Many students also ask if it is possible to work while in the program. It is definitely doable, but the amount of hours depends on your personal capacity to manage school and work. Keep in mind that the Entry-Level Master’s program is a full-time commitment, so realistically you could only work part-time. In a typical week, you have three full days of class from about 9:00am to 4:00pm, one day of fieldwork, and one day off (usually Fridays!). I have personally worked 10-15 hours per week throughout the program, which has been a good balance for me. I wanted to work part-time in order to have enough spending money for myself, and not necessarily rely on loans for all of my personal needs. My job is on-campus, so it is very convenient for my schedule, as they are very flexible and recognize that school obligations come first. As I mentioned in my previous post, there are opportunities to become a student worker for the division in various capacities! If you’re interested, make sure you rank this option on your Awards Application, which you can find on the back of the Financial Resource Brochure.
In continuing with my “Financing USC” series, this week’s post is all about scholarships. Students are always interested about what scholarship options are available, and the likelihood of getting one. Hopefully this brief post can help answer some of those questions!
There are scholarships available to students from the OT division based on academic merit and potential for special contributions to the field of OT. The most common is the Division Tuition Scholarships, which are awarded on the basis of academic achievement, mainly for first-year entry-level Master’s students. The amount of the scholarship varies each year and between students, and goes directly to help pay for your tuition. A highly competitive scholarship through the OT division is the Research Assistantships, which is awarded based on academic merit primarily to first-year entry-level Master’s students. For this scholarship, generally 8 units of tuition are covered per semester, with a $5500 stipend per semester, with student health services and student health insurance included. Keep in mind, though, that these are really hard to get! Another unique option is to become a Division Student Worker! These are considered division awards, and students chosen for these positions will fulfill varies duties for faculty and staff members. Typically, only 2nd years receive these positions. Some of the jobs you could have in the division are being a classroom assistant, a fieldwork assistant or office assistant, and being a student ambassador (like us!). Students in these positions get paid hourly for their work, and have a flexible schedule of about 10 hours per week. If you’re interested in any of the division scholarships, be sure submit the scholarship application at the same time you submit your application for the program.
There are many other unique scholarship options through the division, as well as outside of USC, which are listed in our Financial Resource Brochure on our website. Check that out and see if you’re eligible to apply for any of those scholarships!
The most common questions I’m asked from prospective and admitted students are always about the cost of USC and how students pay for it. Rightfully so – USC is definitely a financial investment! However I do think it’s worth it – the caliber of the professors and quality of education you get here makes your USC degree truly valuable. I’m going to briefly share about some of the options you have in order to finance your OT education at USC. This post will focus on student loans.
Most students do take our loans in order to pay for a majority of their tuition, fees, & living costs while in the program. Federal loans are the most common, and typically have lower interest rates than private loans. As a graduate student, you are typically eligible for the Direct Unsubsidized Loan (also referred to as Direct Stafford Loan) and the Direct PLUS Loans. To be eligible for the Direct Unsubsidized Loan, you just need to be enrolled half-time and don’t necessarily need to demonstrate financial need. Most students will qualify for this loan, and you will be eligible to receive this loan for the duration of the program each semester. Graduate students are eligible for up to $20,500 per academic year, with the current interest rate set at 5.31%. Also, you will not need to start paying back this loan until after you graduate. The other loan that most students use to supplement is the Direct PLUS Loan. This is also a federal loan, and you must be enrolled at least half-time with no adverse credit history. With this loan, the maximum you can borrow is the full cost of USC minus any other financial aid you receive. The current interest rate for this loan is 6.31%. Like the Direct Unsubsidized Loan, you do not need to make any payments until after you graduate.
Public Student Loan Forgiveness
If the thought of taking out these loans is daunting (which it is for most), keep in mind that there currently is a Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program that you may be eligible to enroll in after graduation. This is a federal program that will forgive the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments (~approx. 10 years) while working full-time for a qualifying employer. Qualifying employers for this program include government organizations, non-profit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) or provide a qualifying public service. This is definitely something to consider and take advantage of, if it is still in place when you graduate.
I hope this brief summary of some of your loan options was helpful! Stay tuned for more posts about other financial aid options.
Happy New Year, everyone! 2017 is a big one – last semester of OT school, graduation, last fieldwork experience, taking the boards (and passing hopefully), finding a job (hopefully), and getting married! AH!
This semester is an exciting one since we’ve finished our immersion courses, and can now take electives. This is something unique to USC, since other OT schools don’t necessarily give students the option to take electives in the practice area they are most interested in. For me, I’m most interested in pediatrics, so I geared all my electives towards that. There are so many electives to choose from, so no matter what you’re interested in, you’ll find something to fit your interests.
Here’s a peek at my schedule this semester:
It just so happens that all of the classes I decided to take fell on only Monday and Thursday. This worked out well for me since I also work part-time, giving me three weekdays to work.
Here’s the courses I’m taking this semester:
OT 567: Contemporary Issues: Occupational Therapy in Early Intervention
OT 540: Leadership Capstone
OT 565: Sensory Integration Interventions
OT 564: Sensory Integration
OT 545: Advanced Seminar in Occupational Science
OT 575: Dysphagia Across the Lifespan: Pediatrics through Geriatrics
The electives I chose are in bold, and the other two courses are required for all students. Check out our course descriptions for more detail about all of our electives and other courses in the program.
Looking forward to sharing all the exciting things happening in my last semester with you all!
Prospective students are often nervous about the fact that USC’s program is relatively larger than other OT programs. Each class has about 120-130 students, so students might be worried about getting “lost in the shuffle.” However the great thing about the program is that students are divided into three cohorts, with about 40-45 students in each one. Your cohort is the group of people you’ll be taking most of your classes with, so class sizes remain more intimate. For lab sections, your cohort is divided in half, so there will only be 20-25 students in each lab, so you can get more hands on experience.
You’ll become pretty close with your cohort, since you take most of your classes with one another. Some cohorts will plan outings together and share resources with one another. Some of the fun things we’ve done as a cohort: go out to dinner, happy hour, hiking, attend a Dodgers game, and celebrate the holidays with a white elephant party!
This past week was our last class together as a cohort. For our last semester, we will all be taking elective courses of our choosing, so everyone will be split up into different classes. In rememberance of my awesome cohort, here are some photos of Cohort A!
Our first year together
Our last class together