Advice from Students

Advice from PT Students

"I feel like my undergraduate classes laid the necessary foundation for entering into PT school, but I doubt that I would do very well on, say, an organic chemistry test at this point in time. For me personally, I feel like it helped to teach me how to study on a smaller scale". -Sylvia Knight, 2022

"It is important to remember that not every student in your program has the same major/minor from the same university with the same volunteer experience.  If you are able to retain basic information from your core classes and have developed strong study skills, you have set yourself up to be successful." -Sydney Alexander, 2022

"As an exercise science major at Grand Valley State University, much of the information that was covered in pre-requisite courses will be refreshed in PT school. I found that I remembered more than I would have guessed, but there are some courses that reviewing would prove beneficial. Specifically, looking over material from anatomy, cadaver lab, and kinesiology would be helpful in preparing for the first semester." -Troy Venneman, 2022

"Get organized! You should purchase a planner and someone in your class will create a class calendar on google drive where you can input all important dates and events. Don’t start studying- you will be thankful you were able to enjoy your last summer school free! "– Hayley Vanbeek 2020

“I was an exercise science major at Grand Valley State University, so learning exercise testing procedures was very helpful for the cardiopulmonary classes in the program. I also was a teaching assistant for cadaver lab in undergraduate school, and because this was one of the harder classes in the first semester I felt I was in good shape because of the extra experience.” -Liz Malear, 2021

"To prep for classes I typically go through the syllabi for assignment due dates and exam dates and put it in my planner before the semester starts." – Elizabeth Malear 2021

“It was definitely not essential to retain all the information from undergrad. But if you want to be ahead for some classes, the exercise physiology classes and athletic training labs that I took were really helpful in the musculoskeletal skeletal semester because we covered a handful of the special tests that we learned in the musculoskeletal exam course. These classes also served as good reference material when trying to understand concepts during the program.” -Jessi Ramos, 2021

“As we go through the program the professors do ask us to know information we might have covered in undergrad but they are also really good about giving us references to look at if we don’t remember the information or if our major in undergrad didn’t cover that topic.” -Lauren Lyon, 2021

"Review your core classes (mainly anatomy)"- Justyna Marasco 2020

“I would argue that coming in with a general biology and anatomy knowledge was sufficient for the program. Before coming into the program I was a pharmacy student, therefore I did not come into the program with the same base knowledge about exercise that some of my peers had. Just know that if you don’t remember something you learned in undergrad or perhaps never covered it like in my case, you may have to work a little harder to learn some of the concepts.” -Adam Doorn, 2021

“I do not believe that you have to remember every detail from your undergrad experience because the program is designed to work with students from a different undergraduate experiences. For instance I studied Allied Health and biology for my undergraduate degree and I had a much different course load and learning experience than my peers that studied exercise science before starting the program. By accepting all different undergraduate backgrounds the program is set up so you can work with your peers to help your understanding of topics that they may have had more experience with.” -Christine Garcia, 2021

“I think I had an advantage going into the first semester because I had taken a higher level regional anatomy course [BMS 460] during undergrad. I would say that knowledge from classes like regional anatomy helped me solidify my understanding of the human body during the first semester. Also, I had the opportunity to be a lab assistant in the cadaver lab, so I felt more prepared for working with cadavers and could use my skills to help others that had less experience working with them.” -Glenn Fitkin, 2021




"The concepts and information can sometimes be challenging, but are all manageable, it’s more the amount of information thrown at you in a relatively short amount of time. The program is challenging, and I definitely questioned, and still question, if I belong here, but I know everyone who is accepted and wants to be here, should be." -Sylvia Knight, 2022

"The classes in this program are challenging, but, because the courses are mostly predefined each semester, they are proven to be manageable together. This also means you can rely on classmates to help further understanding and stay on track as everyone is taking a similar or identical course load. Additionally, the faculty are very motivated to see their students succeed, so asking for guidance or clarification is easy to do."-Troy Venneman, 2022

“The courses you take are difficult but they challenge you in a different way. The classes ask you to apply things that you are eventually going to be using in PT practice whereas in undergrad I knew I would probably never need to know the details of the history class I was required to take.” -Lauren Lyon, 2021 

"Professors all care about our learning here. There are higher volumes of materials than in undergrad coursework. Were expected to take responsibility for our learning more." – Glenn Fitkin 2021

“The courses are comparatively a lot more work than my undergraduate workload, but it is manageable. I study twice as much as I did prior to the program, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that it is twice as much material to cover. Also, I think that the material you learn during the program is important for the rest of your career so you spend more time studying it because you need to know the material long term.” -Leslie Tannis, 2021 

“I do not think the classes are easy by any sense but I also don’t believe the classes are impossible if you put forth the effort. For instance, I find that I have good time management skills so I was able to stay on top of things pretty easily but if I did not have these skills I think I could have struggled to learn all the material they throw at you.” -Jessi Ramos, 2021

“I think compared to undergrad, the classes are definitely more difficult, but I do not think that the course load is going to cause you to lose sleep. If you can manage your time well, and are willing to put in the work to learn the material, the program is manageable.” -Adam Doorn, 2021

"Depends on where you completed your undergrad. The biggest difference I will say is that you have to learn to be flexible as schedules change week to week. Classes are also often more interactive and require you to stay engaged. And bonus- all your classes are now classes you care about!" - Sarah Johnson 2020

"I view the program as my job, because it’s information that I need in order to be successful in my career later on, which helps me to see the work outside of class as necessary and kind of like overtime. The payoff will just come later. I would say depending on the semester, I put in an average of 3-4 hours a day studying/doing homework. Weekends, especially before exams, are often mostly studying." -Sylvia Knight, 2022

"I would guess I typically spend between 2 and 4 hours of studying and homework on any given day. I can get away with spending less time during easier weeks, but study times usually increase to 5 to 6 hours a day prior to exams.  The rate at which you can learn information is a large factor in determining how long studying and homework will take." -Sebastian Vanderest, 2022

“Study time really depends on the person but I probably spend 10-15 hours a week studying. Typically these hours were spent studying on the weekend because I prefer to set aside longer blocks of time to study versus just sitting down for 45 minutes and studying one PowerPoint.” -Leslie Tannis, 2021

"Studying differs from undergrad because it is much more applied knowledge and skill based learning." – Mikaela Harless 2021

“I would say I spend an average of 3-4 hours studying every day. Which may seem like a lot after a 6-8 hour day of class, but it’s good to take advantage of your breaks between classes to complete assignments to spread out the study time. You also will need to add more study time if you have a large group assignment or an exam coming up.” -Jessie Ramos, 2021

“On average I study about 2-3 hours a day for a normal week but if we have a lot of exams or midterms I generally study as long and as much as my brain can handle. Also I found it helpful to find a group of people that study differently than I typically do because they taught me how to take in information I was struggling with and it was nice to be able to bounce questions off them.” - Liz Melear, 2021

"Studying needs to be done to understand, conceptualize, and apply the knowledge- not just to regurgitate facts on a test. Take the time to re-organize the information to help you best review it for future use." – Joni Farran 2021

“I study a lot. I will give myself 1-2 hours after class to decompress by watching Netflix or running errands, but after that I will study anywhere from 2-5 hours a night because I know that is the time I require to learn the information they give us in our classes.” -Lauren Lyon, 2021

"It isn’t the kind of material you can memorize in 2 days. Thinking about concepts globally and being able to relate information across courses will be more effective than typical quizlet cards. Learn how you study best and use those strategies! Studying can be easier because it is that info that is applicable and important to your future career."– Hannah Sommers 2020

 Everyone studies different amounts but you have to make studying your priority. You are here to learn everything you can, so use your time to learn it. Whether that be studying by yourself for 3 hours every night or finding a group to study with every weekend, you have to find a study style that works best for your learning.” -Glenn Fitkin, 2021

“I feel like people usually have to study about 10-15 hours a week at minimum, but I know that a lot of my peers feel like they need more time to study. When midterms or finals come around though, everyone is studying all day every day to try and make sure their understanding of material is solidified before testing.” -Adam Doorn, 2021

"Don’t procrastinate. Start things early and reach out for help right away. Studying in bits and pieces is very helpful and helps promote retention. Cramming for exams often works in undergrad, but isn’t the best idea in this setting." – Katie Blank 2020

"I was involved in a lot of things outside of just class in undergrad and so my focus was not typically on school all the time. I’d be able to do well on exams with studying just the weekend before. PT school is definitely not just 3 more years of college but requires a different viewpoint. My focus almost all the time now is on school, but it’s things I love learning about, and I know will benefit me and my future patients. I think part of why the first semester is notorious is because of the adjustment period." -Sylvia Knight, 2022

"I had to adjust my study habits drastically in order to keep up with PT school.  Even though PT school has been much more challenging for me than undergrad, learning material that directly relates to my future career has made the increased demand worth it!." -Sebastian Vanderest, 2022

“When adjusting to grad school it is not so much adjusting to harder material, but instead it is adjusting to the amount of material given to you. You have to change the way you typically schedule your day and you have to change how much time you take to prepare for classes. Overall though, you still deal with the same old college student problems, but with more responsibility.” -Adam Doorn, 2021

“The hardest adjustment was definitely the studying. I have always liked school, so studying and having good grades was never something I had to work at. Then, when I started the program and the workload increased significantly, it was a lot more work having to study all the time to keep up with the material.” -Lauren Lyon, 2021

“Honestly, It didn’t feel like a huge change for me. I will say the biggest difference was that I didn’t know a lot of people coming into the program, so finding a group of people that you get along with and that have similar study habits was a priority entering the program. As far as classes go, the expectations weren’t much different, but the amount of material was definitely much more and I do spend more time overall on school related things.” -Leslie Tannis, 2021

“Class wise, PT school is much harder and there is more studying, but it is fun because you are here to learn how to be a PT and the skills you learn will help you throughout your career. As for the social side of the program I see all of my classmates as friends so I think it’s great that we plan things and get together as a class outside of class. I mean it is a good adjustment from undergrad, I got 59 new friends when I started the program. How cool is that?” -Jessi Ramos, 2021

“The biggest adjustment for me was the increase in study time required for the classes. I am not someone who used to have to study an entire weekend for one exam, but once I realized the expectations for the program I knew I would need to put more effort into studying and even change the way I studied.” -Christine Garcia, 2021

"Yes. I don’t think I honestly believed or understood what people older than me meant when they talked about the first semester until I went through it myself. That’s the important thing, if you want to be here and put in the effort, you will make it through. I don’t think there’s one right way to handle stress, I personally feel like I’m still learning how to manage it, but something that was helpful was taking a step back when I needed to and doing something that I knew would bring me some joy and wasn’t related to school at all (running, watching a show or movie, reading a book, even just doing my nails). Also reminding myself that while school is a big part of my life right now, it’s not my entire life." -Sylvia Knight, 2022

"Yes, the first semester of PT school can be stressful.  Trying to juggle moving to a new area, making new friends, and an entirely new course load can be overwhelming at times.  I think the most important lesson I learned in my first semester was to not be afraid to take time for myself.  Taking a few hours away from studying every day is really important to help you destress and overall beneficial for your success in this demanding program. "-Sydney Alexander, 2022

“Yes… the first semester is stressful. My recommendation for handling the stress is taking Thursday nights off and sleep in on Friday before you jump back into studying. It gives your mind a break after a long week of classes but then you can still go to the cadaver lab Friday morning to study. Also, just stay on top of the studying, if you don’t keep up with it you will get yourself in trouble come exam time.” -Adam Doorn, 2021

“I would not say I coped well with my stress during the first semester because I am someone that stresses over things easily. This being said, I still made it through, and if I could go back and change things I think I would try to find more time for myself. Whether that be going to the gym or to a yoga class, I think it would have helped better manage my stress.” -Lauren Lyon, 2021

“First semester is definitely stressful because you are trying to meet new people, and learn how the professors in the program teach, all while trying to keep up on the material. I managed my stress the best when I planned ahead and set aside time for myself which meant going to the gym, having a game night with family, and or spending time with friends.” -Leslie Tannis, 2021

“I don’t think the semester is difficult because the semester is ‘hard’ material wise, but because the transition into the program means changing your study habits and learning how to handle the amount of information thrown at you. To manage the stress I would just recommend stay up to date on upcoming assignments and exams.” -Liz Malear, 2021

“First semester was very stressful, so I was thankful that I was working with the GV softball team. Having this opportunity helped me manage my stress because it was 2 hours every day that I wasn’t studying. This being said, I still was quite stressed until I found a way to study anatomy and adjusted to the amount of information given in all the classes.” -Jessi Ramos, 2021

“First semester has been the most stressful semester for me in the program thus far. It is a big adjustment as far as time spent only on school and I had to learn how to manage my time better. In order to manage my stress better I always picked one day where I would not do anything school related. Also I found that staying involved in social outings and events with your classmates really helpful in managing my stress because we are all going through the same program, and everyone understands the demands that it places on each of us.” -Christine Garcia, 2021

"I honestly think there are just some things you have to do to make it through, but if I could go back with what I know now, I’d try to have the mentality of ‘learning to understand’ or ‘learning for my future patients’ right from the get go. Also really approaching practicals as another opportunity for learning. I would get so nervous right before a practical, when the professors never expected me to be perfect." -Sylvia Knight, 2022

“If I could go back I think I would’ve put more work into intentionally learning my specifics like origin insertions innervations and actions during kinesiology because I think I didn’t commit those to memory as well I could have.” -Leslie Tannis, 2021 

“If I could go back I would not have taken it so easy at the start of the semester because when it came to the first anatomy exam I realized how much material we covered in the first few weeks. It would have been more beneficial for that first anatomy exam grade if I would have just jumped right into studying the first week of classes instead of waiting.” -Adam Doorn, 2021

“If I could go back to semester one I would not have spent so much time focusing on anatomy, even though I thought I needed to at the time. I think that because I was worried about my grade in anatomy, I didn’t really learn the material from other classes as well as I could have.  This meant that I was just cramming information for the other exams the night before whereas I should have been trying to learn all the foundational knowledge.” Jessie Ramos, 2021

“I don’t think I would have done things differently as far as classes go, but I think I would have spent more time with my classmates. Getting to know the people I am spending every day with in classes and studying has been helpful as I have gone through the program and I think having that social support early on in the program would have been beneficial. I mean I like to think, those who stress together, stay together.” -Lauren Lyon, 2021

“I would not stress over things as much. I was so worried about my A- in anatomy that I studied way more than I probably needed to when I could have been using that time to study with other students that were struggling in the class. Having the mind-set that an A- is ‘failing’ was not okay while I never really considered the fact that people may not have been passing the class and I could have helped them.” -Liz Malear, 2021


"Find people. I’m a big advocate for having community in general, but I truly am not sure I would make it through this program with all my sanity without having classmates to encourage me when I’m doubting, to listen to me complain, and to bounce ideas off of/study together. PT is a collaborative field and communicating with colleagues is a necessary skill to have, and I’m thankful for people to be able to practice that skill now. I think most of the “aha” moments I’ve had have been discussing things with my classmates/friends." -Sylvia Knight, 2022

"You have already made it into PT school, all the stress of keeping a perfect GPA, getting great GRE scores, and the best volunteer experience is gone.  What's important now is that you take the time to truly learn and understand how to be a great therapist, not that you got an A on every test or practical." -Sydney Alexander, 2022

“I recommend doing something outside of school and taking care of yourself whether that means working out or eating healthier, do something for yourself.”-Liz Malear

“I have two pieces of advice:

1. Breathe…and don’t feel bad about taking time away from school. A lot of people stress taking one night off, but making sure you have a balance of taking time for yourself and taking time for your learning is essential. 

2. We are all here for a reason, and straight A’s are no longer necessary. Now it is focusing on taking material from class and applying it in order to carry the information over into clinical practice.” -Leslie Tannis, 2021”

“My best piece of advice is that the program is a lot of fun, but you have to come in ready to work.” -Jessi, Ramos

“Have fun, you are in grad school doing exactly what you want to be doing, so enjoy it. Also you made it here because you were smart enough to be here so be confident in your skills use them to get you through the program.” -Adam Doorn, 2021

"Take 1-2 days a week to completely forget about school (excluding going to class, you have to do that)." – James Morris 2020

"Do not be so hard on yourself. This program requires a tremendous amount of work and it is unlikely you will always get A’s- and that is okay. That is something I had a hard time coming to terms with at the beginning, particularly during the first semester."- Kristy Kilkinson 2021

“The program will probably be one of the most challenging experiences you will face in your academic career, and there is nothing wrong with asking for help if you need it. The faculty and staff all want you to succeed, so if you are struggling with a topic or a class, talking with any of them can really help.” -Christine Garcia, 2021

“Be willing to put in the work, and if you need help ask for it. The faculty here are amazing and they will not let you fail if you are willing to put in the effort it takes to stay.” -Lauren Lyon, 2021 

"Make sure you’re managing your stress! It can be very helpful to take a study break and clear your mind by taking a little time to do something you enjoy." – Hayley Vanbeek 2020

"When entering PT school you should have the mindset of being a lifelong learner and wanting to improve throughout your career. It is important to maintain a positive attitude, especially when faced with challenges such as entering this doctorate program. Personally, I found that living a balanced life helped me to succeed as well as combat stress and promote good mental and physical health." – Lindsay Tanner 2020


"I think that depends on you and your capacity. I definitely think it’s possible, but you have to ask yourself, are you going to be able to learn best and stay relatively mentally/emotionally healthy if you’re working and going to school full time? For me, I knew that wouldn’t be the case in the first semester." -Sylvia Knight, 2022

“It is 100% possible to work while in the program. I worked about 15 hours a week, but you have to be able to manage your time well.” -Jessi Ramos, 2021

“I believe that is very possible to work while in the DPT program, but I do not think it is realistic to work more that 10-15 hours a week. This being said, I find having a job helpful not only because it gives me something besides school to think about, but because it also helps with the financial stress that comes with paying for graduate school.” -Christine Garcia, 2021

 “I worked almost full-time the first semester but that was a bit too much for the demands of the program, so I went down to part-time second semester. Overall this time commitment was more manageable with the program, and I found that a few shorter shifts during the week worked better that a long shift on the weekend because it accommodated the class schedule better.” -Leslie Tannis, 2021

“I have not worked during the program, because I feel like the program is where I need to spend my time.” -Lauren Lyon, 2021

“I definitely think it's possible to work outside of school but it depends on how much someone likes to study and spend time with others. I liked working because it gave me something non-school related and trivial to worry about for 8 hours like stressing over being out of tomatoes on the line  is much a much less stressful than thinking about the three exams and  group assignment all due this week.” - Liz Malear, 2021

“I don’t work but most of my friends here in the program do, and I think they manage to do so pretty easily. It seems like working a part time position somewhere works the best so you can make some spending money for those Thursday nights off from studying. I also see the benefit of having a job in the manner of having a responsibility outside the program to help you to study when you have the time instead of pushing it off.” -Adam Doorn, 2021

"I was a lab model for one of the first year classes when I was in undergrad and I had the opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with Jon Rose, one of the professors, throughout that conversation he was extremely confident that I would be accepted to multiple programs and be able to choose where I went for school. I knew then that I wanted faculty like that, who would believe in me, encourage me, and challenge me. That was a huge motivator for me picking Grand Valley. I can honestly say that has absolutely been the case here." -Sylvia Knight, 2022

"There are several reasons why I decided to attend GV's PT program.  I had a great undergraduate experience at Grand Valley, I heard that the GV PT professors are all amazing (which they are), and their program is very reputable!" -Sebastian Vanderest, 2022

“For me, the Grand Rapids area was a big part of the reason I decided to apply to GVSU. I am from a small town so being in a more metropolitan area was a good change for me, and I felt there were a lot more opportunities offered for employment after graduation being in the city.” -Lauren Lyon, 2021.

“I was drawn to Grand Valley’s programs because it was close to home for me so it makes living accommodations really easy and I liked that I have only heard good things about the professors of the program and their willingness to help us grow and become the best clinicians that we can become in the time it takes to finish the program.” -Leslie Tannis, 2021.

"I chose GVSU because they have clinical rotations mixed throughout the program, they have multiple community/volunteer events, and they have strong affiliations with well-known hospitals- all a small walk away. They professors also treat us as friends and colleagues rather than just another student." – Courtney Tuinier 2020

“I first heard of Grand Valley when my sister went here for undergrad, so when I heard they had a PT program I knew I wanted to go here when I was applying to undergrad. Then, as I learned more about the PT program, and got involved with lab modeling for the PT program, knew it was the right program for me.” - Liz Malear, 2021

“When deciding which DPT program I wanted to attend, I did a lot of research on success rates, costs, program requirements, etc. During this research I found that a lot of the programs that I was accepted at were similar in these areas, but what set Grand Valley apart was the experienced faculty, the Grand Rapids location, and the program’s commitment to the success of its students.” -Christine Garcia, 2021

"The professors seemed extremely approachable, knowledgeable, and supportive. I also liked how quickly we started clinical experiences to get hands on training right away!" – Emily Grobbel 2020

“Well if you ask any of my classmates they will all tell you how much I love Grand Valley, but in all seriousness, there are only good things to say about the program’s faculty and quite honestly, they make the program what it is. All of them care about their role as a professor but they also are just all around great people who care about their students. That is why I chose Grand Valley.” -Jessie Ramos, 2021  

"GVSU was an ideal location and was thought of very highly at PT clinics I had been to." – Hope Van Dyke 2021

“In my case I knew people who were currently in the program when I applied. These people, which may have included my twin brother, all spoke very highly of GV’s program which made me think that if the students like the program so much, they must be doing something right. Also, the people I talked with mentioned how your classmates become almost like a second family, and this was something I wanted as well. Looking at where I am now, I definitely made the right choice coming to Grand Valley.” -Adam Doorn, 2021

"I absolutely love the city of Grand Rapids- always so much to do and the resources we have access to as students here are incredible. The surrounding hospital systems and PTs have been such a great learning tool. The staff at GVSU care about each individual student on both an academic basis and on a personal level. I could not have asked for a better place for PT school!" – Allyson Schultz 2020


"The faculty want you to do well. The other students do too, at least in my experience. I know they provide tutors for Anatomy if needed during the first semester and when there were open lab times to practice either professors or their Graduate Assistants would come in to help out." -Sylvia Knight

"In this program, there are so many ways to get the help and support you need.  All of the faculty members are more than willing to meet with you, (in person or virtually) whether it be a content related question, or something more personal.  Your student advisor and other peers can also be great resources as they also know and understand the difficulties of PT school." -Sydney Alexander, 2022

"My classmates were very supportive and great listeners. The staff was also great at listening and helping you make a plan for success." – Annalisa Dykstra 2020

"All of the professors were more than willing to meet during or outside of office hours to help. Some would even come to the labs outside of class time to offer help". – Jessica Zeitler 2020

"When I was sick and had to miss a bit of class, each professor emailed me to check in and set up a time to go over material I had missed. Coming from a large university, I was shocked, and pleasantly surprised. Because I had missed some classes I was a little behind in anatomy and the program offered me a tutor- for free. It was a second year student who helped me to be successful in that class." – Kylee Panse 2020


Page last modified October 17, 2017