didnt get into ot school2

What To Do If You Didn’t Get Into OT School

If you’ve arrived at this blog post, you may have searched “Didn’t get into OT school” and you are looking for some solutions, a path forward, or even encouragement.

Well, you’re in luck because this article will provide you with just that.

Because here’s the thing:

Applying to occupational therapy school is hard. You already know about all the crazy hoops you had to jump through just to get your application completed.

Grad school applications can be extremely stressful and they’re even more stressful when – after jumping though all the hoops – you didn’t get into OT school.

If this is the case for you, just remember these six tips:

1. It’s okay to be upset


As I mentioned, this is a really stressful time especially if you’re really passionate about becoming an occupational therapist. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re feeling really upset about getting the rejection letter(s).

Trust me when I tell you that you’re not alone in this. With occupational therapy schools generally only having 30-40 slots with over 500 plus applicants, you (unfortunately) have greater odds of getting rejected than getting accepted.

Go through the emotions. And when you’re feeling emotionally ready, you can learn from the the experience and get started on next year’s application process. You’ll already have a leg up on first time applicants since you’ve been through the process and already know what schools are looking for.

With that being said…

2. Many people get into OT school on the second (even third) application process

As mentioned, you likely aren’t feeling great about not getting into OT school. However, you aren’t alone; many applicants don’t get into OT school on their first try.

This isn’t because they aren’t cut out to be occupational therapists, but because SO many people are applying to occupational therapy programs. Each year these programs get more applicants, so the competition increases.

Because of this, it’s common to get accepted on your second or third time applying. This is not only because your application will be stronger and you know the process better, but because schools know you’re serious when you’ve applied there two years in a row.

If you get denied by your dream school this year, you may have a better shot if you apply to the same school next year once you’ve updated your application. The programs will really get to see how determined you are to become an occupational therapist.

3. Look at your application and find room for improvement

There are so many factors that go into the application process of getting into OT school. Not only is your GPA important, but you also need to have strong letters of recommendation, high amounts of shadowing/observation hours, a competitive GRE score, volunteer experience, and an awesome personal statement.

First-time applicants may see programs’ minimum GPA requirement and apply with just the minimum, without realizing the average GPA of accepted students is significantly higher than the minimum requirement. This also goes for shadowing hours, GRE scores, and volunteer work as well.

Knowing this for next year, you can work to bump up any aspects on your application that may seem “average” to increase your competitive profile.

If you’re still wondering which aspects of your application are lower than the admitted students, many OT programs list their average stats on their website. If they don’t have anything listed, they might be able to send information to you via email.

4. Take the next year to really beef up your application


Once you really analyze your stats compared to admitted students, you will be able to take the next year to improve your application.

Whether you need more shadowing hours, a higher GPA or prerequisite grades, or GRE scores, having a whole application cycle will give you time and hopefully you won’t feel as rushed as some applicants are during the first round.

Be sure to check out my blog post on the 5 Biggest Mistakes I Made When Applying to OT School which covers what not to do during the application process. The tips in the blog post are purely designed to make your OT school application as strong as possible.

5. Budget for increased applications for next year

Many people interested in becoming occupational therapists may not realize how many applications OT schools actually get. Because programs get so many more applicants than available spots, you want to be sure to increase your odds by applying to more than one program.

I recommend applying to any program that you could see yourself attending. Many applicants across the allied health professions fields say that it is reasonable to apply for 10+ programs. In 2012, I personally applied to eight programs and got into one. So don’t feel like you’re crazy if you apply to a high number of schools!

The downside of this is that it isn’t cheap. Some schools charge anywhere from no fee (rare) to $50-100 per program. The fees can add up quickly, so you’ll want to start saving now so that when you apply next year you feel comfortable applying to more programs.

6. Realize this is a good opportunity to ask yourself how much you want to be an OT

Once you’ve been through the rigors of the OT school application process and have to apply the following year, you will get the chance to question how badly you really want to be an occupational therapist.

If you applied to OT school simply because a friend or family member recommended it to you, it may not be worth it to re-apply if you are not really that excited about the field. And this is okay! It’s better to figure that out now rather than going through an entire program to decide that OT isn’t the best fit for you.

If the process is making you feel unsure, read about the realities of being an OT in our article, 7 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming an Occupational Therapist.

Either way, the tremendous hurdle of re-applying will help you realize how determined you are about becoming an occupational therapist. If you know that it is the career for you, then keep at it!

Check out the How To Get Into OT School Guide! It’s the most comprehensive resource that covers everything you need to know.

Being rejected from occupational therapy school is such a stressful experience, but I hope these tips will help you to improve your application and increase your odds of achieving your goal of getting into OT school.

For more helpful articles on what to do if you didn’t get into OT school, be sure to check out this article and forum:

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  • Penny January 25, 2020   Reply →

    How to improve overall GPA if already graduated?? If I retake my anatomy 1 course and do better that helps my pre req GPA but since its at the local Community college will it get factored into my overall GPA within OTCAS or am I out of luck?


    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L January 28, 2020   Reply →

      Your better A&P grade should be factored into the OTCAS GPA as long as you haven’t submitted the OTCAS application yet. Once it’s submitted I don’t think it’s possible to update it.

  • Ellen Kyriakos November 30, 2020   Reply →

    Do you have any suggestions for an older student that is coming into this with a non-medical undergraduate degree?

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L December 6, 2020   Reply →

      Hi Ellen, with OT graduate degrees, you definitely don’t need a medical-type of degree for your undergrad; you can get into OT school with literally any major as long as you complete the pre-reqs and other requirements before applying. If you need more information on the process, I wrote a comprehensive Get Into OT School guide that you can check out here. Best of luck to you!

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