This week, HPA interviewed Jackson Connell, who is completing is final year of Physical Therapy school at Lynchburg College. Jackson was a 2013 graduate of Virginia Tech, having majored in Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise (HNFE).
What led to your interest in physical therapy?
During my junior year of high school I sustained a serious back injury at a basketball camp that put me out of play for an extended period of time. After attending physical therapy sessions for about one month, I was feeling 100% and back on the court playing the game I love. It was at this time that I gained a lot of respect for physical therapy and began to consider it is a potential career option.
What experiences did you have that confirmed physical therapy was the right career for you?
I accumulated approximately 100 observation hours at a local outpatient orthopedic clinic and this experience really reinforced my feelings that physical therapy was the appropriate career to pursue.
What did you major in and what inspired you to choose this/these areas of study?
While at Virginia Tech, I majored in Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise. I felt that this major would provide me with the best platform and knowledge base prior to enrolling in a physical therapy program.
How did you prepare for the physical therapy school application process?
The PT Club at Virginia Tech was very helpful in terms of preparing me for the rigors of the application process.
Were you successful on your first attempt at application and would you like to share your story with the students on how you recovered/planned for the reapplication?
Fortunately, I was successful on my first attempt at application. My program accepts 50 students annually and I was actually number one on the waiting list when the first day of class started. I was very disappointed that I had missed the cut by one, but I was extremely blessed that a student decided to withdrawal from the program following the first day of class and I was able to take his spot.
What are some words of wisdom about the application process? What would you have liked to know ahead of time? What do you wish someone would have told you before you began applying?
Try to get your PTCAS application completed and submitted as soon as possible. Also, letting your references know in advance that you would like a letter of recommendation from them can prevent any potential hang-ups with these. Additionally, the more observation hours and clinical experience that you can garner prior to submitting your application will strongly bolster your application.
What surprised you the most about physical therapy school?
The overall workload and rate at which material was covered was probably the most shocking aspect, however, with proper time management and studying skills the workload is very manageable.
Did you have to change any of your study habits when you entered Physical Therapy school?
I certainly had to improve my study habits after entering Physical Therapy school. You must learn to study efficiently. You cover so much information that it becomes very difficult to “cram” before examinations and practicals.
What kind of financial aid did you need to pay for Physical Therapy school?
I have utilized unsubsidized Federal loans to help pay for Physical Therapy school.
What helps you manage your stress and stay motivated?
Group studying and exercising are two ways that I help manage my school related stress.
What advice do you have for applicants considering a career in Physical Therapy?
If you feel that physical therapy is the right profession for you and you take pride in improving people’s lives, then go for it! You will certainly work hard while you are in school, but in my opinion, there is no feeling more rewarding than being able to significantly improve someone’s quality of life.