Mariah Sperl

Major: Natural Science

Minors: Exercise Science and Sport Studies, Psychology

Hometown: Proctor, Minnesota

Why study pre-PT at a liberal arts college?

MariahStudying at a liberal arts college has allowed me to take a variety of classes along with the prerequisite courses for applying to doctor of physical therapy programs. Taking classes in history, literature, theology, mathematics, accounting, and piano has helped me develop a wide knowledge base that will be applicable throughout my life, in and outside of a career in physical therapy. I also had room in my schedule to study abroad in South Africa for a semester, taking classes in South African literature, jazz music, and marine biology to further expand my breadth of knowledge and global perspective, which will help me relate to my future patients from diverse backgrounds.

What makes the pre-PT program at CSB/SJU unique?

The small class sizes at CSB/SJU have had a great influence on my ability to excel in the challenging prerequisite courses that are part of the pre-PT program. Not at every college does your professor know your name by the second day of class! My professors have been available outside of class to willingly answer questions and challenge further thinking. There is a true feeling that the professors at CSB/SJU have students’ best interests in mind and really want to see students succeed in learning the class material. Another unique aspect of the pre-PT program at CSB/SJU is that students can choose from a variety of majors that have some overlap with the pre-PT prerequisite courses. As a biology major, I have had the ability to take biology courses of interest to me that are not directly related to physical therapy, as well as fulfill some of the prerequisite courses for PT school.

What has your experience with the CSB/SJU pre-PT program faculty been like?

The pre-PT program faculty at CSB/SJU are extremely friendly, approachable, and helpful. I met with the pre-PT advisor, Don Fischer, towards the end of my first year when I decided to pursue physical therapy, and he laid out my entire class schedule for my next three years of college. He worked with my schedule to fit in a semester long study abroad program, and provided recommendations for classes to take that were not prerequisites, but were relevant to my future career as a physical therapist. I continued to meet with Don each semester to check in, and I always felt very assured I was on the right track to apply to physical therapy programs because of his expertise in advising and his knowledge as a trained physical therapist.

What has been one of the greatest challenges you have faced?

Some of the prerequisite courses for applying to physical therapy programs are very challenging and require putting in extra time and effort to receive satisfactory grades. At times, it was challenging to manage time to fit in studying, work, and extracurricular activities while also having time to spend with friends. The extra effort put in to reach out to professors when I needed extra help or spend extra time studying in the library was challenging at the time, but it most definitely pays off in the end.

What advice do you have for students considering the pre-PT program?

I highly recommend observing multiple physical therapists in different areas of the field to ensure physical therapy is the right fit for you. When I decided to pursue physical therapy, I had a pretty clear idea of the daily life of a physical therapist, whether working in an inpatient or outpatient setting, in pediatrics or geriatrics, or orthopedic or neurologic, etc. because of my observation experiences. Once you have decided on the pre-PT program, I recommend meeting with Don Fischer. He will guide you through your various options for your major of study and ensure you can fit all of the prerequisite courses into your class schedule. When applying to physical therapy schools, make sure to submit your application early to increase your chances of acceptance, especially for programs with rolling admission.

What are your plans after graduation?

I will be attending the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at the University of Minnesota.