Tips for Exams!

Know What You’re Studying:

I think the hardest part about studying is knowing where to start. If your professor provides a study guide that is definitely a good place to start. If not, I like to go back to the resources the professor provided (PowerPoint slides, videos, lectures, etc.) and take the most important information and synthesize it on one document. Now that I’m in my second quarter I like the make sure all of the information I’m gathering is tied to occupation in someway because that will likely be on the test!

Don’t Procrastinate

With all of the information we have to learn in OT school it is definitely easy to get overwhelmed and procrastinate! I try to break my studying into chunks and tackle the information that way. I start preparing my doc for studying at least a week in advance. Since we had midterms last week, I saved the documents I made and will start to add new information for finals preparation! (It’s just a few short weeks away!)

Study Buddies

I’m a talker so I cannot get the bulk of my studying done with others but having a review session with classmates is important! Going over trouble areas with others can make the information stick. Plus they may be able to catch something you forgot to study. It can add a little fun, especially if you’re not able to be in class with your cohort!

Relax, You Know More Than You Think You Do!

Lastly, RELAX! This one is very important to me. During my undergrad, I would get a ton of test anxiety and feel the need to study for long periods of time and feel burnt out. When I started graduate school I knew I wanted to make sure I can avoid this as much as possible. Our exams are online for the time being so I am able to schedule when I take the exam. So if I have an afternoon test, I will study the night before, but then I will not study a few hours before the exam. If the exam is at 9 am, I will stop studying a few hours before bed and do some self-care or have relaxation time.

All in all, you know yourself best. Don’t feel discouraged if you do not perform as well as you want to! It may take a test or two to finally understand how you study best in OT school. These are just some of the tips that have worked well for me!

Thanks for reading! 🙂

My New Years Intentions

Happy New Year everyone! I like to set intentions for the new year to work on for the year! I also decided to pick a word for the year. My word this year is purpose. My goal is to keep in mind my purpose for doing all of the things I need, want, and enjoy doing!

Here are some of my intentions for the year:

Prioritize Relationships: This past year helped me realize how valuable relationships are to me. I plan on continuing to prioritize my time for my family and friends. This is something that lacked a bit last year but I want to make sure I’m better about it this year!

Journaling: I have always journaled on and off but I want to be more consistent. This year I bought a prompted memory journal that has a prompt for everyday of the year. It also has space for 5 years of responses so I’m excited to reflect back over the years!

Reading: Because of the pandemic I ended up reading for fun more in 2020 that I have in the last couple of years. I don’t enjoy reading as much during the busy parts of my quarters but my goal is to continue reading when on my breaks or on the weekends.

Productivity: I did well last quarter but I think I could do better with my time management and productivity. I want to implement the Pomodoro method with my studying to see if I am more productive. It is an interval method that is 25 minutes of work followed by a short 5 minute break and then repeat. I’m hoping this method ensures I’m finishing all of my work with fewer distractions and have more time for my leisure or social activities.

New Things: I want to continue to add new types of workouts and new recipes regularly! I also want to try new activities, whatever I may find.

Personal: I want to work on taking feedback in order to better myself for the future. This is one of my main personal goals because I know how important it is in OT school. Taking feedback of what I could do better in the future in order to better my practice is necessary. Sometime I can take feedback personally and more negatively than it really is so that’s why I want to work on it!

Those are just some of my intentions for the year! I’m excited for the fresh start a new year brings.

Thanks for reading!

Tackling Graduate School in a Pandemic

Starting graduate school in a pandemic is something no one would have ever expected. Obviously I chose to enter graduate school at this time but it was not easy. I have had to adjust how I learn compared to attending classes in person. There have been a few steps I’ve taken that I believe led me to have a smooth quarter!

Find Some Study Buddies

Making friends and study buddies was so necessary! There is so much that goes on in graduate school and finding people to share it with made the quarter more bearable. I was lucky enough to make some friends before school started and in my small group that was assigned. Related to making friends, remember that you are your own person. Just because someone else is working on ABC or studying for XYZ does not mean you need to be too. Trust your own judgment and work on things at your own pace. It’s not a competition!

Creating a Study Space

One of my favorite things about going to a college campus is the amount of study spaces available. Obviously, due to COVID, many of the spaces are limited. I was also only on campus once a week (or less) and I live about 35-40 minutes from my campus. For a while I enjoyed sitting outside at a coffeeshop but making my own study space at home became necessary. I already had a vanity, so I converted it into a desk space. If possible, keep this study space outside of your bedroom to separate a space for rest and a place to get work done. I like to keep everything I need (pens, pencils, markers, post-its, notebooks, etc.) I’m very lucky that I have a space in my room and a place in our office. It is so nice to have a spot dedicated to do my classes, coursework, and homework.

Stay Organized and on Top of Things

This is extremely important when taking online courses. In my program many of our lectures are asynchronous so we are expected to read, look at a PowerPoint, and listen to a lecture before our synchronous class. This means that there was much more time on our own than was planned. It was crucial for me to keep all my lectures, readings, and assignments in order, so I was prepared for courses. I like to use my planner to plan out my days, assignment schedule inserts in my planner, and sticky notes on my desk to hold myself accountable!

Take Breaks

Taking breaks, getting rest, and relaxing was necessary to stay sane this quarter. Engaging in self-care nights, working out, and just stepping away from the work is so important to maintain occupational balance. I felt super stressed halfway through this quarter because the only thing I was doing was school. I made sure to include more of my self-care activities, felt so much less stressed and I still ended the quarter with great grades!

These were some of the tips I think helped me power through these last ten weeks and have a successful quarter!

Thanks for reading!

What I Learned in the First Week of (Mostly Online) OT School

Even though I’ve only been a graduate student for a week I already feel like I have learned so much. Here’s a summary of the things I have learned this week and have valued.

There’s Always Something to Do: I am an avid to do list writer and I love the feeling of crossing off tasks. However, I quickly learned that the to do lists typically just keep growing and growing. Whether there are readings, lectures to watch, group projects, or an individual assignment to work on the tasks are never ending. There is always something you can be doing.

Everyone is on the Same Playing Field: Starting online I felt very isolated from others. I met up with a few people beforehand and tried my best to make some connections this week. Everyone is on the same playing field. I have found that many of my classmates have the same feelings and apprehensions I do. It makes me feel much better than we can talk about it!

You’ll Figure it Out: Last weekend when all of the course information was released and assignments started to pile up, I was STRESSED. I’m an organizer and I love to plan but I felt so caught off guard with everything starting online. As the week progressed, I gained more confidence and figured out my study schedule. It just took time for me to organize myself but I figured it out!

TAKE A BREAK: SO SO SO IMPORTANT. With many things being online, Zoom fatigue has taken over. Most, if not all, my professors have provided breaks at the top of every hour on Zoom. It has benefited so much! I have even incorporated breaks more frequently in my study sessions. Even short, 5-10 minute breaks while you’re doing readings or assignments help you function better.

Being Present

Present (noun): period of time now occurring

As someone who is a chronic worrier, being present has always been a struggle for me. My biggest intention and mantra for this school year is to be present.

I have spent so much time focused on my future while applying to graduate schools, that I did not take much time enjoying where I was in life. I really want to focus on enjoying every second of OT school. I do think being concerned about the future is natural and necessary, however I want to enjoy now as well. My future will be my biggest motivator in school, so I want to use the rest of my energy to stay present.

Some ways I plan on being present:

Journaling: I plan on journaling once a day, mostly at night, just to jot down my thoughts. Hopefully this will help ease my mind before bed!

Planning and To Do Lists: This may sound counterproductive however I feel more comfortable when I can see my tasks written down. If I know what I need to accomplish ahead of time I can enjoy my time doing those tasks.

Slowing Down: I think it is really easy to get into a routine of rushing to get ready, rushing to get to work/school, and rushing to get home. I am going to make more of an effort to slow down my routines and transitions.

Learn to Go with the Flow: Something that throws me off is when my schedule or expectations change. In an effort to be present I am going to make more of a conscious effort to be more comfortable with spontaneity and go with the flow.

Thanks for reading!

Preparing for OT School… But Relaxed

Once I was accepted into occupational therapy school I wanted to do anything I could to prepare for school. When I was assigned my OT2 mentor she told me the most important thing I could do was enjoy myself and relax! I wanted to share what my summer before OT school looked like while still preparing for school.

Making a Routine: Routines are super important to me! Routines make me comfortable with change and help me handle stress. Due to the pandemic I’m not going in to work so giving my self a routine has been very beneficial. Some routines I created are cleaning my room every Sunday, washing towels/bedding on Wednesdays and clothes on Sundays, and going for a walk every evening after dinner. Putting certain activities or chores into a routine will make for an easy transition once I start school!

Reading: And no I do not mean textbooks! I have been an avid reader since I was younger. Throughout college my reading for enjoyment slowed down a ton. I was not as eager to read because I was reading texts and articles all the time. I have used this time to get back to enjoying reading!

RELAX: This is was very important one for me. As a Type A person, it is very hard for me to relax. I always want to be moving and doing something. I let myself binge watch Netflix, I gave myself manicures, and I do face masks. Just little things so when I begin school and I’m stressed I can have activities to relax me!

Organize Your Life: This tip is vague but it depends on the type of person you are! I am a strong believer in if your life is organized, then you will be too. For me, this means organizing my book shelves, setting up my school desk and ordering supplies so I’m prepared for online learning, and making sure my room is clean. Later on when I’m stressed, if I have everything else organized it will be easier to destress instead of worrying about everything.

Look Over Materials: This includes syllabi, course scheduling, course websites, and books/readings. First familiarize yourself with your course and everyday schedule. Make sure you add in time for studying, exercise, eating, sleeping, and anything else important to you. Next, look over the syllabi. If you use a planner/calendar system make sure you jot down important dates! Lastly, look over your books and readings. Personally (as of right now) I do not have a plan for my readings. What I have been doing is just familiarizing myself with the sections of the book and looking over what I’ll be learning.

While it may be important to prepare for the semester/quarter and study, I believe it is even more beneficial to make sure you are mentally prepared for graduate school. There will be plenty of studying and reading in the future so I wanted to make sure I have time to relax and have fun now. I think these tips are going to prepare me for a great first year and quarter!

Thanks for reading!

Which OT Program is the Right One For You? Part 2: Master’s Degree vs Doctorate Degree

This can be a “controversial” topic but I want to discuss the facts about masters or doctorate programs so future OT students can make an informed decision for themselves. No program is better than another. Also I want to clarify that I have not researched EVERY single program, but these are my findings in the programs I have researched!

“The Association require entry level education at the master’s or doctoral level for occupational therapists. ” -AOTA

The American Occupational Therapy Association currently allows professionals with either a master’s or a doctorate degree in occupational therapy to be entry level occupational therapists.

Master’s of Occupational Therapy (MSOT or MOT): Typically a two year long program. (However it can vary from 24-36 months.*) Master’s programs usually have didactic courses for instruction, then students finish level two fieldwork before graduation.

Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (OTD): Typically a three year program, can vary from 33 to 36+ months.* Usually there are didactic courses, fieldwork, then the final year with a capstone, research project, or residency (depending on the program) before graduation.

*This is typically full time. Some programs may have options for part-time instruction.*

$$$: Money is a HUGE deciding factor. When it comes to tuition, Master’s programs are cheaper than doctoral programs due to having an extra year. If a doctorate is an end goal for you, an OTD may be a preferable option because it will be cheaper than returning to school later on. (However you may be more financially stable when you are a practicing OT.) If getting your clinical OT experience is your end-goal then a Master’s would be the most economic option.

If we are talking about pay, many people report the pay is similar. However, some OTs report pay can be higher for those with an OTD degree in organizations where the pay scale is based on education, i.e: school system.

Course Curriculum: Most (if not all) programs have a set curriculum all OT students will follow. However, due to the extra year, many OTD programs offer optional courses you can take to increase your studies in certain specialities such as upper extremities, neuroscience, etc.

Research: Most, if not all, programs have professors who are involved in research and publications. In fact, many programs involve students in research and may have a research project to work on. However, doctorate programs put more of an emphasis on research in the third year for your capstone/research project.

End-Goal: Again, either program prepares you to be an entry-level occupational therapist. If this is your only priority then a Master’s degree is most likely the way to go. If being involved in education or research is equally or more important to you, then the OTD is probably the choice for you.

I personally know the decision to choose between a Master’s or a Doctorate is a difficult one. I was confident I was attending a MSOT program until April! I applied to three Master’s programs and only one doctorate. Last minute I changed my mind and decided to take the leap and attend the doctorate program.

This is a personal decision. If you’re a future student do your research and see which one is better for you! Seeing what each individual school is focused on can help you make this important decision.

Thanks for reading!

Which OT Program is the Right One For You? (Part 1)

So you have decided to apply to occupational therapy programs! One of the hardest parts of the process is narrowing down the choices for graduate school. There are so many wonderful programs. Here are some guidelines to follow to choose which occupational programs will good for you to apply to and then eventually choose once you’re accepted.

  1. MSOT or OTD?: Knowing which degree you want to go for is a great starting place. Both degrees help you become an entry-level occupational therapist. There are differences in courses and the length of the program based on the degree. (Part 2 will discuss MSOT vs OTD in more detail!)
  2. Location: Are you able or willing to move cross country? Do you want to live at home during school? Can you commute? These are all good questions to ask yourself. Remember relocating will add to your costs!
  3. Course Requirements: OT program requirements vary at every school! Most OT programs are looking for courses like anatomy/physiology, statistics, and psychology. However, some programs require physics, medical terminology, biology, upper level psychology courses, and sociology. Making sure you’re fulfilling all course requirements is necessary for admission!
  4. Program Details: Read about the program! Look at the mission statements, faculty, course descriptions, and curriculum. Yes at all programs you’ll be receiving similar information but it will not be delivered in the same way. Reading and understanding each programs purpose and looking at the faculty that you could potentially be working with is so important!
  5. Cost: Look at programs that you can reasonably afford. The costs of application fees is important to add in as well! Yes all programs are expensive but making sure the schools you apply to can fit into your budget will save yourself some disappointment later.
  6. Application Deadlines: Some other small things that you can look into is whether a program has early and regular deadline dates, rolling admissions, and interviews. As someone who enjoys interview experiences, programs with an interview were very important to me!
    Rolling admissions mean you potentially can find out your admissions results based on when you apply. For example, you apply in early September, the admissions committee meets September 20, you may have a result or interview offer by October 1st.) I liked having an option to get early results! However this caused me to place a deposit at a school to hold my spot and then change my mind later on.

    There are many different reasons to apply to an occupational therapy program. These were my reasons that I chose my schools I applied to. If you’re a current OT student, why did you apply to the schools you did?

    Thanks for reading and stay tuned for part 2!

Ways to Improve Your Application For OT School

When I first applied to OT school in 2018, I was denied at one school and waitlisted at another. Once I decided I wanted to apply again I knew I needed to amp up my application. I just want to share the steps I took to improve my application. I was accepted to all four schools I applied to last year and I believe that it was due to these steps!

  1. Finish all (or most) prerequisites: Most schools say it is okay to have some courses not finished when applying. I think you can, however, when I contacted a school about what I could do to improve my application the school told me I received less points due to a couple courses I was finishing. The school gave points and ranked their applicants for admission. So while I was finishing my prerequisites, other students who were finished had higher scores. So if it’s possible to finish your prerequisites before applying I would recommend it!
  2. Increase Observation/Volunteer Hours: In a year I was able to double both my observational and volunteer hours. This showed I was using my time wisely, had drive, and wanted to be in the field all the time. Also helps you network and volunteering is how I found my part-time job!
  3. Vary Observational Experiences: Some schools may not have a requirement (some do) but make sure to vary your OT observation hours. The first year I had only pediatric outpatient hours. I thought since I had multiple clinics that was enough. I decided last year to observe an adult certified hand specialist. I was able to see an entirely different type of therapy practice.
  4. Healthcare Professional/Occupational Therapist LOR: Some schools require it, but I think this made a big difference in my letters of recommendation. I asked an occupational therapist I observed to write me a LOR. We discussed that she may not know my background or experience but she can talk about my interest in OT, willing to help out, and punctuality. Obviously I did not read her letter but her eagerness to write me a LOR told me she thought positively of me!
  5. More ~Personal~ Personal Statement: A personal, personal statement sounds redundant. However, I think one of my mistakes the first year was that I shared my reasons for why I wanted to be an occupational therapist but did not dive deep enough. My personal story is about a family member and was afraid if I talked too much about someone else it would no longer be my story. In addition to all of my experience, I made sure to include my personal story on why occupational therapy is the career for me.

I personally took all of these steps and was able to improve my application to eventually become a graduate student!

Thanks for reading!

Gap year or No Gap Year?

Team Gap Year! When I decided I wanted to become an occupational therapist my original plan was to take a gap year (and a half) after I graduated from college. I was graduating a semester early to earn some money for school and gain some more experience. I also wanted to finish my anatomy prerequisites and observe some occupational therapists. When I did not get into OT school my first time around I was pretty discouraged because I definitely did not want to take another gap year. The waiting process, spending more money on applications, afraid of losing momentum, and burn out from my job were some of the reasons I dd not see myself taking a second gap year.

I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and apply again. While improving my resume (which I will go into more detail in a later blog post) I also embraced my second gap year. I was able to save more money, find a wonderful job, and enjoy my downtime. If anything my second gap year increased my momentum! I’m so excited and ready to go back to school and learn so much more about our field. I truly believe my gap years are going to help me become a focused student an eventually a competent occupational therapist.

So are you considering a gap year? Do not be afraid of it! If it’s in the cards for you then DO IT! Think of it as an opportunity for growth.

Thanks for reading!