Choosing the Right PT Program
This time last year, I was just starting to hear back from PT programs and had attended my first interview. Choosing what schools to apply to and, ultimately, where to attend, was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make. Here are some of the things I considered to be most important:
Location/Commute: The first thing I considered was location. I only applied to programs that were in places I had family support and knew I'd like to live after graduation. Of course, family support is not an option for everyone, but location still affects cost and quality of life. I wound up attending a program about 10 minutes driving distance from the house where I live with family for minimal cost.
Cost: The cost of the programs I applied to was a huge consideration. The debt we have to take on as DPT students is enormous and should not be overlooked. I still wound up at a very expensive program, but I did not apply to programs costing more than $90K in total. This eliminated a ton of private schools and out-of-state programs from my list.
Curriculum Style: Some programs employ "problem-based learning." The concept is somewhat above my head, so I'd suggest looking it up, but it didn't sound like it was for me. I do well with a traditional model of lectures, labs and tests and didn't want to stray away from that. I did not apply to any programs with problem-based learning models. Further, some programs have curriculums and faculty with a heavier emphasis on a certain setting. From my uneducated perspective, I tried to choose a program with a very well-rounded curriculum, because I have no idea where I want to work.
Professor Specialties: I'm lucky to attend a program with faculty who have very niche specialties including wound care and lymphedema specialists, cardiopulmonary experts, NICU and more. I didn't consider this while applying but I'm now very glad that I've had the exposure to these professors. I'm not sure whether this is typical at other programs, but I would definitely ask what specialties professors have and, perhaps more importantly, whether they're still active in clinical practice. Having specialized, active professors has already given me invaluable perspective on my vast opportunities for practice.
Overall, I think cost and location were my most important decision-making factors and, despite the other great things my program offered, I'd have chosen a cheaper but still well-located school if I'd had the opportunity. Still, if cost and location are equal, I'd move on to weighing factors pertaining to the quality of the program.
I'd also like to note that the school's NPTE pass rate is important; however, it seemed to me that most programs were in the high 90s, so that didn't wind up being a contributing factor to my decision.