My son’s college roommate, Steven, wants to be a Physical Therapist. Last year, he spent many hours observing me in my clinic and also worked hard in school. He recently got accepted to Northern Illinois University (NIU) and was waitlisted at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Currently, there are about 200 Doctor of Physical Therapy programs in the U.S. Each program receives over 1000 applications for the 40-80 slots available at each school. As you can see, getting into PT school is very competitive.
Steven understood this, so he gratefully accepted the offer at NIU, despite really wanting UIC, and even signed a lease on an apartment. Well, on July 26, Steven got a surprise phone call from UIC. His name came up on the waiting list and there was a slot for him if he wanted it!
His story reminded me of my entry into PT school 33 years ago
I, too, was wait listed at UIC and received a surprise phone call that a slot opened up for me.
In 1986, I was living at home in Highland Park with my parents, after graduating from University of Illinois, Champaign, the previous year. On a Sunday afternoon in late August, I was out on a date when the call came in from UIC to our house phone. Remember, there were no cell phones at this time. My parents, so excited and very resourceful, somehow found the phone number to my date’s dorm and when we returned back to his car, there was a note taped to the window to call home. I don’t remember if there were any other information on the note or if I was worried or not. But, I got to a phone, called home and received the news that I needed to call UIC back that night to confirm my acceptance. I called as soon as I could, didn’t hesitate for more than a minute and accepted the slot. I was told to show up the next morning at 8:30 am and that I had already missed 1 week of school!
That Sunday evening I had to quit two jobs and cancel a dentist appt for the next morning. Needless to say, one of my bosses wasn’t too happy, as he had no idea I had even applied to school.
Early the next morning, I got on the train in Highland Park, headed to Chicago, got on a shuttle bus to UIC and showed up in class to the bewildered looks from the other 41 students. However, within the week I had caught up and was fully integrated into the class.
Back then, PT school was a two-year Bachelor’s program. My second year in school, I went through a difficult time, dealing with depression as well as my father’s emergency, second heart bypass surgery while he and my mom were vacationing in California. I missed a week of school as my brother and I flew out there to be with him. Initially, we didn’t think my dad was going to make it, but fortunately he did. Gratefully, my professors and friends helped me through my final year, setting me up with this wonderful profession for the rest of my life.
After PT School
After I graduated PT school, I went backpacking through Europe with my friends, Amy and Sarah, for seven weeks. We visited London, Scotland, Paris, Barcelona, Nice, Switzerland, Florence, Venice, Rome, and Greece. My depression lifted while I traveled Europe and, upon my return to Chicago, I was ready to take my board exams and begin my career at Lutheran General Hospital.
31 years later, I still enjoy being a physical therapist and learning new clinical and business skills to help my patients and my business thrive. Occasionally I ponder what else I could have done for a living, but always come up empty. I know I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. As daunting as it was to start school a week late, I knew I just had to do it and to this day, I am so grateful I got into PT school.
A Bright Future for Steven
Steven has decided to accept the position at UIC. From the many hours he spent working with me in my clinic, I know he will make a wonderful PT. Don’t be surprised if you see him working at The Manual Touch one day.
Good luck Steven, the hard part is done!