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!
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
- Major takeaways
Read on to learn all about my experience as an ASD Delegate!
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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!