Of all the many requirements you must overcome and/or accomplish before you can attend the physical therapy school of your choice, the application interview is one of the most challenging. Admissions interviews are common practice in American schools, so you’ll need to prepare for them irregardless of which State you are applying to study in.
Below, we’ve outlined some steps that will help you when applying for physical therapy school. These basic, but essential tips will not only prepare you for, but ace, your physical therapy school admissions interview.
In any interview, the best way to present yourself as capable and in control of the situation is to remain calm. The first step to making a great impression in an interview setting really is to be at ease without appearing aloof or disinterested. Answer the questions put to you without wandering off topic, be personable and honest, and take your time to answer as necessary. Interviewers look for intelligent, reasoned answers; nobody expects you to spout rapid-fire responses.
If you’ve ever applied for a job, this one should be obvious by now. However, for those who are unaware of the importance of proper dress code when undergoing an interview, the following is always true: every interviewer you interact with makes up their mind the moment you walk in the door, largely based on what you’re wearing and how you look; everything you say and do after that first impression will only confirm what the interviewer originally thought of you. It is extremely rare for an interviewee to win over an interviewer who has already registered a mental “no”.
Unless specifically told to wear otherwise, always come to an interview dressed in what is known as “business casual”. This catch call phrase covers a lot of ground, but refers to someone well dressed and well groomed. Under all circumstances avoid wearing ripped or torn clothing, and avoid extreme styles – unfortunately, though an admissions interview shouldn’t require you to change your outward appearance for someone else’s benefit, we still live in a world where people misunderstand many social movements and tend to make up their minds negatively when confronted with goth, punk rock, and other “extreme” appearances. Tone down for the interview, then go back to being who you really are once it’s done. Every interview is a game, and unfortunately for the duration of it you’re being asked to play by someone else’s rules.
Most admissions interviews follow a fairly basic formula. Interviewers will want to know about you personally: what your interests are; why you want to go into physical therapy; what you think qualifies you to do so; your career goals; why you think the school you are applying for is the right fit for you.
In most cases you will also be asked about your strengths and your weaknesses. This question is asked in every interview, everywhere, ever, and even though it’s actually a lousy barometer of your appropriateness for pretty much anything born out of a quick stab at psychological profiling, you need to prepare an answer that will blow your interviewer away, since this question often weighs heavily in their assessment. We suggest “diligent”, “conscientious”, or “dedicated” for your named strength, and “overachiever” for your weakness. Keep it to one for each in any case.
And, of course, your interviewer is going to ask you questions related to the actual study of physical therapy itself, so you’ll want to come with the knowledge at your fingertips. This is the point at which you should mention any practical experience you have in the field as well, since that will often raise the interviewer’s estimation of you: nothing says dedicated like prior experience.
Speaking Skills (Good Communication)
The moment the interview begins, the interviewer is evaluating your ability to communicate effectively as well as all the other factors they are assessing. The first thing you need to know about this is that eye contact really is the primary method of good communication. If you can’t meet your instructor’s eyes they’re going to wonder what you’re hiding, and then they’re going to wonder why you want to go into a field where you have to spend hours conversing with patients since you’re clearly uncomfortable talking to others.
This isn’t to say you have to be peppy or behave like a cheerleader during an interview. Answer questions comfortably, address your interviewer like a real person – if nothing else this is great practice for when you have to work in a clinical setting – and answer questions as though you were in a test setting by starting your answer with rephrasing the question: i.e. “This school is the right fit for me because …”. You’d be amazed how effective not making your interviewer go digging through your answers for the core kernel they need to write down can be.
The first mistake you can make in an interview is to show up late. It sends an immediate signal that this interviewer isn’t really that important to you, and that, consequently, your application isn’t really all that important to you either. Interviews are all about presentation, and this is one of those key points you can’t fudge. If you know you’re going to be late, phone ahead and inform the interviewer or the scheduler. This, at least, is excusable. But you’ll need to have a good reason behind your tardiness. “I decided to sleep through my alarm” is never a good idea, whereas “The transit system was experiencing mechanical failure” is a perfectly viable reason for being late. Just don’t lie about why you’re late if you are. That never pans out well.
Now that you’ve got a pretty good idea of how to pass your admissions interview, you should take some time to look into physical therapy schools available to you if you haven’t already decided on one. And while you’re at it, you should have a look at the financial aid available to you. It never hurts to have more funding. Good luck with your interview!