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Frequently Asked Questions

What is physical therapy?

Physical therapy is a health profession whose primary purpose is the promotion of optimal human health and function through the application of scientific principles to prevent, assess, correct, or alleviate acute or prolonged movement dysfunction. The philosophical principle underlying the formation of this profession is respect for the dignity and worth of all humankind. Physical therapists are health professionals who evaluate and treat the dysfunctions of persons who are impaired or disabled as a result of pain, disease, injury, or developmental delay.

What is a pre-physical therapy course of study?

Western Carolina University provides a sequenced course of study that enables an undergraduate student interested in physical therapy to meet the needed prerequisites for admission to the Doctor of Physical Therapy program in a timely manner. A pre-professional adviser on Western Carolina University’s campus is available to help guide WCU students and be sure they are taking the right courses.

Is it necessary to complete a pre-physical therapy course of study to apply to the program?

No. However, all prerequisites need to be met by the time of admission to the program.

Do I have to have a bachelor's degree in physical therapy to apply for the DPT program?

A bachelor's degree is required to apply for the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program. However, that degree does not have to be in physical therapy. Our faculty recommend that an entering student have earned a bachelor's degree in a complementary field of study that is of interest. Our students have had a wide range of majors, such as biology, exercise science, psychology, sociology, nutrition, business, or any of the health-related majors.

What is the required number of hours of volunteer work needed to satisfy your requirements for admission?

A minimum of 32 hours is required and up to 129 hours is recommended. The total number of hours and the number of settings are part of the consideration in the admissions process therefore we encourage students to seek opportunities to observe or work in a variety of physical therapy settings. Experiences gained in this manner are invaluable in making decisions about whether physical therapy is the right career choice for you and will provide a foundation for professional study.

Do all the prerequisites need to be completed before I apply to the PT program? Before I enter the PT program?


Applicants should have no more than two outstanding courses at the time of applying and must have completed all prerequisites at the time of admission to the program.

Under certain circumstances, with a realistic plan for completing all necessary pre-requisite courses, the Admissions Committee will consider an applicant who has more than two outstanding courses. Typically, a five-point penalty is assessed in the admissions process and acceptance is provisional. The applicant is required to earn a B or higher in the outstanding courses in order to matriculate into the program.

Can I have a specific prerequisite course waived?

Yes. Students requesting waiver of a prerequisite course must contact the physical therapy department and show proof of content equivalency. Faculty may require submission of the course syllabus.

What will improve my chances of acceptance into the PT program?

Application to physical therapy programs is competitive, and students should strive to maximize their Grade Point Average (GPA) and scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE); gain volunteer or paid experience in a variety of physical therapy settings; and prepare a thoughtful, well-written essay as part of the application process.

Are graduate assistantships and tuition waivers available?

A number of graduate assistantships (10 hours per week) and a limited number of tuition remissions (in-state and out-of-state) are provided each year through the Graduate School. Students who are accepted or waitlisted will receive an application for the graduate assistantship and one for the tuition remission that requires a 500 word statement (double-spaced and in at least 11-point font) that builds on, or highlights, the information in your application to address the specific rationale to support awarding you an assistantship. This might include professional interests/aspirations, human service experience (volunteer and professional); honors and achievements (academic and community service); and other information you deem appropriate, including financial need. These applications should be returned to Linda Donaldson, University Program Specialist, via email at

Is there a ranking of PT programs?

The American Physical Therapy Association does not rank programs. Physical therapy educational programs are accredited by Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapist Education (CAPTE) which assures quality in physical therapy education.

If I go to WCU as an undergraduate student, are my chances of being accepted stronger than someone who didn't?

A small number of points are awarded in the admissions process to students and graduates of WCU and to residents of western North Carolina. If you are a WCU student interested in applying, a number of resources are available to you on campus: A pre-professional adviser will help you meet various undergraduate requirements; periodic open houses hosted by the Graduate School and Admissions will introduce you to faculty and students in the program and to other students on campus; and the University Program Specialist and Graduate Assistants are available to provide individualized assistance.

Are out-of-state students admitted into the program?

We certainly look at well-qualified in- and out-of-state candidates.

How many students apply each year, and how many are accepted?

Many more students apply than can be admitted. Our current enrollment maximum is 48. Therefore, it is vital that students interested in the program strive throughout their undergraduate years to maintain the best grades possible, and direct their field of study and extra-curricular activities toward entering the health care field.

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