Major: Physical Therapist Assistant
Rachel Gioja enrolled at College of DuPage at the age of 15.
“I wanted to get an early start on classes and began taking prerequisites for the Physical Therapist Assistant program,” she said. “I always wanted a career in the medical field in order to work hands-on with many different people every day and make a difference in their lives. I became interested in physical therapy because it is a difficult but rewarding field that helps people heal, regain function and become the best they can be.”
Gioja decided to attend COD because of positive comments made by friends. She also wanted to save money by attending a community college close to home, and it gave her an opportunity to begin college earlier than most people.
“I liked being able to pick my schedule so that by the end of the PTA program, I could work full-time and still pursue full-time classes,” she said. “Also, COD is one of the few schools in the area that offers a PTA program, so of course it became my number one choice.”
College of DuPage helped Gioja reach her goals. She especially liked the PTA program teaching staff and the small, close-knit classes of the Honors program.
“The Honors program staff have been especially encouraging and effective in education,” she said. “I really enjoyed the projects, papers and feedback, and I enjoyed experiencing COD’s first online honors course.
“Thanks to the atmosphere and education at COD, I feel more confident and mature transferring to a four-year university.”
Gioja earned an Associates of Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assistant and graduated with highest honors. She also received the Elmhurst University Transfer Scholarship, a full tuition award, and initially wanted to pursue a Bachelor of Health Science degree. However, she decided to become a trauma nurse and transferred to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to study nursing. Having graduated, she is now a labor and delivery nurse at Del Mar Birth Center in California.
Her advice for students considering College of DuPage is simple: Do it!
“COD is an excellent school with motivated students, helpful staff and a plethora of class options,” Gioja said. “It is a perfect place to gain an associate’s degree, bridge between high school and college, or just take a few classes to expand your knowledge and increase your confidence. Come with an open mind, and you’ll be surprised by how much you can learn.”