I urge pre-DPT students who are in the same boat to make a similar plan. Take your time to decide on the best school for you, even if you have to put down multiple deposits. Also, keep the schools in the loop, by politely explaining that you need more time to decide, to prevent your spot from being taken.
It has now been over six years since I was fortunate enough to encounter such a difficult decision and PT school is behind me. I am grateful every day for the wonderful education I received that has prepared me exceptionally well for the career I love, and I hope others will have the same.
Have any of you found yourselves in this situation? Let us know how you handled it in the comments!