Frequently Asked Questions about Applying to an Occupational Therapy Program

Want to save time applying to OT programs? Here are the answers to five frequently asked questions.

  1. Which undergraduate major will give me a competitive edge? Students enter occupational therapy programs with a variety of different undergraduate majors. Some common majors include psychology, sociology, education, liberal arts, biology, and kinesiology. Regardless of your major, make sure you have taken the necessary prerequisite courses by reviewing the admission criteria for each program.
  2. Where should I complete my occupational therapy volunteer hours? Many OT programs require a certain number of occupational therapy volunteer hours as part of their application.
  3. Many OT programs have a limited class size and they often have to turn away qualified applicants. If your heart is set on going to a particular school, then try again next year.
  4. When finding a place to complete your hours, consider which areas of practice you might want to work in. Hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, outpatient clinics, and schools are just some of the places where prospective students complete their volunteer hours. If time allows, consider volunteering in more than one setting so that you can broaden your understanding of the scope of occupational therapy practice. Many students find that their volunteer experiences are a good starting point for their personal statements.
  5. Who should write my letters of recommendation? Choose references that can comment on your ability to meet the rigors of graduate school and/or on your commitment to the field of occupational therapy. Professors, employers, and volunteer supervisors can provide great insights into your work ethic, professional behaviors, critical thinking skills, and dedication to this field of study. Refrain from asking family members or friends to be references for your OT application. If the schools you are applying to use OTCAS, be sure to get your reference providers’ email addresses. OTCAS will send your references a link to complete an evaluation form about you.
  6. How do I know if the courses that I took will meet the OT program’s prerequisites? Many OT program admissions counselors are happy to review your transcripts and previous course descriptions. Take advantage of this opportunity to make sure that the courses you took in undergrad, or the courses you are planning to take before you apply, meet the program’s prerequisite requirements.
  7. What if I don’t get in the first time I apply? Many OT programs have a limited class size and often have to turn away qualified applicants. If your heart is set on going to a particular school, then try again next year. Before you apply again, contact the program’s admissions counselor to see how you can improve your application. You may be encouraged to retake a prerequisite course for a higher grade, gain more volunteer experience, improve your essay writing skills, or retake the GRE. If you can’t wait until next year for personal or financial reasons, consider casting a wider net by applying to multiple programs.


About Dr. Susan Cahill

Dr. Susan Cahill is a former Associate Professor and Director of the MSOT Program at Lewis University. She is a Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and a member of the AOTA Commission on Practice. Visit to learn more.

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