Even though I meet with students throughout their careers at our university to prepare them for their intern capstone experience, I still find that several of them each year seem thoroughly surprised that they are not where they hoped they would be in terms of career preparedness.
As I was preparing to meet with a group of sophomores, I began to ponder how I could help them to see where they wanted to end up and how they could get there.
I started with this quote from Neil Gaiman:
“Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be—an author, primarily of fiction, making good books, making good comics and supporting myself through my words—was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal. And I knew that as long as I kept walking toward the mountain, I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain.”
The mountain is what the future looks like to a sophomore. It’s high, difficult to climb, and very far away. If I could break down the steps to getting to the mountain maybe I could help them on the path.
I decided to do a pilot presentation to our Allied Health concentration students. At this point in their academic careers the mountain looks like acceptance into a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program. With this picture in mind I met with the sophomore Allied Health students and had the following conversation:
Me: Do you know what it takes to get into a DPT program?
Student: Good grades.
Me: Absolutely, but let me tell you more.
I proceed to outline the requirements of a DPT program:
The acceptance requirements at a Connecticut State University DPT program are:
- Must have earned a bachelor’s degree
- Completed the following prerequisite courses:
- General Chemistry I & II
- Pre-calculus or higher
- General Physics I & II
- Human Physiology & Anatomy I & II
- Psychology (2 courses)
- Cumulative GPA of 3.3 or better
- GRE scores of 310 or better with a 4.0 in the writing portion
- Submission of GRE scores
- Strongly recommended that applicants accumulate at least 40 hours of observation of physical therapy in a variety of settings
That information was met with silence in the room.
After a few moments of stunned silence, students start to ask questions: good questions about courses and requirements and availability of tutoring and academic support. I encourage these questions and help students find their own answers to the question of how to reach their own individual mountains. I refer them to graduates of our program who have been successful in getting accepted to DPT programs as well as to our office of Career Development.
The conversation continues:
Me: Do you have a clearer picture of what you need to do to reach your goals?
Student: Yes and it’s intimidating.
Me: Let’s take it one step at a time.
Student: What’s the first step?
Me: You’re taking it right now!
This is just the beginning. I will meet with students again over the next few semesters in group and one-on-one sessions to review their progress. We’ll revisit their goals and adjust them as need be.
In this moment I have opened their eyes to the road ahead of them and the steps they need to take to get there: Just keep walking toward the mountain.
Do they have the picture of the mountain still in front of them? Does it seem attainable? Have they taken the first steps?