Thinking about quitting occupational therapy school was a huge issue for me throughout my Master’s program.

I feel like I have to give it a little bit more attention than just one post about not failing fieldwork. This post is more general about how I felt during my first semester of grad school.

My hope is that by me documenting my experience, my story will be helpful for others who find themselves in a similar position. I felt like I had nothing relatable to read when I was in the throes of stress and anxiety (well before fieldwork).

I would Google something along the lines of “Quitting Occupational Therapy School,” “Failing out of grad school,” etc. as sort of a form of therapy in hopes that I could find someone relatable talking about the same thing.

I couldn’t find anyone online talking about OT school in particular. I knew from how anxious my classmates all were that I wasn’t the only one that felt so stressed – especially that first semester. I wished more people would have written about it.

For me to cope when I was on my own, I read through so many forums where PhD students vented about the fact that they were either thinking about leaving their doctoral program or actually did leave their program.

(Note: PhD programs, from what I gather, are a lot more intense than OT programs. Some people think it’s better to stick to the MOT vs. OTD as long as it’s possible from a career standpoint.)

But somehow reading the forums really helped me think through the possibility that if something did happen, I wasn’t the only one. Somehow it helped me pull through, get it together, and realize this was my dream and the only option I had.

Honestly another thing that kept me going was looking at the amount of tuition I already spent on grad school. That if I left the program, there would be no way to pay it all back with the $10/hour minimum wage I was making before. There was an escalation of commitment the longer I stayed in the program.

Weird motivation, I know.

If you’re reading this with the thoughts that you aren’t going to pass a class or want to drop out and pursue a different career, you definitely are not the only one, even right now.

You definitely are not the only one.

Your classmates may be feeling the same way, but of course no one really wants to talk about it as it can feel personal and almost embarrassing admitting your thoughts of failure.

I think the only person I told was my long-distance boyfriend on hours-long phone conversations. For some reason I never told my parents, maybe because I was too ashamed that they would think of me as a huge failure. I know now though that even if it did happen, I would not have been such a horrible “failure”.

It is totally okay to discuss this with your friends and family though. I really do hope that you have several people in your life to talk you through it and help you stick with it, since you’ve worked so hard for this.

Sometimes a little motivation from others really can go a long way when you’re close to a breakdown, or in the midst of a breakdown.

You may still be like me: searching for other options as you are in the midst of the hardest class you’ve ever taken, and you don’t think you’re going to last.

But I can assure you that if I can do it, I think you can too.

If this has been your dream career, and you made it through the grueling application and acceptance process, your school knows you have it in you and you CAN do it.

Positive affirmations every morning on the way to school can and really do help. Several friends and I would recite them mentally and it does help.

My favorites would be simple ones such as “I can do this,” “I will pass this test,” and “this is what I’m meant to do.”

It may seem a little “woo-woo,” but really, it saved me through my hardest times.

If this has not helped you, please don’t hesitate to either start an anonymous (or not!) forum post on here or shoot me an e-mail, as I want you to succeed and have as few breakdowns as possible in OT school.

It can also help if your advisor is understanding or you have a professor that you have a good relationship with to vent to or just talk with.

They’ve heard it before and will hear it many times again. Trust me.

Also know that this is only temporary. Grad school really does fly by and one day soon you’ll look back at the hard times and be glad you stuck it out.

This too shall pass (and so will you!).

I promise! 🙂

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  • FC February 21, 2018   Reply →

    Great post- thank you.

  • Jen February 20, 2019   Reply →

    I’m facing this predicament right now. I am doing great in all my classes, but when it comes to tests, I just can’t seem to do too well on them. I get too overwhelmed! Although they don’t affect my overall grade too much, I have this professor who really made me feel horrible about myself. He wanted me to meet with him after class and made it clear to me that he was disappointed in my exam grade. I am getting a B in the class as a final grade, but I just feel like everyone in my class is so competitive when it comes to grades. Even if I’m struggling, and still passing, what would be your advice to those who feel like your professors are judging you? I just feel like I don’t belong in the school I am at.

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L February 22, 2019   Reply →

      I’m so sorry you’re feeling this way! Just remember that so many people in OT school feel the same way, as OT school can be very stressful throughout the entire process and not an easy life experience for most students. The main thing to remember is that you’re passing your classes, and even if your professors are judging you (which they may not be!), you’ll get through it and become a great OT! Just take it day by day and remember that OT school goes by so fast, and as long as you’re passing, the judgmental professors don’t matter. Don’t let them get to you! Best of luck 🙂

    • Courtney April 9, 2019   Reply →

      Hi Jen, I am a current first year in OT school and can definitely relate! I often feel like my professors have certain expectations of me as a student that aren’t always realistic, and they seem to give off a certain level of judgment when you ask questions or aren’t meeting their idea of how you should be performing. The way I have been keeping through is by reminding myself that when I am a working OT, I won’t have a 60 question multiple choice test or a 20-page research paper due the same week! I’ll be doing what I love, working and supporting people to engage and participate fully in their lives! At the end of the day, our nitty gritty performance in school doesn’t matter that much. What matters is that we are prepared to work within our scope of practice in an ethical and meaningful way. OT school is just a step to getting to what I really want to do, even though it seems like the longest, hardest step possible sometimes.

  • Pebbles August 29, 2019   Reply →

    Hello Jen,
    Thank you for your post! I wish we had crossed paths before what happened in my life. I recently got placed on probation and am waiting a year to readmit with the next cohort and pick up where I left off. I consider myself a quick learner and do well in assignments. However, I am not the most avid test taker. The way my school program is designed is that you need to pass the final exam with an 80% or above otherwise you get kicked out or placed on probation. I love occupational therapy, however, I feel that this predicament has placed me in a hard spot to keep motivated to become an OT. Alike you, I have worked my butt off to get into this program. Now that I am given a second chance to try, I feel scared. I feel petrified that it will happen again because I am not a good test taker when I am timed. Also, a lot can happen within a year, such as getting cold on the information, etc. Meanwhile, I want to overcome my bad test taking and pick up better study routine, but I just don’t know how or when to start (finding motivation); nevertheless I do not want to burnout before school starts again. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I REALLY need guidance as I feel like I am drowning. Will you please be my OT coach? 🙁

  • Diana November 2, 2019   Reply →

    Pebbles, I am in the same boat as you, I just came back its not easy but I’m hoping I can make it because at the moment this is all that I can do !

    • Jennifer Odame August 31, 2020   Reply →

      Hi Sarah

      I just started my OT program, and I’m already feeling down. Because I’m scared, I won’t make it right and be a big failure. I began to search OT during my sophomore undergraduate in sociology and anthropology. I felt it was a nice profession. I love to work around people and care.
      I graduated in the last year of 2019, and I got into the program this year, 2020. Reading your article and everyone’s comments gave me some kind of purpose. I don’t want to miss this chance of having regrets. I don’t want to waste all I invested with the loans. I hear a lot from people from other healthcare about quitting. Hear from you was hope from some with the same healthcare profession. I know how best I study to pass, but I’m a good test taker. I just started the course, and I’m already a little overwhelmed. Please let me get in touch with you soon my email listed down. I’m looking forward to hearing from you soon.

      • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L September 7, 2020   Reply →

        Hi Jennifer, I’m so sorry to hear you’re feeling stressed right now but I promise these feelings will pass! The first two semesters were especially challenging as the hardest courses are in the beginning so once you get through that it will get better, especially once you get in the groove. Just take things one day at a time and if it makes you feel better, you can have a weekly countdown for each semester (this helped me!) to see that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Keep at it and just try to take some time for yourself each week to relax and recharge. If you want to chat further you can email me any time at Take care and don’t give up!

      • Nikki November 11, 2020   Reply →

        Hello! I just want to say.. Thank you so much for posting this. As I was googling “Dropping out of OT school” I came across this. I’ve had multiple breakdowns and contemplated dropping out numerous times already. It is incredibly hard.. and completing classes like Neuroscience, Gross Anatomy, and Kinesiology virtually have really taken a toll on me. I feel a lot better to read that I am not alone in feeling this way.
        Happy I came across this!

        • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L November 12, 2020   Reply →

          You definitely aren’t alone and you will get through it! Just keep at it and take it one week at a time 🙂

  • Mak September 9, 2020   Reply →

    I’m facing more of a social isolation stress because of the closeness of my cohort. I’m in my third semester and feel like I’m doing well with the coursework, but have had a falling out with my close friends that I had at the start of the program. The social component alone makes me want to drop out, then obviously the school/research stress on top of that. There’s 28 people in my cohort and it’s incredibly cliquey – getting kicked out of your “group” is so unbelievably hard. I didn’t even have this much drama in high school! I still have a year and a half and every day going to class gives me anxiety. Hard not to want to just switch to an online COTA program and move to a town I actually like.

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L September 12, 2020   Reply →

      I’m so sorry you’re going through this! I’m definitely noticing with the intense underlying stresses and anxieties of our current times, people really aren’t themselves lately, so combined with the added stress of grad school, I’m sure this is even more so the case. I know it’s hard right now but try to not to let the other people get to you and just focus on finishing the program. Once fieldwork starts, everyone will be off on their own anyway, so just try to get through these next few semesters remembering the end goal of all of this is becoming a great OT. If you want to talk more, email me any time at

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