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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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Jessica P.

Falling in Love with OT ⟩
May 31, 2017, by Jessica P.

Admissions What are OS/OT?

For my first blog post, I wanted to share my story of how I discovered and fell in love with occupational therapy.

Ever since I was young, I always knew I wanted a career that involved helping others, specifically children. At the beginning of high school I volunteered at the local hospital and really enjoyed being in the healthcare setting, but I didn’t know if being a doctor was the right path for me. I heard about a summer camp for children with special needs and decided to be a camp counselor. As a counselor, I was paired one-on-one with my buddy, spending time doing various activities and games which were facilitated by occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech-language pathologists. For the next four summers, I volunteered at the camp and it continued to confirm my passion for working with children.

I knew what I wanted out of a career, but I was still unsure exactly which path to pursue. Deciding to come to USC was an easy choice for me, as I was raised a Trojan from birth and most of my family attended the university. I entered USC as a freshman majoring in Psychology and began to take classes in the Occupational Science minor. I also had the opportunity to shadow a pediatric occupational therapist in an outpatient clinic, which was when I knew occupational therapy was exactly what I wanted to be doing. I decided to transfer into the Bachelor to Master’s Occupational Therapy major as a junior and it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made, second to coming to USC.

As a progressive degree student, I have had many opportunities to take OT classes as well as courses in areas I am also interested in — such as psychology, human rights, and performance science. I am so grateful to have found a profession that allows me to combine my passions and empower others to live their best lives. I can’t wait to continue to learn and grow as an occupational therapy student and share my experiences with you.


Things I wish I knew before moving to Los Angeles ⟩
May 9, 2017, by Raisa

Admissions Life Hacks Living in LA

Hello everyone! It’s good to be back from a much long blog-hiatus. As I have mentioned in my previous blog, things have been moving full-speed. We formally ended our classes a week ago, and guess what my comprehensive exam is tomorrow! eeeek! To calm myself down, I decided to write about something that I’ve been meaning to share with you all for the past few months. I understand that beginning your OT journey half-way across the globe is both an exciting and a stressful experience, believe me I’ve been there! So here are some of the things I wish I knew before the program and moving to LA.

First of all, let’s talk about all of the resources at your disposal. All these links listed below are the respective USC offices and services that you may find helpful when you are just starting out in Los Angeles.

USC Resources:

Office of International Services
Offers services regarding immigration counselling, the OIS is also resource center to assist you with various government processes such as filing for a California driver’s license, filing for a SSN/ITN, filing U.S. Taxes etc.

Financial aid
Offers variety of resources for international students looking for assistance in financing their education. 

Here you can see the selection of housing options available to graduate students.

USC IT Services
Here you can activate you USC ID (you need this to access the resources on campus!). Access the wireless network on campus, download available software to help you stay on top of your game during classes.

Eric Cohen Student health center
Offers medical services, examination and screening, immunization, and student counseling.

Extremely useful to find USC tram times, parking passes, and they have useful information to help you navigate the urban jungle that is Los Angeles.

Department of Public Safety
I suggest reading the Safety tips & training section, this houses useful information regarding safety practices and resources that students should be aware of.

Chan division website
All the information about the division is found on the website. The Student blog and Videos are great resources to get a sneak peek into the lives of Chan Division Trojans. 😉

Next, I wanted to talk about your personal experiences with occupational therapy. Everyone has an OT story, and USC celebrates that. It is a great privilege to bring your experiences and practice into your classes. Take the time to reflect on your own practice, look at the things that you want to improve and things that you thought worked well. In my experience, often times the concepts I learn in class brings me back to my clinical internship, and professional experience in the Philippines. It provided a great opportunity to stir insight and spark inspiration to help me improve my practice. And if you don’t have experience, that is okay! Keep an open-mind, be like a sponge, and absorb the experiences shared by your classmates and professors. Learning is a two way process, you learn from them, and they learn from you. I know this may all seem intimidating and anxiety inducing, but you know what? Intimidation is good, life is boring without challenges. It is okay to be scared, just don’t let it stop you from achieving your goals. Always reach out to your professors, the division is here to support its students, and don’t forget all the resources mentioned above!

What does everyone else in the post-professional MA Class of 2017 have to say?

Tai-wei Lee: Mentally and physically prepare to study in a perfect school! The class load might be a bit tough.
Bella Hsieh: Don’t forget to bring/buy sunglasses, it gets hot in Los Angeles!
Rucha Naik:Sunscreen!
Jayshree Nagvekar: Save your money, loads of great things to do on the way
Shikha Kamdar: Save your money to spend it on Black Friday . . . the clothes will last almost till your spring semester
Nikita Sunny: Get an umbrella! People say it doesn’t rain in LA but it rained this year!
Kathryna Gomez: They say [to bring] just a light jacket but I was freezing during winter.
Rucha Naik: It will be great to buy winter clothes from here. [the] Jacket I carried from India couldn’t keep me warm enough in this cold
Francis Co: Ralphs card
Kathryna Gomez: get all those cards, they help a lot Vons, Ralphs, Seafood Market, CVS etc.
Sujin Kim: kepp in mind the extra expenses that you might have during school year (educational evaluation, NBCOT, graduation etc.) so that you can plan your finances better
Chaitali Sutradhar:  Get at least a year of full-time clinical experience (not as a student)!
Raisa Fernan: Familiarize yourself with your personal devices! Learn to maneuver pdf readers, applications for note-taking, learn email etiquette, digital organization and the like. Keep copies of your personal documents, digital or print copies! Use apps like google maps, citymapper, uber, lyft to help you get around Los Angeles.

I will not lie, you will get homesick. You will find healthy ways to cope, whether it be a new support system or even exploring a new hobby. Internet connection is amazing, so take advantage of the technology and resources at our disposal. It’s not going to be easy, but I promise you it is going to be worth it. Lastly,

Don’t forget to have fun!


Financing USC: Scholarships Edition ⟩
February 7, 2017, by Jessica


In continuing with my “Financing USC” series, this week’s post is all about scholarships. Students are always interested about what scholarship options are available, and the likelihood of getting one. Hopefully this brief post can help answer some of those questions!

There are scholarships available to students from the OT division based on academic merit and potential for special contributions to the field of OT. The most common are the Division Tuition Scholarships, which are awarded on the basis of academic achievement, mainly for first-year entry-level Master’s students. The amount of the scholarship varies each year and between students, and goes directly to help pay for your tuition. A highly competitive scholarship through the OT division is the Research Assistantship, which is awarded based on academic merit primarily to first-year entry-level Master’s students. For this scholarship, generally 8 units of tuition are covered per semester, with a $5500 stipend per semester, with student health services and student health insurance included. Keep in mind, though, that these are really hard to get! Another unique option is to become a Division Student Worker! These are considered division awards, and students chosen for these positions will fulfill varies duties for faculty and staff members. Typically, only 2nd years receive these positions. Some of the jobs you could have in the division are being a classroom assistant, a fieldwork assistant or office assistant, and being a student ambassador (like us!). Students in these positions get paid hourly for their work, and have a flexible schedule of about 10 hours per week. If you’re interested in any of the division scholarships, be sure submit the scholarship application at the same time you submit your application for the program.

There are many other unique scholarship options through the division, as well as outside of USC, which are listed on our website. Check that out and see if you’re eligible to apply for any of those scholarships!


Why USC? ⟩
February 6, 2017, by Erwin


Why should I attend USC? Many prospective students ask this question looking for a convincing sales-pitch. However, my job isn’t to sell people on USC, but rather, let them know the opportunities available here. USC is a wonderful school and we have an amazing program. However, it may not be the right fit for everyone. With that being said, here are a few reasons why I think USC OT stands out from the crowd:

  1. Networking
    The Trojan Family is a powerful thing. Because of USC’s status in OT, and really the world, I wanted to be well-connected and part of that Trojan network. Being at USC has opened doors for me that I’m not sure would have been possible if I had went to another university.
  2. Leadership
    I strongly feel that what makes USC unique to other programs is its commitment to leadership. USC is known to be a leader for the profession of occupational therapy and the school encourages students to become leaders themselves. At USC, there are tons of opportunities for students to get involved — whether through student organizations or support from faculty to pursue your own leadership interests. Being at USC, I’ve grown so much as a leader and I know the skills I’ve learned here will benefit me throughout my career.
  3. Research
    USC is also known for its research contributions. Occupational science, the science that serves as the foundation for occupational therapy, was invented here at USC and we continue to be at the forefront of research. Some of the most exciting and groundbreaking research is being done in our division and students have the opportunity to be research assistants. When I entered the program, I didn’t have much interest in research, but it really is so important to validate what we do as therapists and to discover more effective treatments so that our clients can receive the best care.
  4. Faculty
    USC’s faculty consists of some of the best therapists and researchers in the world. Being leaders in occupational therapy, many of our faculty are the ones writing our textbooks so they can answer any questions you may have. In addition, they are so supportive and almost all have an open-door policy so that you can discuss anything from school to life.

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide if USC is the right fit for you. Everyone has their own priorities and path to become an occupational therapist. For myself, going to USC was absolutely the best decision.

Me with the other student ambassadors!

Me with the other student ambassadors!


Financing USC: Loans Edition ⟩
January 31, 2017, by Jessica


The most common questions I’m asked from prospective and admitted students are always about the cost of USC and how students pay for it. Rightfully so — USC is definitely a financial investment! However I do think it’s worth it — the caliber of the professors and quality of education you get here makes your USC degree truly valuable. I’m going to briefly share about some of the options you have in order to finance your OT education at USC. This post will focus on student loans.

Federal Loans
Most students do take our loans in order to pay for a majority of their tuition, fees, & living costs while in the program. Federal loans are the most common, and typically have lower interest rates than private loans. As a graduate student, you are typically eligible for the Direct Unsubsidized Loan (also referred to as Direct Stafford Loan) and the Direct PLUS Loans. To be eligible for the Direct Unsubsidized Loan, you just need to be enrolled half-time and don’t necessarily need to demonstrate financial need. Most students will qualify for this loan, and you will be eligible to receive this loan for the duration of the program each semester. Graduate students are eligible for up to $20,500 per academic year, with the current interest rate set at 5.31%. Also, you will not need to start paying back this loan until after you graduate. The other loan that most students use to supplement is the Direct PLUS Loan. This is also a federal loan, and you must be enrolled at least half-time with no adverse credit history. With this loan, the maximum you can borrow is the full cost of USC minus any other financial aid you receive. The current interest rate for this loan is 6.31%. Like the Direct Unsubsidized Loan, you do not need to make any payments until after you graduate.

Public Student Loan Forgiveness
If the thought of taking out these loans is daunting (which it is for most), keep in mind that there currently is a Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program that you may be eligible to enroll in after graduation.  This is a federal program that will forgive the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments (~approx. 10 years) while working full-time for a qualifying employer. Qualifying employers for this program include government organizations, non-profit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) or provide a qualifying public service. This is definitely something to consider and take advantage of, if it is still in place when you graduate.

I hope this brief summary of some of your loan options was helpful! Stay tuned for more posts about other financial aid options.

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