7 Steps to Get Into Occupational Therapy School
If you’re interested in becoming an occupational therapist, you might be asking yourself…
“How do I even get into occupational therapy school?”
You’ve likely started the research process and might feel a bit overwhelmed with all of the information out there.
I want to simplify the process for you and provide you with a list of steps you’ll need to take to get into occupational therapy school.
Please note that this list focuses on OT graduate program requirements. COTA school requirements are a bit different.
How to Get into Occupational Therapy School:
1. Get your Bachelor’s Degree
Unless you’re applying for an occupational therapy school that is a combined Bachelor’s/Master’s degree (which are much less common), you’ll first need to get your Bachelor’s degree. Occupational therapy programs are either Master’s or Doctorate. You can find out the differences between the two here.
Many occupational therapy schools aren’t as choosy as you would think for what Bachelor’s degree you have when applying. In my program, we had students with many different degrees, ranging from psychology to journalism.
If you’re curious about the most common pre-occupational therapy degrees, check out the 7 Best Undergraduate Majors for Occupational Therapy.
Remember that you really can major in anything before applying to OT school as long as you meet the requirements below.
2. Take the Required Prerequisites
Occupational therapy schools often have differing requirements, so be sure to check each school’s website for what they require.
With that being said, the majority of occupational therapy school prerequisites are similar. The most common OT school prerequisites are usually the following:
- Anatomy and Physiology (I and II)
- Abnormal Psychology
- Medical Terminology
- Human Development/Developmental Psychology
Also, know that occupational therapy schools will accept these prerequisites whether they’re from a four-year university or an accredited two-year college. So if you’re still in need of taking these courses (or need to retake them for a better grade) but are on a budget, taking them from a community college is fine.
OT school prerequisites are an important portion of the application process, so it’s recommended that you have as high of a GPA in these core courses as possible, with at least a 3.0 or B in each course. If you can though, really strive to get A’s in these prerequisite courses.
3. Take (and Ace!) the GRE
You definitely don’t want average scores here. While the GRE might not seem super relevant to the field of occupational therapy, your test scores do make a difference in increasing your odds of getting accepted if your chosen schools require the GRE.
If you’ve taken it already and your scores are not great, I recommend retaking it again after really studying for it.
The most-recommended GRE review guides on Amazon are Kaplan GRE, [152475790X]  Cracking the GRE Premium Edition with 6 Practice Tests, 2019-Paperback, and Official GRE Super Power Pack, Second Edition.
Using one or two of these guides for at least one to two months (and really studying!) will help you achieve better than average scores to strengthen your OT school application.
The GRE is a test you’ll want to take seriously and not just devote a few hours a week for studying.
4. Get Plenty of OT Observation Hours
While many OT schools might say they only require 30 hours of occupational therapy observation hours, most applicants get a lot more than the requirements. It’s not uncommon for applicants to tell me they’re getting over 100 hours in multiple settings, so in order to stay competitive, I tell applicants to try get over 100 hours if possible.
In addition, getting these hours in more than one occupational therapy setting will also look better on your application. This shows you’ve had exposure to various types of occupational therapy and make you a more well-rounded applicant.
It also really helps to have a job or volunteer work related to occupational therapy, whether it’s with adults or children.
5. Get Letters of Recommendation
Every school requires letters of recommendation, usually from at least one occupational therapist. The other letters should be from a professor and a supervisor to give the school a good perspective of you as both a student and employee.
When finding people to write your letters, it’s best to find professors or supervisors that really know you and can paint you in a positive light. You can definitely provide them with specifics of what will make you a great OT along with accomplishments you’re proud of.
6. Craft a Great Personal Statement
Your personal statement is your chance to shine and tell the occupational therapy schools all about you and what makes you truly passionate about becoming an OT. Take your time writing it and really show the admissions committee what makes you stand out from the other applicants.
Your personal statement is especially important for schools that don’t conduct interviews, so think of your personal statement as your interview in a sense.
For a full resource on the tips and tricks on how to write your occupational therapy personal statement, be sure to also check out Write an Awesome Personal Statement for OT School.
7. Apply to Your Desired Occupational Therapy Programs
After doing your research on your chosen occupational therapy school’s requirements, you can narrow down your choices based on your personal requirements. When applying, you can use AOTA’s comprehensive list of OT programs to help you sort out all of the programs.
When you apply to OT school, most schools use a comprehensive online application system called OTCAS, or the Occupational Therapy Centralized Application Service. Once you create a login ID, you’ll find everything in the requirements that you need to submit to this one centralized system. After you submit everything, you’ll be apply to your top programs once their applications open up. Check out 10 OTCAS Tips For A Smooth Application Process.
However, not every single occupational therapy school uses OTCAS, so don’t be discouraged if your school doesn’t. If they don’t, you can still use OTCAS for the schools on it and apply separately to schools that are not.
Once you get these occupational therapy school requirements down, you’re ready to get into occupational therapy school!
And before you’re officially ready to start your OT school application process, also be sure to check out 5 Big Mistakes I Made When Applying to OT School for what NOT to do when applying to OT school. Good luck!