Crafting a Strong PT School Letter of Recommendation

Have you ever hosted a truly outstanding student for a clinical rotation or fieldwork and been surprised to learn that it took him or her several attempts to be admitted into a program?

Have you ever hosted a student for a clinical rotation or fieldwork and found yourself speculating about that year’s applicant pool?

The admissions process for occupational therapy and physical therapy programs often begins with observations, applications, and letters of recommendation. Applicants often submit more than one letter of recommendation. Ideally, each letter definitively and persuasively establishes why the individual stands out in the applicant pool and should be admitted.

Last year as a member of an admissions committee, I read letters from family friends, business owners, employers, co-workers, political figures, faculty, and academic leaders. While many were incredibly passionate letters, I would have traded them all for just one insightful letter from a therapist who hosted the student for an observation. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I am reading for qualities that might indicate the potential to be a good student, a great employee, and a fabulous therapist. These are the ABCs of what I am searching for in letters of recommendation.

Getting into physical therapy school is highly competitive. A critical part of your application is securing compelling letters of recommendation. This guide provides tips on who to ask, what to include in your request and how to get a standout reference letter that shines a positive light on your PT school candidacy.

Who Should Write Your PT School Recommendation Letter

Choosing the right person to write your letter of recommendation is key Here are top options to consider

  • Licensed Physical Therapists you shadowed or volunteered with. They can speak to your exposure to the field.

  • College professors who taught major-related classes like anatomy, physiology, biology, etc. They can discuss your academic abilities.

  • Supervisors from PT-related work or extracurriculars. This shows passion beyond just coursework.

  • Advisors or coaches who can highlight your leadership, dedication, teamwork.

  • Avoid asking family, friends, peers or acquaintances who lack meaningful experience with you.

Aim for 2-4 letters from people who can vouch for your qualifications from different perspectives.

What Should Your Request Include?

Once you’ve decided who to ask, you’ll need to make a formal request for a letter of recommendation. Here are key details to include:

  • Note when and how you worked with them and key accomplishments. Jog their memory!

  • Share specifics on the PT programs you are applying to and application requirements.

  • Provide all necessary info – deadline, mailing address, online portal, forms. Make it easy.

  • Politely ask if they feel comfortable writing a positive recommendation. Give them an out.

  • Thank them and share how much you value their mentorship and support.

Providing context sets them up to write the most personalized, vivid letter showcasing your fit.

How to Help Your Recommender Write an Exceptional Letter

You want to make the process simple for your recommender. Here are some tips:

  • Offer to provide an outline or draft to work from. But the final version should be in their own words.

  • Send bullet points summarizing your responsibilities, accomplishments, and key qualifications you hope they’ll highlight.

  • Provide your resume, transcripts, and any evaluations from projects you collaborated on. These help jog their memory.

  • Give them at least one month to complete the letter. Follow up politely if the deadline is approaching.

  • Express your sincere gratitude for their time and effort. Offer to take them to coffee or write a handwritten thank you.

Providing resources and reminders allows them to vividly recall their experience with you and enables a detailed, enthusiastic letter.

Key Elements to Include in a PT School Letter of Recommendation

The best letters provide a nuanced depiction of you as a candidate. Be sure your letter includes:

  • How long the recommender supervised you, capacity in which you worked together, and their specialty if a PT.

  • Brief statement on your intent to apply to PT school and key qualities that make you an asset.

Knowledge of the Field

  • Passion for physical therapy, exercise science and helping people through movement.

  • Strong academic foundation in biology, physiology, anatomy, physics, etc.

  • Curiosity to expand knowledge; asks thoughtful questions.

  • Exposure to PT through shadowing, volunteering, research, or work experience.

Patient Care Skills

  • Care and compassion when interacting with clients during appointments.

  • Ability to explain therapeutic exercises and answer patient questions.

  • Adherence to ethical principles and standards of care.

  • Commitment to inclusive care of diverse patient populations.

Character Traits

  • Maturity, integrity, and professionalism.

  • Self-motivation, discipline, and work ethic.

  • Strong verbal and written communication abilities.

  • Problem-solving, critical thinking, attention to detail.

  • Personable bedside manner and emotional intelligence.

Teamwork and Leadership

  • Takes initiative and works collaboratively with minimal supervision.

  • Flexibility and ability to thrive in fast-paced healthcare environments.

  • Experience training or mentoring peers.

Summary and Enthusiastic Recommendation

  • Concluding paragraph emphasizing your strengths and reaffirming you are an ideal PT school candidate.

  • Definitive statement they highly recommend you for admission without reservation.

  • Invitation for admission committee to contact them with any additional questions.

Covering these areas provides admissions officers a full picture of your capabilities and passion.

PT School Recommendation Letter Template

Providing your recommender a template can help them craft an impactful letter:

To Whom It May Concern:

I am pleased to strongly recommend John Doe for admission to your Doctor of Physical Therapy program. As John’s Biology professor for two semesters at State University, I had the opportunity to mentor him both inside and outside the classroom. I confidently believe John exemplifies the dedication, competencies, and character needed to excel in your rigorous program.

Academically, John distinguished himself as one of the top students in a demanding course curriculum. His exam scores, essays, and lab reports consistently demonstrated John’s outstanding grasp of biological concepts like anatomy, kinesiology, and neuroscience which are foundational to physical therapy practice.

Beyond his impressive intellect, John demonstrated admirable traits like discipline, leadership, and conscientiousness. He always came to lectures prepared and ready to engage. John led his lab group capably, ensuring they completed high quality assignments. When a labmate was absent, I witnessed John patiently explain the material to them so they could catch up. His commitment to helping others learn embodied the patient-centered focus that is so vital in healthcare fields.

Through John’s thoughtful questions and our discussions outside class, it was clear physical therapy is his passion. Given his obvious natural talent, work ethic, and empathetic temperament, I am confident John will become an asset to the profession. Please feel free to contact me at 123-456-7890 or [email protected] if I can provide any additional insights into John’s qualifications. I offer my unequivocal recommendation for his admission.

Jane Smith, PhD

PT School Recommendation Letter Etiquette

Follow these professional etiquette tips when asking for a PT school recommendation letter:

  • Give them at least one month’s notice, more if possible. Avoid last minute requests.

  • Ask politely if they feel comfortable writing a positive letter. Do not assume or pressure.

  • Only request letters from those familiar with your abilities and PT passion.

  • Tell recommenders not to write the letter if they cannot enthusiastically endorse you.

  • Send handwritten notes or small gifts after they submit the letters to express your gratitude.

By being respectful of their time and giving advance notice, you encourage recommenders to devote the proper attention. This results in outstanding reference letters.

How to Store Your PT School Recommendation Letters

  • Keep the original hard copies in a safe, locked location in case schools request to see them.

  • Upload electronic copies to your computer and cloud platforms to ensure backup versions if originals get lost.

  • Add them to your professional portfolio to have copies easily accessible when applying.

  • Submit recommendation letters in PDF format when applying through online platforms to maintain formatting.

Organizing recommendation letters helps you access them readily and prevents misplacing important documents that vouch for your qualifications.

Securing compelling, vivid letters of recommendation is critical when applying to competitive PT programs. By strategically choosing your recommenders, providing resources to refresh their memory, and demonstrating your sincere appreciation, you empower supporters to create reference letters that will strengthen your application and highlight you as an exceptional candidate.

pt school letter of recommendation

Added Examples of How/Why This Student Earned Your Very Valuable Recommendation

I was completely intrigued when therapists began letters with “In all my _#_ years of being a therapist, I have never seen a student who should be admitted more/will make a better therapist than _name_.” Wow! I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the next sentence with a compelling situation or specific example that impressed this very experienced therapist. Sometimes that sentence never came.

Help the reviewer see the student as you did. Include a specific example that supports why you are leveraging your good name and professional reputation on behalf of the student.

Occasionally I reviewed what I called “down and dirty” letters (just the facts) with date range, total hours, and name of student without examples or comments. I wondered why these letters were so restrained, especially if the writer indicated highly recommend. Sometimes the letter failed to support the level of recommendation. Since the reviewer can’t see what you saw, he or she may wonder if the writer was simply incredibly busy with the day’s caseload, or if something pertinent was intentionally left unsaid.

Behaviors: What Professional Behaviors Were Observed?

Several letters emphasized a selective process for approving observations. Since the observer becomes a walking billboard for the practice or site (even if only for a short-term observation), this tells me that he or she earned the opportunity. I appreciate having that information. Regardless of the approach to approving observations, I am hoping for a few specifics in a letter that point out the applicant’s professional behaviors to substantiate the recommendation.

• Was the student reliable and punctual, yet flexible when schedules changed? • Was he/she respectful of your site’s “rules,” including dress code, cell phone usage, privacy, and confidentiality? • Did the student appropriately interact with clients, families, and co-workers? This might include volume and tone of voice and ability to make eye contact, along with actively listening, and not intruding into therapist/client interactions. • Did he/she treat every team member on staff with respect and appreciation? Did the receptionist, facilities staff, techs, or aides in the clinic express the same positive impressions as the therapists, rehabilitation manager, or clinic owner?

How PT Schools RANK References and Letter of Recommendation

What is a letter of recommendation for Physical Therapy School?

This is often referred to as a letter of recommendation, or LOR. Faculty instructors and physical therapists provide the most useful recommendations for physical therapy school.

Do you need a recommendation letter for a DPT program?

Recommendation letter requirements (number and evaluators) vary across DPT programs, so check with your prospective programs to make sure you receive the correct types. Common evaluator types include: Physical Therapists (most programs will require a letter from at least one that you’ve shadowed) Physical Therapy Assistants Advisors

Can I send a letter to a physical therapy school?

Letters from family friends, public officials or character-type references are usually not useful and should not be solicited unless explicitly requested by the physical therapy school.

What is a recommendation letter?

A letter of recommendation (LOR)/reference is written by someone who can vouch for your skills, achievements, work, and/or academic performance. They are recommending you for the DPT program, and stating that they are confident that you will succeed as a student and eventually as a physical therapist.

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