Last Step, But it Comes with a Price (The Cost of Getting Your OT License) >
November 23, 2020
This is the time when many of you are finishing your Fall semester, and for class of 2021 this is the end of the didactic part of the Master’s program for you! Congratulations! Time flies by right? Once you are done with the COMPS Exam and get some well-deserved rest during the holidays, you will be gone for 8 months doing level-2 fieldwork. Perhaps you may feel like it is too early to start thinking about the NBCOT or OT License application process, but trust me, that will come sooner that you expect it. I wanted to take this time, while it is still fresh on my mind, to share with you the costs I accumulated the last couple of months in the process of getting my OT license. Last week I received an email stating that my California OT License was approved and I am officially an OTR/L!! But first, I had to pay the final license fee.
So…$1,278, that was the total spent to get my OT license. I was not happy about it either. Yes, that is a lot of money and for many students it may not be easy to get that amount of money. This is the reason why I think it’s important to start thinking about it now, even if it’s still a year away. You want to make sure you are planning ahead and if you can set aside some money for when this time comes. I understand that my experience may be different from other students, and keep in mind that these were my costs for 2020 in the state of California. If you are applying for your OT limited permit and/or license, the process and costs may look different. Lastly, the process doesn’t really change but make sure you are checking all the updated requirements.
I remember when I was in the Master’s program I knew I would have to pay for NBCOT exam, OT License, etc. but it wasn’t until I did my research that I realized just how expensive it is. And how does one “save money” while being a full time student, being at fieldwork, and perhaps not having an consistent income? Unfortunately, there isn’t one specific answer for that. However, there are a few things I would recommend as you prepare for the costs of getting your OT license.
- Apply apply apply for scholarships! Last year I applied to the California Foundation of Occupational Therapy (CFOT) Scholarship and was selected, which is one of the ways I had funds for NBCOT/OT license expenses. If you haven’t already, please check our USC Chan Scholarship Page which includes USC and non-USC scholarship opportunities throughout the year.
- Select your study materials wisely and talk to former OT students about their experience preparing for the NBCOT exam. You may not have to get every single study material out there. I made that mistake this past year because I panicked and didn’t inform myself prior to buying study materials. As I began studying, I realized there are many free resources to study for the NBCOT. Please see previous blog that talks more about study materials I used, including free resources.
- Consider the timeline from completing your last level-2 fieldwork to when you will need your OT limited permit and/or license. The reason I bring this up is because you may be able to reduce your costs if you don’t need your OT limited permit for example. For OTD students in the clinical track, we were required to apply for the OT limited permit in order to provide any type of client care. For other OTD tracks or if you are front-loading all your OTD courses, make sure you are in communication with Dr. Bream to understand your timeline and expectations for getting your OT limited permit and/or license. Many of my classmates that decided not to do the OTD, only had to pay for the OT license since they waited to apply for jobs until they passed the NBCOT and their license was approved.
- For physical study materials (i.e., TherapyEd book, Occupational Therapy Examination Review Guide) check your class Facebook page, Facebook NBCOT study groups, and with former OT students as they may be willing to sell you the study books for cheaper. Also, don’t forget to use your study materials from the program (i.e., Pedretti book)!
- Start setting money aside now, if possible. If you find yourself working during fieldwork, this may be something worth considering. I was fortunate to work as OTD Student Ambassador during the summer, helping ease the financial burden of all the expenses.
- Get creative! Start a fundraiser! You may able to raise part of the money by selling food, baked goods, etc.
My Support System >
October 26, 2020
This past week I received the best news ever, “WE” passed the NBCOT exam! The reason I say “WE” is because I attribute every big accomplishment to my support system. Yes, they will always say that I’m the one that put in the work but I feel that my accomplishments are and always will be a collective effort. Where I come from, it often takes a village to do what very few have done before. This past weekend made me reflect back on my support system and their unconditional love and support. I have been fortunate to have people in my corner every step of the way. Being the first person in my family to go to college came with a set of challenges that at times felt unmanageable. From thinking college wasn’t an option in high school to now being in the OTD Program it has been a long journey to say the least. Last Wednesday, when I opened that email with the NBCOT score, I felt a sense of relief as well as gratitude because I know what it took for me to get here, to be one huge step closer to being a fully licensed OT. This is much bigger than me because it goes back to the hardships my parents and my community have faced.
There have been moments in the last couple weeks when I felt defeated while taking classes, completing my residency, going through life, and studying for the NBCOT. It is in these moments that it helps to lean on your support system. Whether that is your family, significant other, friends, classmates, mentors, school organization, etc., it is good to know that there is someone there for you. Having people checking in on me, giving me good vibes, and understanding that I had to spend almost every day studying helped me get closer to the finish line. Sometimes a quick encouraging text can go a long way for someone. And I think this has been the theme of my entire college career, having people that cared enough to make sure I was doing okay mentally, emotionally, and physically. Today I want to simply thank every single person that has made an impact on my journey. The list is too big to add on here today but you know who you are.
This year has been such a unique year as we had to completely change our lives. It has been a year of ups and downs, and times full of uncertainty. All of this plus the responsibilities we still have on a daily basis can make anyone feel overwhelmed. If you ever feel like you are just drowning in school work and other responsibilities, take a moment to reflect on how far you have come. Remember those long nights when you used to have conversations with your loved ones about going to OT school and now you’re here. Hold on to those moments and use them when times get tough. When things don’t go your way, take time to feel those emotions, heal, and when you’re ready get back to it because there is always more than one path. Know that regardless of the outcome your support system, your village, your people, will be there to help you get back on your feet. They will not judge you, and instead will respect you and care for you. Now more than ever it is important to stay connected to your support system. Spend time with those people, whether that is in person, FaceTime, Zoom, whatever way you can. One thing I have learned is that accomplishments always feel best when you can share them with the people that were there along the way. Lastly, take all those lessons you learned along the way and support others.
Studying for the NBCOT! >
September 28, 2020
The last couple of weeks have been busy, to say the least. The start of OTD residency, having class, and studying for the NBCOT exam have filled up my entire schedule. I would be lying if I said it’s been easy. There are days when I don’t even want to look at another paper of information after a long day of residency. Usually, I find myself studying 3-5 hours per day after 5PM, depending on how busy the week is. I have given myself about 6 weeks to study and will soon be sitting for the exam in 2 weeks! There are many challenges that I have faced with studying, and one of the challenges I want to share with you all is NBCOT study resources and tips to hopefully make your preparation a little better when the time comes for you to take this exam.
1. Choosing study materials that work for you
Everyone has a different learning style and there are a lot of options to choose from. This can be overwhelming because study materials cost money and you want to make sure you are getting what you need to pass this exam! I consider myself more of a visual learner and below I share the resources that worked for me.
- AOTA NBCOT Prep: This has been my main study resource as it includes PDFs for OT topics that may be on the exam. This also offers hundreds of practice questions and clinical simulations which are super helpful. Each question provides a rationale for the correct answer and the incorrect answers. The rationales are the most valuable component because it has helped improve my clinical reasoning.
- NBCOT Study Pack: Personally, I have found these practice questions the most challenging, but that has helped me problem solve and understand how to answer questions. Most importantly, it includes practice exams with a time limit similar to the actual NBCOT, providing a score at the end to see where you are at. This study pack also includes flashcards and matching games to practice different topics.
- TherapyEd: This book has a lot of information, so it could be overwhelming at times. However, it includes many exam hints, testing tips, and rationales to help you prepare. It also includes practice exams and clinical simulations.
- OT Miri (FREE): This has been one of my favorite study methods because Miri helps you understand concepts in a very fun way! She uses lots of visuals, mnemonics, and helps you apply the information into your personal life. Her style has helped me apply the information in a way that text may not be able to. She is also very honest about her experience studying for the NBCOT, not passing, and then re-taking the exam.
- OT Rex (FREE): This is a great video resource to learn topics in a very concise manner. The OT that makes these videos is great at organizing all of the information into one piece of paper that you can follow along and copy it for yourself to study.
- OT Exam Prepper (FREE): This podcast helps you learn mnemonics and find fun ways to help remember important concepts that you may need to know for the NBCOT. His examples include using Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, etc. He also provides handouts with all the information to help you study!
- OT Exam Audio (FREE): This podcast is another option to listen and review important concepts. My personal preference is listening to this podcast while running.
2. Create a schedule
Creating a schedule to follow was really helpful for me in order to keep myself accountable. As you begin to plan your own schedule, you will find many templates from friends or online to help you study. This will depend on your study style, study materials, and study time. You can always modify an existing schedule and apply it to meet your needs. Below is a sample of the study schedule I used. This is a modified version of a template one of my classmates sent me.
3. Maintain a positive attitude/mindset
Build a positive mindset and attitude when preparing for the NBCOT exam. Yes, it is probably one of the most important exams of your life! And the thought of not passing comes to mind and you don’t want to even imagine that feeling. But, you have not taken the exam and you are doing the best you can to prepare! Finding ways to OT yourself and address this thinking pattern will be beneficial. Don’t let this exam defeat you before you even take it. Remember, you got into OT school, you have learned so much, and you have been able to make it this far. YOU have made this possible! Focus on the things you can control, prepare, put in the work, and remember that YOU are more than capable of passing this exam.
4. Take breaks
There are going to be many times when you may not have time to study, you may not feel motivated, or simply feel over it. In order to balance this time and take care of your mental health, make sure you take breaks! Whether this is exercising, watching a show, getting some food, find ways to treat yourself. YOU are working hard and doing the best you can.
“We are not perfect human beings, nor do we have to pretend to be, but it is necessary for us to be the best version of ourselves we can be.”
― Satsuki Shibuya
5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Applying to USC Chan OTD Residencies >
August 31, 2020
This is a time when many of you may be wondering what to do in regards to OTD Residencies. Should I apply to the USC Chan Residencies, should I wait, perhaps it’s best to go into the work field right after graduation, so many things to think about. Regardless of where you find yourself, the deadlines will come and you will have to make a decision. And I understand that feeling of having to make life decisions in a matter of months/weeks, as I was in your shoes exactly a year ago. There is a lot to consider when applying to the OTD, whether it’s finances, time commitment, residency options, etc. Everyone’s experience is very different, and hopefully the following tips can help you or someone you know that is applying to USC Chan OTD Residencies.
1. Start Your Resume Early
If you have not updated your resume in a while, then now it’s the time! I would recommend you start putting together your resume and updating it early in the semester before it gets busier. Get other people to review your resume! This will be very helpful to catch things you may have missed and get a different perspective on the information presented on your resume.
Below are some helpful tips:
- No spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors
- 1-2 pages
- Make it organized, concise, and easy to read
- Use standard fonts (i.e., Times New Roman, Arial, Century, Helvetica, or Verdana
- Font size 10, 11, or 12
- Quantify accomplishments, if possible (i.e., funds raised, timespans, percentages, etc.)
- Utilize accomplishment statements (i.e., action verbs, how you did it, results)
Resume Format Guidelines
- Contact Information
- Leadership and Activities
- Professional Associations
- Additional Information
- For additional information and tips, I highly recommend you check the USC Career Center resume resources.
2. Interview Preparation
Research your OTD Residency & site:
- Know the site’s mission and the goals of the residency (if available)
- Read their website
- Read any published materials and/or presentations
- Follow their social media (if available)
- Reach out to faculty/staff associated with a particular OTD Residency
- Talk to current and/or former OTD Residents
- Talk to classmates that had fieldwork at a particular site
Prepare questions for the interviewer:
As you learn more about each residency, write down questions you may have and ask them prior to applying or during the interview. This is a great way to show that you are informed and genuinely interested about the work they are doing! This will also help inform you if this would be a good fit and something you want to pursue!
Practice interview skills:
- Practice with someone who can give you feedback (i.e., friend, classmate, mentor, etc.)
- Practice articulating your thoughts
- Practice via Zoom! Get comfortable doing virtual interviews
- The USC Career Center offers additional resources to prepare for in-person and video interviews! They have an online mock interview platform to record yourself responding to pre-recorded prompts and questions to get an idea of how you appear on camera in an interview setting.
There are many questions they can ask you, so focus on big picture ideas that highlight your level of interest/commitment and your ability to handle the demands of the residency position:
- Why do you want to pursue the OTD?
- Why did you decide to pursue a career in OT? (I know this question may feel repetitive, but it’s always good to highlight your passion for wanting to be an OT).
- Do you have a story or personal connection to the residency that has led you to be so passionate about this type of work.
- What skills have you obtained as a Master’s student that will help you excel as an OTD Resident?
- What do you hope to gain from the OTD? What are your goals?
3. Your OTD Residency Does Not Define Your Career Path
Choosing to pursue the OTD is already a tough decision, and choosing a particular residency can be even more difficult! As you are looking through the different options available, I just want to remind you that choosing to do a residency in a particular field does not define where you will end up working after graduation! Sure, your focus will be within that particular field during residency, and it if it leads to a job than even better! But don’t feel like you are unable to pursue other practice areas, remember that every job provides training! There have been OTD residents that graduated and found jobs in a different practice area than their residency. The OTD offers an opportunity to further develop your clinical expertise and leadership skills, to help drive changes across various health and human services organizations.
4. Utilize Your Resources
- Look back at resume and interview resources from other classes such as OT 523 Communication Skills for Effective Practice
- Utilize available USC Career Center Resources via connectSC!
- Contact the OTD Student Ambassador (me) for any questions regarding the OTD.
- Lastly, Dr. Amber Bennett and Dr. Sarah Bream are also available to answer any OTD questions
5. Be Excited!
You have made it this far and looking into OTD residencies is stressful but also exciting! There are so many great opportunities you can pursue and places where you can help make an impact. Prepare, be curious, ask questions, and trust yourself! The only thing you can do is try your best and give it your best shot. And no matter what you decide to do or the outcome, every semester you are one step closer to becoming an amazing OT!
Everything Coming Full Circle This Summer >
August 6, 2020
This summer began with a lot of uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Finding out I would be completing my entire summer fieldwork from home was not what I had planned for. Even after starting fieldwork, I still had hope that things would get better during the summer and that I would be able to work in person at the primary care clinic. However, that day never came and as I write this I find myself completing my last fieldwork week, and the last official week of the Master’s program. After 12 weeks of fieldwork, doing 40+ hours on most weeks, and working as an OTD Student Ambassador, I am ready for a break! Yet, I feel grateful that I was able to continue my education and work from home during this time because that is a privilege.
A big part of writing these blogs is to inform you about my personal experience to help you think about what career path to take after the Master’s program. Reflecting back on this summer at the Primary Care Adult West Clinic, I can honestly say that I feel like I made the right decision by pursuing this OTD Residency. When I was applying to OT school, I remember writing my statement of purpose and having this innate desire to eventually be in a position to help the communities that I grew up in. Below I share with you a piece from my personal statement that has served as my personal motivation throughout the entire OT program and especially during these 12 weeks of fieldwork.
“People from low-socioeconomic backgrounds often do not have income, time, nor access to the health education necessary to receive treatment for various conditions. Even when members from my community are aware of healthcare resources, factors such as work, lack of transportation, immigration status, language barriers, and no insurance prevent them from addressing their health needs. For example, during my introductory experience completing occupational therapy volunteer hours, I became a de-facto translator for Latino families who admitted that they felt more comfortable receiving care from someone with whom they could clearly articulate their health concerns.”
Reading this now and thinking about my clients at the primary care clinic brings me a lot of joy. I feel very lucky that every day I get to work with the communities that I dreamed of helping while applying to OT school. Like any other person, there are days where I feel tired, less motivated, or just out of rhythm, but then I will have a conversation with one of my clients from the clinic and it reminds me just how much they appreciate the support OT provides. When talking to clients, they often remind me of my parents, my grandma, my aunts, and my neighbors. People that are trying to navigate such a complex healthcare system, simply trying their best take care of themselves and their families, while they are impacted by social, political, and economic factors. As someone that grew up in a low-income, Latinx immigrant family, with parents trying to make ends meet, the experiences of many of my clients hit home for me. This helps me push through on those difficult days and motivates me to always do my best to connect them with any resources that can help them.
This summer has helped me learn a lot about myself and as I mentioned it was a good reminder of the reason why I came to OT school and decided to continue with the OTD. I am excited about the future as I look forward to learning and collaborating with others to better serve this population at the Primary Care Adult West Clinic. Lastly, I just want to give a special shout out to the entire Adult West clinic team, Dr. Diaz, Dr. Pyatak, Dr. Granados, and soon to be Dr. Elissa Taylor, who supported me this summer and prepared me with the necessary skills to take over the caseload at the clinic as the new OTD resident.
My advice to students applying to the OTD is to think about the things you are passionate about. If needed, take a step back and think about why you applied to OT school in the first place, what do you want to get out of the OTD, and what do you see yourself doing in the future. Remember that your OTD does not necessarily define what settings you end up practicing in. However, you want to make sure that adding an extra year to your education will be a pleasant experience, and an opportunity that will motivate you to want to show up every day and do the work to help others. Finding the right fit will be essential when looking at potential OTD residency opportunities, whether they are Chan affiliated or not. And if that takes a little bit longer than you expected, than that is totally okay. Don’t be afraid to reach out, be curious, take your time, and ask questions!