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The prompt for the physical therapy personal statement essay is a unique one — and I love it. You’ll see how this student uses one confirmation moment — a scene with a specific patient — to showcase how it encapsulates the theme of lifting, which has followed him in his life. He’s produced an elegant, well-crafted and original argument that allows his stories — and personality — to shine.

The clinic had just finished its afternoon rush, and our last patient was Steven, who always preferred the evening slot because he said he would be tired enough to actually get some sleep after therapy. The first thing he did when he walked in was ask to change the radio station to some rock (he was a Guns N’ Roses guy) because he thought all of the new rap was boring. I ran him through his usual workout and we joked around about how tiny the clinic was. Whenever I’d clean equipment after he was done with it, he said, as he always did, “You missed a spot,” and I, as I always did, said, “Don’t make me add more weight or keep you here an hour longer.” 

Steven had undergone a double knee replacement, needed due to osteoarthritis. He was a firefighter and he’d been really into powerlifting before he had his surgery (he was that kind of guy too). 

Recently, I’d gotten into lifting as well, and that night, I asked him for advice on how to get stronger, supplements that were worth buying, and even what it took to compete. His eyes lit up and I could tell he liked telling me about it all. “I miss it a lot,” he said, admitting he felt like maybe he wouldn’t be able to do what he used to do. 

Thinking back to when he first came into the clinic being pushed in a wheelchair, I realized his progress in two months was insane. He’d worked hard. Early on, sometimes he’d have tears in his eyes because the therapy was so intense. But this was the first time he’d told me that he had doubts, and it was the first time I’d really thought about how far he’d come.

Thinking about that before and after clicked something inside me. It reminded me that hard work does pay off. And it showed me that I want to have that before-and-after impact on someone’s life. It was then that I was set on becoming a Physical Therapist. 

These past two years at the clinic have given me a lot of different experiences and every day wasn’t a walk in the park. Sometimes life would get in the way, but I would never let that show at work. I always thought to myself that regardless of what’s going on around me, there always has to be something positive happening too, so I choose to have a positive and uplifting outlook on life. I believe that this outlook has helped me a lot and most recently has helped me towards getting another job at my local gym as a personal trainer. Despite being in a dominantly Latino community, there were no trainers at my gym who spoke Spanish. It’s fun work, like physical therapy will be, because it’s both literally and emotionally uplifting. 

I grew up in a small town in South Jersey surrounded by farms and nurseries. My parents migrated here from Mexico before I was born in hopes of giving me the chance at a good education. More often than not, I was usually surrounded by a babysitter since my parents both worked at nurseries. In middle school, my father left the company he worked for and decided to start his own construction company. With the new business, money was tight, and I saw him even less. He learned everything he could about construction and learned how to speak English fluently without even getting lessons. With hard work, he lifted all of us out of a tight situation, and his company grew. He now has over thirty employees. 

I realize now how much my dad risked to achieve his goal. I remember asking him once during my freshman year of college why he didn’t just stick it out at his old job. I thought his reply would be money or wanting a bigger house. But he said, “I want to make sure my family is taken care of when I’m gone.” Even now his work ethic hasn’t changed and he’s always pushing me to not give up and to keep going. In a way, my dad has been a kind of mental physical therapist, encouraging me, telling me and showing me how far all of us have come. 

The idea of lifting, whether you’re lifting yourself toward getting better, lifting your spirits, lifting your family out of poverty, is a fascinating concept to me, one that, I realize, has followed me throughout my life. Maybe that’s why that evening with Steven was so powerful to me. It was all of these things rolled into one moment, a moment I was ready to receive.