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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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Student Blog
Jessica P.

Jessica P.

So . . . What Is OT? ⟩
February 21, 2019, by Jessica P.

What are OS/OT?

So you like help people find jobs? Is it basically the same thing as physical therapy? These are just two of the questions you may be hearing a lot when you tell people that you are studying occupational therapy. As relatively youthful profession, I mean we are only 102 years old, occupational therapy is not always well known and represented in society or healthcare professions. Many people make assumptions about what we as OTs do and as an OT student I love that I get a chance to teach others about this amazing profession and the role that it can play in so many people’s lives.

Over the years, I have gotten pretty good at my “OT elevator pitch.” This is just a quick way to describe occupational therapy to someone who may have never even heard of the profession before. In one of our courses, OT 523: Communication Skills for Effective Practice, we even had the opportunity to develop our elevator pitches and get feedback from classmates. Being able to confidently share about my profession allows me to explain the unique occupational therapy lens, advocate for my future patients on why they may need OT, and educate others on a profession they may be interested in pursuing.

So . . . what is OT?

Occupational therapy is a holistic, healthcare profession which helps people of all ages and abilities do the things they need to do and want to do in their day to day lives. An occupation is not just your job, it is anything you do that occupies your time.

Across the lifespan, our occupations will obviously look different. When I was 2 months old, my main occupations were sleeping and eating. Now at 22, my occupations look very different — attending class, hanging out with friends, and working. As I get older, my occupations will again shift and look different. Occupational therapists come in when there is something that prevents you from living your life to the fullest, the way you want to. This could be from anything, such as a mental illness or physical disability. 

So . . . where do OTs work?

The short answer to this is OTs work pretty much everywhere. Occupational therapists can be found working in hospitals, private clinics, schools, home health, corporations, community centers, psychiatric hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, university medical and research centers . . . and more!

After years of explaining to people that I want to be an occupational therapist, I’ve found it’s best to make it relatable to them. Ask someone “What is your favorite thing to do?” and “How would you feel if you could no longer do this?” Voila! That is where occupational therapy will come in.

Jessica P.

3 Ways to Pursue OT as an Undergrad ⟩
February 4, 2019, by Jessica P.

Admissions Life Hacks

As many of you know, to practice as an occupational therapist in the United States you need a master’s degree. So that leaves a lot of people wondering — how do I get involved as an undergrad to prepare myself to become an occupational therapist? At USC as an undergrad, there are many ways to pursue occupational therapy from the minute you step on campus as a freshman:

1. Major in Occupational Therapy

If you know as a high school student applying to college, you want to pursue occupational therapy as a career then our Bachelor to Master’s (BS-MA) in Occupational Therapy is the major for you! The accelerated BS-MA program is a program where you get your undergrad and master’s degrees in just 5 years, instead of the traditional 6 years. The program follows a 3 + 2 format where your first 3 years you complete your undergrad courses and the last 2 years you complete your master’s courses.

This image shows the 5-year BS to MA course sequence

During your undergrad years, you complete pre-professional courses as well as general education courses that all USC students take. Many students wonder if they can still have the “typical” college experience while being in an accelerated program, and let me tell you — you definitely can! As a BS-MA student, I was able to still take courses abroad, pick up a minor, while also participating in Greek life and student organizations.

2. Minor in Occupational Science

If you are an undergrad at USC, but aren’t already majoring in Occupational Therapy, you can join our amazing Occupational Science minor. Occupational Science was founded at USC in 1989. The OS minor classes are designed to complement any major and enhance students’ understanding of occupations, the things we do every day that occupy our time. There are students who are in a variety of majors such as accounting, chemistry, and theater, in addition to students who are planning on pursuing occupational therapy as their career.

There are classes like OT 310: Creativity Workshop where you get to explore your own creativity, OT 340: Occupational Foundations of Human-Animal Interaction which focuses on how animals contribute to human health, OT 350: Disability, Occupations, and the Health Care System where you learn about occupational opportunities and barriers in the health care system, and many more. Requiring only 20 units, the OS minor is flexible to fit into any undergrad’s schedule and provides classes that are hands-on and fun!

3. Join the Pre-OT Club

The Pre-OT club is a great way USC undergrads interested in occupational therapy can get involved. The club frequently has speakers come to present on topics such as neurodiversity, graduate admissions, and the health care field in general. They also hold site visits in the Los Angeles area to see various areas of practice and shadow clinicians.

No matter where you are on your path to pursue occupational therapy, USC has ways for you to explore whether this is the right field for you.

Jessica P.

Winter Break Occupations ⟩
January 18, 2019, by Jessica P.

School/Life Balance What are OS/OT?

After a month long winter break, I am finally back on campus! Coming back for spring semester I always feel refreshed and excited after having some time off. The past few weeks I’ve found time to relax with family, catch up with friends, and even re-engage in some of my favorite, meaningful occupations.

I was able to spend time volunteering with PressFriends, an organization I have been involved with since I was in high school. As a mentor, I get to go to elementary schools in the Los Angeles area and help them develop after school newspaper programs.

A student with a PressFriends mug

My mom, sister, and I spent time visiting Georgia for the first time.

My sister and I in Georgia

My sister and I at Jekyll Island, Georgia

I even was able to engage in meaningful occupations while fulfilling the not so fun occupation of jury duty. During our long lunch breaks from the courthouse, I explored the wonderful food Downtown LA has to offer. I was a frequent customer at Grand Central Market where you can you can pretty much find any type of food you could ever want.

And of course, my favorite occupation of all — spending time with my dogs.

Two dogs

A dog in the snow

I know that this next (and my last!!) semester is going to fly by and I can’t wait for all of the adventures to come!

Jessica P.

Winter Wrap Up ⟩
December 10, 2018, by Jessica P.


Every semester as a student, I feel that each semester goes by faster and faster. The weeks tend to fly by and before I know it, it’s the end of the semester. Last night, I turned in my final paper and officially am done with my fall semester. Towards the end of the semester, things tend to get busy with final projects wrapping up, papers to turn in, and exams to prepare for. While it can be overwhelming if you don’t stay on top of things, I find it to be my favorite time of the year. It’s really a chance to reflect on all you have learned and done throughout the semester.

In our OT 501: Adult Physical Rehabilitation last lab, we had an adaptive cooking lab. This was a chance for us to try different adaptive cooking utensils ourselves hands-on! We held a potluck style breakfast and all brought in food to make and eat with different tools.

This image shows students making sushi in lab

Using a rocker knife to make sushi

This image shows different adaptive cooking equipment

Adaptive cooking equipment

This image shows a student dressed up as Guy Fieri

Guest appearance from Guy Fieri in our cooking lab

In OT 537: Occupation-Centered Programs for the Community, we presented our program proposals that we have been developing all semester long. My group and I created a program called “Viviendo con Dolor Cronico: A Lifestyle Redesign Approach to Chronic Pain Management” which is focused on chronic pain in the immigrant population.

This image shows students presenting their program proposal poster

Poster presentations for our community program proposal

Lastly, we had our last class together as an entire cohort. Being together since day 1, our cohort has gone through all three of the immersions together: mental health, pediatrics, and adult physical rehabilitation. Next semester, we no longer will have a class all together as a full cohort as we will be taking different electives in the areas we are individually interested in pursuing.

This image shows Cohort B in the adult rehab lab

Cohort B Fall 2018

And just like that . . . the semester is over. Soon, I’ll be heading home for winter break to relax and spend time with family (and mostly cuddle with my dogs). I hope you all have a relaxing holiday!

Jessica P.

Gratitude Attitude ⟩
November 26, 2018, by Jessica P.

What are OS/OT?

Coming back from Thanksgiving break, I always have such an appreciation for some of my favorite things in life: family, food, friends, and football. This time of year it is so nice to take a step back and remind myself of everything I have to be grateful for, especially for having the opportunity to pursue the career I love (occupational therapy, duh!) at the best university, USC!

This semester has truly been a whirlwind, full of making plans for the future and slowly coming to terms with the fact that I only have one semester left as a full-time student in the master’s program. It can be easy to get caught up in applying to different OTD residencies or figuring out where to go for my leadership capstone externship next semester, but at the end of the day I always know that I am so lucky to have found this profession.

In one of my undergraduate classes on performance science, Dr. Glenn Fox discussed the power of gratitude and it has always stuck with me. Some people choose to practice gratitude by making a written or mental list at the end of each day of a few things that they’re thankful for or they may practice through larger gestures, such as getting a loved one a gift. For me, the best way I practice gratitude is to always have a gratitude attitude. I try to remind myself moment to moment to be thankful for everything, instead of being caught up in the small details. That being said, as an OT student this is what I’m currently most grateful for.

My group members

In two of my classes, a majority of the coursework is done amongst groups. I have been blessed to have gotten the best group members who make even the longest days enjoyable! From sending friendly texts to bringing each other snacks, my group members always go above and beyond.

Photo of Jessica with coursework group

Cohort B

I know, I know — everyone says their cohort is the best but let me tell you, my cohort actually is THE best. My cohort has been the best support system throughout this program. From planning potlucks on weeks where we are all a little run down to staying after class to help each other practice transfers to even planning weekend handball games, my cohort truly does it all.

Cohort B group photo outside CHP building

Student Ambassadors

I am so lucky to be a part of the wonderful student ambassador team. While I love giving tours to prospective students and being a part of information sessions, my favorite part of this job is my amazing co-workers!

Group photo of student ambassadors

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