If you are a prospective OT student, applying to degree programs in the middle of a pandemic probably isn’t the exciting experience you were envisioning. You may be stuck at home and unable to visit the programs of your choice due to travel restrictions, financial strain, family obligations, or other factors.
If that’s you – fear not! After reading this post, you will learn how to get the information you need from the comfort of your couch. Taking a virtual tour of prospective OT programs is a fun, flexible, and cost-effective way to get important information about the place where you might be spending the next two to four years.
By using my Four P’s of Virtual Touring and focusing on the Program, People, Places, and Payment for each academic institution, you can get an excellent sense of whether a program is a good educational, cultural, and financial fit. Start by reading the questions below to learn more about what to keep in mind when comparing each program using the Four P’s system. Then, highlight the questions that are most important to you, based on your personal needs and goals. For example, if your primary concern is saving money, focus on the financial aspects of each program. Or if you enjoy travel, consider choosing programs in areas near major transportation hubs rather than those in more rural settings. Would you rather attend a top tier program that will require you to live in a studio apartment with four roommates? Or would you rather attend a lower-ranked institution in a location with a more affordable cost of living? All things to consider as you coordinate your virtual tour! (If you REALLY want to get detailed, you can assign a point value for the responses to each question based on your preferences and tally the scores for each program to get a more “objective” look at how each one stacks up.)
Finally, use the infographic that follows to guide your virtual search through each program’s website, social media, LinkedIn, YouTube, and other resources. Good luck, and happy touring!
Not that long ago, you were busy getting observation hours, requesting letters of recommendation, navigating OTCAS, and submitting all your OT school applications. You had grand plans to move to a new town, start grad school, and prepare to join this profession you spent so much time reading, thinking, and learning about! So when you opened your inbox to an unexpected “We regret to inform you…” or “Welcome to the waitlist” email, you probably felt frustrated…disappointed…angry…maybe even heartbroken.
For the next few months, you’re stuck somewhere between hopeless and hanging on – waiting to hear whether you’re off the waitlist, watching other people get their acceptances, wondering whether you’ll ever get your chance. Although I got into OT school on my first try, I had a previous experience with investing a lot of time and energy into an application for a program I was desperate to get into…and then getting rejected. So I know how it feels, and if you’ve had this experience my heart goes out to you!
After getting rejected from that program several years ago, I spent a few days crying and wallowing. And then I picked myself up and tried again. My rejection from that program actually turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise; when I was accepted into a similar program the next year, it ended changing my life, introducing me to people who are some of my best friends today, and giving me opportunities to go places and do things I would never have been able to do otherwise! Life always has a way of working out, and once you get over the initial sting of rejection you will find a way to carry on.
Although it’s disappointing to learn that you are on the waitlist or you weren’t accepted at your chosen school(s), the tips below can help you make the most of this opportunity to strengthen your application and prepare yourself for the next application cycle.
This post is Part I of a four-part series to help occupational therapy students and practitioners find ways to fund their OT education.
Welcome to Part I of the Gotta Be OT “Funding Your OT Education” series! The goal of this post is to introduce you to my tried-and-true method of identifying, organizing, and pursuing funding opportunities for your OT education. Whether you are a prospective student, a current student, a new graduate, or even a veteran therapist with student debt to repay, this series will help you understand how you can get off on the right foot or get on track with your educational expenses.
The diagrams below represent the way I recommend conceptualizing and organizing your funding search process. The pyramid structure represents the relationship between the level of funding and the number of competitors you’ll likely have for that funding. (The smaller the segment, the smaller the number of competitors, and vice versa.)
One of the many reasons why people don’t apply to graduate programs – or pursue further education at all – is that they believe it is too expensive. In the wake of the Great Recession, many people are struggling to make ends meet, and the thought of taking on [more] loans – even to pursue their dream career – is just too much.
Because I was fortunate enough to earn my way through two separate higher education programs with my tuition* fully covered at both, I want to share my story and offer the best advice I can about how to go about finding funding for your graduate education in occupational therapy (or anything else, for that matter!).
I’ll start by saying that my experience is somewhat rare, but it’s absolutely not unheard of. A friend of mine went from undergrad to her master’s to her PhD at the same institution without stopping, and she doesn’t owe a dime – I swear! She accomplished this by developing strong relationships with people in the departments where she studied to help her find funding, include her on funded projects, and connect her with other opportunities (and you can too!).
While I have changed schools since undergrad, I definitely haven’t changed tactics. If anything, my skills for finding and earning funding have only been further honed by my decision to pursue a graduate degree in occupational therapy. Lest you think that I am taking all of the credit for my achievements, I absolutely must credit the good Lord for all of the many blessings (financial and otherwise) in my life that have allowed me to go to school for almost nothing! I also have wonderful friends and family members who have read scholarship essays, cheered me on, and picked me up when times were not as good that I am so, so, thankful for.
With that said, I am going to be very open here about my financial situation, not because I am bragging or showing off, but to show others how I am paying for grad school and how you can go about funding your own OT education. Read on to find out how I’m becoming an OT for (almost) free!
Observing, shadowing, volunteering, working – different names, same goal! One of the questions I hear most often as I interact with prospective OT students is about how and where they can get observation hours with an OT or OTA. Many programs require at least 20 hours of direct observation with an OT, but some programs require 50 hours or more.
If you’re a prospective student looking for places to start shadowing and learning more about the profession, this post is for you! Just follow the steps below to learn more about how to have a successful OT shadowing experience from start to finish.
Read on to find out how to get those all-important OT observation hours and have a great time while you do it!
As I mentioned in this post, I was fortunate enough to attend the 2015 ASD Annual Meeting during the AOTA Annual Conference in Nashville this year as a delegate for my OT program. If you’re wondering about what the Assembly of Student Delegates is, I’ll refer you to their page on the AOTA website for the most concise, up-to-date information. However, the ASD’s purpose and goals are outlined in the following excerpt:
“The Assembly of Student Delegates provides a mechanism for the expression of student concerns, and offers a means whereby students can have effective input into AOTA affairs. The mission of the Assembly of Student Delegates is to support student members of AOTA by communicating their interests and advancing their professional contributions. This Assembly upholds the AOTA mission, promotes Association membership, and provides a forum for the development of student leadership and political awareness to enhance the viability of the profession.” (AOTA, 2015)
Last year when I volunteered at the Baltimore conference, and this past year, I searched for information about the ASD and couldn’t find much about what actually happened at the meeting. The presentation slides were posted, and social media accounts had photos, but beyond that I couldn’t find much. Hopefully this post will help shed a little light on what goes on, and inform future delegates about what they can expect.
This post is a bit long, but so was the meeting! In it, I’ll cover topics such as
Meeting structure and content
Read on to learn all about my experience as an ASD Delegate!