The root of all evil.

The root of all evil.

We’re nearly a week into 2020. The past six days have honestly been a blur. For no real reason in particular. Just a blur.

I’ve been bustin’ my butt to make some money over break. Between promoting the race Josh & I are directing in 12 days and restarting work as a classroom aide, there really hasn’t been a dull moment. I’m fairly certain 80% of my classmates are either vacationing or binging Netflix over winter break – honestly, neither of which I would prefer that I was doing. I’m not the person that can sit still and have things handed to me. I just prefer to go go go.

There’s no denying that as a graduate student, loans are adding up and my bank account is dwindling. I feel like I’m floating in the middle of an ocean holding onto an inner tube that is slowly leaking.

I told Josh on New Year’s Eve night that one of my goals for 2020 is to not run out of money. As hilarious as that sounds, it’s a real fear of mine. I know I know I know I KNOW that money doesn’t define happiness, but it sure does seem like it defines survival.

How ironic was it that less than 24 hours after I announced one of my 2020 goals that we discovered one of my car tires was basically flat? Two months ago I replaced all four tires because they were bald. Now, here I was at the mechanic shop praying I wouldn’t have to fork out too much money. It wasn’t that bad at the end of the day (I honestly feel like the guy cut me a break when I told him I’m a college student).

I only spend money on things that I absolutely need – food, gas, car oil, textbooks (UGH!). I don’t buy clothes willy-nilly. I never go on extravagant winter/spring break vacations. I don’t have a Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime account. I don’t go out to clubs or bars every weekend (or ever for that matter). I don’t sign up for races every weekend, every month, or even every other month.  I am blessed that Josh will meet me half way between his house and mine so I don’t have to add miles to my car or spend more money on gas.

I am trying to live as inexpensive as possible for the next 12-15 months until I get a job that provides me with a steady income.

So why does it seem that everyone else is relaxing on winter break and I’m busting my butt so my bank account will never read $0.00?!?!

I’m not here to throw myself a pity party. I’m hear to remind myself (when I look back on this one day when I have a full-time job with benefits) that I’M DOING WHAT I HAVE TO DO. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing or where they’re going or how they’re spending their weekends. This is what I NEED TO DO. I need to do this for myself. I need to do this so I don’t have to ask anyone for money. I need to do this so that I can get to December 31, 2020 and still have at least one penny to my name.

I feel guilty regularly that I can’t help Josh buy food for our weekend meals together. I feel guilty that I can’t help my parents buy groceries. It is a mental battle for me to accept this type of financial help – on things that are a necessity. I keep promising myself that once grad school is done and I have a full-time job that I will be able to help with groceries or that I will be able to go out for dinner on a Friday night guilt-free. This financial guilt is temporary.

So here I am. I will shamelessly self-promote the race I am directing every day until race day. I want people to have fun and put their trust in me that all my planning and logistics will give them an amazing experience to start of 2020. I will say “yes” to every classroom aide opportunity presented to me in the next two weeks even though I’ll have no idea what classroom of students I will have to work with.

I will work. my. butt. off. so that come December 31st, 2020 AND the day I say “yes” to a full-time job every damn sacrifice will have been worth it.

 

Summer Work at ESY

Summer Work at ESY

For the past six weeks, I’ve been working as a teacher’s aide at a special education school district in their extended school year (ESY) program. Within this position, I’ve been in a classroom of five students between the ages of 9-11 years old. I have learned a lot in the past six weeks and I’ve been able to apply an occupational therapy lens to my interactions with each of the students. I want to take this time to reflect on my learning experiences in hopes of looking back at this summer with a full cup of knowledge.

To begin, I’ll describe the type of classroom I was placed in (with anonymity for privacy’s sake). Four of the five students were non-verbal. All five children wore diapers. Two of the children required feeding tubes. One of the children needed every meal to be pureed. One of the children carried around a bucket for frequent incidences of throwing up. One child recently learned to walk and wore MAFOs (modified ankle-foot orthoses) for gait support. One of the children wore hearing aids. One of the children grinded their teeth continuously throughout the day. One child frequently hit, pinched, and grabbed hair.

All children were mobile without assistive mobility. All children received PT, OT, and speech. Four of five children loved tactile play (i.e. sand, slime, shaving cream, water play, etc). Four of five children fed themselves – the other is feeding tube limited. Four of five children completed lower body dressing with verbal cueing.

Upon arriving in the first week, our classroom faced a huge learning curve. The teacher had a new class of kids as they had moved up to the “big kid” classrooms/teachers; therefore, all four staff members assigned to the classroom had to learn the children quick. On the first day we had a field trip (that’s one way to learn quick) to a nearby sprinkler park. Within the first week we started to learn what the kids liked/disliked to eat, their sensory needs, their behaviors, and their weakness and strengths. I remember feeling slightly overwhelmed trying to learn their personalities and abilities. With time, the overwhelmed feeling started to subside.

I not only had to learn about the children but also the teachers’ expectations. Every teacher wants their classroom ran a certain way and their students to behave in a certain degree of discipline. Expectations became pretty obvious within that first week!

I started to apply an occupational therapy lens once I started feeling more comfortable with the kids and expectations of the children. I tried turning our everyday routines into opportunities for occupation-based interactions.

During the first week of school it was obvious that one child (named, “P,” for anonymity’s sake) had no clue what to do when they got to a closed door. So, for the first few days I showed P how to open the doors (push the bar in and push, or rotate the handle down and pull) with hand over hand assistance and verbal cueing. There were many instances throughout the day in which we could practice this task (walking into the bathroom, walking down to the nurse’s office or to get lunch, walking out to the buses). Within a few days, hand over hand assistance was faded. Verbal cueing remained, but eventually P learned that upon approaching a closed door, P could open it.

For the weeks following, we tried teaching P to hold the door for the people behind them (this is something that still needs to improved). My suggestion was to have P be the line leader but then hold the door for everyone else in the class as they pass through the doorway. Again, this is still something that needs to be worked on once the 2019-2010 school year commences.

Additionally, P refused to put their backpack in their cubby upon entering the classroom. With physical guidance and LOTS of verbal cueing, I am happy to say that in this last week of ESY, P can put their backpack in their cubby independently after one verbal cue. What a day that was!

P also started ESY with total dependence for lower body (LB) dressing. P refused to LB undress and dress during toileting and needed hand over hand assistance with verbal cueing. Again, I am happy to say that in this last week of ESY, P no longer needed hand over hand assistance for LB dressing (still required max verbal cueing).

P does not know how to zipper/unzipper their backpack independently. I noticed a lack of pincer grasp development with P. To adapt the backpack’s zipper, I attached a loop of yarn to the zipper in hopes of providing P a larger surface area to grab with an alternative grasp (perhaps a palmer grasp?!). As the summer program ends, this skill is not yet developed for P; however, I am hopeful that the adaptation will promote independence in the future.

Another child (named “R”) would begin to cry when seated if their feet could not touch the floor or could not sit cross-legged (signs of potential gravitational insecurity & poor core strength). During assemblies in which R needed to sit on skinnier and higher lunch table benches, R would cry and repeatedly try to move onto the floor. In the classroom, R could be observed sitting cross-legged on their chair the majority of the day. Upon moving R to a chair of a smaller width or lower height, R would still try to move to the ground to sit cross-legged. R also strongly disliked sitting on the toilet during toileting, requiring staff to hold him securely on the toilet seat. With all of this in mind, I theorized that R had decreased core strength/endurance; therefore, requiring a larger base of support provided by sitting cross-legged or distaste towards seated positions in which the cross-legged position was impossible (i.e. toileting).

Furthermore, R constantly grinded their teeth. In the first week, I theorized that R might be grinding for sensory reasons; therefore, I suggested providing sensory stimulation on R’s cheeks using a vibrating bug. This, however, did not resolve the issue. Still to this day, I am stumped as to how to decrease the grinding. Perhaps, in the future I will learn a method for limiting this behavior. Suggestions, anyone?!

R often enjoyed playing catch with me during our free time. To increase social interaction skills, I would often wait for R to make eye contact with me before throwing the ball back to them. Some times I would wait 30 seconds before R would make eye contact. I simply wanted to promote social skills by playing with R in this way.

Another child (named “D) often hit, pinched, and grabbed hair – especially during instances of loud, sudden noises. After analyzing the antecedents to such behavior, our classroom staff recognized that the hitting/pinching/grabbing was D’s way of communicating they wanted deep pressure and/or that D was startled. After a child hits/pinches/grabs, it is our natural instinct to “restrain” the child to prevent further hitting/pinching/grabbing. “Restraining” results in deep pressure; therefore, D had learned from previous experiences that when they hit/pinch/grab, they will receive deep pressure. To prevent such actions, we integrated a sensory diet of sorts. I often provided deep pressure to their upper extremities intermittently throughout the day. We would put D’s weighted vest on after lunch. I would also take D for walks in the hallways for the D to receive deep pressure sensory input through their feet. As the summer progressed, the hitting/pinching/grabbing became less frequent and we were able to pick up on instances that might trigger such behavior.

Another child (named “M”) was repeatedly observed removing their hearing aids when loud noises were occurring. In response to this behavior we taught M to cover their ears when loud noises occurred. This seems like a simple solution; however, for children with developmental disabilities this is something that needed to be taught and demonstrated. By the end of the summer, M knew to cover their ears; however, there are still incidences when M would remove their hearing aids instead of utilizing the alternative method to reducing auditory input.

At the beginning of the summer, the girls in our classroom did not know how to utilize the paper towel dispenser in the bathroom. With hand over hand assistance and verbal cueing, slowly but surely the girls learned how to operate the paper towel dispenser (push the “lever” in multiple times, then rip the paper towel off). Again, this seems like a simple task; however, it is an essential part of the hand-washing process. All the girls now how to push the lever now and do not require hand over hand assistance; however, one girl still needs hand over hand assistance to rip the paper towel off the dispenser itself.

Throughout the summer, we went on three field trips – the sprinkler park, the bowling alley, and the zoo. At the sprinkler park (on the first day), it was overcast and somewhat chilly. The one child simply wanted to walk the perimeter of the area, barely getting wet. Other children were observed absolutely loving the spritz of the water and various sprinklers. A true sensory experience!

During the bowling trip, our class (and most of the school), utilized the bowling assist ramps. With hand over hand assistance, we helped them carry the 6lb balls to the ramp. Once placed on the ramp, each child independently pushed the ball down the ramp. Some of the kids even had fun in the swivel chairs!

At the zoo, the kids in our class didn’t find much enjoyment looking at the animals even the big animals that were close up. Instead, they found enjoyment feeling the fences as we walked throughout the zoo. Honestly, I loathe the zoo so this wasn’t the best environment for me to keep my occupational therapy hat on. More appalling to me was the crowds within the zoo who weren’t always the most aware of who was walking near/around them. With unsteady walkers, it was important for me as a field trip chaperone to make sure adults weren’t bumping into the kid(s) I was walking with. I wish that people in crowded, public places were more attentive to their surroundings!

Most of the school assemblies this summer were music-based. My favorite assembly of the summer was a sports team drumline. Our one student was frightened each time the drums were pounded so I provided continuous deep pressure to their hands to help calm the child throughout the duration of the assembly. The drumline did a great job including the kids throughout the assembly and even allowed them to use the drumsticks to bang on the drums.

With my occupational therapy thinking-cap on throughout the summer, I also took notice to things that I wish the school would change to better the environment for the students. The classroom I was in constantly had music playing which for some of the kids was a constant auditory distraction. Once the screensaver for the computer would appear on the SmartBoard, a few of the students would instantly become visually distracted by the colorful orbs rotating on the screen.

In the weekly combined gym class (two classrooms, one gym teacher), the gym would be extremely loud causing some children to experience a meltdown because of overstimulation. Some kids wore noise-cancelling headphones; however, I believe more kids could have benefitted from wearing them.

I took this entire 6-weeks as a learning experience. I wanted to gain more experience with the pediatric population in a school-based setting as I feel my Level I fieldwork experience was too short to truly get a full understanding working with this population in this setting. Being immersed with the population in a school four days a week for six weeks was highly beneficial to my continued learning and comfort level with this population.

I learned that it takes time and patience to understand how non-verbal children communicate. Observation skills are imperative! I’ve learned to be aware of body language and behaviors that are communicative in nature. I’ve learned that one day a certain behavior might be communicating something different than the day before. It takes patience and persistence to truly understand how a non-verbal child communicates.

I also learned that every child needs to be given a chance to be independent. Before doing something for a child or helping a child do something, give them a chance to do it themselves. If they don’t take action, provide assistance. They might be more capable than you think so don’t jump to conclusions and always give them a chance.

Furthermore, positive praise is critical in some cases but sternness is also essential. I’ve learned that discipline requires a firm tone of voice and consistency. I’ve acquired a “teacher’s voice” in the last six weeks. It’s important to speak clearly when giving directions and setting expectations. Speak firmly!

I’ve also learned that ESY is EXTREMELY laid back. I’ll be honest, not a lot of academic learning has occurred in the last six weeks. A lot of general life skills have been taught but other academic-related things have lacked. It’s frustrating from an occupational therapy perspective to see so many staff members on their phones or distracted by their own personal drama. Most of the days, I found myself playing with the kids trying to teach fine motor skills, play skills, or social skills. I would give the kids puzzles to play with or blocks to build. I would keep them as occupied as possible during the hours they were technically supposed to be learning.

In reflection, I’ve enjoyed seeing the kids progress in their general life skills. I got overexcited the day I saw a child complete lower body dressing without my assistance. I got overexcited when a child independently walked over to the paper towel dispenser and pushed the lever in order to dry their hands. I’ve enjoyed giving a child sensory breaks with the vibrating bug and allowing them to feel the vibrations on their cheeks, head, ears, and hands. The pediatric semester last spring helped shed light on the sensory needs of this population and I am glad I got to apply my knowledge throughout ESY.

I’m still pretty confident that this population isn’t a population I want to work with full-time. In the last six weeks I’ve seen how the school system is “broken”. I’ve seen the drama amongst staff members. I’ve seen how much patience is required to work with this population. I commend teachers and teacher aides for working with this population as a full-time career – it can be exhausting.

This setting and population may not be for me as an aspiring occupational therapist, but the experiences and opportunities from the past six weeks have given me irreplaceable knowledge and learning that I will never take for granted.

I’ll be sad to send these kids off on the bus at the end of the day tomorrow but I will remember these kids for many years to come. I hope that I can read back on this blog post in the future and remember that the little things can be the most critical steps for increased independence – the occupational therapist’s primary objective.

 

 

 

 

Occupational Therapy Month: Developmental Milestones

Occupational Therapy Month: Developmental Milestones

Now that half of the OTs in America are done at conference in New Orleans, ABCs of OT are back in full swing!

Letter “d” is for developmental milestones.

Let me tell you something…. my ENTIRE spring semester has revolved around developmental milestones. For the pediatric population, accomplishment of developmental milestones provides opportunities for growth, exploration, and learning. Occupational therapists work to promote these milestones by recognizing delays and using interventions.

For example, for a baby who is hasn’t learned to sit unsupported yet, an OT will provide interventions to strengthen the core. The ability to sit unsupported promotes play and learning opportunities. For a school-aged child who uses a palmar grasp instead of mature tripod grasp when holding their pencil, an OT could enhance development of this grasp by providing a smaller sized pencil or unique pencil grip that naturally puts a child into a mature tripod position.

Developmental milestones are all-encompassing for development including primitive reflexes, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, feeding/eating, social-emotional, communication, play behaviors, ADLs, and cognition. The ability to recognize/evaluate developmental delays is imperative when working with the pediatric population so that an OT can provide interventions to augment development.

For more information about developmental milestones check out this resource here!

Occupational Therapy Month: Client-Centered

Occupational Therapy Month: Client-Centered

It’s day 3 of the ABCs of OT challenge! “C” stands for client-centered!

It is my duty as an aspiring occupational therapist to make evaluations, plans, and interventions based around what my clients want to do and need to do. That is called client-centered practice. While focusing on the client, OTs recognize that each individual has their own unique set of roles in life. Parent. Sibling. Friend. Student. Volunteer. Athlete. Employee. Care-taker. Grandparent. Dog mom. Cat mom. The list goes on! Client-centered interventions led by an occupational therapist help individuals engage fully in the roles that are meaningful to them.

Consider an individual who just had an upper extremity amputation. This individual is a mom to a toddler, a wife to a loving husband, and a volunteer at her church. Because of the recent amputation, occupational therapists can teach her how to hold her toddler and how to change his/her diaper using just one hand. Adaptive dressing techniques can be taught so that she can dress independently prior to heading out the door for her volunteer shift at her church. An occupational therapist can provide her with an adapted cutting board so that she can still independently cook up a date-night dinner for her husband.  If all of these occupations and roles are important to her, it becomes the occupational therapist’s responsibility to teach her how to do these things successfully.

OT practice is completely client-centered. We focus on what’s meaningful for you. We give you the tools, strategies, and education so that you can live life to its fullest capacity.

I leave you today with a picture of me with my parents and boyfriend out mountain biking on a beautiful spring day last year. Some of my roles include: daughter, sister, girlfriend, grandchild, graduate student, pet owner, friend, runner, and cyclist. Some of my most meaningful occupations include: spending time with Josh, family, friends, and my dogs; enjoying fresh air while running or biking; cooking healthy meals; attending grad school; and, (the reason why you are reading this), blogging.

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Occupational Therapy Month: Balance

Occupational Therapy Month: Balance

Today is Day 2 of Occupational Therapy Month! To celebrate, today we will talk about BALANCE!

OTs emphasize occupational balance in practice regularly. Occupational balance involves balancing occupations in one’s life that an individual wants and needs to engage in.

To put occupational balance into a real-life example, let’s consider the life of a graduate student (like me!). Days are often consumed by long classes, assignments, papers, and group projects. Far more time is spent studying than engaging in self-care and leisure time. In this case, occupational balance does not exist.

To promote occupational balance, OTs can provide tools and strategies to clients who have difficulty engaging in activities that they both want and need to engage in. Tools and strategies can be as simple as teaching individuals how to organize a planner to schedule time for self-care or leisure activities.

OTs strive for occupational balance for themselves as clinicians, in addition to, teaching clients how to achieve balance in their own lives. Simply put, occupational balance can augment quality of life!

So, as you try to balance all the things in life, take a step back to determine how balanced you are. Are you getting done what needs to be done while still being able to participate in the things that bring you joy? Or are you like me in the picture below – still striving to balance school assignments, professional development, and leisure engagement?

Strive for occupational BALANCE. You’ll thank yourself for it!

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OT Chronicles Chapter 7: Oh, grad school

OT Chronicles Chapter 7: Oh, grad school

Grad school is hard.  It’s overwhelming.  It’s stressful.  Yet, through it all, I know it’s going to be worth it.

I’m not sure how it got to be the end of October already.  Honestly, I remember looking at my planner at the end of September thinking, “how am I ever doing to survive October?”.  Yet, here I am.  Still alive, still surviving.  October has been good to me despite the workload.  I got to race a mountain bike race, watch Eagles games with Josh, and this weekend I’m trying out a cyclocross race for the first time – that should be interesting!

School wise though….group projects have taken over my life and that’s ok.  We’re all surviving together, aiding in each other’s progression day by day and week by week.  Some projects have challenged us more than other (don’t even get me started on Colombia, South America!) and some of our toughest projects of the semester are still looming over us.

Do you know how empowering it is to sit in a classroom with 29 classmates who all have the same passion, motivation, and end-goal as you do?  Every day, despite stress and worry, I feel invigorated by the fact that I am working towards a dream.  I want to have “OTR” after my name, and every day, every class, every stressful project, all 3 exams I have on back-to-back-to-back days next week are pushing me towards those three little letters.

My attempt at blogging every week has obviously not worked.  My life has been consumed by projects, studying, readings, and various other assignments.  Running has been put on the back burner and some days it makes me really sad.  Many days I force myself to run 2 miles because in my mind taking a 20 minute break is 20 minutes less I have for schoolwork.  Yet, I complain on a daily basis that my neck and back chronically ache because I sit in the classroom and in front of my computer and books for an excessive amount of time each day.  It’s ironic, isn’t it?

Every sacrifice, every hardship, every challenge is bringing me closer to my goal.  I try to be mindful of this daily and I am lucky to have a support system who reminds me of this when I can’t seem to shake my negative and worrisome thoughts.  My mind is oftentimes too tired to formulate descriptive words of my experiences so far; so, for now, you’ll be left with a scattered blog post to decipher.

For now, I have three exams to study for for next week, a 20+ page group paper to finish by the first Monday of November, a community observation assignment to complete, a lifespan task analysis video to film, a wedding to attend, I can go on and on.

This is grad school.  Grad school is unrelenting.  This is my life.

OT Chronicles Chapter 2: Applying to OT grad school(s)

OT Chronicles Chapter 2: Applying to OT grad school(s)

To begin, I will be 100% honest about applying to grad school – it’s stressful.  It will test your ability to make decisions.  It will test your creativity and determination.  It will test your patience.  But, it’s all minute stress compared to the imminent stress that grad school itself will bring.

Below are some tips, tricks, and insights to applying to grad school for a MSOT program.

Step 1:  Do your research.

When you start looking for grad schools offering MSOT programs there’s a lot to take into consideration.  Where do you want to go to school?  Will you commute or live on/near campus?  What kind of program does each school offer?  Is it a full-time, standard program?  Is it a weekend-hybrid program?  Does the school require you to take the GRE?  What are the pre-requisites required to apply to the program?  Do they have a supplemental application in addition to the OTCAS application?  Attend graduate open houses or program information sessions for the schools you are interested in applying to.  Do your research, take notes, and write down any important dates and deadlines.

Step 2:  Get ahead on application pre-requisites and other requirements

Make sure you have fulfilled all of the course pre-requisites to apply to the MSOT you are interested in.  Most pre-requisite requirements include some form of anatomy & physiology, psychology, sociology, lifespan development, and statistics.  Check the website for the program you are interested in so that you know exactly what courses you need to be considered for the program.

Also, begin researching potential locations for observation hours in the OT setting.  It would be in your best interest to chose a variety of settings and populations.  This will strengthen your application and give you irreplaceable observation experiences in the field of OT.  Contact the OT departments of each location you are interested in, explain your process of applying to grad schools, and tell them what days/times you are available to observe.  Ask about dress code expectations, where to park and enter the building, and who you will be shadowing.  (I will create a separate blog post in the future with my personal observation experiences)

Step 3:  Understanding OTCAS

OTCAS is the common app specifically for OT schools.  Make sure you check application release dates as you won’t be able to start this application until OTCAS opens their applications.  Once the application opens, start working on it.  There are multiple sections to fill out with educational & work history and other personal experiences.  You will need to have all of your undergraduate transcripts sent to OTCAS.  You will need letters of recommendation from multiple professionals involved in your educational, athletic, or professional background.

The OTCAS process is lengthy and can be very time-consuming.  It’s best to start the OTCAS process early so that you don’t feel panicked about deadlines.  You will discover that some parts of the OTCAS application are completely out of your control.  Be patient, remain persistent and attentive, and stay alert to things that are time-sensitive.  Before submitting your OTCAS application, make sure to review all of the information you’ve provided to make sure you aren’t missing any information that could strengthen your application.

Step 4:  Check for supplemental applications

Some MSOT programs have their own supplemental application.  Be diligent when researching schools so that you know which schools have a supplemental application and which ones do not.  Programs typically don’t release their individualized application until many weeks/months after the OTCAS application has been released so, once again, be attentive to when applications become available.

Make sure you follow all instructions and requirements needed in the supplemental application.  As always, proofread EVERYTHING before you submit your application.

Step 5:  Organize follow-up dates

Most schools provide the estimated time of application response on their websites and/or applications.  Some schools admit students on a rolling basis (first come, first served so get those applications submitted ASAP!) while other schools do not start considering applications until after the posted deadline.  To minimize admittance/declination anxiety, write down expected response dates.  This will help maintain relative sanity while you wait.  During this time, the applications are completely out of your control.  Have faith in the applications you have submitted.  After all, all you can truly do is wait.

Step 6:  Admittance/Waitlisted/Declination

Depending on the response from each school, you may or may not have follow-up steps to complete.  If you are declined from a school (and I assure you that it will happen), try not to panic.  MSOT programs are extremely competitive.  Accept that you tried your best and evaluate what may have been any weaknesses in your application (for me, it was my GRE scores).  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.  Don’t give up on a goal; just work harder to achieve it – even if that means completing the application process again.

If you are waitlisted, all you can do is wait to hear back from them.  They should explain in the waitlist letter/email when to expect further communication; however, each school has a slightly different process.  Make sure to read all correspondence thoroughly!

If you are accepted to a school, they will provide follow-up steps moving forward.  This most likely includes either A) sending a deposit to guarantee your spot in the program or B) scheduling an interview for the continuation of the application process.

Step 7 (varies by school/individual):  Deposit and/or taking the next step

Personally, I was declined by the first school I heard from.  I panicked.  I doubted my worth.  I was fearful.  All I could do was wait to hear from the other two schools.  I was also waitlisted by the fourth school I heard from.  All I can say is trust that God has a plan for you.

I was accepted by the second school I heard from; however, it was my last choice on my list of school preferences.  This particular school needed a deposit within a month’s time of acceptance (basically by mid-January).  Unfortunately, I would not hear from the other two schools until AT LEAST early/mid February.  I weighed my options, wasn’t willing to take a risk, and decided to pay the deposit even before hearing from the final two schools.  So, I bit the bullet and sent in a very pricey deposit.

Deposits might be one of many challenges you’ll face during the application process.  All schools have different timelines.  Make sure you have money saved away to pay these deposits.  I erred on the side of caution by putting a deposit down on a school I wasn’t fully interested in attending.  I wanted a Plan B in place in case Plan A didn’t work.

Step 8 (varies by school/individual):  Interview

A few weeks after sending in a deposit, I heard from my top choice school who offered an interview – the final step in their application process.  My interview was scheduled for mid/late February.  They sent a webinar we were required to watch leading up to the interview day.  This explained everything we needed to know for the interview itself.

I spent the week leading up to the interview preparing.  This entailed reviewing notes on the observation hours I had completed and being mindful of my decision to apply to grad school in the first place.

Leading up to my interview I spent a lot of time writing.  I wrote about why I wanted to become an OT, what I learned about the OT profession through research and observation, what I admired about the OTs I observed, what I learned from the OTs I observed, and what drove me to seek this particular profession.  It was a mental refresher for me to visualize myself learning more and more about this career path.

Pick out a professional outfit, know where to meet for the interview process, what time to arrive, and what to expect during the final stage of the application process.  Take notes, plan ahead, arrive early, and remember to breathe.

For my personal interview experience, we had a group meeting with faculty who presented an overview of the program, completed a timed essay section that tested our ability to think on the spot, and had an individual interview with two faculty members.

Be human during the interview.  Talk with understanding, speak with confidence, listen attentively, and answer every question with your heart.  Don’t go into the interview with memorized answers that make you sound like a robot.  The interviewers are humans that want to speak with a human.  Always arrive to the interview with questions for the faculty and before departing thank them for their time.  Remember….be human.

Step 8: the end of the application process

There isn’t usually anything to do after the interview.  The interview is the pinnacle.  Waiting to hear back from schools can be painstakingly slow.  I assure you that they will contact you when everything has been reviewed.  When you hear back from a school after an interview, follow step 6 or 7.

Be excited for the schools that have offered you a spot in their competitive program.  Don’t be afraid to brag about it and be excited about it!  Call friends and family about it!  Celebrate it.

The application process is just the beginning.  It is lengthy.  It will test your patience and determination.  It will force you to face your weakness.  However, it will also force you to display your strengths.

Work hard for what you want in life.  Be passionate about things that give you hope for your future.  Work persistently and with determination towards the things that give you purpose.  Be mindful and grateful always for the opportunity for learning.

If you can get through the application process, you’re on a path to better things.