This post is Part III of a four-part series to help occupational therapy students and practitioners find ways to fund their OT education.
This post is full of tips, advice, and resources for current OT students who are looking to save money as they pursue their degrees! In case you missed them, you can read the first two parts of my Funding Your OT Education series for advice about how to find funding for OT school and what you can do before starting OT school to make the most of your money.
Read on to learn about ways you can save as an OT student!
This post is Part II of a four-part series to help occupational therapy students and practitioners find ways to fund their OT education. You can read Part I here.
People who are applying to OT school are often in the difficult position of deciding which program they will attend before they have a 100% clear understanding of what their financial situation will be at each institution. It’s a tough spot to be in, but these tips will help potential OT students avoid as much debt as possible from the start of the application process onward.
Note: These tips are primarily geared towards students applying to graduate level occupational therapy programs, which are generally more expensive than occupational therapy assistant programs. However, much of the information still applies no matter which OT degree you are pursuing!
Do you like…
Making a difference?
If so, then you should sign up to volunteer at the 2016 AOTA Annual Conference & Expo in Chicago, Illinois! I volunteered at the Baltimore conference a couple years ago for practically nothing, and it was easily one of the highlights of my early OT experience. I was also able to attend last year’s conference in Nashville, and the time I spent there just confirmed that I had chosen the perfect profession.
There were volunteers of all ages and stages at the conference, including retired OTs, veteran volunteers with 10+ years of experience, current and future OT students, and others. Don’t let your age, student status, or anything else deter you from serving in Chicago this spring! You don’t have to be an AOTA member to volunteer – but you’ll probably want to be one when you’re done!
In addition to helping support and promote one of the fastest-growing, influential, and dynamic professions around, there are several other benefits that come with being a conference volunteer. Read on to find out more about why volunteering will be the best thing you can do for yourself and your career in OT!
- Meet some of the most influential people in the profession. As a conference volunteer, you have the chance to meet the people whose blogs you read, whose papers you’ve referenced, and whose Twitters you follow in person! Rubbing elbows with such accomplished (and really nice) people is a major high and a can’t-miss networking opportunity!
- Cut the cost of attending Conference. Conference attendees must pay nearly $300 simply to attend, and that’s the student rate – not including travel, food, lodging, and other expenses! But volunteers can view special exhibits, attend one or two sessions, and see the posters for FREE. As a volunteer, you won’t necessarily be able to attend the session of your choice or participate in all events, but you will get to experience many of the best parts of the conference without paying for much of anything! Pro Tip: Check with your OT program, graduate student association, or employer to see whether there are special funds available to help cover your travel and other expenses.
- Attend the Expo for FREE! Where else in the world can you get a TON of free stuff in exchange for just a few hours of your time? Just think: in the time it took you to sit through one overly long OT school class, you could be having fun, making friends, and earning your way into the Expo. You don’t have to be a math whiz to see that this is too good a deal to pass up! Note: Only AOTA Marketplace/Member Resource Center volunteers can earn this privilege.
- Diversify your resume and grow your professional experience. Volunteering at the national conference shows that you are involved and invested in your national professional association and your profession as a whole. Whether you are planning to apply for a leadership or volunteer position with AOTA, a position in your state OT association, or even a job, having a record of service to the profession will definitely give you a boost.
- Make a difference and be an advocate for OT. Have you ever wondered how all those bags get stuffed, how all those signs get posted, or how an event with thousands of attendees seems to run so smoothly? It’s not magic – it’s volunteers! By serving as a conference volunteer, you can be a part of the team that makes the AOTA Annual Conference such an amazing experience for attendees from across the U.S. and around the world and have a great time while you do it!
- Network with students and faculty members from OT programs across the country. While I served as a conference volunteer, I had the opportunity to talk with fellow OT students, meet instructors from numerous OT programs, and exchange ideas and information with a variety of people. Volunteering at conference is a great way to meet people who may have similar interests to yours, so be sure to keep those business cards handy!
…well, what are you waiting for? Visit the AOTA Volunteer Signup page today and find your place! (And click quickly, because spots fill up fast!)
See you in the Windy City!
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!