I’m not the student who knew that she wanted to be a PT from the time she injured her ACL in the 10th grade. I’m also not the person that majored in exercise science in college, ran the exercise science club, or worked as a PT tech for 4 years. (I am absolutely not dissing those people, I am just saying that was not me). I don’t have friends or former classmates in other PT programs.
I finished undergrad in 2014 with a BS in health education, a teaching license and a feeling of being a little lost. I decided to pursue a degree in PT after doing some research and some shadowing. I had to take a lot of classes and do a lot of shadowing before applying, since I didn’t have these things from undergrad. Then it came time to actually apply and I was a basket case. I applied to thirteen schools. Yes, you read that correctly, thirteen schools. After that, I had nothing to do but wait (insert crazier basket case here).
When I started getting denials and letters indicating that I had been waitlisted, I began to feel like I had made a mistake (meanwhile, my anxiety was increasing by the second). I got accepted to a couple of schools in Virginia, but could I afford that?
Then, a glimmer of hope. I got accepted into Western Carolina University.
But Western Carolina is in the middle of nowhere…how would I survive? Once I told people that I was accepted into a DPT program at WCU, in came the unsolicited and differing wave of opinions:
“Wait you’re going back to school…for 3 years???”
“You are so smart, you’re going to do so well!”
“Are you sure you can handle that???”
“You’re moving where??? Like…you realize you’re going to be super bored up there right?”
“OMG! Western?? Best 4 years of my life!!”
“Are you sure that you don’t want to teach something else instead of going back to school?”
Great, not stressful at all, right?
So how do you sort through all of that nonsense? Needless to say, I was a little confused, scared, and I didn’t really know what to expect. Even though I didn’t know what to expect, I came up with some convoluted expectations based on what I had been told by others.
False expectation #1:I’m going to be the oldest person in my class and I won’t fit in.
Okay, I realize now that this was just silly. I am not the oldest person in my class and it would not matter if I was. Not fitting in was also a crazy notion…we all want to be PTs and help others; how could we not find something that we have in common?? Short and sweet really, but that’s all I have to say about that.
False expectation #2: I’m going to be so bored in my free time and hate the area where my school is.
So wrong oh my goodness!! First of all, there is not a ton of free time in PT school, so it really doesn’t matter. Secondly, you can make the best of living in any area, it’s more about your attitude and the people surrounding you. Finally, WCU is an awesome school in a beautiful area and I couldn’t be happier with my decision to go there.
False expectation #3: Making friends and starting over in a new area with a group of strangers is going to be so hard.
Nope! I feel so grateful to have the classmates that I do (shout out to you WCU DPT class of 2020). They are all so welcoming, supporting, and fun. I made friends and fell into my niche quickly. Just a small bit of advice to future students here: put yourself out there! When your class is having events at the beginning of the semester and it might be awkward because no one knows each other yet, go anyway! The only way to reap the benefits of having a small, close-knit cohort is to get out there and get to know them.
False expectation #4:I’m never going to have time to do anything but school.
Disclaimer: Yes, PT school is very challenging. Let me say that again, PT school is hard. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Although these things are true, you will go nuts if you do nothing but school. School should be a top priority and I know there are weeks when it feels like all school all the time but there has to be time for other things. Self-care is absolutely essential. Find what helps you decompress and do that a few times a week.
I know that everyone has their own experience, but so far this has been mine. So what I am trying to say with all of this…? I guess my take home message would be to take in everything but do not get fixated on any one thing that anyone tells you or any ideas you put in your own head. If you got into PT school, someone wants you there and you’re meant to be there. So many people before you have done it and you can do it too! Try to come into school with an open mind. You will figure out what works for you and what does not work as you get settled into your niche at school.