Pt Grad School Essays

Use your own words to create a personal essay that responds to the question below.

What is professionalism in the context of being a student in a doctor of physical therapist degree program?

You cannot make edits to your personal statement after you have submitted your application to PTCAS. Your personal statement will be sent to all PTCAS programs to which you apply, and so you should not personalize it to any specific program. PTCAS staff will not review your essay response for grammar or content.

Technical Requirements

You are limited to approximately 1 page (4,500 characters, including spaces). Some formatting characters used in programs such as Word (angled quotes, accents, special characters, bold, underline, or italics) will not display properly. Therefore, PTCAS recommends that text be copied and pasted into the web form from a plain text editor such as Notepad, rather than Word.

Ah, the personal statement. Arguably the most important component of your application to PT school (or any other graduate program, really, but for the sake of simplicity we’ll use physical therapy here.)

You spend days, weeks, and probably months crafting your personal statement and now you’re ready to paste it into your PTCAS application(Physical Therapy Centralized Application Service)and hit submit.

Just a second. This is a personal statement, but is it about you?

PTCAS calls it an essay, rather than a personal statement, so it can be easy to forget that for PT school applications- they’re the same thing. For this essay, PTCAS provides a specific prompt, and this year’s prompt is thesame as last year’s:

“What is professionalism in the context of being a student in a doctor of physical therapist degree program?”

If you ask a lot of different people for advice on the essay, they’ll all likely tell you the same thing- follow the prompt. Answer the question. I, personally, wrote out a personal statement generally addressing why I wanted to be a physical therapist. Then, come application time, I found that I had to rewrite most of of it because the prompt was more specific than I expected.

But that’s a story for another time.

Okay, so you follow this year’s prompt. You list out all of the great characteristics a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) student should have in order to maintain and exude professionalism. Clear communication skills, confidence, empathy… you know the deal.


The mistake I’ve seen in many personal statements, however, is that people are forgetting to make the personal statement, well, personal! 

Up until the essay, your PTCAS application will be mostly numbers (GPA, GRE) or short lists of extra-curriculars without much context. The personal statement is your opportunity to really shine and showcase your personality.

To do that, another key point to remember as you write is not to tell the reader anything, but rather “show” them through vivid and anecdotal writing.

No matter how you define professionalism in the indicated context, you need evidence that you practice what you preach, or that you at least have a plan of how to do so.

For example, if you think that empathy is important to professionalism as a DPT studentinclude an example from your own life that shows that you embody this exact trait. Recount stories from your time as a babysitter, older sibling, kind PT volunteer- whatever.

Remember, show. Don’t tell.

To construct an essay that captures your uniqueness, try some of these writing tips:

  • Include a story that is both captivating and relevant
  • Start with a cliffhanger, then bring it full circle at the end
  • Reflect on your experiences as a shadow, volunteer, or tech
  • Jot down the differences between undergraduate and graduate programs
  • Come up with at least 2 ways in which your desire to become a PT is different from every other PT hopeful
  • Try to see PT in everything. Look for ways to connect both everyday routine and special events of value to physical therapy


3 things to keep in mind:

  1. the prompt
  2. your story + how it connects to the prompt
  3. show, don’t tell

What do you think of this year’s prompt? Are you using any of the methods in the bullet points above?

Let me know in the comments!

Happy writing!

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