Purpose/Hypothesis: Although observation hours are a required component of admissions to most physical therapist (PT) programs, there is little evidence on how these experiences influence students’ development and success to and during the first year of the program. To fill this gap, this research examines the essence of observation hours as it is experienced by recent PT graduates. Number of Subjects: 11 recent DPT graduates (ages 24-37) Materials and Methods: Through a phenomenological methodology, it explores how recent PT graduates come to seek observation hours, develop professional identity, and make meaning of early professional experiences. After thorough analysis of interview transcripts program documents, and participant-generated documents (photographs), themes were identified within and across the cases. Results: All of the participants reported that observation hours were essential to their educational pursuits, decisions, and path. Four themes emerged from data: a) developing knowledge about the profession, (b) establishing career goals, (c) evolving expectations from undergraduate to professional education, (d) creating a professional identity. Conclusions: Despite the variation in their background and educational path, the participants perceived many benefits from observation hours. All noted that the observation experiences crucial to their development and success in undergraduate education and prerequisite coursework. Furthermore, these experiences play an important role in early learning, identity development, and success in the first year of the program. Clinical Relevance: Understanding the observation experiences can inform PT programs in their efforts to aide prospective and current students in their pursuit of a physical therapist degree and career.