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Researching Accredited Programs

(Guidelines for pre-OT, PT, and PA students)

 

Important: Consistently consult the HPPLC occupational therapy, physical therapy, or physician assistant page throughout your entire preprofessional process.

Remember to attend the annual spring Health Programs Fair to speak with OT, PT, and PA program representatives!

 

Avoid These Common Mistakes when Researching Programs

Everyone...

Lets get the bad news out of the way. Among the greatest mistakes we see preprofessionals make are:

  1. not doing enough program research
  2. not doing detailed enough program research (for example, confirming that your particular cumulative and science GPAs are within range of what your prospective programs have actually admitted)
  3. not applying to enough programs

 

The good news is that if you do in fact follow through on these tasks, you can dramatically improve your chances of admission! No need for you to re-invent the wheel: we have provided you with a full set of user-friendly resources and guidelines, below! Simply read on and follow them.

 

Freshmen...

Freshmen, focus above all on academics and your transition to college, and fully utilize the preprofessional timeline guidelines! Try to shadow in your field(s) of interest over your freshman fall, winter, and spring breaks, and/or weekends, and especially over your freshman summer. Initially, it's okay to garner just enough shadowing to confirm whether or not you feel more drawn or less drawn to the career(s) you are exploring. You'll need to arrange shadowing many weeks in advance, so plan ahead.

Also invest a bit of time in program research during the fall or spring of your freshman year. A couple of hours is all it takes to build a good working list of programs! (Below, we offer simple guidelines for doing so.) That way you'll gain an idea of the range of prerequisites, shadowing, and hands-on or direct care experience you'll need prior to applying.

 

If your shadowing confirms your career path, you can hone your list of prospective programs through ongoing research during the summer after your freshman year and beyond. Don't worry: this page offers lots of straightforward help for starting and honing your list of prospective programs! We suggest you simply continue reading below and follow the clear guidelines.

 

Whether you began college as exploratory prehealth - fairly certain you want a career in the health fields but unsure which one - or your shadowing experiences cause you to reconsider the health career you thought you'd settled on, HPPLC is here to help! In either case, first make use of our resources for exploring health professions. Start by taking the self-assessment survey. Then, tap into the health career research resources we've posted. After you have done some of this initial self-assessment and exploration, you are welcome to click the Make An Appointment link on the HPPLC homepage and schedule a time to come talk with us about your interests and options. (Please carefully follow the instructions at the Appointment link to make sure you meet with the correct HPPLC advisor, and provide all requested information.)

 

During your freshman spring semester, you are very welcome to follow the above instructions to schedule a time to come talk with us about your program research, summer preprofessional plans, and your specific circumstances and health career interests. (Please note that while we can certainly touch base on prerequisite courses, you will need to meet with your assigned academic advisor for registration planning and undergrad degree requirements.)

 

After freshman year (continuing students and alumni)...

During the summer after your freshman year, and continuing throughout the time leading up to your application, it is very important to hone your list of prospective programs in a timely manner following the simple guidelines on this page. You will not know what prereqs and other admission requirements you need to fulfill, nor even know what your preprofessional timeline and application timeline will be (OT, PT, PA), until you know which programs you will apply to! (We recommend applying to a good many programs if possible.)

Similarly, if you switched to OT, PT, or PA later in your undergrad process, it's important that you immediately begin shadowing, and undertake thorough, timely program research.

 

Attend the HPPLC Health Programs Fair, which is your chance to talk with admission representatives from numerous programs!


How To Manage Your Research

  • Be sure to utilize this page in its entirety! Essentially, if you simply begin reading here, work your way down the page, and follow the guidelines, your research process will unfold in an organized, efficient manner.
  • Follow the steps and guidelines on the Preprofessional Timeline page throughout your entire preprofessional and application process.
  • We will say this more than once on this page: ALWAYS BE THOROUGHLY POLITE AND PROFESSIONAL, IN EVERY INTERACTION, AND WITH EVERYONE. An applicant can be denied admission because of one impatient or presumptuous interaction with a secretary, office manager, admission representative, or faculty member. Remember that programs have far more applicants than they can admit, so they can afford to be selective.
  • When you gather information during a phone call, confirm the person's email address and extension, if they are okay with providing it. In certain instances, you might follow up with a polite, professionally written email to make sure you correctly understood what they told you. This way you won’t have to ask the same questions twice. Also, it's simply a good idea to have informal email confirmation of information you've been given, especially if the information is not clearly indicated on the program's website.
  • Be patient and only politely persistent over the phone and through email, as professional program office staffing is usually very limited. It can be difficult for them to quickly field questions during busy times, as during the height of the application cycle, or near graduation. Phone calls may be the most efficient place to start. Ask if they can suggest the best times / days / methods of reaching the people with whom you wish to speak.
  • If you have the opportunity to visit programs and meet with faculty and admission representatives in person, then you may wish to do so once you have narrowed your list of possible programs. Visiting programs can be expensive and time consuming, so do not feel obligated to do so. Programs realize that the vast majority of applicants simply do not have the time or resources for visits.

IMPORTANT: Professional conduct during your research and application process

It is crucial that you are polite and professional in every single contact you have with every person at every professional program you contact, whether by phone, in person, or via email, and regardless of whether the person with whom you are communicating is a receptionist or the Dean of Admissions at the school. Never be anything less than completely professional when contacting a program with questions or to check on your application.

  • No matter how strong your credentials may be, program staff will make note of less-than-professional behavior, which will likely result in your rejection by the program. Professional programs understandably bristle at unprofessional behavior, nor do they look favorably upon applicants who possess a sense of entitlement.
  • By the same token, if you maintain your composure in conducting business with programs, even when you are under pressure, it will reflect well on you. (It is also, of course, important that you conduct yourself in a professional manner with your professors, some of whom may be writing a recommendation letter for you.)
  • Combine confidence with humility at all times, whether it is during informal contact, or during more formal interactions like admission interviews.
  • In addition, the Health Professions and Prelaw Center itself expects that all students will conduct themselves in an honest, polite, and professional manner while conducting business with HPPLC office staff.
  • Finally, for additional specific advice on professional etiquette and conduct, please consult the HPPLC website's section on professionalism and professional etiquette.

 

Apply To Many Programs!

Casting a wide, carefully researched net, is savvy, and increases your odds of being admitted. Unless application fees present an insurmountable hardship, we suggest carefully researching and applying to many different programs. Doing so greatly increases your odds of being admitted!

  • Pre-PA: Applying to 8-12 programs is a good idea. Pre-PA folks who apply to 12 programs literally double their chances of being admitted compared to those who apply to only a few programs (data from CASPA, PA Focus).
  • Pre-OT / PT: Applying to 7 or 8 programs is a good idea. With each additional program up to 8, the statistical odds of being admitted to a program increase.

 

If you are admitted to more than one program, great; then you simply have more options! Perhaps one will offer more tuition incentives than another, or perhaps unforeseen circumstances will make you glad you have more than one choice when the time comes.

 

The costs and fees of applying are relative: if you are able, spending an extra couple of hundred dollars now could save you lots of time, money, and disappointment later. There is no one-size-fits-all answer; but in the long run, applying to a good many programs can be well worth the investment.

How To Decide Where To Apply

Some key factors in your decision

As with the number of programs to which you might apply, there is no one-size-fits-all in terms of which particular programs you might pursue. The resources and tips on this page can help you decide which factors are most pertinent to you in terms of A) practicality, and B) personal preference - all of which depends upon C) your own particular circumstances.

A. Practicality: Sometimes a lower GPA can prevent someone from applying to certain programs that have more competitive admission. This is an example of what we mean by practicality, or a practical restriction on where you might apply; namely, that it is less practical to apply to programs for which your GPA is much lower than the lowest GPA the given program has admitted during the last few years. Understanding what constitutes a "competitive" GPA is critical.

B. Personal preferences: On the other hand, if you have a pretty strong GPA which in and of itself will generally not restrict where you apply, then other factors could prove important to you - class size, the faculty to student ratio, a preference to attend graduate school in one part of the country over another. These criteria are examples of personal preferences. Those who apply with strong GPAs, and who submit an otherwise strong application, can afford to take other criteria, including personal preferences, more into account when deciding where to apply. (Later in this section, we'll supply a list of additional criteria for you to consider.)

C. Circumstances: Maybe a given program requires additional prerequisites, and you must decide whether you have the time, resources, and inclination to take them. All of this depends upon your own particular circumstances: e.g., is there a date by which you must graduate, or are application cycles looming? (practical considerations); or is the program one of your top picks? (a matter of personal preference).

Reminder: Admission requirements and the level of competitiveness vary considerably from one program to another. Research your prerequisites carefully, check admission requirements periodically, and keep in touch with programs to garner the most current information. Review the Important points to bear in mind as you plan your prerequisites, noted above the course grid on the OT, PT, and PA pages.

Program "rankings" lists are not the best resource!

Remember that the process a program must undergo in order to become accredited is rigorous; therefore, as long as a program is accredited, it is in one sense by definition a "good" program.

Thus, we suggest that you do not become too focused on program "prestige" or "rankings." Choosing a given program based on the notion that graduating from that school will have any sort of predictably significant impact on your employment options is a risky, unreliable strategy. In addition, the factors which go into rankings lists may or may not always be the most reliable or complete. Rankings are not a good substitute for your own detailed, customized, open-minded research!

Relatedly, prehealth students often ask if the specific professional program from which they earn their degree will make a difference in their job prospects. While some employers may prefer job applicants who have earned their professional degree from a specific program (perhaps, for example, they have had good experiences with students from the given program during clinicals), employers, in the end, want to hire the most qualified person for the job.

In addition, it can be difficult, and sometimes fruitless, to research these kinds of employer preferences, because there is no way for you to know which programs will offer you admission, no way to predict how employer preferences might change, and no way to predict the competitiveness of a given job applicant pool years ahead of time.

As long as your degree is from an accredited OT, PT, or PA program, and you have passed your licensure exams, most prospective employers are going to be less concerned with where you earned your degree, and more concerned that you can demonstrate your competence, and an enthusiastic devotion to the profession.

 

How To Begin Your Research

Carefully read the Competitive GPA information before beginning your program research! Your cumulative GPA and science / prerequisite GPAs may dramatically impact which programs you are more or less likely to be competitive for, and this information should play a role in your research.

ALWAYS BE THOROUGHLY POLITE AND PROFESSIONAL, IN EVERY INTERACTION, AND WITH EVERYONE. An applicant can be denied admission because of one impatient or presumptuous interaction with a secretary, office manager, or admission representative, or faculty member. Remember that programs have far more applicants than they can admit, so they can afford to be selective.

  1. First, build a wider list of 25 or 30 programs. (Later, we'll explain how to narrow it further.) Here's how to begin: Most applicants have geographical preferences, i.e., certain states or parts of the country where they hope to attend graduate school or settle down afterwards, or even areas they would prefer to avoid. There is a very simple way to quickly build your initial list of possible programs:
    • Using only the official lists of accredited programs linked from this webpage (see bottom of right hand contents menu), compile a list of programs which, for the time being, simply includes those located within the states where you would prefer to attend graduate school, along with any additional programs of interest. Keep adding programs till you have 25 or 30. Beginning your program research is that simple, and takes just 15 or 20 minutes!
    • Once you have developed a working list, begin finding answers to the fundamental research questions. Doing so will help you begin to narrow your list of programs.
      • For example, as suggested in "the fundamentals," start by skimming through the prerequisite list for each of your possible programs to get a sense of what courses you might need beyond those you're already aware of. If only a couple of programs require a certain prereq that you just can't see yourself taking, you might at least for now cross those programs off your list.
      • Another example of how to narrow your list: If you contact a program and learn that they have not admitted anyone with less than a 3.6 recently, and you expect to have a 3.3, you might cross off that program and focus on others. Maybe some others have an average of 3.6, but have in fact still admitted applicants in the 3.3 or 3.4 range. It's not a bad idea to apply to some of those programs for which you are "on the bubble" - i.e., maybe not in the middle of their average, but still within the overall range of what they've sometimes admitted.
    • Take your GPA into account: Based on your research into what GPA range is competitive for admission to your given programs (not merely eligible), you can decide to what extent you can be selective. Applicants with high GPAs and an otherwise strong application portfolio can often be more selective. Applicants with lower GPAs or a less robust application portfolio may need to be less selective about where they attend, but remember that as long as a program is accredited, it can ultimately help you reach your professional goals.

  2. Expand your list as needed: Bearing in mind GPA, as noted in (2), above, beginning your research according to geographical preference can still be a useful way to begin building a manageable list of programs to start with, as long as you continue to expand the list as necessary so that you are applying A) to programs for which you fall within the CGPA and science GPA range of past admits; and B) applying to enough programs, casting a wide enough net.

  3. Continue with more detailed research: Be sure to utilize this page in its entirety! Perhaps copy / paste the lists of research questions from the sections below into an electronic document. This way, you can create your own customized research tool by deleting, rearranging, and inserting questions, and typing in information about specific programs beneath each question.


Next: Fundamental Program Research Questions

Before proceeding with the research described below, we suggest that you first narrow your list of possible programs according to step (1) in the section above.

We suggest you record the answers you receive in an organized log that you keep for each program. Doing so will enable you to make side-by-side comparisons of programs. Always note the name and contact information of the person(s) who answered your questions. Consider copy-pasting the questions below into a word processor document so you can customize the list by adding, deleting, and rearranging questions, and taking notes within the document as you gather information about specific programs.

Research the questions below in relation to each of your programs of interest by first checking websites, and then calling and/or emailing programs if need be.

These questions offer a useful place to begin your initial search, once you have narrowed your list of programs ; you will not know exactly how you need to time your application, nor how to manage your remaining undergraduate semesters, until you gather this information and can thus form a good sense of which programs you are likely to apply to. (During your research, use only the lists of accredited programs linked from this page. We strongly recommend that you apply to a good many programs if possible.)

  1. At least for now, in which particular cities or states would you most like to live during graduate school, and possibly afterwards?
  2. At least for now, how important to you, both personally and economically, is trying to attend school in-state or out-of-state?
  3. And, at least for now, to which states do you not feel drawn? (Be open to considering additional programs later if the need arises, based upon, for example, GPA necessities. Refer to the Regarding GPA section, below.)
  4. Important - Competitive GPA research:
    • Do not focus on the minimum GPA merely required to apply (the eligibility GPA), which is rarely competitive for admission!
    • To garner the information below check websites for GPA policies. You can also check sites for profiles of individual students have been admitted to the program, but be aware that any GPA information provided in such individual profiles will not necessarily offer complete enough information. Also look for cohort profiles, which can offer the full range of statistics for those admitted in a given year. After trying these resources you can call or email programs and politely ask if they might fill in any gaps in what you've learned.
    • What have the average and lowest cumulative GPAs been for recent applicants admitted to each of your programs of interest?
    • What have the average and lowest science or prerequisite GPAs been for recent applicants admitted to the programs? (Calculate your own prereq/science GPA so you can compare.)
    • Does the program place greater emphasis on the "cumulative" GPA of the most recent 40 or 60 credits of the transcript, and less emphasis on the total cumulative GPA of the entire transcript? If so, such a policy sometimes benefits applicants who have shown an upward grade trend, or who got off to a shaky start. Conversely, it can disadvantage applicants who did not perform as well later in their degree. If a program follows this kind of GPA policy, their websites will usually indicate it. (Prerequisites taken earlier in the undergraduate degree would still be calculated as part of the prerequisite or math/science GPA.)
  5. Does the program require additional prerequisite courses beyond those you'd already planned to take?
    • Pre-OT: Thoroughly read the information about the ongoing transition from the OT masters degree to the entry-level OT Doctorate (OTD). By 2025 most OT programs will have made the transition. Between now and then, pre-OT students will need to do a bit of additional planning, and may need to take a few additional prereqs for programs as they transition to the new degree. For related details and tips, click HERE.
  6. If you have special credit or an exemption (e.g., AP or IB credit, credit-by-exam, or exemption from a degree requirement), what are the program's related policies or restrictions in relation to whether or not they will allow it to fulfill an admission prerequisite?
  7. When does the program's application cycle open and close (the "application window"); and do they have rolling admissions or early decision?
    • Some OT, PT, and PA programs admit students in January instead of the summer or fall, and hence have different application cycles; and some programs admit students at two or three different times each year.
    • Remember not to focus too much on deadlines! For many programs with rolling admissions or early decision, applying well before the deadline can be advantageous.
    • Pre-PT: Many DPT application deadlines fall in October, but not all - some come sooner, some later. For deadline information for each DPT program, consult the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) site's listing of programs, where you will find this and other information by clicking on the names of programs. Of course, program websites also contain such information.
    • Pre-OT: Many OT deadlines come in the fall, but some programs may have earlier optimal application windows, while some may be later, especially programs with January or spring admissions. Consult the links to accredited programs, below, and program websites.
    • Pre-PA: Summer is usually a critical application window for PA programs. Pre-PA students should not think of "the fall" as the optimal time to apply, because for many programs the fall is well past the optimal application window. Consult the links to accredited programs, below, and program websites.
  8. When does the professional program begin (i.e., your graduate coursework)? - summer, fall, spring?
  9. What is the program's prerequisite deadline (i.e., by when must you complete all prerequisites in order to be eligible to apply during a given application cycle)?
  10. What is the program's clinical observation requirement or recommendation?
  11. What is each program's deadline by when any required shadowing must be completed?
  12. What is each program's deadline by when direct patient care must be completed? (Mostly applies to PA programs, many of which require that most or all direct patient care be completed at the time of the application.)
  13. If you may wait and apply a couple of years after graduating, find out how long your science and non-science prerequisites will be valid. 7 or 10 years is common, but prerequisite "expiration dates" vary by program.
  14. Does the program require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)? Are scores from certain sections of the exam given greater weight than others? What is a competitive score range for admission? How / to what extent are scores taken into account during the admission process?
  15. Does the program have requirements or preferences for what kinds of letters of recommendation you should submit?
    • Be sure to obtain a recommendation from a practitioner in your chosen field with whom you've worked or undertaken extensive clinical observation.
    • From which instructors do they prefer a letter? Is one from a prereq instructor required or preferred? Is a letter from an AI fine?
    • Do they prefer ore require one from a work or volunteer supervisor?
    • For programs that do not use the central application service (CAS), what is the letter submission process (eventually you will need to clearly communicate all such processes to your recommenders, probably in a detailed email)?

 

Next: Additional Program Research Based On Your Preferences

Carefully read the Competitive GPA information before beginning your program research! Your cumulative GPA and science / prerequisite GPAs may dramatically impact which programs you are more or less likely to be competitive for, and this information should play a role in your research.

GPA and your personal preferences

Very generally speaking, if it seems that your CGPA and prereq / science GPA are likely to fall within a range of around a 3.5 or higher, then instead of focusing as much on GPA criteria, you can also consider more of your own personal preferences as you narrow the list of programs to which you will apply.

This is not to say that those applying with somewhat lower GPAs cannot take their personal preferences into consideration; it's just that those with lower GPAs need to be more cognizant of possible GPA limitations in terms of where they can be most competitive for admission, and in most cases cannot afford to be as selective about where they apply.

It is common practice to apply to one or two "stretch schools" - programs for which (objectively speaking) you may not feel particularly competitive, but for which you feel you may be able to earn an interview (for those programs requiring one), and possibly admission, if everything goes just right.

But applying to stretch schools alone is an unwise application strategy. We urge you to apply to a good number of programs for which your GPA numbers are solidly within or above the averages of successful past applicants.

Personal preferences: some ideas to consider

Once you have researched fundamental program information, you can do more nuanced research according to your personal preferences.

  1. Many university homepages or Office of Admission homepages have links to virtual campus tours or special pages directed to prospective students. While recognizing that these resources are advertisements for the university, they can still be useful to get a feel for the campus, and whether it seems to fit your preferences. For instance, is it more urban or more rural? Do the public spaces seem inviting to you?
  2. See if program websites have photos of the classrooms in which you would spend much of your time if you attended the given school; and, if so, whether those spaces look appealing.
  3. Are there currently enrolled students or student ambassadors you could talk with?
  4. Do you like what the location or nearby cities have to offer (events, culture, hiking – whatever your interests are)?
  5. Look up program faculty on the departmental website.
    • See if they are actively working in the given field (for example, if the OT / PT / PA faculty are actively engaged in treating patients / clients).
    • Check whether the faculty actively research in their fields, and/or are publishing in professional journals.
    • If you have a particular interest in a given area of practice or research, check to see if programs have faculty with similar interests. Perhaps you could even arrange to have a conversation with some faculty, especially if you do share interests.
    • Read program statements of philosophy and mission statements to see if anything strikes you. Most of them will look similar but are still worth reading. Occasionally you may read one that is expressing something a bit different or a bit more specific.
  6. Locate information about program clinicals: where are clinicals held and what kind of variety is available; are there special programs, like clinicals abroad; what impression do you get from the faculty profile of the clinical director?
  7. If you have a flexible, competitive GPA and more flexible finances you may be able to be more selective about whether you attend school in-state or out-of-state.

Researching additional program details and preferences

The additional criteria below can help you further confirm which programs you will apply to. Remember to thoroughly consult websites before contacting programs directly. 

  1. What is the average overall total cost of attending the given school for a semester; including rent, food, other basic living expenses, books, tuition, etc.? (While this number will vary to some extent from one student to another, programs should be able to provide fairly concrete information, and sometimes do so on their websites.)
  2. What are your program's greatest strengths compared to other such programs?
  3. What is the class size and student-to-faculty ratio?
  4. What percentage of graduates from your program pass their boards or certification exams the first time?
  5. Are there special issues transfer students should be aware of when considering your program?
  6. Do you give preference to in-state residents? Typically how many students accepted are in-state and out-of-state?
  7. Do you require application through the Central Application Service (CAS)?
  8. Do you have "rolling admissions" (i.e., the school starts to fill seats long before the deadline to apply)? By when do I need to apply in order to be competitive for admission?
  9. Is there a secondary application? If so, what does it entail? Does it require additional written responses?
  10. Is there an admissions interview? If so, how are your interviews conducted?
  11. Is a personal statement required? If so, what do you look for in the statement?
  12. What types of cocurricular, clinical observation, and community service / volunteer experiences are most helpful in preparing for your program?
  13. What does your program look for in an applicant?
  14. What types of problems or mistakes could prevent good students from being accepted into your program?
  15. In what ways and how early in the program are students given opportunities for patient contact and clinical experience?
  16. How diverse is the student body? Are there support services or organizations for students from underrepresented groups in the medical professions?
  17. From where do most of your students come? How much geographical diversity is there in your classes?
  18. Is someone available to help with budgeting/financial planning?
  19. Are there any scholarships, honors programs, or other special opportunities available?
  20. Is there anything else you think I ought to know about the admission process, about your program in general, or about the career in general?

 

Accredited programs

Important: Consult only the official lists of programs linked below! Other lists are incomplete, outdated, driven by marketing, and may contain non-accredited programs. Therefore, avoid using other lists found in general web searches, and avoid using lists on dot com sites.

Contacting programs

If there is information you'd like, and you cannot locate it on the program's website, feel free to contact the program representative directly. It is in fact a good idea to establish a rapport with representatives from programs in which you are most interested. Record who you spoke with, and what they told you, and save emails in a well-organized fashion.

Note that admission representatives are not advisors for applicants, and are best utilized as a source of concrete information about the program's admission standards, requirements, and policies. Certainly listen to any suggestions they might have, but remember that it is not their job to help you get into the program; they have their own agenda and responsibilities in connection with their program.

Also be aware that programs are very busy during application cycles, so try to get most of your questions answered prior to then. Along these lines, be sure to follow the advice in the professional conduct section of this page.

New programs can offer opportunities

If you feel your GPA is borderline for competitiveness, you might consider applying to a number of newer programs. Brand new programs must undergo a formal accreditation process, and need to first earn "provisional accreditation," "applicant program" status, "candidacy" status, or something similar, as part of this process. (The latter terms each mean something similar, but in some cases there are distinctions drawn, for instance, between programs that have reached the point in the accreditation process at which they are allowed to accept applications, and the point at which they are allowed to actually admit students. For the sake of simplicity, we will use the term provisional accreditation.) Such programs are often less competitive than those that have been around for a while.

There can be some potential risks in applying to programs in the early stages of the accreditation process. Read the information below carefully, and weigh the possible risks and benefits in accordance with your situation.

Explanation of "provisional accreditation" / "candidacy status"

The designations "provisional" "or "candidacy status" are often misunderstood to mean that something is "wrong" with the given program. This is not actually the case. Once a brand new program has earned provisional accreditation (or whichever term is used), it means the program has been approved by the given field's accreditation commission to begin accepting applications and/or admit its first cohort of students. By this time, the program has undergone scrutiny to see that it has the capacity to train and graduate well-qualified healthcare professionals, who can successfully complete the certification or licensure exam.

Programs do not achieve continuing accreditation (or "ongoing" or "full" accreditation - different terms meaning something similar) until they have graduated at least their first cohort of students; but, again, provisional status is a standard step in the accreditation process. Students who graduate from a provisionally accredited program, and pass their exams, become fully certified practitioners, whose credentials are indistinguishable from those who have graduated from more well-established programs. They have graduated from an accredited program, and in this sense most potential employers generally draw no distinctions.

Potential benefits and risks of applying to provisionally accredited / candidacy status programs

Sometimes new programs such as those described above can offer a window of opportunity for less competitive applicants. This is because new programs tend to receive fewer applications, and therefore cannot be as selective as more established programs.

It is relatively uncommon for a program to be denied accreditation, and the vast majority of provisionally accredited programs do ultimately receive continuing accreditation status. However, it does happen from time to time that a program is denied continuing accreditation. In these situations, students in the denied program might not be allowed to take the licensure exam.

Therefore, because there can be some potential risks in applying to provisionally accredited / candidacy status programs, you will need to weigh those risks against the possible benefit of applying to some potentially less competitive programs.

What you can do to minimize the risk

Aside from the application fee, you risk absolutely nothing by simply applying to provisionally accredited programs.

If you are offered admission to a provisionally accredited program or a program of candidacy status, before you decide whether or not to accept their offer, you might email them. It's okay to say that, while you assume they will garner their continuing accreditation, you would like to ask what specific formal contingencies they have in place should the program be denied accreditation, so that the effected students can still graduate in a timely fashion, take their certification exams, and become licensed in the field. (As we've indicated, it is probably best to ask these questions after an offer of admission so as not to make the wrong impression, and to enquire over email so you have a record of the information.)

 

For example: Does the program have guaranteed transfer agreements with other schools? Will they refund tuition if they should happen to be denied continuing accreditation? Do not hesitate to politely ask for specifics, and do not hesitate to ask follow-up questions for clarification, if you feel the need.

Programs which are new, but which have earned "continuing" / "ongoing" / "full" accreditation

Once programs have successfully graduated their first cohort of students, they are awarded "continuing," "ongoing", or "full" accreditation - different terms meaning essentially the same thing. At this stage, the possible risks described above in relation to provisionally accredited programs have diminished, because the programs are now further along in the accreditation process. (Note that all programs must become re-accredited every so often, so accreditation is always an ongoing process.) Newer programs that have achieved the milestone of moving beyond provisional accreditation sometimes remain somewhat less competitive for a couple of subsequent application cycles, and may still provide a window of opportunity for applicants who may be somewhat less competitive for admission to some of the more well-established programs.

 

Programs with "probationary" status

Programs are placed on "probation" when they are found to no longer meet the standards established by the organization which grants accreditation. It is relatively rare for a program on probation to not get off of probation. Programs on probation are still accredited, but it is worth being cautious. Gather adequate information so that you can make an informed decision when it comes time to apply.

The reasons programs are placed on probation vary. Sometimes turnover among teaching faculty or program directors is deemed too high; sometimes it has to do with administrative aspects of the program, such as problems with student records or filing systems; on occasion it could be something more serious.

Additional information about "probationary" status:

The websites of the above organizations should include a list of programs on probation, and the website of a program on probation should also supply additional information. You have the right to contact accreditation councils and committees, as well as individual programs, for additional information. You will find contact information for these organizations on their websites, usually under Contact Us or About Us.

 

Additional Resources For Establishing Your Own Rankings Criteria

Below are additional resources and tips to help you establish your own set of criteria for vetting programs, beyond the necessary starting point of GPA.

  • The IU Wells Library has resources for researching graduating programs, but a word of caution: we strongly advise that you prioritize the complete lists of accredited programs linked from this page over other catalogues of programs, and over rankings lists. Program catalogues often miss important information, and are rarely if ever as current or complete as the online lists and program websites. Also, even some of the most well-known resources are not as objective or helpful as they appear to be. Some can even be misleading, and cause applicants to overlook excellent opportunities. For example, while the rankings in US News and World Report's "America's Best Graduate Schools" can be interesting to look over, and is commonly cited, don't make the mistake of thinking it offers especially useful insight into whether a given school or program is "good" or "best" or would be a good fit for you. Such resources should in no way prompt you to ignore schools that are not in the lists of so-called "top" programs, nor focus too much attention on those which are in such lists. Remember what we said above about program rankings, and what actually constitutes a "good" program!
  • If there is specific information you need that you cannot locate on a program's website, or you feel you need clarification regarding an admission requirement or policy, a program feature, etc., then contact the program directly. In any case, once you've narrowed your list of programs, it's also a good idea to begin establishing a rapport with admission representatives. (Remember that programs are very busy during the application cycle, so try to get most of your questions answered prior to that. Follow the advice in the above section on professional conduct.)

Once you have gathered the information most pertinent to your preferences and circumstances, review your research, weigh your options, weigh pros and cons, and make your final decisions about where you will apply.

Be open to adding or deleting programs from your list if circumstances change, or you learn something new which has a bearing on your decision.

 

Some Final Research Steps

  • Once you've narrowed your list of programs to the ones to which you hope to apply, double-check with each one to make sure the prerequisites you have taken, and any that remain, will indeed fulfill admission requirements.
  • You need to gain a clear sense of when you must submit your application to each program. If you are pretty well along in your research process and have not yet done so, then confirm the application process and the application cycle for each of your programs: which ones have rolling admissions or early decision? Which ones require that you apply through a central application service? We suggest you treat the opening of your earliest rolling admission cycle as your soft application deadline. It isn't absolutely critical that you submit your application on the first day the rolling admission cycle opens; however, generally speaking, it's good to have your application complete within a couple of weeks of that, if possible.
  • Carefully review the other admission and application information on the HPPLC OT, PT, or PA page as you plan your application. As an example, you need to take into account your program application cycles in order to decide by when you must take the GRE, complete your personal essay (if required), gather letters, and so on.
  • Remember to attend the annual spring Health Programs Fair to speak with program representatives! Each year, OT, PT,and PA programs visit IU to meet potential applicants.

 

Financing Your Degree

For suggestions and resources related to researching scholarships and grants, consult the Health Professions and Prelaw Center page, Researching Scholarships and Educational Grants. Also talk with admission representatives and the financial aid office of the programs to which you are thinking of applying.

If you have not taken out loans as an undergraduate, be sure to file your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on time in relation to loans you might need for graduate school. When to file will depend on when your program begins. The January prior to the start of your program might be a useful benchmark, but it is your responsibility to confirm your FAFSA application timing and deadline information. If you have already filed your FAFSA, leave yourself time to make sure everything is in order for additional graduate school loans.

Remember, too, that while no one wants to amass any more school debt than necessary, those who become licensed OTs, PTs, and PAs are highly employable, and earn a good living through which they can pay down debt, especially if they live frugally for a few years after graduating.

 


(First follow the guidelines and tips in the above sections!)

 

Lists of accredited programs

IMPORTANT: IF A PRGORAM IS NOT ON ONE OF THE LISTS BELOW, IT IS NOT ACCREDITED, AND SHOULD THEREFORE BE AVOIDED!

(Back to Apply only to accredited programs)

(Back to top of page)

 

Accredited OT programs

 

IMPORTANT: IF A PRGORAM IS NOT ON ONE OF THE LISTS BELOW, IT IS NOT ACCREDITED, AND SHOULD THEREFORE BE AVOIDED!

Remember there are dozens of accredited OT programs that do not use OTCAS; do not overlook non-OTCAS programs!

  • Utilize the list of programs on the American Occupational Therapy Association site. AOTA is the body which accredits OT programs, and provides the only official list of all accredited American OT programs (including developing and applicant OT programs - see below). Most people pursue their Masters - the MSOT - which is the standard degree for those pursuing the OT profession. (The HPPLC OT page includes an explanation of the different OT degree-types, including Masters and Doctoral.) You can be confident the list program list linked above includes all accredited OT programs, and none that are not accredited or not in the process of becoming accredited.
  • The Occupational Therapist Centralized Application Service (OTCAS) supplies lots of detailed information about those programs which require application through OTCAS, including average admitted cumulative GPA and prerequisite summaries. To access this information, visit otcas.org > Participating Programs; then click the name of the program within the listings. Be sure to research and consider non-OTCAS programs as well!
  • Lists of proposed and provisionally accredited OT programs

Click HERE for an explanation of provisional accreditation, and the possible risks and benefits of applying to these newer programs.

  • The American Occupational Therapy Association also offers very useful lists of "developing programs" and "applicant programs." Developing MSOT programs are brand new programs that have earned "Candidacy Status" (i.e., provisional accreditation), and have thus begun admitting their very first OT students. Applicant MSOT programs are even newer than developing programs. They are still in the process of garnering Candidacy Status / provisional accreditation, and have not yet begun admitting students (but perhaps they will by the time you apply - keep checking!). If you combine all three lists - accredited programs, developing programs, and applicant programs - you will have a list of all current and possible future OT programs. Each year, several new OT programs earn accreditation

 

Accredited PT programs

 

IMPORTANT: IF A PRGORAM IS NOT ON ONE OF THE LISTS BELOW, IT IS NOT ACCREDITED, AND SHOULD THEREFORE BE AVOIDED!

Remember there are dozens of accredited PT programs that do not use PTCAS; do not overlook non-PTCAS programs!

  • Utilize the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) list of accredited programs, linked from the American Physical Therapy Association site. CAPTE is the body which accredits PT programs, and theirs is the only official list of accredited PT programs (and developing PT programs - see below). You can be confident this list includes all accredited programs, and none that are not accredited or not in the process of becoming accredited.
  • The Physical Therapy Central Application Service (PTCAS) site supplies lots of detailed information about those programs which require application through PTCAS, including average admitted CGPA and Science GPA, average GRE scores, and much more. To access this information, click the name of the program within the PTCAS listings. About 25% of PT programs do not use PTCAS; don't overlook non-PTCAS programs!
  • Overview of PTCAS program admission requirements: APTA / PTCAS supplies a useful Course Prerequisites Summary - which includes most PTCAS programs, but no non-PTCAS programs - usually linked from their PTCAS Program Prerequisite page. While not every program is represented in the summary, it can still save you lots of time, especially in the beginning of your research. Be sure to read the prerequisites summary in the first two pages of the document. After the summary, you will find the prerequisite chart itself. Again, it does not include non-PTCAS programs, but can still save you time. Be sure to research and consider non-PTCAS programs as well!
    • NOTE: If you do not see a link to the Course Prerequisites Summary at the link above, it is probably being updated. Check back periodically until you see it re-posted, usually by August or September.
  • Lists of newer and provisionally accredited PT programs

Click HERE for an explanation of provisional accreditation, and the possible risks and benefits of applying to these newer programs.

  • The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education offers a useful list of "developing programs." Developing PT programs are brand new. Some have only been proposed and are still awaiting provisional accreditation. Others have already been granted provisional accreditation and have begun admitting their very first PT students. On the page linked above, be sure to look at the tabs for Candidates, Applications Submitted, and Director Hired. Combine the lists behind all three tabs, and you will thus have a list of all new PT programs under development. Each year, several new PT programs earn accreditation
  • To learn when a program first became accredited, visit the CAPTE program list linked above, and click the name of the school. You will usually find an information page which includes the "Date of initial accreditation," by which you can judge how well-established the program is. It is certainly not the case that older programs are always extremely competitive, nor that new programs are always less competitive than older programs. Nonetheless, if you have a lower GPA, this factor is worth looking into.

 

Accredited PA programs

 

IMPORTANT: IF A PRGORAM IS NOT ON ONE OF THE LISTS BELOW, IT IS NOT ACCREDITED, AND SHOULD THEREFORE BE AVOIDED.

Also IMPORTANT: About 20% of accredited PA programs do not use CASPA; do not overlook non-CASPA programs. Whether or not programs choose to use CAPSA has nothing to do with their quality or accreditation status.

  • The only official lists of accredited U.S. PA programs (both CASPA and non-CASPA) are linked below:

    • The Physician Assistant Education Association's (PAEA) list of accredited PA programs includes nearly every accredited PA program. The site offers helpful search filters and a good deal of specific program information at a glance. Once you begin narrowing your list of programs always double-check the most current and complete information on program websites.
    • Note: The PAEA list may at times be missing a handful of accredited programs that are not currently members of PAEA. To make sure you aren't overlooking any programs always check the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA), which offers a list of every single accredited PA program, including their accreditation status at a glance. Further information below.
    • List of newer and provisionally accredited PA programs
      • For an explanation of provisional accreditation, and the possible risks and benefits of applying to these newer programs, Click HERE.
      • The only 100% complete list of accredited PA programs is offered by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). The ARC-PA list indicates the date each PA program was first accredited so that you can tell how new or how established they are. It also indicates whether the program has achieved its provisional accreditation, whether it has achieved continuing accreditation, or whether it is on probation. The ARC-PA list is updated every March and September so check back at the end of those months for new additions. Each year several new PA programs garner provisional or continuing accreditation.
      • Also on the ARC-PA site you will find a list of applicant PA programs - proposed programs that have applied for accreditation but are still undergoing the accreditation process. While it could be months or years before an applicant program completes the formation and accreditation process, the applicant list is well worth tracking, because:
        • You might discover that a program has been proposed in a state or at an institution which interests you.
        • Most applicant programs will eventually become provisionally accredited, and could for a time be less competitive than more established programs.
        • If you are considering applying to new programs remember to read about the possible risks and benefits of doing so.

 

 

Important

This information was prepared for Indiana University Bloomington students by the Health Professions and Prelaw Center. Please note that specific requirements and policies can change at any time without notice. Students are responsible for obtaining the most current information directly from application and testing services, and the schools and programs in which they have an interest. Refer to each program's web pages, bulletins, and other publications for the most current information. Students are responsible for understanding degree course requirements, as well as other requirements, policies, and procedures related to the degree(s) they are pursuing; for enrolling in appropriate courses; for understanding IU policies/procedures; and for following through properly with regard to all of the preceding.