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University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Calvin’s Blog


Dear Waitlist Applicants, >

by Calvin


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How are you? I wanted to check in with you all to see how you’re doing. I know that being placed on the waitlist was probably not the ideal situation you were hoping to be in, but I want to commend you for making it this far. You’ve accomplished so much, from completing the entire application process to your experiences leading up to this moment. Congratulations and thank you for taking the time to apply to USC Chan, as well as for your dedication towards pursuing a career in occupational therapy.

I know that the waitlist entails a lot of uncertainty and that it’s not necessarily a yes or a no. However, although it is a very gray area, there is still a chance for you to be admitted off of the waitlist! Quite a number of my classmates were actually admitted off of the waitlist. The thing is that there’s the wait. The wait varies between each applicant and each application cycle. Along with other factors, it also depends on how much space is available to fill the incoming class. That’s the catch with the waitlist though — it’s very unpredictable and really, anything can happen at any time.

Some of you may have applied to USC Chan as your only option and others of you may have offers from other programs. I’ve been in very similar situations and can imagine that you might be feeling frustrated, disappointed, or even heartbroken. When I first applied, I was rejected with no option to be part of the waitlist. It was a devastating moment, but it gave me the opportunity to take a gap year and reapply the following year. I felt that it was a chance for me to show much I grew from that experience and how ready I was to take on this new journey. Then, after reapplying, I was placed on the waitlist. Except this time I had schools waiting to hear back from me about their offers, and I was just so conflicted. “Should I accept the offer from this other school, or should I keep waiting?” I decided to wait all the way until the start date of the program, and I’m very grateful that it ended up working out for me. However, it was incredibly difficult for me to wait that long, and I know that not everyone can afford that amount of time.

What I’m really trying to say is, I want to be real with you all because I’ve been through it and waitlist candidates hold a very special place in my heart. There may be a lot going through your mind right now, but know that your thoughts and feelings are valid. Know that you are all strong applicants and that you do have the potential to be amazing OTs. Although there is no guarantee that you will get off the waitlist, I can tell you that I’m here for you and I want to support you through this process. Please feel free to get in touch with me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and I would be more than happy to connect with you. Take good care!


Humans of USC Chan Volume 2 >

by Calvin

Diversity Getting Involved Videos What are OS/OT?

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Did you know that you can major in occupational therapy as an undergraduate student at USC? The Chan Division currently offers an accelerated program, known as the Bachelor’s to Master’s Program, where undergraduate students can earn their master’s degree in occupational therapy with just one additional year. I believe that the BS-MA students have very unique experiences to share, especially as individuals who committed to the profession so early on.

So, I invited some Bachelor’s to Master’s students to come and talk about how they discovered occupational therapy! On top of that, we discussed topics related to their favorite experiences, extracurricular involvement, differences being in an accelerated program at USC, and advice for students who might be interested in the program! If you watch it through YouTube, the video is time-stamped with each topic in case you ever want to go back to a specific conversation.

I hope you find this video helpful and that these diverse perspectives give you more insight into what student life is like in the Bachelor’s to Master’s program! Welcome to the Humans of USC Chan!


#NoRegrets >

by Calvin

Admissions Getting Involved International Life Hacks Living in LA

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Since OT school wasn’t an option for me right out of undergrad, I thought, “Well, I guess it’s time for plan B: to take a gap year.” Except, as time went by, it started to feel less like a back-up plan and more like the decision I should’ve gone with all along!

My gap year happened pretty unintentionally, but I’m honestly so glad that I took that time off. After 4 years of undergrad, I felt burnt out! A change of pace was something I needed and taking a year off to rest and try new things ended up serving me really well. It was because of my gap year that I was able to pursue research in another country, visit family and friends back in Hong Kong, travel around the world, build my professional experiences, study for the GRE, and just overall, take a break from school! Even though I wasn’t on vacation 24/7, my schedule definitely allowed for a lot more flexibility. I also want to emphasize that taking time off before heading to graduate school is completely normal. I might even suggest it because it gave me the time to reflect, mature, and refocus my goals.

I know what it’s like to feel the pressure of securing something for yourself after undergrad. I also know what it’s like when that doesn’t work out. Not knowing what’s going to happen next is a scary thing, but it’s also an opportunity to challenge ourselves and grow in ways that we might not have imagined before. So, do what you need to do before starting grad school, and know that you don’t need to jump into it right away. Take the time to think about what’s best for you and your future.

My Gap Year Memories in Photos

Work Tags

I was able to find opportunities to work and volunteer during my gap year 👔

Hawaii Temple

The Byodo-In Temple — Honolulu, Hawaii

Hawaii Sunset

Chill sunset vibes 🌅

San Diego Tacos

Friends and Tacos El Gordo 🌮 🤤

Messing Around

Spot the difference 🧐

Hong Kong Temple

Tian Tan Buddha (天壇大佛) — Lantau Island, Hong Kong

My Grandparents

Visited my grandpa (公公) and grandma (婆婆) in Hong Kong ☺️

Salm Prings Trip

haha “candid” photo with friends on our annual trip 🤪


Seeing Rejection as Redirection >

by Calvin

Admissions Life Hacks

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When the November 1st application deadline passed, I started thinking back to when I first applied to USC Chan about 3 years ago. Wait a minute… am I doing that math right? I started the program in June 2019, so how does that make sense? Well, let me tell you!

I already knew that I wanted to pursue OT when I was a senior in undergrad. I really only wanted to go to USC and I also wanted something to start doing right after graduating. So, I had submitted my application to just USC Chan for their 2018 entry cycle.

During the waiting process, I would always keep up with online OT graduate school forums where prospective students would share their stats, where they went for undergrad, who they heard back from, and when they heard back. It was like being addicted to “College Confidential” when I was applying for undergrad (if anyone remembers what that is)! I was also searching for a forum thread from previous years to see when the admissions committee had sent out results so I could kind of gauge when they would send it out during the year that I applied. From what I had read, it seemed that March was the month that results typically got emailed out, so I was mentally preparing myself for that. However, I also knew that things change each year and that I shouldn’t be frantically checking my email.

One night in February though, I was out with friends and we were just hanging out. The thought of admissions decisions wasn’t even on my mind at the time, but my phone was set to show email notifications on my lock screen. I saw an email with the subject line “USC Occupational Therapy”. I was completely freaking out and my friends watched me as I read the first sentence in the email.

2018 Rejection Letter from USC Chan

February 28th, 2018 | Rejection Letter from USC Chan

My heart sank and I felt numb. I ended up telling my friends that I was going to head home early and I just laid in my bed, staring at the ceiling. It didn’t fully hit me that night because I was so unprepared for the news. The next morning, I had work and when I parked my car, I just sat inside crying my eyes out, feeling like I had failed and that I wasn’t deserving to be an occupational therapist. I kept thinking to myself, “What’s wrong with me?” and, “If I can’t get in this time, what makes me think I can get in next time?”

However, I knew that if I let these thoughts take over, I wasn’t going to get anywhere. I later responded to the email asking if I could meet with the admissions committee to see what parts of my application could be improved. They were happy to accommodate my request and I took a visit to the division a few weeks after. They were so open to giving me constructive feedback on my application and they also took the time to reassure me while encouraging me to reapply the next year.

So, during the following cycle, I applied to USC again, as well as to a handful of other programs. Although attending USC was my dream, my end goal was to become an occupational therapist, and by applying to other schools I could increase my chances of joining the profession. So, I went through another round of waiting games of hearing back from the programs. I ended up being accepted into the other programs, but I was waitlisted to USC this time. My first thought was “okay…this isn’t a rejection and this is still an improvement from last year.” I was truly grateful to the other programs for offering me a seat, but I knew that my heart was set on USC, so I decided to make the wait.

2019 Waitlist Letter from USC Chan

March 1st, 2019 | Waitlist Letter from USC Chan

The thing about being on the waitlist is that it’s not a yes or a no and it’s so unpredictable that the admissions committee can’t guarantee what will happen. It was a pretty rough time for me during the wait and I was just praying for that congratulatory email to come my way, but I didn’t hear anything for quite some time. Fast forward to the morning of the first day of class for the entering class — I was still on the waitlist. At this point, I knew that I wasn’t getting in and I was actually preparing to pack my bags to head to a different program. Then, I got a phone call that afternoon.

I had no idea who was calling, but when I picked up I heard the news that ultimately changed my life. It was a call from admissions team representatives, Dr. Kristin Nxumalo and Dr. Arameh Anvarizadeh, telling me that a space had just opened up and asking if I wanted it. Honestly, that moment was such a blur. I just remember that I was losing my mind from all the excitement and I kept saying “YES” and “THANK YOU”! It was a pretty last-minute decision considering that I had to be ready to come to school the next day, but it all ended up working out.

2019 Acceptance Letter from USC Chan

June 17th, 2019 | Acceptance Letter from USC Chan

Now, I’m here! I’m here living out my dream of becoming an occupational therapist in my dream school. I never expected it to happen like the way it did, but I’m beyond grateful for the journey and I’ve learned so much along the way.

I won’t lie though, I felt pretty undeserving and there were a lot of feelings of impostor syndrome since I had come off the waitlist so late. However, I remember during that first day, I walked down the aisle of the G-37 auditorium towards Dr. Samia Rafeedie, so that I could introduce myself and inform her about my situation. I was feeling nervous, but I’ll never forget how kind and understanding she was. When she told me, “you belong here”, that was when I started to actually feel like I did. I’m thankful everyday for the supportive community of faculty, staff, and students, for giving me so much strength and for reminding me that I do deserve to be here.

Rejection hurts, and I know that I’ll continue to experience rejection down the road. But that’s just how life works. There are times when things go my way, and there are times when things just don’t turn out the way I had hoped. However, I always try my best to remind myself that things happen for a reason. As admissions decisions approach, it’s going to be a stressful time waiting to hear back. Do what you need to do during this time and treat yourself with compassion.

Congratulations to all of you who’ve submitted your applications this cycle! You did it! When I was a prospective student, I found comfort in reading Student Ambassador blogs. Here are some that I think might be helpful for all of you during this time.

The Student Ambassadors and the Admissions Team are available to answer your questions as well.

I know that the wait for admissions decisions to roll out is nervewracking, but whatever decision you receive - don’t let that stop you from being the best OT you can be! I’ll leave you all with this quote that inspired me to share this story: “Every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being redirected to something better.” — Steve Maraboli


Back To OT School Day >

by Calvin

Classes Videos

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I hadn’t been back to school since like…March, which was around the time when we were all informed that courses were going to be moved online due to the pandemic. Ever since then, I’ve missed being with everyone in person, and I also kind of missed sitting in the classroom and being in that learning space. I’m so thankful that the division is allowing students to go back to class on some days because honestly, there are just some things that are learned better in person!

At first, I was pretty hesitant about going back because of the potential risk, but so far it’s been working out great! We’ve learned to be more flexible in order to adapt to this new learning format, and it feels good to see everyone again. Here’s a video on what my first day back to school looked like!

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