ot school interview prep3

OT School Interview Questions & Prep Tips

In case you aren’t already aware, occupational therapy graduate programs are getting more and more competitive each year.

Most OT programs will get hundreds of first-round applicants, with only ~30-50 spots available. And according to Indiana University’s Health Professions and Prelaw Center, most healthcare graduate programs will interview 2-3 times the number of open spaces they have. In other words, your desired OT program might interview 80-120 people for 40 open spaces.

OT school interviews may take place at any time of the year since OT programs have year-round start dates depending on the program. As an example, if the program starts in the fall, your interview will probably be in the spring.

If you’ve gotten past the first cuts and have an interview scheduled, you should feel great since your odds of getting in just improved greatly! Schools will only interview people they truly believe are good candidates for their program.

That being said, it is critical to put in the necessary preparation for your interview. You want to know as much as you can about the school you’re interviewing with, and you want to be very familiar with the most common OT school interview questions.

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

Things to Consider About OT School Interview Questions


While there is no way to tell exactly what questions you will be asked in an OT interview, you can be confident that they will fit a general theme. After all, they’re probably not going to be quizzing you on geography.

The questions listed below are a collection of interview questions from my interview, questions other occupational therapists have been asked, and questions found through my research. Again, not all schools will ask these exact questions, but this will give you some good direction for what you are likely to encounter.

As you go through the list of questions, think about what your answer would be and keep in mind that your answer should tell them why you are a strong candidate and why they should accept you into their program.

Some questions will be phrased something like “Tell me about a time when…” For these questions, a great system to follow is the STAR method, which stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. The STAR method helps you to remember the four important parts of an example or story that you may tell. If you do provide an example in your answer, remember to keep it brief and make sure it demonstrates why you would be a great OT and a good fit for their program.

Common OT School Interview Question Examples

  • Tell us about yourself.
  • In your own words, what is occupational therapy? 
  • Define “occupation.” 
  • Why do you want to become an occupational therapist?
  • How does occupational therapy differ from physical therapy (and/or speech therapy)?
  • What characteristics do you think are required to be a great OT? Describe how you demonstrate these characteristics.
  • What work experience do you have that is relevant to OT?
  • Tell us about your shadowing experience. What did you learn? What interested you the most?
  • What are some major trends in OT that you are following?
  • Why did you choose to apply to our occupational therapy program? (Describe a few key features)
  • What other schools have you applied to? What are you looking for in an OT program?
  • How do you deal with stress and a large workload at work/school?
  • Describe your code of ethics.
  • If your manager told you to do something you didn’t agree with, how would you handle it?
  • Describe a time when you were part of a team that had to achieve a goal. What was your role and what was the outcome?
  • What areas of research interest you?
  • How will you contribute to our program?
  • What are your career goals for the short-term and long-term? What are your 5-year goals?
  • Tell us about a time that you advocated for occupational therapy?
  • Tell us about a time when you went above and beyond?
  • Tell us about your biggest accomplishment.
  • What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?
  • Tell us about a time when you had to deal with a conflict. How did you handle it and why?
  • What questions do you have for us?

If you don’t know the answer right away to a question they ask you, know that it’s okay to say “That’s a good question,” take a pause, and think about it before answering! 

Common OT School Interview Formats


It is important to find out as much as you can from the admissions coordinator about the interview format beforehand, since this can vary from school to school. Some will be a half day, others will be a full day, and there will probably be a combination of interview formats. They may be virtual or in-person. Knowing ahead of time what to expect will help you mentally prepare for the interview day.

Programs will usually do interviews in several common formats. You can expect the traditional 1-on-1 interview for most programs. However, there may be a group interview where you will be one of several applicants being interviewed at the same time. These group interviews can be with one interviewer or a panel of interviewers (mine was personally in a group with a panel).

Group interviews can be an intimidating format, so there are some things to know and remember. Sometimes, each interviewee will get a chance to answer the question. Sometimes, it will be more free form and everyone has the same opportunity to speak up. The University of Indiana offers some advice for free-form group interview formats: “…balance being polite with being congenially assertive. There is always a way to politely jump in… It’s probably best to err on the side of polite assertiveness rather than seeming unassertive or very demure, as this can be seen as a lack of confidence.”

One other possible interview format could include a group case study. Here, you would be grouped together with other interviewees and be asked to review a problem and organize a response as a team. You won’t be expected to necessarily know the right answer, but they are looking at your interpersonal skills and reasoning skills. Again, polite assertiveness is the best bet in these situations.

Tips To Manage Your Nerves


Unless you are an alien from another planet or have done a thousand interviews already, you’re most likely going to be nervous. And that’s okay! Almost everyone gets nervous for something like an interview or speech, and it’s a normal physiological process that we all experience.

What helps me to deal with my nerves is to first understand what is happening to me, and second to use several techniques to help deal with it.

Nervousness happens because your anxious thoughts trigger your brain to release adrenaline (in the adrenal gland). This causes a rapid heart rate, dilated pupils, and increased circulation in your muscles. This is part of the fight or flight response that has helped humans survive dangerous encounters for millennia.

The degrees of the response depend on the brain’s perceived threat level. The threat level of an interview might be relatively mild compared to a shark attack, but the physical symptoms are still present and very distracting.

So how can you deal with the nervousness?

Studies have shown that using positive or guided imagery can help trigger the neurons in your brain that counteract the nervousness. This takes some practice, but it can be tough since it requires you to shift your mental focus, albeit while trying to conduct an interview.

One other great technique to use before your interview is something called power poses, which is something Amy Cuddy talks about in her popular TED Talk. She claims that in her study, she found that the way we stand and pose can actually change the way we think and feel and helps give us confidence in stressful situations. Although her study hasn’t been replicated, I think it’s still worth trying for yourself!

Remember that being nervous during interviews is completely normal. Don’t be afraid of the nerves – just embrace the feeling and rely on your efforts you put in before the interview to prepare. With preparation, you will do well, even if you’re feeling nervous the whole time!

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

The Follow Up

Don’t be afraid to reach out to each school you interviewed with to reiterate your interest in the program, and always remember to be 100% professional with every person you interact with. The most important part of the interview is the time you have before it even happens.

Take the time really think through your responses and even bullet-point them and print them out for the most common OT school interview questions so you know exactly what points you will hit depending on the question. Practice the personal stories you want might want to tell and make sure they are concise and to the point.

Some people might think they will do better being spontaneous in the moment, but I have never done better for anything by preparing less. Being fully prepared is crucial for interviews and can make or break your chances with your dream school.

Tell us: How are you preparing for your OT school interview? If you’ve been through this process before, what are some tips that you would share to future applicants? What left field questions were you asked? 

This post was originally published on November 18, 2018 and updated on May 22, 2023.

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  • Julia March 2, 2019   Reply →

    I am preparing for an interview, and want to thank you for sharing these points! They are all super helpful.

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L March 3, 2019   Reply →

      I’m so glad it was helpful for you! Best of luck with your interview! 🙂

  • Haley March 4, 2019   Reply →

    Nerves always get the best of me.

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L March 5, 2019   Reply →

      I know the feeling! Even after being out in the field for the last several years, I still get really nervous for job interviews. Just try to do some deep breathing in the car beforehand and remember that if you’re being interviewed, they already are very interested. And keep in mind that everyone else is going to be nervous too 🙂

  • Madison Miller February 12, 2021   Reply →

    Thank you so much! This is insightful and eases my nerves for my upcoming interview.

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L February 14, 2021   Reply →

      I’m so glad to hear! Wishing you the best of luck!

  • Cecilia Stevens October 4, 2021   Reply →

    How long after your interview did you hear back from your program? Thanks for this article, this whole website has been super helpful in preparing for my application, my personal statement, and now my interview!

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L October 13, 2021   Reply →

      Hi Cecilia, it’s been several years so I can’t remember the exact timeframe for me, but I do know it can take at least several weeks, and likely even longer now due to administrative staffing issues some schools are having. The best thing to do is to find a distraction while you’re waiting since the waiting can be the hardest part sometimes!

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