Measuring Up: PSU DPT Candidates

Having answered several inquiries on a common question, I thought I would jump in with some resources for students looking for an answer to the question: “What criteria is PSU DPT looking for in a suitable candidate?”

Overall we are looking for candidates that will help the program achieve its Mission and Goals for Students and Graduates and therefore, help the Profession achieve its vision:

Mission Statement
The Mission of the Department of Physical Therapy is to provide a vibrant scholarly community for physical therapy in New Hampshire through teaching, research, service and practice contributing to the American Physical Therapy Association’s vision of “transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience.” The Department’s focus is on the education of physical therapists to serve the community in the fields of movement and rehabilitation to provide competent care as autonomous providers, leaders, collaborative team members, and innovators while being respectful, culturally sensitive and socially responsible.

Students will be: Professional, reflective, self motivated and directed adult learners that are respectful, culturally sensitive and socially responsible

Graduates will be: Competent, autonomous and collaborative Doctors of Physical Therapy that are prepared to provide evidence guided, knowledge based physical therapy practice to positively impact people’s lives and transform society as agents of change in their communities;  Prepared as health team leaders and advocates for innovation in the profession while being respectful, culturally sensitive and socially responsible

There are at least three areas to consider.

First, there are the very straightforward admission requirements – which are listed on our website:

Such as having earned, or having plans to earn prior to matriculation to the DPT program, a Bachelor’s degree which includes having completed a set of pre-requisite courses with a minimum of a 3.0 overall and science pre-requisite GPA; and having taken the GRE.  At this time we do not have a minimum GRE score. We need some time to evaluate the relationship between the GRE and success in the program. So, we are collecting the scores and considering them (relative to other candidates) and will be deciding over several years whether they add value and whether a minimum should be required. These requirements are most directly focused on whether a candidate is academically prepared and intellectually capable of successfully completing the DPT program. At this time we place more weight on the GPAs than the GRE. None of the above student or graduate goals can be achieved if a student cannot complete the program. So this is, by necessity, the first consideration. But it is not the only consideration. Once established that a candidate is academically prepared and intellectually capable, there are many other things to consider.

A candidate must be familiar with the profession of physical therapy (best achieved by combining work in the field as an aide or technician or by observational hours with study of the profession, critical thinking and conversations with professionals, patients and other stakeholders). At PSU we do not require observational hours. We evaluate familiarity with the profession through the Statement of Purpose and the required letter of recommendation from a physical therapist. I have been asked whether requiring the letter from a physical therapist is a way to require observation. If so, it is not intentional. Our point is that we are not evaluating the hours as if the number of hours has a particular meaning. We are evaluating the understanding that comes from the observation, combined with other sources. For example, someone could spend 2000 hours of “observing” through a work experience. But never reflect on the observations, never combine the observations with a critical rationale process and other sources of information (such as information obtained from the APTA, or other health professionals, colleagues and friends). On the other hand, someone may spend 8 hours observing and be so insightful as to garner deep insights into the profession, particularly when combined with reading, talking and critically reflecting on their experiences. So, we leave it to the Statement of Purpose and letter of reference to let us make an initial assessment, and if invited to the interview we can more fully evaluate this aspect.

Second, there are essential technical standards that are, as stated, expected and  essential cognitive, emotional, and technical skills, such as observation skills; communication skills; motor skills (fine and gross); intellectual-conceptual, integrative and quantitative abilities; and behavioral and social/emotional attributes. These are elaborated on in our DPT Student Handbook (available on our website, there is a link in the Table of Contents to the “Expected Technical Standards.” 
These are, admittedly, difficult to evaluate in an application. So we look for experiences or attributes that lend themselves toward these standards. We also admit that many of these standards are not fully formed upon arriving at a DPT program but rather are seedlings at the beginning that fully develop while in the program.

Third, there are characteristics of the individual that indicate promise in becoming a professional, these are Reasonable Professional Expectations. They include not only professional qualities and attributes for life long practice in the profession, but scholarly / educational qualities and attributes for being able to succeed in the rigorous clinical doctorate curriculum. These characteristics are rather generic – meaning those possessing them would likely succeed along a number of paths – and such are often referred to as “Generic Abilities.” These are listed and explained thoroughly as related to the expectations of students in the program in our DPT Student Handbook – available on our website, there is a link in the Table of Contents to the “Reasonable Professional Expectations”.

As with the essential standards, these are more difficult to evaluate. We look for indications in the Statement of Purpose, the PT-CAS Essay on Professionalism, Letters of Reference, and extra-curricular activities and, if invited, in the interview.