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are extracurricular important to apply for grad school in occupational therapy and what extracurricular/volunteering opportunities do you recommend?

I am currently a first-year university student. I am planning to major in psychology and minor in health sciences and aspire to be an occupational therapist in the future. healthcare occupational-therapy psychology college

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Haley’s Answer

Hi Chloe!

Participating in extracurriculars at university can make your application stand out, diversify your experiences and give you access to opportunities you might not have otherwise.

For example, when I was an undergrad (as a pre-occupational therapy student) I joined the pre-occupational therapy student organization. We networked with occupational therapists that were currently in the field in a variety of settings, had opportunities to volunteer, and meet other students that wanted to become occupational therapists.

Your university probably has a wide variety of organizations, so join ones that are interesting to you! It's okay to join organizations that are career oriented, but try to incorporate an organization that is a hobby or something outside of your comfort zone.

I hope this helps! Best of luck on your journey to OT.

Thank you so much Haley! Chloe T.

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David’s Answer


So I can’t speak to that of Occupational Therapy programs but I did successfully apply and gain acceptance to a Speech Language Pathology Masters program. I am currently applying to PA school and I’m volunteering now. I never did any volunteering prior to application. Should I have? Probably. But I am doing it now. When you are applying to a HIGHLY competitive degree program such as PT/OT/SLP/PA/NP program, you need to find ways to stand out. Volunteering, related work experience, shadowing. All of these are ways to stand out. Keep working hard.

Hi David! Thank you so much for replying to my post and congratulations on getting into grad school! When you had your interview to get into grad school, did they focus mainly on grades or was it a good balance between your extracurriculars and grades? Chloe T.

I went to grad school years and years ago so I actually never had to interview. David Macrander

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Jordan’s Answer

Hey Chloe!

I am a third year occupational therapy student graduating this May. As I got to know my classmates I learned that everyone has different stories and experiences prior to getting into OT school. I would agree that extracurricular activities can make you stand out as an applicant. I would seek out any volunteer opportunities or activities that expose you to various conditions (physical/psychiatric).

My personal experience in undergrad did not allow for a ton of volunteer time as I needed to work. I decided to jump out of my comfort zone and work at an adult day and residential service for individuals with developmental and behavioral disabilities. It was definitely a challenge at first but I can say I am extremely grateful for the opportunity as it was a great learning experience and gave me hands-on experience on working with a variety of conditions. I am confident this helped me get accepted into school as it gave me several talking points in my essays and interviews.

Building a list of non-paid and paid experiences will only help you... Branch out!

Good luck!

Hi Jordan, Thank you so much for taking the time to reply to my post, I really appreciate it! Do you think volunteering at the Alzheimer's society would be beneficial or should I look for hospital volunteering/more diverse settings? Chloe T.

I think the Alzheimer's society would be a great option. You'll gain experience with that population that will help you later in your practice. Instead of spending a lot of time at one, consider splitting your time at both. This will only give you more experience. Either way, they are both great options. I would also consider what populations interest you. For example, if you want to work with the geriatric population, then Alzheimer's society is perfect for that. If you like the hospital(inpatient) setting more, then definitely pursue those experiences. If you are unsure, dip your feet in multiple settings. This will only help you write a meaningful application essay when the time comes. Jordan Smith

Thank you once again! If I have volunteer experiences that have no correlation to OT, will they still look at it or would you say it is unnecessary? Chloe T.

Those experiences still show that you value helping others and giving your time, so I think they could potentially help you! Definitely make future experiences as relevant as possible, you'd be surprised how much OT relates to other fields. Jordan Smith

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Rachel’s Answer

Absolutely, I think that extracurricular activities are an important element in your application to grad school. These volunteering activities allow you to shadow healthcare workers in areas that interest you. Not only does it look good to the application committee, but it will help you decide what interests you and in what specialty you would like to focus.

Hi Rachel! Thank you so much for taking the time to reply to my post. Besides volunteering activities and grades, is there any other elements I should consider prior to applying to grad school? Chloe T.