University of Southern California
University of Southern California
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Student Ambassador Blog

Joyce

How to Apply to Grad School

, by Joyce

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How to Apply to Grad School:

It’s tough. I thought I was done with common app years ago never having to go through such a system again. But luckily, it is possible and applying to grad schools does not have to be as stressful as it sounds! Hopefully these few tips will help you with your application journey: 

1. Get to know the system.
&& I mean every system, the OTCAS, the GRE website, the USC admissions portal. Each website and server that the school uses varies. Become familiar with each of them so you understand how they work and function. I usually take a day just to make an account (also write your password somewhere so you don’t forget it!) to understand the system and then walk away from it. It’s important to do things in small increments because I find that doing everything at once can be super overwhelming.

2. Read the prompt!!!
OTCAS has a prompt. Each school you apply to will probably have a different prompt that you need to cater your essay to. It’s super easy to get distracted while you write and while you write you start to think of new ideas and stories to include. It’s important that you keep true to the prompt at hand and make sure that it answers it!!! It’s awesome that you went sky diving in Thailand, took care of endangered elephants, and worked with the community. But if the prompt is asking about how you define OT, you better put in somewhere in that story that connection to OT. That being said…

3. Have people you trust to read your personal statement.
I say this carefully because you have limited time and so does everyone else. Go to the friends/mentors that you know have strong writing skills and ask them to read over your essay. This will maximize the time you have and also allow for constructive feedback as to how to better your statement.

4. Reach out.
Working with the admissions team now, I understand how valuable it is to put a face to a name. Reach out to the admissions team of the program and ask questions. Who better to answer the questions that you have than those who will be reviewing your applications? Ask about pre-requisites, GRE scores, and student life. More often than not, your questions will be answered. In addition, if possible, try to go for an info session and explore what the learning environment is like. You will be committing 2.5 years of your life to this program,  you would want to know what your day to day life would look like!

5. Organization
This is the last and most important advice I can provide. STAY ORGANIZED. Whether that’s through a color-coded calendar or reminders on your iPhone, deadlines will come and go. Things will fall through the cracks if you’re not vigilant about deadlines, fee waivers, payments, etc. Personally, I printed out on a word document all the schools I planned to apply for, their respective due dates, and the prerequisites of each program. Then throughout the month, I would highlight through the ones that have been completed and done with. It gave me the satisfaction of being done but also that visual reminder of what more needs to be done.

It’s possible. Take a deep breath and believe in yourself. Don’t forget to engage in self-care activities throughout it all. Good luck!

 

Goeun

Being in Graduate School as an International Student

, by Goeun

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Time flies and it’s already halfway through the first semester. 10 weeks has been already passed and I’ll introduce what I did by month.

August

This month was the time that I finally set up everything for graduate school as an international student and started my new journey in the Post-Professional Master’s Program. I had orientation from USC and our division, registered courses, had PPV (passport verification), got my student ID, etc.

Fall semester started on August 20, then we had the white coat ceremony on the same week, which let us feel that we really started. At the end of this month, Dr. Blanche, our program director and professor of clinical occupational therapy, invited all post-professional students, Dr. Park, Dr. Cermak, and Dr. Gray to her house, which is near a beautiful beach and we had BBQ party and had a wonderful time.

The White Coat Ceremony made us feel that we really started the Master's program

The White Coat Ceremony made us feel that we really started the Master’s program

The Post-Professional students went to Dr. Blanche's house and had a BBQ party together

The Post-Professional students went to Dr. Blanche’s house and had a BBQ party together

September

While August was kind of like a warm-up month, September was the month that we really started academics, getting used to all the readings, exams, and assignments. Because English is not my first language, it was tough for me to understand and keep up with the lectures at the beginning, but thanks to global initiatives, we have a study hall that provides academic support to international students. More than that, we had dinner with Dr. Cermak at a Chinese restaurant which was awesome and fun.

We took a picture when we had dinner with Dr. Cermak in the Chinese restaurant

We took a picture when we had dinner with Dr. Cermak in the Chinese restaurant

October

Since we’re getting more into the semester, it was time to think about the next semester. We’re taking 5 required courses and 1 elective course. However, unlike this semester, we’ll mostly take elective courses in the Spring semester, so we had to think about what to take. Also, we had a wonderful dinner with Dr. Cermak in an Indian restaurant, this time with Dr. Blanche, Dr. Ochi, and Dr. Vigen. In addition, on October 25-28, OTAC was held in Pasadena. It was a great opportunity to attend the conference as an OT student and learn more about it.

We took a picture when we had dinner with Dr. Cermak at an Indian restaurant after finishing one of our big projects

We took a picture when we had dinner with Dr. Cermak at an Indian restaurant after finishing one of our big projects

This was my journey as a post-professional student so far. It was not easy but so great that I could learn and have those experiences. I’m excited about the rest of this semester as well as the next semester and hope everything goes well!

Jessica P

From Patient to Practitioner

, by Jessica P

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Growing up as a competitive figure skater, I was no stranger to frequent emergency room visits. From broken bones to run over fingers, I had it all. For me going to different orthopedic doctors and physical therapy was as much part of my weekly routine as going to school or practice. I think this is where my love of the healthcare fields grew. I knew firsthand how much different injuries impacted my own engagement in one of my favorite occupations, figure skating.

My senior year of high school, while training to compete for Team USA, I suffered an injury while practicing lifts with my teammates. I was devastated that my competitive career had to come to an end and I felt like there was a hole in my life where the sport I had dedicated my life to once was. Luckily, I was able to find ways to stay involved with the sport as I left for college. I joined the USC Ice Girls and cheered on the USC men’s ice hockey team at weekly games. I even learned how to use hockey skates for the first time in my life, which is no easy feat for a former figure skater! I felt that this experience really helped me understand some of the transitions in roles that my patients also go through when they can no longer engage in their meaningful occupations in the same way that they once did. But still, when I would meet a lot of my patients I would think to myself “I can’t even imagine what they are going through.”

And it was true, until this past year. After a complication from a routine surgery in January, I spent the first week of my spring semester in Keck Hospital of USC. This experience completely changed how I look at and approach a lot of my patients, especially when working in an inpatient setting. I finally felt I could understand what it was like to be in this unfamiliar environment, in a bed that’s not your own, and machines beeping at all hours of the night. All I kept thinking was, I want to get back to class. My biggest role at that time was that as a student and because I wasn’t able to participate in that, I didn’t know what else to do.

My interactions with my own healthcare team taught me lessons about what I liked from these providers and what I hope to provide to my patients. I think it renewed my therapeutic use of self, especially in taking an empathetic approach with everyone I encounter. While being a patient is not usually a fun experience, it was a valuable one.

Serena

2018 OTAC Annual Conference

, by Serena

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This past weekend the Student Ambassador team and I set up USC’s booth for the Occupational Therapy Association of California (OTAC) Annual Conference in Pasadena. I wanted to share a few pictures of the booth that attracted so many occupational therapists and occupational therapy students interested in the many programs that we have to offer. In particular, there was much interest in the Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (OTD) program, Doctor of Philosophy in Occupational Science (PhD) program, and Lifestyle Redesign. However, there was an overwhelming interest in our USC stickers and Halloween candy!

USC’s booth at the Occupational Therapy Association of California (OTAC) Conference.

USC’s booth at the Occupational Therapy Association of California (OTAC) Conference.

Brochures highlighting the various Occupational Therapy programs offered at USC.

Brochures highlighting the various Occupational Therapy programs offered at USC.

Poster board of the many USC Trojans receiving OTAC awards and presenting at the OTAC conference with the beautifully displayed USC Chan Division pens.

Poster board of the many USC Trojans receiving OTAC awards and presenting at the OTAC conference with the beautifully displayed USC Chan Division pens.

USC Sensory Integration Online Continuing Education Certificate Program poster board.

USC Sensory Integration Online Continuing Education Certificate Program poster board.

Bianca, Melissa, Evan, and I at the USC booth after setting it up.

Bianca, Melissa, Evan, and me at the USC booth after setting it up.

Goeun

Pre-Master’s Program for International Students

, by Goeun

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Many international students think that they should be prepared all before they apply for a Master’s Program and before they come to study abroad. However, there is one other way which I did and I want to introduce to you. I learned English in the USC International Academy before I start my Post-Professional Master’s Program in our division. The program was called Pre-Master’s Program and I’ll tell you more detail.

1. How to apply
The process of application is basically the same, we need a personal statement, letter of recommendation, GPA, but one major difference is that we don’t need GRE score yet to get into Pre-Master’s Program. Actually, this program helps us prepare GRE and meet the score. Also, there is no specific deadline but be sure to think about the start date of your Master’s Program.

2. What to learn
Once you apply for the program and get admitted, that means you’re conditionally accepted to Master’s Program!  In the Pre-Master’s Program, you’ll learn three core courses which are writing & grammar, reading & vocabulary, and communication skills, and two elective courses depending on your choice (e.g. GRE, public speaking, job-ready, American cultures, academic integrity, etc.

3. How to transfer to Master’s Program
To transfer to Master’s Program, you need to get an average B score in core courses and C on your elective courses. Also, depending on your Master’s Program, you need to meet your GRE score during the Pre-Master’s Program.

For me, it was a great experience to not only learn English and different teaching styles from my country but also meet many students from different countries and different majors. If you want to apply to school but worried about your English proficiency, think about this way!


Ending ceremony is held each semester to celebrate students who graduate from USC International Academy.

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