When you begin the process of filling out your application through PTCAS, you’ll notice that in the supporting information section, it’ll ask for all of your experiences, achievements, and licenses and certifications. Some of the schools themselves will even require a resume.
For some people, especially non-traditional students, this section can make one a little nervous. If you’re working a full-time job, for example, you don’t have time to do any extracurricular activities for school. I certainly didn’t, and it had been too long for me to be able to write down that I was a president for a creative writing club or even that I had my own magazine at one point.
The only thing you might be doing is that job. Or you might be a traditional student working part-time, but you feel your job in, say, fast food, isn’t relevant at all to your application or even to your resume, if the school requires one.
I know I struggled with the experiences and achievements part, because I don’t have much of neither. As it turns out, everything that you’ve done recently matters. For the experiences, I put down that I am a personal trainer at such and such place, and I also did a little bit of volunteering (it really wasn’t much, but it still looks good). For the achievements, the only thing I had were Dean’s List awards. Whatever you have, put it down. When it came to licenses and certifications, I put down every personal training-related one that I had, even the specialty ones that don’t take much effort to earn. I encourage you, if you haven’t already, to get certified in CPR/First Aid/AED because that’s one certification you can put down, and you’ll need it anyway once you start clinicals.
If you have not done anything of note and you have time (you should because how else will you fit in PT school?) go out and find ways to volunteer, as any and all volunteering opportunities can be added to the application. All this section shows is that you’re well-rounded and are more than just physical therapy. You don’t want to be only that. You want to show you have a life outside of school, outside of work even, and that you can balance. It’s not a section I would ignore just because you don’t have anything. All it takes is a weekend or two at a soup kitchen.
But let’s get to the difficult part. You’ve been working in retail for five years. For the most part, it’s just another job to earn a little bit of money and maybe pay a few bills. All you’ve been doing is stocking shelves. How can that demonstrate leadership traits when you feel like all you primarily do is what you’re told? Well, don’t entirely disregard this job just because it has nothing to do with physical therapy and you feel like it’s the easiest job on Earth you could teach a 3-year-old in less than five minutes.
Demonstrating leadership isn’t always about telling people what to do or putting yourself so out there that all attention is on you. Being a stocker is in the field of customer service, and what do you have to do? Sometimes you have to serve the customer. You can highlight that in your resume or somewhere in the application. Highlight times where you went above and beyond serving a customer (you better have at least one experience of this in your job).
For example, even though I’m a personal trainer, when times are slow, I sometimes go up to the welcome desk and help them out, especially when they are busy. Sometimes this involves helping them out with tasks they’re having issues juggling because of customers, or dealing with customers themselves. For example, I recently learned how to do a guest pass, and that’s not part of my description as a personal trainer. Do I remember it? Not exactly, as I learned it right before COVID-19 hit. But I learned it in an attempt to help them out more as they are always in need of it.
So if you haven’t yet, find out ways you can go above and beyond at your job. Do not do this only to put this on your application; it is a useful skill to have as a physical therapist. It’s a great habit to have, one that will allow you to deliver excellent care to your patients instead of being just a therapist who treats and kicks the patient out the door when everything is said and done.
If you work a job as a stocker and see someone who looks confused, take the initiative and ask what you can do to help them. Put some out-of-reach items in the basket for that person using a motorized scooter.
Always be looking for opportunities to take the initiative, no matter what job you have.
You’ve done a lot more than you know that you can add to your resume. And last, make sure that when writing down what you did, whether it be for the application itself or a resume, that you write down your experiences in such a way that leadership traits are conveyed. So brainstorm everything that you did, write it down, and spice it up.
Next post will discuss why I applied to only one school and how you should approach this process.