Clinical Graduate Schools


Applying to clinical graduate programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy and physician's assistant. 

When should I apply?

August or September before your senior year, for programs that begin the following June or August (i.e. Rockhurst University and Saint Louis University).

Why apply this early when deadlines are as late as January?

For most clinical graduate schools, you apply online, through PTCAS, OTCAS or CASPA.

Their turnaround time in sending your completed application to the schools to which you are applying is not immediate. It may be very slow, even up to six weeks after you submit all of your information. You could miss a program’s application deadline if you don’t submit your fall transcript or any other piece of the application to PTCAS, OTCAS or CASPA more than six weeks prior to the deadline.

What should I be doing in July?

The application cycle opens for the next class in July. Right now, you should:

  • Create an account on PTCAS/OTCAS/CASPA and have current transcripts sent to them. Have one copy of the transcript sent to you. You will type in all of the information, but PTCAS must have the official transcript to verify the information. They calculate the GPA. This takes about three weeks, even this early in the process. You can always have updated transcripts sent.
  • Consult the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section on PTCAS in deciding what science classes to list under Science Core classes, etc.
    • Note: There is a section that says “planned courses”. You can enter the classes that you have left to take there. PTCAS will send you a periodic update every 2-3 months asking if you want to do an academic update and re-send a newer transcript.
  • Be prepared to take the GRE, or about to take it.
    • Study the vocabulary book and take practice tests.

You do not have to wait until you take the GRE to create and start entering information on the PTCAS account. You can e-submit the GRE score to PTCAS. You will be asked to have the GRE score sent to the schools to which you will be applying, anyway.

Which admission requirements must be completed by the time I make an application in September or August? 

Observation Hours

You must have all of the job shadowing hours completed (and documented with the name, e-mail address, and license number of each of the physical therapists who you have shadowed; include the number of hours and setting). PTCAS/OTCAS/CASPA will e-mail them to verify this. There is an observation section for you to enter these. Let the PT know to expect an e-mail.


You must have taken the Graduate Record Exam (scored the equivalent of at least 1000 on the verbal and quantitative combined) and have requested from GRE that the official results be sent to PTCAS and to the schools to which you are applying.

GRE may have a turnaround of several weeks on this, and PTCAS may have a six-week turnaround. Take the GRE early in the summer if possible. Go on the GRE website for test locations.

Reference letters

You must be able to supply to PTCAS the contact information for two physical therapists in the field and an academic reference who have agreed to write reference letters for you. Those serving as references will be electronically prompted by the application service to submit their letters by e-mail.

Required Classes

Before September, you should have completed as many of the classes required for consideration for admission as possible. The programs to which you apply realize that you may not have all of the sciences finished by the time you apply, and typically allow you to have two classes in progress, to be completed by the end of the fall semester. You can update your transcript so that they will see your fall grades before they make selection decisions.

Application Essay

You should spend considerable time drafting a very good essay and have it ready to upload. PTCAS will give you a specific question to write on and you should start work on this personal essay early. It could very easily be the deciding factor among candidates.

To how many schools should I apply?

You should apply to all of the schools that you would consider attending for three years. At a very minimum, apply to three schools; if possible, call for an appointment and visit them before applying.

Look at their websites to know for sure that you will have completed their specific requirements.

Many schools interview prospective students. Practice an interview. Consider these questions from the Slippery Rock University Career Site. They are commonly asked questions.

*Thank you to Derek Tocco, EMS grad, Fall, 2011; physical therapy student – Rockhurst University, for his tips on the application process.