I woke up to emails from five Universities. Anxiety you ask? Through the roof. What I had been working towards for 4+ years had finally come to fruition. At that moment I hoped to be accepted to just one program. As I opened the emails in succession, the joy grew to greater and stronger than previously imagined. I celebrated with my girlfriend over breakfast and sent multiple text messages to my parents. My girlfriend couldn’t believe it, my parents couldn’t believe it, and I couldn’t believe it. I had been accepted into not just one, but four physiotherapy programs. “What an amazing opportunity” I remember thinking, but it didn’t take long for that excitement to turn into a difficult decision about what program to choose. At the time I could have used an outside voice to help guide me along my decision making process. That is what I hope to be for you.
First of all, congratulations! What a huge accomplishment and one that you should be very proud of. Most likely there are a hundred thoughts racing through your mind about your upcoming decision. I want to start by asking you to take a deep breath. Actually, take three. This decision may be easy for some, and difficult for others. Personally, it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve made to date. However, when I reflect on my experience there were a few common themes that I believe are transferable to your situation – no matter what it might be.
1 – Ask yourself: What’s important to you?
I encourage you to write down three things that are of the utmost importance to you. This can be related to physiotherapy, but it doesn’t have to be. To provide you with an example, at the time my big three included being in driving distance to my family, attending a program that had a good reputation, and selecting a school that would push me outside of my comfort zone. To elaborate on my last point, I pursued my undergraduate degree at the University of Western Ontario where my best friends attended and my family lived 50 minutes away. It was a safe choice and one within my comfort zone. My girlfriend and I spoke about pushing outside of that comfort zone and the potential benefits that lay ahead for my decision regarding grad school. I encourage you to write down three things that are important to you and consider them when making your decision.
2 – Research the program as if your life depended on it
Anyone can peruse through a course syllabus for a program. Take your research to the next level and take a deeper dive into program research. This is something that helped a lot with my program selection. A few topics that I found helpful to dive into included:
· Course schedules – when does each school provide time off, how much time off, when are placements, how intensive are course schedules?
· Professors – your development as a physiotherapist will be grossly influenced by those that teach you. Look into the professors of each program and determine if they are examples of professionals that you would like to learn from.
· Placement catchment area – each physiotherapy school has their own region of geographic space where they can provide placement opportunities to students. In provinces where there is only one physiotherapy school this is not as much of a concern, as the whole province is eligible for that school. However, in provinces such as Ontario, there are multiple physiotherapy programs. Each program has the right to different hospitals, clinics, and rehab facilities. Look into the catchment area for the schools you are considering and determine if the placement opportunities in that region match what you are looking for.
· Course selection – although each physiotherapy program in Canada follows a similar syllabus, there are some unique examples of programs that offer courses that other programs do not. Take a look into these courses and see if this is a potential game changer for you.
3- Talk about your decision with others
I cannot emphasize this one enough. You need to talk about your thoughts, feelings, and potential struggles with someone. I found this to help a lot in determining what I wanted and did not want in a program. Choose someone who can be impartial to your decision, as the last thing you need is someone trying to pull you one direction or another.
4- Research the city
The location of the program may be just as important as the program itself for some individuals. Take a quick look to see what the city has to offer. Are you passionate about being in a big city? Or do you prefer a smaller town feel? Do you want a location with a fun night life? Or an area that can be quiet and relaxing? Also take this time to look into rent prices for each city. Graduate programs are not cheap and rent often factors into our financial decision making. Each city will be different and may even be worth a trip to them if you are having a difficult time deciding.
5- Relax, and know that regardless of your decision you are going to be a physiotherapist!
I once had a friend flip a coin to determine where he would go to university. Although I don’t necessarily recommend this method, my friend says he’s extremely happy that the coin landed the way that it did. Yes, this is a big decision for you, but remember that you have overcome many obstacles to get to this point and you will overcome this one as well.
How to choose between physio school offers conclusion
Even after making my decision to attend Queens University, I wasn’t 100% sure that I made the right call. But at the end of the day I wouldn’t change a thing. I made great friendships, professional connections, and had more fun than I can express. I hope this same fate happens for you. If you need any help with this decision we’re happy to help.