How to get into OT school

Many OT programs require applications, interviews, and/or test scores for admission, and do not accept all applicants. Here is a brief walk-through of things to do to better your chances of acceptance. For the purposes of this entry, we will assume that the prospective student has already done intelligent things to determine if OT is the right career path, and has decided upon a specific university.

  • Read Carefully- Upon admission to a college, you should get a guide with information about all the different majors offered and brief descriptions of classes. This guide is akin to a school's contract with you. This will have the information you need about prerequisite classes and general education requirements that you will need to graduate. In many cases, you will need to finish your liberal arts/general ed classes before starting in the OT curriculum. Also be sure to carefully examine the admissions packet from your OT school at least a semester in advance of when you would apply. This gives you a chance to pick up anything you would be missing prior to your application.
  • Schedule Smart- The college adviser... an appointed watchdog to make sure you graduate on time and according to plan. Warning- if you believe that is the adviser's job, you are likely to have problems. I won't say that all advisers are overworked and ill-informed, but those types of people do exist. College advisers have to sort schedules for hundreds or thousands of people each semester, and they most likely won't have the extensive contact with you to be familiar with your detailed career aspirations. So if it's important to you to apply to OT school in a specific year, finish your coursework on time, or take the required classes, you need to be your own advocate. Use the program guides to sketch out a framework of what classes you will need each year, where you have space for electives, etc. Your adviser may be able to help you in making sure that your planning reflects the university schedule (ie, if you Chemistry before Physiology, but they are both only offered in fall semester, you will need to do chem early).
  • Make Contact- contact faculty at your OT program. Be friendly. Let them know that you're out in the world and interested in their program. They'll be familiar with you when you apply, and can also help you if you get confused during the admissions process. If you can, make friends with a current student or recent grad. They can give you inside information about what to expect from the program that can be invaluable. In my program, we pass on a "buddy CD" of study guides and notes from classes year to year.
  • Volunteer- Get to work at a local center that provides OT. Job shadow OTs, and remember, these people will be your future references. At these times, always dress and act professionally. Be courteous and curious. Take an active role and try to help out where you can (be aware, this will not be in direct patient care). Volunteering in other fields is also a great idea and shows commitment to helping others.
  • Review Your Resume- Make sure your resume contains information about your skills and your volunteer and work experiences. You should include anything that could be related to a career in healthcare- babysitting, coaching, and tutoring are all great to include, especially if those experiences gave you exposure to kids with special needs. Do you have a CNA or rehab aide job? Have you done any detailed volunteering projects through scouting or another organization? It's great to include an activity that shows long term commitment and dedication to a cause, as well as any unique interests. Have a friend or parent review to check spellings and make sure that your resume reflects all your relevant abilities.
  • Boost Your Awareness- If you want to be an OT, you need to know about OT. Review the AOTA website as well as your program's OT website. Get a general grasp of the different settings that OTs work in, the clients OTs see, and some basic treatment ideas. Your job shadowing is a great time to gather this information. Look at your program's website and see if you can find what interests your future faculty have. You should expect some general questions about OT, disability, and your reason for choosing OT as a career in an interview. No one expects you to know everything, but they will expect you to be familiar with the basic concepts of your future profession.
There's probably no 'best time' for this entry as OT programs are notoriously unique, including their times of admission. (Of course, they are each unique within the frame of meeting ACOTE standards for accreditation, but that's another story) Disclaimer: I am not guaranteeing your acceptance into any school, and make no endorsements or condemnations of any OT program at this time. Also, I am from the USA, and do not currently know anything about admissions to OT schools in other countries.

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