Tips for Your Personal Statement ⟩
November 4, 2022, by Leah
Here are some tips and tricks on what helped me write my personal statement 😊
1. Reflect on what matters to you and see how it aligns with the school’s mission
I thought, why do I want to be an OT? I read through the division’s mission and most resonated with its commitment to inclusion. I then jotted down experiences and parts of my life that I most valued and thought related to this theme of inclusion.
2. Try finding a theme between your experiences to create a cohesive story.
This was a piece of advice I received from a previous mentor. I knew I had valuable experiences volunteering at an oncology camp, working in permanent supportive housing, and then working at a multiple sclerosis clinic. Still, these all felt like such different populations, so I needed to figure out how to share my story without feeling like I was jumping all over the place.
My mentor asked me questions such as:
How did one experience influence or lead to another?
What did you value in each of these experiences?
How did you continue to grow throughout these experiences?
Is there a commonality in how these experiences made you want to be an OT?
3. Get other eyes on your writing!
I know it can feel uncomfortable or even embarrassing to have other people look at what you have written. Still, I found it helpful to overcome that fear and get other people’s input. I wanted to see if my writing was conveying the message I wanted to share. For my statement, I had willing co-workers, mentors, and even roommates read through my essay. I received input such as: “this section is confusing” and “wow, I loved this story, focus more on that!” The most helpful thing I did was read my statement out loud with my roommate. I could identify awkward phrases, grammatical errors, and unnecessary words. Reading out loud was the most helpful in cutting my statement down to the required character count.
For all those applying this cycle, you got this!!
SCHOLARSHIPS, SCHOLARSHIPS, SCHOLARSHIPS! ⟩
September 30, 2022, by Leah Mary
Congratulations! You made it into USC’s Occupational Therapy Program, you should feel incredibly proud of yourself. I have no doubt you will go on and do great things.
But . . . how the heck are you going to pay for this program??? Being a topic program doesn’t come cheap. I wish I had a handbook to guide me when I was first navigating this program. I was often confused from the website and overloaded with information. Because of that, I missed important deadlines for big scholarships. So I find this topic extremely important and I want to make sure that this information is easily digestible and available to students.
I’m going to highlight a couple of websites, scholarships, and strategies.
- Scholarships and awards from USC and other bodies
This link will take you to a comprehensive list of scholarships. It will tell you the amount the award is worth and the eligibility requirements. (I USED THIS SO MUCH.)
- OT External Scholarship Opportunities, from Columbia University
This is another website I used from Columbia University with another comprehensive list of scholarships.
- Town and gown of USC Scholarship
$15,000 for the academic year for graduate students and PP-OTD students and it is renewable! Deadline for the application is December 1st.
- Division Internal Residencies
If you decided to do the PP-OTD and an internal residency, those come with a scholarship of 2/3 tuition. The deadline for the internal residencies is the end of Oct 1st.
- Merit-Based Scholarship
If you decide to do the PP-OTD but do an external residency, students admitted to the program will be automatically considered for Merit-based scholarships which cover around 1/3 tuition.
- Residencies External to the Chan Division
If you are a licensed and registered therapist by the time of your residency, you can negotiate with the residency sites on paid positions. Don’t be afraid to ask these questions to your site because it is important that both your educational and financial needs are met.
My biggest advice is to apply to everything and ask questions. The famous Michael Scott once said “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take — Wayne Gretzky.” It’s a funny but very true quote. I know these scholarships take a long time to complete or asking for paid positions during your residency can be an awkward conversation, however if you don’t apply or ask, I can tell you 100% you won’t get them. So I urge you to take those shots.
My Grandma and Why I Chose OT ⟩
September 23, 2022, by Aisha
When my aunt first told me about OT, I was intrigued! I still didn’t quite know what OT was, but I liked the idea of a profession that considers a person’s mental and physical well-being. As a high school student, psychology captivated me because it emphasized the importance of mental health. At the time, I had concerns for my mental health and wellness. However, my mom was apprehensive about sending me to a therapist whose values didn’t align with ours. It was the catalyst that inspired me to strive towards becoming that person for people in my community. In college, my OS minor courses taught me how occupations could impact all aspects of an individual’s health.
I first witnessed the power of occupation with my grandma. She suffered a stroke several years ago, and I observed this lively woman, who loved to belly dance and cook, develop symptoms of depression and decline in function. I vividly remember bringing her to the dance floor at my cousin’s wedding. We were spinning around, dancing, and having a good time. From behind her wheelchair, I saw she was moving BOTH of her arms and raising them higher than she had in a long time! When I looked at the pictures later that evening, I saw the pure joy on her face. That picture reminded me how powerful meaningful activities could be in motivating people and supporting health and well-being.
After her stroke, my grandma was sent home from the hospital with no rehab services. The disparities in the healthcare system and the limited access to resources impacted her recovery. I want to help ensure underserved communities have access and the knowledge to advocate for resources/services. OT, a profession that holistically considers the person, their environment, and the occupation and focuses on what matters to the patient, is the perfect way for me to pursue that goal. I want to be that person my younger self and individuals like my grandmother needed while consistently practicing cultural humility and respecting unique cultures.
From Enemies to Friends . . . to Lovers: My Occupational Therapy Journey! ⟩
September 22, 2022, by Yoojin
(Spoiler: they fall in love at the end!)
When I tell folks that I’ve known about OT since before I even knew how to spell the words, they tell me how lucky I am to have discovered my passion at a very young age, especially in such a niche profession.
And don’t get me wrong, they’re totally right! I see how there is a perfect plan for me, part of which is to attend OT school to become an occupational therapist. However, like most people outside of the healthcare community who know what OT are: there’s a good chance it’s because they or a loved one have experience with receiving therapy services.
My love story with OT starts like this: OT wasn’t always a great passion of mine. In fact, at one point in my life I despised it so much I didn’t want to go into the healthcare field at all! (Here’s some context about me now: those around me can attest that OT is one of my favorite things to blabber about. In fact, someone I met recently asked, “So, is OT just like, your thing, Yoojin?” after I spent a good chunk of our conversation talking about my first Level II fieldwork this past summer. Well, maybe I should’ve dialed it down…he was a physical therapist after all 🤔).
Similar to a relationship between a pair of friends or lovers, it’s hard to remember the rockier parts of my relationship with OT because it’s at such a healthy state right now. But as I look back on my journey of grace, forgiveness, and love in my relationship with OT, I know it’s one that I really want to share. So here it goes….
I wouldn’t exactly say that I “discovered” OT, because that would imply that I was in search of something of the sort. Hm. So would it be more like I was “inescapably, involuntarily compelled into learning about OT”? That makes it sound like someone committed a crime against me. Well, that’s exactly how I felt throughout my childhood as a family member of someone who’s receiving OT services. I was too young to stay home alone, so I was forced to tag along. To almost every. Single. Appointment.
This meant I missed out on playdates and hanging out on the playground after class, both foolish, yet simple pleasures for a little selfish, elementary-aged Yoojin. But, I mean, why was I forced to play the third parent and the unpaid translator (shoutout to us first-gen children of immigrants!) rather than play tag or house? I cringe now at my shallow desires, but my years of frustration from holding such roles grew into a seed of bitterness in my heart toward OT and the clinic, the place where my childish dreams laid to rest. As much as I knew how much it strained my parents to be caregivers and parents, I pushed them away and continued to wallow in my self-pity.
It wasn’t until years later when it came to applying for college when things finally started to shift, and I took several weeks to reflect on what I really wanted to do. After countless talks with my mentors, late nights thinking, and tears spilled over wondering if I was destined to do nothing, I realized that OT was the only profession that I’d spent hundreds of hours observing and knew for a fact what I’d be getting myself into: a selfless, fulfilling, individual-oriented profession that works to improve the lives of clients by helping them achieve their personal goals.
During this time, my family and I exchanged so much grace and forgiveness. I fell more in love with OT as I rediscovered it on my own terms. Since applying and getting into the BS-MA (now the BS-OTD) program right here at USC, I’ve grown so much appreciation and love for this profession and never looked back. Love truly does conquer all! In my case, I was able to loosen my hardened heart filled with misplaced hatred for OT and foster it into a deepened empathy for my future clients’ needs. Give me all those cheesy pins and notepads that say “I ❤️ OT,” because I really, really do!
My road to OT and its many detours ⟩
September 15, 2022, by Tania
Growing up, education was always seen as a privilege. I knew I needed to do something with my life but never knew exactly what that could be.
So, I decided to fully explore everything I was ever interested in because what better way to spend my 20s? I tried EMT, but the gender dynamics and the low pay made me run away quickly. I tried CNA in an attempt to be an RN, but the burnout is real. I moved to an oncology lab, but the hyper fixation of looking at cells didn’t last too long. My all-time favorite was working at a morgue performing autopsies, but to my surprise, I do enjoy working with people who are alive. Then I decided to be an internship and career advisor but reading resumes and talking to different corporations entail long working hours. I also created a small business decorating sugar cookies, but I had to pause because the repetitive movements of piping exacerbated my carpal tunnel pain. Finally, I was a university counselor and while I enjoyed helping students navigate higher education, something was missing. I loved all my previous jobs but none of them fully cover what I was looking for. I thought to myself if only there was one career that could allow me to be in health care, allow me to be creative, and allow me to teach…
It wasn’t until my grandfather had hip replacement surgery that I learned about OT. As his medical director, I approved an occupational therapist to come over for a home visit. The OT came over and guess what was the first thing she pointed out during the inspection? If you thought RUG, then you are correct! The rug in the living room was a tripping hazard. As she inspected the home, I took the opportunity to have a conversation with her about her job. I remember her saying “think of OT as a combination between a doctor and a teacher.” My brain immediately lit up! Oh, what! my two favorite professions in one? She had very convincing arguments regarding having a profession in OT because well here I am today. I am so glad for my journey because finding what you love and loving what you do is amazing.
I know the pressure of needing to figure life out, especially as a first-generation student, but I am here to tell you that taking a break in between undergrad and graduate school is fine, changing careers is fine, not getting all A’s in school is fine, and not knowing what specific area of OT you want to work in is fine! Don’t place extra stress on yourself thinking that you must figure every single detail out. I’ll let you in on a secret, no one has everything figured out in life, some are just better at pretending!
First-year students, you will have the next few years to decide what you would like to focus on and second-year students you will have your career to figure that out. Give yourself grace because being in grad school at USC is already stressful enough.