Pre-Occupational Therapy


(Click on the headings below for more information.)

How can I be competitive for Occupational Therapy school?

Admission to Occupational Therapy school is a competitive process. It is vitally important that Pre-Occupational Therapy students prepare themselves to be competitive applicants during their undergraduate years. Applicants are evaluated on a holistic level, with consideration on GPA, GRE scores, Occupational Therapy shadowing/experience, and volunteer and leadership experiences.

Work closely with your Pre-Health counselor who can assist you with:

  • Prerequisite academic planning
  • Extra-curricular considerations (i.e. shadowing, Occupational Therapy experience, volunteering, etc.)
  • OTCAS and the application process
  • GRE planning
  • Writing personal statements
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Mock interviews

Choosing the right OT school for you takes significant research.

Things to Consider When Choosing an Occupational Therapy School

  • Degrees awarded (i.e. combination BS/MOT; MS; OTD, etc.)
  • Admissions criteria
  • Location
  • Cost
  • Quality and reputation
  • Mission, philosophy, values
  • Curriculum and program delivery
  • Internship/externships
  • Specialties
  • Research interests
  • Career resources and job placement
  • Licensure test scores
  • Facilities
  • Faculty

Pre-Requisite Courses

Your Pre-Health counselor will help you plan your pre-requisite courses, ensuring a doable sequence and proper timeline. It is recommended you prioritize the registration of prerequisite courses over major and general education requirements as you may often finish some requirements during the application process.

Note: The prerequisites listed here are a general guideline of common courses required by Occupational Therapy programs. Occupational Therapy programs determine their own individual requirements. It is important for you to research the specific requirements for each school you are interested in applying to. It is your responsibility to research the specific requirements for each school you are interested in applying to. If you have questions, always contact each individual program.

Required by most Occupational Therapy programs with a grade of C or better (generally avoid online pre-req. options):

  • Introduction to Writing: ENGL 1010
  • Intermediate Writing: ENGL 2010/20
  • General Biology: BIOL 1010 (Many schools prefer Biol 1610/1615)
  • General Chemistry/lab (Chem 1210/1215) (Some schools don't require chemistry but it is also needed as a prerequisite to Physiology.)
  • Physics 1010 (Some schools require Phys 2010/2015)
  • Human Anatomy: ZOOL 2320/2325
  • Human Physiology: ZOOL 2420/2425
  • General Psychology: PSY 1010
  • Human Development Life Span: PSY 1100
  • Abnormal Psychology: PSY 3400
  • Introduction to Sociology and/or Cultural Anthropology: SOC 1010 and/or ANTH 101G
  • Principles of Statistics or Stats for Behavioral Sciences: MATH 2040 or BESC 3010

In addition, some schools require the following courses:

  • First Aid: HLTH 1200 or Advanced First Aid Certification
  • Medical Terminology I: HLTH 1300
  • Public Speaking: COMM 1020
  • Technical Writing: ENGL 3300 or ENGL 4310
  • Studio Arts Course

To see what your program requires see:

GPA

NOTE: GPA is a vital part of your application to Occupational Therapy programs. OT programs will consider your science GPA, non-science GPA and cumulative GPA. All grades received for college credit will likely be calculated into your GPA, even if you have retaken courses. If you have taken any courses at a different school or if you have retaken courses, your UVU GPA will not likely reflect the accurate GPA calculation for OT schools.

GUIDELINES:

  • Include every course you have taken for college credit even if you have retaken the course.
  • Include transfer credit from other schools you have attended.
  • Biology courses include BIOL, MICRO, BOT and ZOOL.
  • Physics courses include ASTR.
  • Exercise Science courses that are science based (Kinesiology, Biomechanics, etc.) should be calculated with the science GPA.
  • Pass/Fail courses are not included in the GPA.

GRE

The GRE revised General Test is a standardized examination required by many OT programs as part of your application. Research your schools of interest to determine if you need to take the GRE.

The GRE underwent a major revision in August 2011 and is administered via a computer-based format on a year-round, first-come, first-served basis. Plan to register for the GRE early and take it at least 6 weeks prior to your earliest application deadline.

The GRE revised General Test measures:

  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Analytical Writing

Studying for the GRE

Note: UVU does not endorse or recommend specific GRE preparation courses or materials. Research potential study methods and determine which ones fit your needs most appropriately. The GRE is a challenging exam that merits careful preparation. Plan to study for the GRE for several weeks in the way that fits your budget, schedule, and learning style best.

Free Study Materials:

Occupational Therapy Schools

OT programs vary in their admissions requirements, program delivery, degrees awarded, missions, and quality. It is important to research Occupational Therapy schools to determine which schools fit your interests and needs most.

Information on Occupational Therapy Programs:

Occupational Therapy Centralized Application Service (OTCAS)

Many Occupational Therapy programs use the Occupational Therapy Centralized Application Service (OTCAS). OTCAS allows you to apply to several schools without filling out multiple applications. OTCAS usually opens early July and runs for nearly one year per admissions cycle. Follow the application instructions required by each school you plan to apply to.

Plan to apply to Occupational Therapy school as soon as prerequisites are completed (or almost completed), starting in July. Ideally, students will apply to OT programs approximately one year prior to graduation.

OTCAS usually opens early July and applicants will typically apply one year prior to admission. The OTCAS application is subject to small changes each year, but generally you should plan to include:

  • Letters of recommendation (up to 3)
  • Official transcripts from every college/university attended
  • Personal statement, approximately 4500 characters
  • Summaries of extra-curricular experiences

Extracurricular Activities

Extra-curricular activities help Occupational Therapy programs evaluate your potential as a clinician and professional. They can help you stand out as an applicant and demonstrate your motivation for pursuing a career in healthcare.

Consider planning out your extra-curricular activities by semester, just like your pre-requisite courses. Starting early helps avoid the stress associated with cramming everything into the last few semesters prior to the application.

Minimum Recommended Extra-curricular Activities

  • OT Experience: 50-75 hours in at least 2 different settings
  • Volunteer Service: 45 hours during each of the pre-OT years including the year of application
  • Leadership: 2 different leadership positions during the pre-OT years

Volunteering

What is it?

Volunteering is generally considered an altruistic activity, intended to promote good or improve human quality of life, but there are many benefits to volunteering including skill development, meeting others, having fun, and a variety of other reasons. Volunteerism is the act of selflessly giving of yourself without the expectation of compensation. Compensation includes payment, stipends, or grades for a class.

Why should I do it?

To be a strong applicant for health professions programs you should demonstrate dedication to serving the community. The volunteer opportunities you choose can also be an excellent way to set yourself apart by showing health professions programs what is meaningful to you. The activities you choose to be involved and the reasons why can make you unique. Consider which opportunities will be the best reflection of who you are.

Volunteer service can be done with any group or organization and does not have to be healthcare related, but it can be helpful to look for opportunities that will take you out of your comfort zone and show a diversity of experience. Being involved in 2-3 service opportunities will benefit you more than having several brief experiences. The number of hours each year we typically see from students who get accepted to occupational therapy programs are 45 hours.

What are the expectations?

In order to be a competitive applicant, you should plan to be involved in volunteer service throughout each academic year (August-July). Most students are already busy taking a full-time schedule and oftentimes working, but it is important to make volunteering a priority. Fit it into your schedule any way it works best. Perhaps you will volunteer for one hour a week. Maybe it will better in your schedule to volunteer four hours on a Saturday once a month. You decide what works best for you.

It is important that you find something you can be dedicated to and passionate about. You will find the experience that much more rewarding. And remember, you are not just checking off boxes to get into a health professions school. You are making a difference in your community and learning valuable lessons about yourself and the world around you.

How do I do it?

It is up to you to find the volunteer experiences that are the best fit for you. One of the first places you can start looking is UVU's Volunteer and Service-Learning Center. This office maintains information on volunteer needs in the community in many different areas. There is a very good chance you will find something there that interests you. Other good resources include United Way and the website U Serve Utah maintained by the state.

Shadowing Program

What is it?

Shadowing provides an opportunity for you to gain exposure to the healthcare field you are interested in and develop a clear understanding of what life in that profession entails. It is a chance to observe a professional as they go through a routine day seeing patients, completing paperwork, talking with insurance companies, etc. Because shadowing is meant to be just observational, it does not fulfill other requirements to gain hands-on experience interacting with patients. Go to the Healthcare Experiences link for information about the hands-on experience expected by health professions programs.

Why should I do it?

Professional schools want to know you have had enough experience with professionals in the field to know that it is something you really want to do and that you have a good understanding of what your life will be like. In addition, it is a great opportunity to ask questions and develop rapport with professionals. You will likely need at least one letter of recommendation from someone in the field you have chosen. You will get a better letter if you spend some time getting to know the people you shadow.

What are the expectations?

You are expected to demonstrate dependability and professionalism, while discovering skills that will benefit you as a healthcare professional. Some programs look for separate shadowing and patient contact experience, while others will consider them combined. Plan to shadow each professional for a minimum of 9-12 hours. The number of overall shadowing hours we typically see from students who get accepted to occupational therapy programs are 50-75 hours of shadowing/experience.

How do I do it?

It is up to you to find shadowing experiences that will work best for you. One place to start is by talking to your own healthcare providers. Are they willing to have you shadow? Do they know someone who may be willing to have you shadow them? A second place to start is by asking people you know if they know of anyone you can contact. Cold calling offices is one of the least effective ways to find shadowing opportunities. Start by asking people you know before taking this route.


Research

What is it?

Research is more than just reviewing what others have already done and summarizing it in a long research paper for class. Research revolves around a specific hypothesis and follows the scientific method. Most research is experiment, survey, or observationally based. Research does not have to be limited to healthcare or science fields and instead, may cover diverse subject matters. 

Examples of research:

  • Working in a genetics lab to determine how gene therapy influences deafness in mice
  • Collecting sea snails and observing how quickly they reproduce and in what conditions
  • Conducting interviews with women about how religion influences their self-efficacy
  • Experimenting with how fire-fighters get dressed to increase response rates in emergencies
  • Surveying teens about their views of sexuality

Why should I do it?

Many health professions programs will require you to assist in research, understand how to interpret research, or even run your own research projects. Moreover, you will likely have opportunities to participate in research as a way of receiving financial compensation or to improve your attractiveness to residency programs. Completing research in your undergraduate coursework shows your potential to be successful in graduate level research you are proving that your learning curve will not be too steep because you have done this before.

Research gives you a competitive advantage for occupational therapy programs.

What are the expectations?

Many students wait to start working on research until their sophomore or junior year because research often requires enough coursework to provide a strong academic background and an introduction to research principles. Regardless, research should typically be completed prior to the application in order to qualify for credit on the application. Research may be in any subject, as long as it is hypothesis-based.

  • Research must be hypothesis-based
  • Research must be supervised or mentored by someone familiar with research processes
  • Research must follow scientific processes and is not simply reading about research that is already completed
  • Your hypothesis may be your own or you may assist in another person's research
  • Research is typically completed outside of class and not as part of your major
  • Plan on at least 50 hours to be competitive

How do I do it?

There are a few different ways to participate in research.

  1. Create your own project
    1. Develop a hypothesis for a subject of your choice
    2. Approach a professional who knows how to conduct research and ask for his or her help as a mentor
    3. Work with the professional to complete the research following sound scientific principles
  2. Help a professor with his or her own project
    1. Approach a professor to see if he or she is participating in research
    2. If YES, ask if you might be able to participate/assist.
      1. Follow the professor's expectations to complete the research
    3. If NO, ask if he or she knows 2-3 people that might be able to help
      1. Use that reference to approach the referral
      2. Repeat steps until you find a professor who will accept your assistance
  3. Find a professional (healthcare professionals, research organizations, other universities, etc.) to help with an existing project
    1. Approach a professional to see if they might accept your assistance OR
    2. Apply for a research position/internship like you would apply for a job
    3. Follow the professional's expectations to complete the research

Healthcare Experience

What is it?

Healthcare experience outside of shadowing usually includes volunteering or finding employment in a healthcare setting, usually with direct patient contact (i.e. offering clinical care and not just working in a healthcare environment). Many students will consider getting a basic certification or may find opportunities that offer on-the-job training.

Examples of healthcare experience:

  • Volunteering with hospice
  • Working full-time as a paramedic
  • Taking a C.N.A. certification course and finding a position at a local hospital
  • Receiving on-the-job training to work as a Physical Therapy or Occupational Therapy Tech
  • Getting an internship with the 30-Day Heart Challenge

Why should I do it?

Health professions programs will have greater confidence in your ability to interact positively with patients and withstand the rigor of a career in healthcare if they know you have already been part of the industry. As you work in healthcare, you will develop concrete examples of yourself showing compassion to patients, working with a team of healthcare providers, and solving problems. These experiences will likely assist you in your application, personal statement, letters of recommendation, and interviews. Additionally, many health professions programs actually REQUIRE healthcare experience or patient contact.

What are the expectations?

Research the requirements for your health professions program to ensure you are meeting their expectations for healthcare experience. Some programs will specify the hours required and may require the experience to be paid. The recommendation for pre-occupational therapy healthcare experience is 50-75 hours of shadowing/experience.

How do I do it?

How you choose to get healthcare experience will depend on the qualifications of the jobs or volunteer opportunities you are seeking. Many positions in healthcare require a certification (e.g. C.N.A., medical assistant, paramedic) while others are more flexible and require on-the-job training. Sometimes approaching organizations directly is more effective than simply responding to job ads online. Many students will also offer to volunteer for free, which sometimes leads to paid employment.

For assistance looking for and applying to healthcare jobs, contact the UVU Career Development Center.


Writing a Personal Statement

Many students underestimate the power of a personal statement. It should not be written quickly or without planning. Your personal statement can determine whether you will be accepted into the program you want or not. It is the greatest tool an admissions committee has to get to know you, so it should be an accurate depiction of yourself. Remember, it's about what you learned, not what you did! Listed below are some do's and don'ts of personal statements.

  • DO talk about your motivation for choosing the career that you have (medicine, dental, pharmacy, PT, etc.).
  • DO make it interesting and compelling.
  • DO ask some of your friends and family to read it and ask them what kind of person they would think you are if they had never met you.
  • DO be honest and sincere.
  • DO NOT sound arrogant. Avoid using 'I' unless you are about to explain something you learned from a particular experience.
  • DO NOT describe the characteristics of a good doctor, dentist, pharmacist, etc. and how you have those same characteristics.
  • DO NOT repeat information that can be found elsewhere on your application unless you are adding additional details.
  • DO NOT list your experiences. This is not a resume. DO NOT write it like it is one. Choose one, two or three experiences and discuss them in detail.

Consider the following information from the NAAHP's publication Write for Success: Preparing a Successful Professional School Application:

"Answering some of the following questions my reveal some insights that you can share in your personal statement. As you are writing, you may find yourself feeling the urge to write about a specific event. Follow that urge. You may come up with something that will eventually make it into your personal statement.

  1. Who are the most influential people in your life?
  2. What have been the pivotal moments in your life? Looking back, what can you recall having changed you? How were you affected?
  3. Do feel a passion for medicine [dentistry, pharmacy, physical therapy, etc.]? What is the source of that passion?

If you have a strong reaction to something you are writing about, it means the situation is important to you. Take a moment to think about how your reaction reflects who you are."

Click here for some examples of personal statements. If you would like help with your personal statement, contact the Pre-Health Office at 801-863-6484 to schedule an appointment with a Pre-Health Counselor.


Letters of Recommendation

REQUESTING LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION

Provide the following information to each letter writer:

  • Letter of intent (Click here to see example)
  • Personal statement (Do not put off requesting letters if you do not have a rough draft yet. This is optional, but helpful.)
  • Resume or CV
  • Picture
  • Where to send it (Pre-addressed envelope if they are off-campus or instructions on how to submit electronically)

SUGGESTED GUIDELINES

  • Request letters from professors who have taught you in a classroom setting. Science professors are those who have taught you in the lecture portion of a Biology, Zoology, Microbiology, Chemistry, or Physics course. No lab instructors.
  • Supervisors should be able to address your ability to work and/or serve others, demonstrate to an admissions committee that you are comfortable in a healthcare environment, and discuss your work ethic.
  • It is important for you to build a rapport with the people you shadow, work, or volunteer with as preparation to requesting a letter of recommendation. Be on time, work hard, learn as much as you can and, most importantly, be yourself. Letters of recommendation are one of the ways admissions committees get to know you. That is only possible if the letter writer knows you.
  • If you do not think someone will write you a strong letter of recommendation, DO NOT ASK THEM FOR ONE. A bad letter can kill your application even if the rest are stellar.
  • Do NOT request letters of recommendation from family members. Their letters are highly biased and may not be viewed as an accurate description of your character.
  • Letters of recommendation are expected to be confidential and should not be viewed by the student. You will be asked to waive your right to view the letters, but you also have the right to deny the waiver. If you choose to deny the waiver, you are required to inform all of your letter writers that you will have access to their letters.
  • Most other health professions programs will want to see 3-4 letters. 1-2 of these letters should be from science professors. You will also need 1-2 letters from healthcare professionals that you have shadowed or worked with. Check with the individual schools to determine which letters you need.
  • Many of the health professions schools you will be applying to use a Central Application Service (CAS) to process your application. Letters of recommendation are part of this application.

Follow the steps below to request your letters:

  1. Request letters from the appropriate professors and supervisors. You should provide your letter writers with your resume, personal statement and a letter of intent.
  2. Where applicable, inform the letter writer that they will receive an electronic request from the CAS to submit an evaluation for you.
  3. If the letters are not part of a CAS, provide the letter writer with pre-addressed, stamped envelopes for the schools you need the letter sent to.

How to Have Your Letters Submitted

There are 3 possible ways to have your letters of recommendation submitted:

  1. Have your letter writers mail their signed Letter of Recommendation to the address listed below. This is best for letter writers who may not be computer savvy. The Pre-Health Office will create an electronic version of the letter and post it to your veCollect account once the hard copy is received.

    Pre-Health Professions
    Utah Valley University ñ MS 101
    800 West University Parkway
    Orem, UT 84058

  2. The letter writer may submit an electronic PDF or Word document that includes their signature and letterhead to veCollect. This may be a scanned PDF copy or a Word document that has the signature and letterhead added electronically. If your letter writer prefers this method, you will need to send them the email request from veCollect under the My Evaluators section.
  3. As a last result, you can pick the letter up and deliver it to the UVU Pre-Health Office. In this case, the letter must be in a sealed envelope with the letter writer's signature over the seal to ensure confidentiality.

FAQ

  • What if I my grades are poor from some of my earlier semesters? Can I still go to OT school?
  • I have done a lot of volunteer and leadership with my church, but that doesn't count, does it?
  • What should I major in?
  • How do I apply to schools that do not use OTCAS?
  • How much money will I make as an Occupational Therapist?
  • What is the job market like for Occupational Therapists?

How can I apply?

OT schools use individual applications for each school. There is not a central application service. Check the individual school's website for information on how to apply to their school.

Where can I apply?

There are many factors to consider when choosing which schools to apply to. Listed below are some things to consider:

  • Location
  • Board Scores and Pass Rates
  • Cost
  • Curriculum
  • Mission Statement
  • Rotation Options
  • Prerequisite Requirements

What clubs can I join?

What's Your Brand?

This year, we challenge you to decide what your personal brand is. Own it.

Each of these brands imply an image. Of quality. Of style. Of being the best. Likewise, we all have our own personal image, our own brand. We can either haphazardly make choices that allow others to define our brand for us, or we can consciously define who we are, what we stand for.

So we ask the question, Who are you?
What qualities do you want others to associate with your name?

Good Examples

  • Take control of the way you want others to view you by living consistently
  • Volunteering at an animal shelter because it is helping animals.
  • Making sure that you have done your required researching.
  • Choose a profession that you are interested in.

Bad Examples

  • Volunteering at the local animal shelter merely because it is convenient.
  • The inquisitive researcher might seem inconsistent if she is a coordinator for the Super Spring Break Bash, but has limited research experience
  • The friendly future pediatrician may not seem genuinely interested in children if he only works in geriatrics

Avoid the random. Proactively plan who you are and who you want to be.

Remember that applying to professional school comes down to marketing YOU. Find and define your brand so you are memorable. Consistency is key. Here are a few avenues in the application process to consider using effective personal branding:

  • Personal statement: Tell them who you are
  • Extra-curricular activities you choose to participate in: Show them who you are
  • Letters of recommendation: What others see in you
  • Interviews: Confirm who you are