Ask Yourself These Questions to Tackle the PTCAS “Professionalism” Personal Statement Prompt

“Why do you want to be a physical therapist?”

Who thought the PTCAS (Physical Therapy Centralized Application Service) personal statement prompt would be something along those lines?

*raises hand*

Instead, it’s currently, “What is professionalism in the context of being a student in a Doctor of Physical Therapy program?”

If you’ve felt at all intimidated by the question or if you’re unsure of where to start, you’re in the right place! I had the same prompt during my application cycle, and I am here to guide you through it.

Let’s Break It Down

If you’ve ever let me edit your personal statement, I probably told you to choose a theme.

What does that mean, exactly?

Let’s simplify the major components of a personal statement that will help you to craft an simple, yet organized, essay.

Stand out by thinking about your essay in these terms:

Prompt: The reason for your essay. This is the question that your essay must answer. In this case, “professionalism as a DPT student.”

Theme: Structuring tool for your essay. Your theme is your answer to the prompt.

Aim for just 1 theme per essay. 

Topic Sentence: Start each paragraph (possibly excluding the introduction) with a topic sentence that supports your theme. Each topic sentence should be a sort of answer to the prompt on its own and, ideally, will be related to the theme.

Evidence: These will be the examples you provide within the paragraphs. Your evidence, or “proof,” should be a direct reflection of that paragraph’s topic sentence.

Make sense?

Here’s another way to visualize that flow: 


Ready to start writing?

Ask Yourself These 7 Questions First

If you’re not sure how to start writing on this prompt, think about or jot down your answers to the following:

  1. Why do I want to be a physical therapist? (Even if it’s not the prompt, this is still very important, of course!)
  2. What techniques have I learned over the years that make me a good student, or that make me want to be a better student?

    If you’ve struggled with your classes (I was in the same position, don’t panic), draw on experiences from a mentor or classmate who did well. What did they do that worked for them? Was it honorable? Mature? Did it go beyond the classroom and beyond their grades? Are good grades the only mark of a good student?

  3. What qualities would a PT need to be successful?
  4. What is success for a PT?
  5. When would I even need to be professional in school?
  6. Are there experiences from my own life that both reflect those professional qualities and also led me to PT school? (Alternatively, you can come up with the experiences first, and then extrapolate evidence of professionalism from there.)
  7. What would happen to me as a student if I did not value professionalism?

Define a Theme

The theme of your essay will be separate from the prompt. In fact, it’ll be your response to the prompt.

You might not actually discover your theme until you start writing, and that’s okay too.

For my fellow bloggers out there, your theme will be equivalent to a blog “niche.” That’s where you focus your energy…and thus your content.

Here are some examples of personal statement themes; don’t write in accordance with a theme that is of only mild interest to you. Passion is key, and it will resonate with the reader.

You can draw on either general concepts, specific experiences, or both to determine your theme. You should also look to your answers to the above questions to find trends or answers that jump out at you.

General concepts:

  • Mental health (you knew this was going to be at the top)
  • Rural healthcare
  • Teamwork
  • Inter-professional care
  • International care
  • Trauma
  • Recovery
  • Work/life balance
  • PT/PTA Relationship

Specific experiences:

  • How you came to love early-morning yoga
  • Your experience as a physical therapy patient
  • The medical service trip you took as a high school student
  • Your responsibilities as the oldest sibling
  • Literally anything else

There’s no right or wrong theme. And, not everything that you write has to be directly related to the theme, especially if you’re expanding upon specific experiences or goals within the statement.

The point of the theme is not to restrict your writing, but rather to focus it and give it a clear direction and purpose.

Write, Edit, Repeat

Check out my tips on the ideal number of editors and edits here (too few and you put yourself at risk of typos and lack of clarity. Too many and you lose your voice in your writing!) That post features other great personal statement do’s and don’ts as well.

As I get settled into PT school, myself, I will be pausing all essay edits for the time being. I look forward to resuming my personal statement editing services in the near future! 

However, feel free to use the contact form below for other comments and questions:



Don’t forget- I’M ROOTING FOR YOU!!

Now go do big things.

Happy writing!


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