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PT School Interview
Questions

20 Questions and Answers by Ryan Brown

Question 1 of 20

What does success mean to you?

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PT School Interview Questions

  1. 1.

    What does success mean to you?

      Success can look like different things to different people. For this question, the interviewer is not expecting you to want to be the most accomplished physical therapist in the world. They want to understand what motivates you, what are your lifelong goals, and how attending their physical therapy school will get you there.

      Ryan's Answer

      "Success is knowing that I have made a difference in as many lives that I can. I think that life is so short, and the best way to honor the life and enrich your life is to help others. I see health and physical therapy as a way to accomplish that because it is a topic I am passionate about. But, I do not think my success is limited to my career as a physical therapist. I would see myself as achieving success if I had a loving family or being an active member of my faith community."

  2. 2.

    Tell me about a time you experienced failure? What did you do to overcome it?

      Approach this question as a story. Everyone has a failure in their past. The interviewer wants to know that you are self-aware enough to recognize your mistake and learn from it. Using the STAR method, walk them through a real example of failure you experience that impacted you.

      Ryan's Answer

      "When I was a researcher after college, I was having a rough time transitioning to being an independent adult. I felt very overwhelmed, and that translated into my work. I was the lab coordinator and was responsible for maintaining all of the other researchers' lab standards. One day I was rushing through all of my duties to leave the lab on time and accidentally compromised a biological sample we had been developing for eight weeks. I was utterly devastated when this occurred. I felt like this was proof I was a failure, and that wasn't cut out for anything. When I approached my boss, she was, of course, disappointed in my mistake. However, she was also disappointed that I had not communicated any of my issues with her or other friends in my life. I learned that it is okay to ask for help and that no one does it all alone."

  3. 3.

    Tell us one thing about yourself that is not represented elsewhere in your application.

      There are so many things you have to leave out of your application. It can be hard to get to know a candidate from just a personal statement. Answer this question with a fact or topic that is very memorable and shows your character or personality.

      Ryan's Answer

      "I like to spend time in the summer at a wilderness camp. We learn how to start fires in the forest, animal tracking, and plant identification. I started going to the camp when I was a kid and have worked my way up to being a lead camp counselor. Nature has always brought me a lot of joy, and I love being able to go to the camp and share the joy of nature with the kids and teens that attend."

  4. 4.

    What do you offer to the profession of physical therapy?

      Physical Therapy is a profession that is upheld by every individual that practices it. When admitting students to their program, the school wants to know that they are willing to push the profession forward and think about what skills you possess that will help you achieve that goal.

      Ryan's Answer

      "I am a non-traditional student. I have a family and had a completely different career before finding my calling. It was not easy making the switch to something I knew was better for me. It gave me a lot of grit and determination that others may not have. I believe that my grit and my unique background will allow me to contribute a different perspective in my practice or research."

  5. 5.

    How do you collaborate with others?

      Physical Therapy programs are looking for candidates that are strong collaborators. You will be collaborating with your fellow PT students as you progress through the program. Answer the question with an example that highlights your communication skills and your ability to take the initiative. The STAR method is an excellent approach to this question.

      Ryan's Answer

      "For me, strong communication skills are essential for collaboration. When I was a Resident Assistant in college, I had to collaborate frequently with the other RAs in my complex to ensure that we were fulfilling our requirements and meeting our students' needs. I set up a group chat for all the RAs at the beginning of the school year to stay on the same page. I also think that having each other's back is very important when collaborating. I would offer to switch weekend shifts and help out with other floors' bulletin boards."

  6. 6.

    What do you plan to do if you do not get into PT school?

      They want to know how committed to this goal you are and if you have thought through all the possible options if, unfortunately, you do not get into a school. Keep your response positive. It is an opportunity for you to highlight an area that may be a weakness in your application and express how you will strengthen that area.

      Ryan's Answer

      "I recognize that no candidate is perfect, and I would use the time to strengthen my application to fill out the areas that could be improved. One of the things I would like to improve is my community service work since it is lower than the average applicant. I would also do more shadowing with other PT so that I can have more experiences to learn from."

  7. 7.

    Tell us about a time when you had to work with people who are different from you.

      People talk about diversity, but this is the time to show the interviewer you have experience working in diverse environments. It is a skill to be able to talk to people from all backgrounds. Show how you are open and willing to learn and how diversity is a good thing rather than a challenge.

      Ryan's Answer

      "When I was in high school, I got a summer job as a camp helper in the city. The camp served families that were recent immigrants to the US. It was the first time I had built relationships with kids that were completely different from myself. There are cultural differences, but in the end, it is about showing that kid or that person you care for them, and you are there for them. It was fun to share experiences with them and learn about their cultures. It taught me how important it is to be open to what you may not be familiar with."

  8. 8.

    What is a strength you have that will help you become a successful PT?

      While the previous question asked you to recognize a flaw about yourself, this question asks you to identify good qualities about yourself. Sometimes, people will answer this question by boasting. To circumvent that, respond with a social proof example by stating a time someone else has noticed this quality in you as well.

      Ryan's Answer

      "I feel like my strength is being a team player. Working together and collaborating is excellent for generating ideas and building connections between the people you are working with. I think it is very important to come together and do what is best for the group rather than just the individual. I was proud when my co-workers noticed my aptitude and nominated me for the company teamwork daisy award at our hospital."

  9. 9.

    What is one ethical standard that PTs should follow?

      Most medical disciplines have their own ethical standards put in place by the accrediting body. The American Physical Therapy Association has a code of ethics listed on their website you should become familiar with and use when answering similar questions. It is essential to add your perspective and not just quote the website.

      Ryan's Answer

      "I really resonated with the American Physical Therapy Association's first ethical code, 'Physical Therapists shall respect the inherent dignity and rights of all individuals.' Every Physical Therapist should understand that you are working with a person with their autonomy regarding their lives. They may not make choices you agree with, but, as a person, they have the right to make that choice. Losing sight of that would make your practice as a therapist unethical."

  10. 10.

    Suppose you go into a patient's room and they refuse PT treatment because they are listening to their favorite radio show, what do you do?

      Patients are not going to always respond in a way that suits you. This question evaluates if you can advocate for a patient, even if they are not always acting in their best interest. Use your best judgment for these types of questions and recognize a patient's agency when compromising or suggesting solutions.

      Ryan's Answer

      "I think it is very important to try to compromise with patients and meet them where they are as they are healing. I would say that they can leave the program on in the background while we did our exercises. Another approach I would use is to educate the patient on the importance of receiving PT treatment so that they can return to their typical routine faster. As a last resort, I would ask them when they typically listen to their favorite show and try to arrange their next treatment sessions afterward, so they are more inclined to participate."

  11. 11.

    How would you handle a situation where you disliked your patient?

      No person can be expected to like every person that they encounter. The interviewer wants to know that you are professional enough to move beyond your feelings and ensure that every patient receives high-quality care no matter what. Talk about how you actively acknowledge the problem and check your actions before you do them to make sure that the patient is put first.

      Ryan's Answer

      "I worked as a CNA in a local hospital. One patient was very demanding and asked me to do things that were not associated with their care, like calling numerous relatives from out of state or bringing them freshly made coffee every single hour. I recognized that while I did not like the patient, I still had to show them the same respect as I would a patient I got along with. I still made sure that he received all of the proper care and that his needs were met in the hospital and put that before any personal feelings."

  12. 12.

    What is your most memorable interaction with a patient?

      Take a positive spin when answering this question rather than a negative spin. Everyone has a patient that they encountered in their clinical experience that left a lasting impact in their mind. Talk about the interaction and what it taught you that made it so memorable. This is an excellent opportunity to highlight the interpersonal skills you have gained from working with others.

      Ryan's Answer

      "My most memorable interaction with a patient was when I was taking care of an older lady who had been in our unit for a few weeks. She had developed a reputation for being complicated by the other nursing staff, so I was ready for the unexpected when I entered her room. She started shouting at me. I began to take it personally, but instead of leaving the room, I decided to sit down for a moment and calm her down. She was surprised at the reaction and stopped shouting and started crying. She told me that she felt very isolated while being in the hospital and didn't like how the staff passed through but didn't bother talking to her, only at her. Through that experience, I learned that personal connection is an integral part of care, not just the procedures or the medicine."

  13. 13.

    What first made you interested in the Physical Therapy (PT) profession?

      This question serves two purposes for the interviewer. First, it is an opportunity to get to know you more personally and connect with you as an applicant. Second, it is a way for the interviewer to evaluate your motivations for applying to PT school beyond a desire to help people or the PT salary.

      Ryan's Answer

      "In high school, I had my hopes set on becoming a pediatrician because I loved kids. I went to college as a pre-med student until I injured myself playing club soccer. The doctor who treated my injury sent me to physical therapy. That exposure to the field changed everything for me, and I immediately became interested in physical therapy over pre-med."

  14. 14.

    What inspires you most in life?

      Knowing a person's inspiration is a great way to learn about that person. Tell the interviewer what motivates you and why. It is not recommended to say yourself, because there are many other times in the interview to sell yourself. Something else has helped you get to where you are now, be it faith, children, or another person who has had a significant impact on your life.

      Ryan's Answer

      "My mother inspires me. She came from less than privileged circumstances and struggled a lot. She was able to rise above her circumstances and environment, go to college and then graduate business school. Now she is very successful but still very humble. I definitely took to her for inspiration."

  15. 15.

    Why are you a strong candidate for our program?

      Some applicants cast a wide net and hope to get in somewhere. Show the interviewer that you can contribute to their program and be interested in things they are already doing. Read their website, student blogs, and mission statements so that you can bring them up when answering the question.

      Ryan's Answer

      "This program has shown itself to have a strong commitment to research and service, two things that I have demonstrated to be passionate about in my application. I was able to do published research in my master's program that will translate directly into clinics already held at the school. I also feel like my leadership skills working on the League of Women Voters' executive board will give me an excellent springboard to working with my classmates and collaborating on projects."

  16. 16.

    What courses have you taken that will help you as a PT?

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  17. 17.

    Physical Therapy programs are academically intense programs. How do you plan on managing the stress of the school?

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  18. 18.

    Do you have any clinical or professional experiences that have prepared you to work in PT?

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  19. 19.

    What do you think is the biggest problem in Physical Therapy, now or in the coming future?

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  20. 20.

    Of all the allied health professions (MD, PA, OT), what made you apply for PT school?

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