How To Take a Virtual Tour of Potential OT Programs

FINAL Acute Care OT Series

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!

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So You Didn’t Get Into OT School…Now What?

How to Handle OT School Rejection.png


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.

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Funding Your OT Education, Part I: How to Find Funding

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.)

Funding Triangles


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How To Become an OT for FREE! (Or, How I Am NOT Paying for My Degree in OT)

 How to Be an OT for FREE! (Or, How I Am NOT Paying for My Graduate Education in Occupational Therapy)

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!

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OT Resources for Students & Professionals: An Interactive Infographic!

OT Resources Header

Are you an OT student or practitioner looking to improve your practice, increase your success, and give back to the profession of occupational therapy?

If so, check out my new interactive OT Resources infographic! In it, you’ll find information about:

  • OT scholarships
  • Research and grant writing
  • Professional development opportunities
  • Getting involved with policy, legislation, and advocacy
  • Improving your practice skills
  • Student leadership opportunities
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Advanced certifications
  • Understanding OT’s scope of practice

…and much, much more! So click on the image or the Resources tab above and check it out, and please share with your peers, coworkers, and friends in OT!

How to Get Occupational Therapy Observation Hours

OT Observation Hours

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!

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All About the Assembly of Student Delegates: My Experience at the ASD Annual Meeting

ASD Experience
Me and the new friends I made at the AOTA ASD Annual Meeting in 2015! This awesome group of ladies helped set the tone for my awesome conference experience.

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

  • Delegate responsibilities
  • Meeting structure and content
  • Speakers
  • Major takeaways

Read on to learn all about my experience as an ASD Delegate!

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All About the Assembly of Student Delegates: Six Tips for New ASD Delegates

6 Tips

Greetings from Music City! The AOTA Conference officially starts tomorrow, on April 16, but I had the honor of being selected as one of my program’s AOTA Assembly of Student Delegates (ASD) delegates for the 2015-16 school year, and I just got out of the 2015 ASD meeting. It started at 8 and ended at 5:30, so I’m pretty exhausted at the moment. However, it was truly an amazing event, and this post is the first in my “All About the ASD” series inspired by my #AOTA15 experience. Throughout the meeting, many of the delegates were wondering exactly what they should do with their amazing newfound power all of the exciting information, news, and updates! There are only a few official duties expected of delegates (which I’ll describe in an upcoming post), but there are so many more things you can do to make the most of this experience both for yourself and for the students and programs you represent. After conversing with several other student delegates and reflecting on what I learned, here are six suggestions I have for students who – like me – are new to their role as an ASD delegate or Steering Committee Member:

  1. Determine your goals. What do you want to get out of being an ASD delegate? What can you do for others as an ASD delegate? When the whirlwind of Conference eventually dies down, I encourage you to take a moment and make a list of goals and priorities you have for yourself, for your program, or for ASD or AOTA as a whole. Being a delegate provides a unique opportunity for you to network with our professional leaders (both students and practitioners), benefit from their knowledge, and use that knowledge to benefit others. It also gives you a great opportunity to hone your talents and skills, and taking time to decide how this opportunity can support your personal and professional goals will help you decide how best to move forward.
  2. KISS (Keep It Simple, Student!). The ASD meeting was long. VERY long. And it was also very informative! However, trying to cram a whole day’s worth of information into a presentation for your classmates during finals time (aka the end of April after Conference) isn’t an effective way to share what you learned. Decide what the four or five main points are from the discussion and make a 10-15 minute presentation (complete with calls to action and links to information) that your classmates can benefit from immediately. For example, discuss the upcoming spring scholarship deadlines and resources for students headed out to summer fieldwork instead of the fall 2015 ASD Elections or Student Conclave.
  3. Don’t reinvent the wheel! Although you are responsible for being aware of what is happening within the profession, you don’t have to go far to find this information. Use “ready-made resources” like the OT Student Pulse newsletters, social media outlets, and AOTA emails to help inform your presentations to classmates about what’s going on. If you haven’t already, consider creating an “AOTA” or “ASD” folder in your email inbox to help keep track of important information and updates as they arrive.
  4. Think ahead. As an ASD delegate, you have the opportunity to be the first line of information for your peers when they have questions about ongoing professional events, especially regarding student-specific programming. Take a minute to jot down or type up a rough outline of the dates and deadlines for events like the Student Conclave or ASD Elections, and update it as necessary. By preparing this now, you can have a resource to provide for your classmates for the present and the upcoming year, as well as having a rough outline of the more time-sensitive topics you should focus on as you disseminate information to your peers, SOTA, or program throughout your term as a delegate.
  5. Keep the fire burning! If you’re anything like me, attending this meeting was just the push you needed to finish the school year strong and remember just why it is that you chose to join this amazing profession! When you get back from Conference, take the time to use what you learned and apply it to your life – don’t wait! If you heard about a volunteer opportunity that’s right up your alley, apply NOW! If you can’t wait to begin crafting your campaign for next year’s ASD Steering Committee, get going on a cool slogan and platform. And if you were inspired to jump start your personal or professional development, begin organizing your applications for the various programs you learned about (i.e. the COOL Database or the Emerging Leaders Development Program).
  6. Continue the dialogue. Just because the meeting is over doesn’t mean the conversation is! After I asked a question at the ASD Town Hall meeting earlier today, new ASD Steering Committee president Joseph Ungco found me (while I was writing this blog post, lol) and followed up with my thoughts. He asked me what I hoped to accomplish as a delegate, and encouraged me to continue talking about my ideas and passions with fellow ASD members, ASD Steering Committee members, and AOTA leaders both online and in person. His advice was fantastic, and I hope you’ll continue to talk with your classmates about what they would like to see from ASD, to contribute to social media and in-person discussions about ASD, and to add your own ideas to the mix!

I hope you have a fantastic #AOTA15 experience, and I’ll be back again soon with more info about the 2015 Assembly of Student Delegates meeting!

Research Methods: Literature Review of Research Related to Occupational’s Therapy’s Role in Post-secondary Transition Planning for Students with Disabilities

NOTE: The following blog post is VERY LONG and is the first part of a research project I am developing and conducting as part of the graduation requirements to earn my MSOT (Master of Science in Occupational Therapy) degree. If you are interested in attending graduate school for occupational therapy, you will likely be required to complete a similar project. Although specific project requirements vary, this post is an example of the work occupational therapy students do to develop skills in the area of critical thinking, research, interdisciplinary collaboration, and the application of evidence to practice.

Background: As part of a small group conducting research in the area of post-secondary transition planning for students with intellectual disabilities, I am responsible for creating a research question, conducting a literature review, developing a research project, implementing this project, and then documenting the results in written and presentation formats. I am working with a faculty advisor who provides support and guidance as I complete this project over the next year, but the work you see here (and possibly in future posts) is mainly the result of my own efforts. This post is the “literature review” component of my assignment.


In the United States, vocational, employment, academic, social, and functional outcomes for young people with disabilities are disappointing, and have even been described as “bleak” in the literature (M. Kardos & White, 2005). For example, in the years 1987-2003, only 1/3 of high school graduates with disabilities pursued post-secondary education compared to 40% of typically developing students. Additionally, the transition to community-based services in which the individual is responsible for requesting services from school-based services in which the school personnel are responsible for providing services can be very difficult for these students and their families, which may contribute to negative post-secondary outcomes (Barnard-Brak, Schmidt, Wei, Hodges, & Robinson, 2013). Quality transition coordination services are crucial in order to improve the lives of high school students with disabilities as they leave the familiar world of school-based services (including occupational therapy services) and enter the world of adult and community-based services.

Further, it is important to address this issue because the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1990 (and 1997, in later years) mandates that students who are receiving special education services receive transition planning as well. States and local education agencies (LEA) are responsible for providing these services, but a thorough review of the literature indicates that there are few federal guidelines regarding the provision, monitoring, and regulation of the mandated transition planning services. For this and other reasons that will be explained later, transition planning in many places across the United States is in a state of disarray, and students are not receiving the education, skills, and training they need to live life to its fullest as capable, successful, independent adults.

Providing transition planning for students with special needs is crucial not only because it is federally mandated, but also because it is important to provide all students with the skills they will need to find meaningful careers, interact successfully with their peers, participate in local communities, and live their lives in a way that is pleasing and accommodates them, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.

As providers who frequently work in school settings with students who are receiving special education services, occupational therapists are well-equipped to help students transition successfully out of school and into the workforce, community, post-secondary education, or other settings. As Kardos and White (2006) wrote, “Occupational therapists have the professional skills and training to expand the scope of school-based practice into the area of transition planning, particularly in conducting evaluations in the areas of daily living skills, work and leisure, and community participation” (p. 174). However, the majority of school-based OTs are not providing these services, for a variety of reasons including lack of training, lack of professional advocacy, and lack of research on effective interventions and practices.

In addition to being an issue of professional knowledge and practice, the lack of occupational therapists involved in transition planning may also be considered an issue of occupational justice, insofar as the students who are receiving inadequate transition services or no services at all are being deprived of their legal right to these services as well as their opportunities for future success in the areas of academics, leisure, social interaction, independent living, and community participation.

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BadgeBlooms: A Fun Way to Celebrate the First Day of Spring!

OT BadgeBloom
Isn’t my OT BadgeBloom beautiful? I love it! Mine is fun and floral, but they come in all kinds of styles, shapes, and patterns!

Happy first day of spring! Although apparently it’s snowing in some places on the East Coast and it’s not all that warm where I am, I’m glad that nicer weather is finally on the way after Snowpocalypse 2015.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while (like since Christmas), but I’m just now finding a minute to sit down and post about something cool I discovered around the holidays!

Last Christmas I was looking for a nice, inexpensive gift for my friend who is in speech-language pathology school, and I really only believe in spending money on gifts that are going to be functional for their recipients. Clearly I was destined to be an OT from the day I was old enough to start getting other people gifts, LOL. Anyway, I wanted to get something that would be useful to her in her academic and professional life, that she would like, and that was fairly inexpensive. And after a little bit of sleuthing to find good gifts for graduate students, I happened to find the BadgeBlooms shop on Etsy!

Badgeblooms is a business owned by a woman in Chicago who designs fun ID badge holders & reels for healthcare workers and other personnel. She has them in all shapes, sizes, themes, and colors, and they can even be customized for people who work in a particular profession (like my custom OT badge in the picture above).

As most healthcare employees are required to do, I have to wear my ID badge when I’m on fieldwork seeing clients and interacting with families so that I can be easily identified as a person who belongs. Unfortunately, as an occupational therapy student working in settings alongside a variety of other professionals, I have often been mistaken for a nurse, PT, and even the parent of a client! Although nobody meant any harm when making these honest mistakes, I wanted to do something to be more proactive about letting people know who I was and why I was in the room or working with their child. Having a customized “OT” BadgeBloom has been a great talking point and has spared me some confusion when working with people in busy settings alongside multiple other professionals.

The benefits of Badgeblooms are many:

  • Inexpensive ($7-15, for most styles)
  • Customizable
  • Durable
  • Allow you to identify and distinguish yourself from other professionals who interact with a client
  • Cute, fun, and a great way to promote your profession in the workplace
  • Support a small business owner

If you’re concerned that BadgeBlooms are too pretty to be tough, have no fear! I try to take care of my things, but between me running after kids in the clinic, chasing down the bus, throwing it in my junky bookbag, and losing it in my bedroom, my BadgeBloom hasn’t always been well-treated. However, it is sturdy and has held up very well for the past few months.

So if you’re in the market for a fun, functional gift for a friend, family member, coworker, new occupational therapy/healthcare student :D, or yourself, a BadgeBloom might be just what you’re looking for! They also come pre-packaged in a cute little box when you buy them, so you can just ship it straight to its recipient without even worrying about gift wrap! Additionally, if you like the BadgeBlooms Facebook page you can get a discount on your purchase!

Check out the Etsy shop – and its hundreds of options – and good luck making a decision about which one to get!

Disclosure: I was not compensated by BadgeBlooms for this post. I just really like my lovely ID badge holder and supporting small business owners!