Just Keep Walking Toward the Mountain

By Denise Colaianni posted 01-15-2019 07:44


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:
    • Biology
    • General Chemistry I & II
    • Pre-calculus or higher
    • General Physics I & II
    • Human Physiology & Anatomy I & II
    • Psychology (2 courses)
    • Statistics
  • 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?