7 tips to survive ot school

7 Tips To Survive Occupational Therapy School

Occupational therapy school is such an unforgettable journey. It is full of many challenges and rewards. To help with the challenging aspects, we’re grateful to have insight from current OT student Sarah Schwarz, OTS. In this post, she shares 7 tips to help you survive (and thrive!) in your occupational therapy program. What would you add? Let us know in the comments!

1. Limit Distractions In Class

I cannot tell you how many times I found myself in OT school turning my head to my friends and asking, “What did the professor just say?” Many (but not all) of us OT students will be in the early to mid 20’s and we all know there is plenty going on in our lives outside of OT school.

Do yourself a favor and don’t spend lecture and lab time on your laptop looking up the latest wedding trends, sports updates, news headlines, or on social media. I promise there will be enough time for these things when you go home from class and it’s the perfect way to unwind after a busy day.

If I could redo school, I would limit my laptop and phone distractions and be fully immersed in the lecture and lab content. Professors are wise and experienced, so use this time wisely to absorb their knowledge and better yourself!

2. Get a Flexible Part-Time Job

We all know going from undergrad to grad school can be a financial struggle with the growing student loans. Having a part-time job can be a great opportunity to build that resume, familiarize yourself with the community, earn some money, and take your mind off school. However, OT school is time demanding. OT school is much more challenging and time-consuming than undergrad. OT school is your full-time job.

A part-time job has to be understanding and supportive of your student needs. Do not let a part-time job be the reason you do not ace that next exam or practicum! Take enough time in your week to study and prepare so you will be an excellent occupational therapist.

3. Stay Organized

Calendars, sticky notes, and planners are your new best friends. Now I know this tip is nothing new, but OT school has many assignments, readings, exams, and practicums in multiple courses occurring simultaneously. Staying organized will be a way of life that you will need to become accustomed to.

Professors at this level of education do not accept late work. Late and absent assignments are not really an option at this level. Also, lots of semester long projects seem to all be due on the same week near the end of the semester so don’t let those sneak up on you when you have finals to study for!

Staying organized during fieldwork will also make you look professional and prepared to your clinical instructor. Professors and clinical instructors are great options for letters of recommendation, so you always want to be organized and timely so they feel they can write you a strong letter of recommendation for a job one day!

4. Make Friends!

OT school can seem competitive at times, but you will need some good friends to help you get through the long days of school and long nights of studying. Friends that are in OT school will understand what you are going through better than anyone and they can help talk out all the stress you may be feeling or help with some studying tips!

survive ot school friends

Friends help keep school fun and light when the work feels overwhelming at times. These are the people you will be closest with for 2-3 years! Friends are a great support system as well as great practice patients during labs and upcoming practicums.

5. Accept Making Mistakes

OT school is long, hard, and can be grueling at times, but we all chose this career path to help others in need which makes it all worth it. You will make mistakes during your course work and fieldwork experiences, but being a great occupational therapist takes time. Lots of practice and learning from mistakes is how we refine our skills and challenge ourselves to be better for our future patients.

An excellent OT program will expect a lot out of their students, and you will make mistakes, but it is okay. Don’t be hard on yourself for making mistakes. Learn from the mistakes by researching that specific topic and asking questions from your professors and clinical instructors.

6. Embrace Working With Others

In the field, OTs often work or communicate with other healthcare professionals. In OT school, they start the process of working with others early on. OT schools consists of many group projects, sometimes several group projects with different people going on at the same time.

Group projects can be in lab for one day to complete a presentation, or a semester long group project to develop a management project or complete a health needs assessment and presentation together.

7. Don’t Forget to Have Fun!

If you are just beginning OT school it may not seem like it, but the coursework portion of OT school goes by in a flash! Take in all the moments you have in the classroom with your friends and professors to have fun and build relationships.

OT school can be fun and there are times to be relaxed and creative. There will also be very stressful times where you will need to have some fun with peers in school to get through the long days of lab and lectures. Being around your classmates and professors is a safe place to learn, be creative, come up with fun, innovative ideas for class projects and interventions.

Enjoy these moments of learning and being a student!

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  • Oki Mariam Tolulope December 1, 2020   Reply →

    Thank you for this beautiful piece! I feel inspired and motivated the more.

    OT to the world!!!

  • Erica July 20, 2021   Reply →

    This is super helpful! Starting an OTA program soon and want to be as prepared as possible. This might sound like a strange question, but do you have an example or syllabus from a semester or two? I know it differs when you have fieldwork etc…but I am just curious about what the workload looks like.

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L July 25, 2021   Reply →

      Hi Erica, I personally don’t have a syllabus example but try reaching out to current OT students in the bigger OT Facebook groups and I’m sure they can help you out!

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