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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

Top Schools

Published March 26, 2012 12:39 PM by Danielle Bullen

Recently, we posted this list of the top physical therapy schools, as selected by US News and World Report. The magazine ranked the schools based on surveys sent to deans and other high ranking university officials. The sole criteria was "the academic quality of a program."

Given the vast number of physical therapy programs out there, chances are most PTs did not graduate from one of the top ten. But does that matter? It's interesting that the list was purely focused on academics and did not include student or alumni input. As anyone who's gone to college can tell you, academic excellence is just one piece of the pie. Location, affordability, internship opportunities, retention rates, courses offered, even the visual appeal of a campus all factor into deciding where to spend education dollars. 

Yet there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to education. The opportunity to study under a renowed professor may matter highly to applicant A while the chance to live and study in a new part of the country may matter highly to applicant B. Physical therapy school is three years of someone's life. Most physical therapists probably weighed the pros and cons of multiple universities before picking the one that's the right fit for them.

What factors did you consider when chosing a PT school? Were you happy with your decision?


Back in the early 90s, many PT schools were accepting only 3-5% of applicants. I was an older student and a career-changer and had to return to college for 2 yrs of prerequisite math/science courses before I could apply to a PT school.  Because I wanted to limit the expense of my prerequisite courses at my state university, I based my applications on which schools had the fewest and most similar requirements.  After narrowing it down further by looking at overall reputations, costs, locations, and pass rates for the national exam, I applied to 7 schools around the U.S. and was eventually accepted at (and attended) my #3 school which was across the country.  My #1 school called with an acceptance (I had been wait-listed) as I was loading the moving van to move 3000 miles away.  My decision was really made for me in the end but I'm very happy w/the direction my life took.  :-)  (except for still paying student loans 15 yrs later!)

Tammy, private practice - Owner/DPT March 27, 2012 9:16 AM

In-state tuition. I figured I would save some money by staying in-state, and then use my clinicals to explore the country.  I can say it's worked out really well so far!  I graduate in May, and then will relocate based on one of my recent clinical experiences.  I knew the school would prep me enough to be a good, entry-level, general PT.  Where I go from here is up to me!  I can say that I'm glad I don't have as much debt as some others in my shoes who came to my school from out-of-state, but that was my prime reason.  We all have different needs/wants.

Tasha P March 26, 2012 9:37 PM

Although I graduated from the University of Maryland a decade ago I feel I may have worthy info for those considering PT school these days.  Unfortunately our beloved profession has and will become further infiltrated by the all mighty dollar so value for your investment is critical.  Therefore if you have a quality school nearby that will alow you to get a greater return on your dime look there first. Another consideration should be given specialty interest.  The CV's of faculty of a given school can be review to determine if their interests are in line with yours.  Dont got o the big city if you don't like conjestion and concrete. It could also benefit one to find out what the school state licensing exam pass rate is.

Jeremy Cugle, Physical Therapy - PT/Clinic Dir. March 26, 2012 5:04 PM
Annapolis MD

Danielle - I know this is far from the type of answer you're looking for, but because I enjoy your post and read all of them, thought I would throw my 2 cents in from "way back then". I was living in Miami back in 1968 when I got interested in PT. At the time there were only 14 schools in the whole country! My initial choice was the Univ. of Florida, but believe it or not, at the time, they only accepted women (unofficial policy of course). I was also accepted at the Univ. of Alabama in Birmingham and the Univ. of Texas at Galveston. The choice was made simply because the furthest West I had ever been was Philadelphia!! And so, I came site unseen to Birmingham. My class was 12 females and two males and we graduated 9 in 1971. You asked if I was happy with my decision. Forty-one years later, I am still practicing and living in B'ham, so yes, it was a good decision. Keep up the good writing - Al D.

Al DiMicco, Ortho/Sports - Director of PT March 26, 2012 3:40 PM
Bessemer AL

I was recently accepted to Texas Woman's University in Houston.  My choice was between TWU and UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.  I chose TWU because my family lives in Houston and I am able to live at home.  My decision was ultimately financial in nature because the price of room and board over the three years is just as much as tuition.  I figured I could live at home and choose any locale I wanted to do one or two of my rotations.  

Thanos March 26, 2012 2:28 PM
Houston TX

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