Depending on when you decide to start, the summer or the winter before you officially start PT school is stressful. It doesn’t matter how prepared you are to get everything done. It is just stressful.
I’ll start by saying that I am incredibly privileged. Ever since my husband became a truck driver, I thought the best thing for both of us would be to move back in with my parents so that he wouldn’t be paying rent plus all the other bills associated with living in a townhome. He could concentrate on paying off his debt, and I could concentrate on saving what I could for school. So I pay for what I can, and my parents help me out when I need it.
But going through the process of prepping for grad school has made me realize that it really is for the privileged. People who can’t pay out of pocket are going to have to borrow close to the max amount every trimester for the next four years until they graduate. It’s going to be even worse if they don’t live at home.
So that’s one thing you’ll need to keep in mind–you’ll be spending more money than you think.
- You’ll be spending money on the background check. That much is a given. But not only are you spending money on your urine test and to get a piece of paper to give to a company that will take your fingerprints, but oftentimes you’ll have to pay again to get your fingerprints done, incurring another expense on top of what you already paid for the background check.
- You’ll have to buy all the equipment needed for your program. This ranges from the stethoscope to goniometers to scrubs and whatever else your programs demand of you. I spent roughly 280 dollars out of pocket–and I haven’t even purchased my scrubs or my APTA membership yet. Because of this, I’m likely going to be renting all of my textbooks since I only want to take out enough loans to pay for tuition and fees. And I’ll likely be using my Kindle for it.
- Your school will require health insurance from you. I know some graduate programs offer insurance, but mine doesn’t, so I have my own. Thus, if you have insurance, it should pay for all the shots you have to make sure you’re up-to-date on as well as a physical, TB test, and anything else your school might ask of you. In the US, it’s a privilege to have health insurance, and unfortunately, it’s usually a requirements to start a graduate health science program. Thus far, I’ve spent 100 dollars out-of-pocket for all the medical-based stuff.
- The paperwork seems like it’s never-ending. What you filled out just to apply for the program is just the beginning. Once you’re accepted, you’re bombarded with things you have to fill out, like verification forms for your insurance, promissory notes for loans, and so on and so forth. At one point I received an email telling me that after my advisor audited me, it’d been determined that I missed signing six forms. SIX FORMS! Do better than me and thoroughly read everything that comes in your inbox.
- I had to do a lot of required modules in preparation for PT school. I don’t know if the modules were a requirement because much of my classes are online or because of COVID, but I feel like it was giving me an idea of what I can expect from a typical day as I go about my academic studies. And let me tell you, those modules took me hours upon hours to do. Now I know some of the modules are likely requirements in general, like elderly abuse and the like, but there are other ones about how to use various online tools necessary for the program.
- Let’s go back to the APTA membership. I’m not sure if all schools require it, but mine does, and I think it’s 92 dollars for the state my school is in, which is Florida; thus, it varies by state. And apparently that’s great considering that’s the student discount. If you don’t have a job, I’d probably try to get a small part-time job–and I say small because I know some people will be attending 3-year or even 2-year programs. You’ll only accumulate more debt otherwise.
- Now this is a positive, and I imagine more schools than mine do this, but there are so many resources available and so many people reaching out to you prior to starting your first semester. There have been many opportunities to attend virtual sessions, but I only chose one because it’s the only one I was interested in–a session on the day in the life of a grad student. However, there were plenty more, like how to navigate financial aid and learning about virtual simulations. It makes me feel confident that once I start my semester, my program is not going to let me fall behind. It seems like it will be a very different experience from undergrad.
Overall, the takeaway from this is that the process is time-consuming and expensive, so don’t expect to breathe easy before you start.