Jens Matson '11: Creighton University Physical Therapy Student
One of the best ways Olaf has prepared me for school is the liberal arts background. There have been several times over the last year and a half that being able to articulate myself through speech and word have come to my advantage. Having to take the variety of literature, English, speech, and language classes that are required at Olaf, while not always the most enjoyable from a health science perspective, did a great job of increasing my ability to write and comfort in speaking to others. As a PT you talk to people from various backgrounds and walks of life everyday. You also write grants, progress notes, etc to doctors, government officials, and other professionals. While the hundreds of pages I wrote for English, religion, history classes didn't seem too relevant to my future profession they've drastically helped me thus far in PT school. Olaf also does a great job of getting students involved in a wide variety of activities and abroad experiences. I would say a majority of my classmates never had these types of experiences at their undergrad and I feel very blessed to have been in an environment where so many opportunities were at my disposal.
From an academic stand point, I think Olaf prepared me quite well. I never felt as if my undergrad education was insufficient or I was significantly behind my other classmates. I did take a year off after Olaf, so some of the foundational knowledge wasn't as fresh but I never felt I was at a disadvantage. I do wish Olaf provided a 2 semester anatomy/physiology class. I remember many schools required 2 semesters and although I had exercise physiology and the bases anatomy/phys courses, several schools wouldn't accept exercise phys. At times I feel Olaf's health science preparatory course work is primarily geared towards premed students. Looking back, I do wish there were more avenues/exposure opportunities to physical therapy for students. I had a difficult time getting in touch with students in PT programs to ask questions about the application process or simply getting a list of courses I needed to have to apply to schools. When I contacted the premed department for info PT schools/what I needed to apply I remember getting very little info, with a list of courses that were outdated, and kind of feeling like I was wasting their time. That was frustrating and I know it was for other classmates of mine who experienced something similar. I would tell students who are interested in PT to:
- Get in touch with your department before any other department. I know the exercise phys professors are much more in tune with PT and if they don't know how to answer a question they do a great job of finding the answer to best assist the student. (That was something I never experienced working with the premed folks and am very appreciative to you and your staff for).
- Start early. Even if you're not sure PT is something you want to do, get involved, shadow a PT, talk with a PT student, etc. I found my calling for PT very late in my time at Olaf. I had always thought it would be something I would be interested in, but never took the time to get more info until later on. I remember it being difficult for me to get in touch with PT students who started at Olaf to get their perspectives, so if you ever have a student who is interested or possibly think PT might be an avenue for them, please give them my info. I'd be more than happy to talk with them, help them through the application process, etc.
- Experience as much as you can. I did my primary shadowing hours in an outpatient PT clinic. I really enjoyed my time there and learned a lot, but PT is hugely diverse and there are a lot of avenues that one can take. Try and experience acute PT, inpatient PT, sports PT, pediatric PT, geriatric PT...etc, see what's out there and see what you feel connected to most.
In terms of how Olaf prepared me for Creighton specifically. Creighton and Olaf share many of the same characteristics. Both schools have a belief in a greater good. They teach their students to be knowledgeable and educated in many facets of life and to extend themselves to live a life that positively impacts those they come in contact with.I n my application process I applied to 12 different PT schools. I was eventually wait listed at one and received an interview at Creighton. The other 10 schools denied my application primarily based on grades. Creighton, however, looks at much more than grades in their application process. They look for applicants that have a higher sense of purpose and pride in their life and how they chose to carry themselves, many of the ideals that were instilled in me at Olaf. After my interview at Creighton I felt as if I was given the opportunity to interview them as much as they had interviewed me. I left with a sense of comfort and saw many of the same underlying principles in education that had been taught to me during my 4 years at Olaf. I've felt at home here since the get go, and much of that is thanks to similarities between Olaf and Creighton.
I talked about it a bit earlier, but Olaf prepared me quite well in terms of prerequisites. Again, I do wish Olaf offered a second semester of anatomy/physiology. Since they don't, I would recommend students pursue taking another physiology course such as animal physiology or exercise phys. Because some schools don't accept exercise phys, taking animal phys will keep the most doors open, but from a big picture perspective, I would take exercise phys because its more pertinent and applicable for a PT or health professional. It's also important students keep a list of prerequisites in mind. After I graduated I had to take a medical terminology and psychology course on my own because many schools require a med term course and many require 3-4 semesters of psych. All the primary prerequisites are covered at Olaf but I would just suggest students keep in mind the other courses like psych, stats, math (at least calc 2, I believe), etc that are needed outside of bio, chem, physiology, etc. Again, I started my path on PT late so I had to take a summer course and further schooling after I graduated, but if a student is a little more on top of what they what to do they should have no issues completing all the prereq work ahead of time.
Again, in terms of shadowing experiences I would just suggest that you get as much exposure in the field as possible. I would say your best bet is to get 100hrs of experience logged. Some schools require less than that, but if you get in 100hrs, you'll meet the requirements of the majority of schools. Whether those hours are as a volunteer or PT tech or whatever, get in the clinic and observe. Log some hours with one PT, then ask if they have anyone in another area of PT they could follow, and continue on from there. PTs are a fairly tight bunch and most will know someone they can get you in touch with for more shadowing hours.
My biggest advice on the application process is simply to start early. If you're going to apply, I would suggest getting your applications started during the summer so you can send them out as soon as the applications are accepted. There are a lot of components for the application between the GRE, prerequisites, getting official transcripts, application essays, the applications themselves. If you get it done before the school year begins its much easier, as trying to do it during the school year is like taking another class.
PT school has been very difficult at times but since starting there hasn't been a time that I've regretted or questioned my decision. I feel at home at Creighton and believe Olaf prepared me well not only through didactic preparation but by giving me self-confidence and a good perspective of my surroundings. One of the best insights I can offer is to keep the big picture in mind. I applied my senior year and didn't get in. In the long run, taking a year off was the best thing for me. It allowed me to strengthen my application, get some more quality work experience, pay off some undergrad loans, and take a respite from the daily grind of school. I feel like there's a lot of pressure at times to keep going on and start grad school right after undergrad. But at the end of the day a year or two years difference isn't that big in the grand scheme of things. Everyone is different and the path to becoming a PT, OT, doctor, nurse, etc is difference for everyone. Just get involved, get an understanding of what you're interested in, and seek as many opportunities to widen you're perspective as possible.