Advice from Students

Advice from PT Students

Info about muscles/bones etc. is very nice to know, but after that you should be able to keep up without needing to remember all that much. –Aaron Doorn, 2019

It is definitely helpful to remember as much as you can from undergrad, but it won’t break you if you don’t. As crazy as it sounds, I was a marketing major in undergrad and took the pre-requisite classes, but I didn’t have a lot of the other science classes everyone else had. I was nervous about this at first but I soon came to find that eventually, everyone gets to be on the same page because grad school is a whole new level. You just have to have the drive and motivation” –Cathryn Fischer, 2019

Aside from your anatomy and physiology courses, not much honestly. Even if you don’t remember a whole lot from your undergrad classes, you’ll be okay – you might just feel a little behind your classmates for a few weeks” –Michael Sanders, Class of 2018

A good basis in anatomy and physiology will take you a long way, but don’t worry about the little details. Everything you need to know will be taught and whether it is review or not will decide where you allot your time studying. – Rachel Badr, Class of 2019


Each class challenges you in a different way. Some classes require lots of outside time to review, some require you to pay close attention in class, and others require lots of both. There isn’t any challenge that you won’t be ready for, and the faculty will always be there to steer you in the right direction –John Lehman, 2019

The classes are difficult but it was to be expected since it is a graduate level program. They require more time and effort than undergrad did but it is manageable. Stay on top of things and carve out time daily to study and it will be fine.–Brianna Witte, 2019

They’re difficult but manageable. The faculty knows how much they are assigning and expecting of their students but they’re not trying to sink you. Just come into the classes with the mindset that you’re going to have to work hard, especially in the first semester and you’ll be fine. –Michael Sanders, Class of 2018

The information itself is not entirely difficult, however, the amount of content required to know is quite difficult. Certain classes are more difficult than others, but be prepared to spend a large amount of time outside of class learning the entirety of the information. –Taylor Witczak, 2019

Individually, the classes are all very manageable. The more difficult part is time management, and figuring out how to fit studying for everything into an already busy schedule. The nice thing about grad school, and PT school in particular, is that the teachers don’t want you to fail, they want to see you succeed. So regardless of how hard (or not hard) the content is, all the teachers do their best (during scheduled or non-scheduled class hours) to make sure you learn the material well.– Kathryn Collins, Class of 2018

We don’t want to scare you, but we don’t want to lie either. First semester is a LOT of work. I wouldn’t say the content or concepts are hard so much as the sheer amount of work thrown at you. But take it one day at a time and remember that the rest of your classmates are in the same boat. You’ll all get through it together –Cathryn Fischer, 2019

PT answer, “it depends”. There are easy classes and hard classes. I would say overall the classes are challenging and take some dedication but I also feel that I got what I put into the classes. I never really felt behind or lost with any of the classes. -Nick Failer, Class of 2017

The DPT program is a rigorous curriculum, as it should be. If you are accepted to the program you have clearly dedicated time and energy into your studies for undergraduate coursework and you should have no problem being successful in the DPT program. You will end up studying more than you ever have but in return you are gaining immense knowledge and skills to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. -Stacey Omiljan, Class of 2016

Quite a lot. I spend at least 4-5 hours a day (during the week) studying for school. On weekends, it may be a little less, except right before exams. Before exams I double the amount of time spent studying. Overall, I would recommend 10-20 hours a week of studying. –Brianna Witte, 2019

I would say it depends. I am not a minimalist when it comes to school, so I spend a large amount of time outside of class practicing techniques and reviewing information. It is my hopes to be able to provide the best amount of care to my future patients, so I believe learning information and techniques to the best of my ability. Though, I have seen other students put in less hours and still receiving passing grades or higher. –Taylor Witczak, 2019

It can vary WIDELY from person to person, but you should plan on at least 1-2 hours most nights. –Aaron Doorn, 2019

I do smaller assignments almost every day or at least a few days during the school week. I like to start studying for an exam at least a week before, because it’s pretty stressful to only have a few days to cram. –Logan Ridge, Class of 2019

It varies, and it depends on your particular strengths. Some may struggle more with the rote memorization of first semester anatomy or kinesiology, and others may struggle more with the abstract treatment concepts in fourth semester neurological interventions. Regardless, if you’re accepted to the program, you’re capable of making the adjustments necessary to pass PT school-level courses. -Tom Tresh, Class of 2017

Be prepared to treat the program like a job. A lot of time spent outside of class will be spent studying. It varies significantly from person to person depending on how you study best. -Micah Huegel, Class of 2016

Not that much, other than spending more time studying and putting more effort into it. If you plan for it to be challenging and plan accordingly it is not that bad. –Brianna Witte, 2019

Depending on your undergraduate major, a lot. Cramming for a couple hours the night before an exam isn’t necessarily going to cut it at the graduate level. Learning time management skills and not procrastinating as much as you may have in undergrad will make your life a lot easier. –Michael Sanders, Class of 2018

Honestly it didn’t feel all that different to me besides the increase in difficulty. You still deal with the same old college student problems with just a little more responsibility. –Aaron Doorn, 2019

This kind of depends on your study habits. If you are someone who procrastinates a lot the adjustment might be harder to make. I procrastinated a lot in undergrad and had to completely change my study habits. Once I made studying a part of my daily habits, I didn’t feel as overwhelmed. –Megan Sullivan, 2019

If you had good study habits in undergrad, you will not need that much adjustment during graduate school. Most people use the same study habits but just need to adjust the amount of time spent on studying. -Anna Stinson, Class of 2017

Quite a bit of adjustment is required due to studying habits. What works for one class does not work for another. Playing around with habits was helpful-groups, independent, flashcards, hands-on, whiteboard, etc. -Jamie Bott, Class of 2017

Is the first semester really stressful? If so, what are ways that students cope with it?

YES! It was especially stressful for me because I was newly married and my husband didn’t know what to expect. He did not think it would be as labor intensive and that I would be spending 80-90% of my free time studying or doing homework. I was also juggling motherhood and so that added another layer of stress to the mix. To cope, I made sure to take 1 night a week, usually Friday, for myself and my family. We would spend time playing games, watching movies, and having bonfires. It is critical to take time and relax. There needs to be a balance between school and your personal life or you will burn out before the end of the first year. –Brianna Witte, 2019

The first semester is very challenging, but there are resources available to you to help you succeed. The degree of difficulty of that first semester, in some ways, is related to how well you utilize (or don’t utilize) the resources put at your disposal. – Kathryn Collins, Class of 2018

It becomes stressful if you fail to stay on top of your studying and practicing outside of class. In regards to coping strategies, make sure to set aside time for yourself for non-school related activities. –Taylor Witczak, 2019

It’s stressful but also pretty exciting to be with a group of students who have the same mindset as you. Making sure to work hard during the week but also take a day or two off to go downtown and enjoy the Grand Rapids night life or joining an intramural team to blow off some steam is key to having a more positive experience throughout PT school. –Michael Sanders, Class of 2018

It is stressful due to the amount of exams. For a little while it feels like there’s at least one exam almost every week. I cope by making sure to take time to do relaxing/fun things even when I am busy. That way I don’t feel like all I ever do is school work. –Logan Ridge, Class of 2019

The first semester is challenging because you’re meeting a ton of new people, finding a new place to live, go to a different building (and finding parking-which is always difficult), and a lot of classes. Working out, listening to music, Bible study classes, intramural sports are among the most popular ways to cope with the stress. -Jamie Bott, Class of 2017

Personally, I think the first semester is the hardest semester of PT school. You have to teach yourself how to manage stress because there are lots of tests so there’s never really any time to sulk or get down on yourself for getting something wrong. I utilized walking and studying to help keep me active while still retaining my notes! I think having a regular exercise schedule helps to physically reduce the mental stress very well. -Micah Huegel, Class of 2016


I would have spent more time studying anatomy during the week to avoid overloading myself on the weekends. –Taylor Witczak, 2019

I would have asked more questions. There were many times I was confused about something but I don’t like speaking up in class so I just let it go. –Megan Sullivan, 2019

Taken better notes and done a better job of committing the anatomy course to memory rather than just memorizing and regurgitating for exams. It’s borderline mentally impossible to remember O’s, I’s and A’s but at least being familiar with these, especially the innervations, I think would have helped me further down the road. –Michael Sanders, Class of 2018

I would have visited my professors during office hours to discuss material that I was struggling with rather than attempting to figure things out myself. It probably would have saved me a whole lot of stress and time. – Rachel Badr, Class of 2019

Stop worrying about what other people are doing, and study the way you have done in the past. You got into PT school because you excelled in undergrad by learning what works best for you, so keep doing that! -Anna Stinson, Class of 2017

Make an effort to get to know the faculty. We have an amazing group of clinicians at our fingertips. Even if it’s a simple greeting or an unrelated conversation, the faculty is phenomenal at making time for students. -Sarah Harlow, Class of 2017

Remember everyone here is smart. You got in because you are smart. Don’t spend all your time comparing yourself to everyone else. You do not need straight As. Work for that A, but do not dwell if you didn’t get 100%. Just learn the material. And take it seriously; this is all job training you will need in the future. - Ben Mastbergen, Class of 2017

Come in with the knowledge that everyone has different academic strengths, and the opportunity to learn from each other is invaluable. Put more time into developing your skills than comparing them to others, and never forget to have fun along the way! –John Lehman, 2019

TAKE A DEEP BREATH! You’re here because you deserve it. VERY few people don’t make it through the program, so you were obviously selected to be successful. –Aaron Doorn, 2019

I think it is good to remember that PT school is a marathon and not a sprint. Yes, you need to study hard in the first semester and subsequent semesters, but it shouldn’t be at the cost of your sanity. Sometimes I toed that line too closely and crossed it a couple times. Additionally, one bad grade does not mean you are going to be a terrible PT. It took me a couple “bad grades” to convince myself of that. – Kathryn Collins, Class of 2018

One bad exam or one bad practical doesn’t determine your whole grade for the class. The program is designed to help us succeed so don’t sweat the small setbacks. –Logan Ridge, Class of 2019

Don’t compare yourself to others, rather use your classmates as resources and be a resource yourself. Each of you will have different strengths and weaknesses- take advantage of that. Once you enter PT school, the only competition that ever occurs is during IM sports leagues. Rachel Badr, Class of 2019

Schedule a standing weekly study session with a classmate (or classmates) and practice all the things you learned in lab that week on each other. Don’t compare yourself to your classmates. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Know that you and a classmate could each study differently and absorb the same amount of information. Figure out what works well for you and do that. -Rachel McElroy, Class of 2016

Try not to forget about the things that make you happy. It is important to get involved and participate in PT events and opportunities, but it is okay to have outside hobbies too. If you play intramural sports-start a team, if you like to volunteer at the animal shelter-find a place nearby, if you like to travel-make it happen. We often need to talk and relate with our patients and those are the life experiences that you will come back to, not your time in class. -Sarah Harlow, Class of 2017

Some people do, some people don’t. It’s a personal decision you should make, taking into account your study habits, work demands/scheduling, and finances. I personally do side-jobs rather than keep a consistent part-time job, but some classmates work part-time, and others don’t work. –John Lehman, 2019

I would say it is possible yes, but at least the first semester might not be a great idea. The staff usually encourages students not to get jobs as school should be our full-time job, but this just isn’t realistic. It’s helpful to have a work schedule that’s VERY flexible if you are going to work. I had a flexible schedule during first semester and still did great in my classes. – Cathryn Fischer, 2019

I would say yes, except in the very first semester of PT school. Adjusting to grad school and dealing with the work load of the first semester is a challenge enough. It is worth taking out an extra loan for that semester to not have to work. During the remainder of the program, I would say it is possible to work a part-time job. – Kathryn Collins, Class of 2018

I wouldn’t recommend working the first semester to anyone unless you absolutely must. The first semester has crucial information that sets the foundation for the remainder of the curriculum. PT school should be your number one priority during this time. I didn’t begin working until second semester, and even then I kept my hours very low and made sure I was working a flexible job. I’d say that anytime after first semester it would be feasible to work and stay on top of your studies as so long as you keep your hours at a minimum (~10-15 hrs max) and are able to manage your time appropriately. – Rachel Badr, Class of 2019

While I never had a normal job during PT school, I did have other commitments at times (e.g. coaching football) and I found it to be more stressful than rewarding. Everyone is different, but I’d suggest you make sure you can handle school alone before adding anything else to your plate. -Tom Tresh, Class of 2017

Absolutely, I worked every semester. But you have to know how you function. I worked throughout undergrad as well so I was used to having outside responsibilities. My advice would be to keep your hours low during first semester while you adjust and when you’re looking for a job, take into account the employer’s flexibility with changing school schedules (because there will be the occasional required event outside of what is posted on Blackboard). -Sarah Harlow, Class of 2017

GVSU honestly sold themselves really well. The biggest thing for me was how amazingly personable the entire faculty felt even upon first encounter. I also liked the way they presented themselves as a program that always sought to stay current on the advances in therapy. –Aaron Doorn, 2019

The city of Grand Rapids played a big part, as did the networking opportunities with health professionals in the extensive medical community here. It was also important to me that we get a chance to take electives during our 3rd year. –John Lehman, 2019

The options for clinicals! A few other schools I talked to didn’t allow students to travel much outside of the area, but through GV, you can go anywhere in the U.S. and they’ve even done some abroad. Our facility is also incredibly nice and up to date. –Cathryn Fischer, 2019

A lot of factors played into my decision, but ultimately the facility and city of Grand Rapids are what sold me. The resources CHS has to offer, in addition to the faculty who work around the clock to make sure their students succeed, makes this program appealing and untouchable. GVSU’s ties to the medical field and being at the top of the Medical Mile really opens up doors for networking and job opportunities. Grand Rapids has so much to offer and I can’t imagine having gone elsewhere. – Rachel Badr, Class of 2019

Grand Valley has an amazing reputation for their program across the state and nationally. They have amazing faculty that are experts in their field and really want you to succeed. I liked the curriculum layout in that you get to learn in the classroom and in labs, then go out into the clinic and utilize those skills throughout the entire program versus waiting until the final year to get out in the clinic. Grand Valley has 5 clinical experiences, which I found to be more than in other programs that give you the opportunity to see and work in different clinics and settings. GVSU also has beautiful facilities that allow you to work with top of the line equipment. Additionally, being located in Grand Rapids is ideal for having a fun time out with your classmates to de-stress! -Stacey Omiljan, Class of 2017