Faculty / Staff Resources Student Resources
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
X/Twitter Facebook Instagram LinkedIn YouTube

How to Apply to Grad School


November 1, 2018

Admissions Life Hacks

X/Twitter Facebook LinkedIn email

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!