Why wait until after graduation to start developing one’s professional career? 

The University of Rhode Island offers several pre-professional clubs on campus that are completely student-run. Students described them as a helpful way to get insight and guidance into what it takes to become a professional in some specific and competitive careers, such as physical therapy and a physician’s assistant.

Senior Brandon Weick is president of URI’s pre-physical therapy club and has been a participant since his freshman year. 

“Every time I’ve left a meeting, I’ve left with a new piece of information,” he said. “Another piece of advice that would help me with applying or just with my decision to become a PT or something I could use for sure.”

According to Weick, the club is low-commitment, as they only meet four to five times a semester. Additionally, anyone is welcome to join. They usually meet in the clinical-practice room in Independence Square.

During these meetings, students will learn about what different types of physical therapists do. Additionally, they will learn tips about applying to graduate school and what to expect. Graduate students are often brought in to talk about their own experiences and share what they’ve learned.

“[This] is a huge deal,” Weick said. “Physical therapy programs are super competitive so people like to get a leg up… it’s a nice resource to have.”

Weick also explained that some meetings involve engaging in hands-on activities. They can practice using the equipment for different “modalities” of physical treatment. This includes electrical stimulation, ultrasound, heat therapy and cryotherapy.

However, Weick said that everyone’s favorite meeting activity is going into URI’s cadaver lab. 

“A cadaver is a human body donated to science,” Weick said.

 In the lab, students can touch real human body parts, including brains, hearts, muscles, nerves and bones. 

“This is helpful to visualize how these muscles work and interact as opposed to a textbook, and also shows how every individual body is different, as opposed to the uniform way that bodies are often portrayed in science textbooks,” Weick said. 

URI also has a pre-physician assistant club that is also student run. According to president Nick White, who is also a URI Emergency Medical Services (EMS) member, their meetings are structured in a very similar way. They meet once a month, but the environment is “casual” and largely conversation based. Like the pre-physical therapy club, they will also venture outside the classroom, usually to tour graduate schools in the area.

There are other pre-professional programs on campus in which students meet with an advisor, but both Weick and White appreciate the informality of their clubs. 

“I liked the fact that we could go to the students who ran the meetings and just ask some questions about certain classes,” White said. “I think that that’s one of the best things about a student-run organization. You have that dialogue whereas if it was run by a professor you may not feel as comfortable going to them.” 

Weick pointed out that joining a club like this also looks great on a resume. 

“It shows [physical therapy] programs you were interested in this,” he said. “That shows that you’re already looking into that profession.”

White said it is also beneficial to have a group of dedicated students that can be counted on for support. 

“College is a team sport and we’re all going towards the same goal,” White said. “And it helps to have someone who can say ‘I’m in this major, I took this class, I highly suggest this.’ And that’s a lot of what we do.”

If you are a student interested in joining either of these clubs, the pre-physical therapy club can be reached at prept@rhodysenate.org and the pre-physician’s assistant club can be reached at paclub@rhodysenate.org. They can also be followed on Instagram @uri_prept and @uri_paclub.