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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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The First Summer


March 12, 2021

Admissions Classes

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After acceptance letters went out, I have received lots and lots of questions about the first summer of the entry-level Master’s program. This is the time of a major transition — it may be your first time having a graduate school workload and you are wondering how to tackle it, perhaps you want to know if you can have a job during this period, or you are curious about how to maintain a social life. Before starting the program, I had these questions too. Now that I have completed that summer, I would like to talk about what it was like and answer some of those questions. Hopefully, this will ease some nerves! *note — this blog describes the layout of my summer but the program/your schedule may shift.

“How intense is the first summer?”
The initial summer is quite busy. I think it would be helpful to first explain what that summer looks like. For the first half of the summer, you will take Foundations: Kinesiology. This course reviews joint and muscle functions and teaches students how to apply biomechanical principles to everyday activities. For the second half of the summer, you will take Foundations: Neuroscience. Here, you will learn how to analyze daily living tasks through the lens of neural function. This course also reviews pathological conditions that interfere with performance. During the entire length of the summer, you will take Foundations: Occupation and Foundations: Creativity, Craft, and Activity Analysis. The Occupation course is an introduction to occupational therapy history and practice. During the Creativity course, you will have the opportunity to engage in craft projects, explore your creativity and analyze performance.

In total, you will be taking four courses in an 8 week timespan.  Only three courses will happen at once due to Kinesiology and Neuroscience being split into first and second half. The class times are three hours long. Kinesiology and Neuroscience happens during the mornings while Occupation and Creativity takes place during the afternoons. In addition to the Kinesiology and Neuroscience lectures, there will be labs. This is where you will complete activities and worksheets as well as receive direct support from teaching assistants. This time is used to clear up any confusion you have about the material.

I explained the schedule to give a picture of what weeks will look like during the summer. As you can imagine, you will be frontloaded with a lot of information. These courses will serve as your foundation as you move through the program. Many classes will draw on the information that you learn here to introduce you to new and more in-depth concepts.

All in all, I would say that the initial summer is intense. Personally, I believe it is the busiest semester of the entire program. Not only are you learning a lot in your classes, you are navigating life as a graduate student which may come with new responsibilities, you are forming connections with professors, and you are creating new friendships. There are many things going on at once. 

“Do you recommend working during this period?”
I chose not to work during my first summer. I made this decision because I did not want to overwhelm myself. I wanted to be sure that I had enough time to study AND rest. It helped me to review the material that we learned each day. I took an hour or two off once I got home to simply de-stress and relax. Then, I would review my notes. I know that I would feel exhausted if I did not take that time to rest and I would feel unprepared for the next class if I did not have the time to review my notes at the end of each day. I also needed my weekends to re-energize. Therefore, working was not feasible for me.

However, I would not say that it is impossible to work. My one piece of advice would be to limit your hours and, if you can, work some place that is flexible and might allow you to study.

“Am I expected to join student organizations during the summer semester?”
You are NOT expected to join any student organizations at this time. I received several emails from new students that were worried about how it would look if they were not “involved.” People typically begin to join student organizations during the Fall and I would say that most of my class did not join until the Spring. I did not know of anyone that was a part of a student organization during the summer. Maybe, the most that they did was get on the email list. Do not stress about this!

“Did you have time for a social life?”
This is probably the most common question that I received as it relates to the first summer. I would answer this by saying — You will have time for a social life if you make time for a social life. We often push leisure and pleasure off to the side and start to focus only on the work that we need to get done. That will easily set yourself up for burnout.

Did I take weekend trips out of state without ever looking at my notebook? No. But, did I have movie nights, go out for dinner, participate in game nights, and meet up with friends? Yes! It is so important to do this! You are human and you are not meant to work, work, work. Do not deprive yourself of simple pleasures. Even if you cannot take an entire day off to relax, fit it in at some point. You can set aside time to meet with your study group on Sunday morning and as a reward, you all can all head to the beach afterwards. You can study chapters 16-18 then go watch an episode of something with your roommate then return to chapter 19 when you are done. Do not feel guilty about taking a break. I promise that it is beneficial. Time to rest and/or socialize is productive too!

I hope that this blog post gave you a better idea of what the summer will look like and what you can expect. Yes, it is very busy. But, it doesn’t have to take over all facets of your life. There will still be time for play as long as you make it a priority (and you absolutely should)!