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USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Lessons I Did NOT Expect OT School to Teach Me ⟩
April 2, 2024, by Natalie

Classes Life Hacks School/Life Balance

Hey everyone! I am back with a new list that I hope you will relate to, save, and refer back to when needed. Looking back at my last two years, these lessons I have learned have helped me grow as a person, as a professional, and as a future clinician. These lessons are not listed in our “Program Outcomes” or “Learning Objectives”. They are lessons I think everyone eventually learns, but that I learned when I felt challenged and pushed past my comfort zone.

Grades do not matter as much as you think. The Division has strict rules about the grade students are required to earn in any course in order to have those course credits apply towards earning the degree. According to the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy (2023) student handbook:

The minimum passing grade in all OT required courses is C or above . . . To be eligible for graduation, a graduate OT student must achieve a final overall cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above AND a GPA of 3.0 or above on all courses applied to the entry-OTD degree (p. 15).

As long as you reach that required grade point average, there is no need to stress about every grade point percentage. No future client will ever ask you what grade you got on your adult rehab midterms; they will just be happy that you know what you need to know in order to help them. That being said . . .

You know so much more than you think. There have been too many times when I stress over an upcoming exam or feel a little reluctant to raise my hand in class because I feel unsure about my response, and more often than not, I come out doing pretty well! I do study and prepare for those exams and practicums though, I just usually feel I need a few more days to review. Personally, I have noticed that as long as I complete my readings and assignments and pay attention in class, my brain retains so much more than I realize.

Do not let your imposter syndrome get the best of you. You are capable, smart, and will be an amazing OT one day. You belong here at the top OT program in the nation, and you have the necessary tools and skills to earn your degree. When the imposter syndrome does hit, because it always does at some point, remember why you chose to pursue OT and what motivates you the most to always show up. Turn on music that helps you feel confident and powerful and push past the feelings of not being capable.

Remember that you are your harshest critic. It is important to keep in mind that you are likely the only person who expects you to do amazing in every single aspect of your life all the time. Obviously, give your best in everything that you do but recognize that your best may fluctuate depending on how many things you have going on at any given time. I read something once that said, “If one day, all you can give is 40% and you give that, you gave your 100% that day.” Being able to prioritize tasks and dividing your energy and focus in order for you to complete everything you have to get done is a really difficult but crucial skill that grad school will teach you if you have not learned it already.

Do NOT compare yourself to others. Everyone will tell you this tip from the start and it is easier said than done to learn, but the sooner you stop comparing yourself to others, the better. Save your energy and mental health and just do you.

Know yourself well. Know your strengths, your limitations, what strategies work for you, what type of help you need and when you need that help in order to keep yourself afloat. Also keep in mind that the strategies that work for you may change based on the situations or assignments you have going on. Adapt as needed and trust your gut.

Put your oxygen mask on first. With how busy grad school can get, it is so imperative that you take care of yourself first before anything else. You need to ensure you do what is needed for yourself in order to put your best effort forward in the work, activities, events, organizations, and relationships you are a part of. Taking care of yourself helps you avoid burnout and trust me, it is such a better option than trying to overcome the burnout.

Mistakes happen and are not the end of the world. In fact, mistakes help you learn! I have learned the most when I make mistakes because as human beings, we don’t like being wrong. It is better to make mistakes in class or during OT school than it is when you are out in the field later on (. . . and even then, those mistakes are okay too! Acknowledge the error, do your best to fix it, and move on!)

Trust the process. A lot of different things in OT will stress you out and may feel out of your control. Sometimes the material in a course is not coming together the way you thought it would. The course material will come together eventually (again, this varies per person: ask for help as you feel you need). The fieldwork process may be particularly stressful if you want any one specific site or practice area. You will get the experience required in order to earn your degree and sit for the NBCOT, even if it is not exactly what you want. In my mental health immersion I wanted to be placed in an inpatient psychiatric hospital and was placed in a Transitional Supported Housing Program. Looking back, I would not trade that experience for anything in the world.  Every single alumni member I have spoken to, whether they are on the faculty or not, have told me to trust the process, after assuring me that they too felt similarly when they were a student.

Generalist versus Specialist. This one probably feels out of place and is very OT school specific compared to the rest of these lessons — I know what these words mean, but in terms of being in OT school, I had to learn what that meant for what I was learning in class. There are so many different specialties that OTs can gain knowledge in and it is hard to remember that as an OT student I need to focus on learning enough about everything in order to pass the certification exam as well as be able to practice in almost any setting that I choose. My time for specializing in specific topics will come, as will yours.

There you have it! I hope this newfound knowledge inspires you and helps you feel prepared for when these lessons inevitably sneak up on you. If you have any questions or would like to chat, feel free to reach out to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and I will get back to you as soon as I can! Fight on!!


Come Learn About Scholarships!! ⟩
March 11, 2024, by Natalie

Life Hacks

The price tag for attending USC Chan (or honestly, any graduate school program) can be a pretty large stressor. Don’t get me wrong, it pays to be at the top OT school in the nation, but that does not invalidate the stress that tuition can cause. Luckily, the faculty and staff understand this and there are scholarship opportunities for students, both within and outside of the Chan Division listed on the USC Chan website. Here are a few resources that are available to students and are definitely worth checking out:

USC Chan Internal scholarships: This is the link to the internal scholarships available from the Division. For prospective Entry-Level OTD students who are applying to USC Chan, these scholarships typically open around the same time the program application opens and for the largest scholarships, the applications is due at the same time as your program application. There are additional scholarships that you can also apply for in your second and third years of the program. To see the scholarships and the eligibility criteria for each one, select your program and year from the drop down list, select the scholarship you are interested in learning more about or applying for, and read all about it!

External Scholarships that USC Chan shares with students: this is a list of various scholarships that the Division put together in order to share with students. These are external to the Division, meaning students who are interested in applying for them should take a close look at the information available, ensure the information is still current, and apply according to the instructions listed for each one. I have noticed that the external scholarships seem to be more likely to require letters of recommendation than the internal scholarships. Just another great reason to try to make great connections to the faculty!

Financial Aid Office: The Financial Aid Office has their own website (specific to graduate level students at that) with a ton of useful information that students should keep themselves up to date with. Regularly checking this website will be useful to stay on top of different scholarships available to students as well as important information such as when FASFA is due. One of the tabs on this website leads students to be able to filter through scholarships

Scholarship Universe: This is an online tool that is available to students to see the many scholarships available to them. Students can filter through all of the scholarships listed to determine eligibility and easily keep track of the scholarships they are in the process of applying for or have applied for recently once they have signed into their account.

A couple of other notable scholarships directly associated with USC (thought not Chan) include the USC Norman Topping Student Aid Fund and the Town and Gown of USC Scholarship. Both scholarships are merit-based scholarships and they have so much aid available to distribute far and wide!

If all else fails, keep in mind that there are so many different scholarships available in so many different ways. I have learned about a ton of scholarships through social media. It is as simple as finding accounts whose target audience are students, or searching for posts that include “#scholarships”. Some scholarships are shared with students via emails from Chan faculty. There are scholarships available through AOTA that are OT-specific too! Keep an open mind to all the possible places you can use to look for scholarships and never be afraid to apply to as many as you possibly can. There is so much more money out there waiting to be awarded! Best of luck, please feel free to reach out to us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) if you have any questions!


California Love ⟩
January 24, 2024, by Jaida

Community Life Hacks Living in LA

California. The Golden State. Never would I have thought that I would be calling this place ‘home’ for 3 years. Filled with numerous beaches, palm trees, and sunshine for days, this state has more to offer than I realized. As someone who is not a local, I can recognize where my own understanding of this unique environment falls short of the experiences that make this place so special to Californians. I can also recognize where my own biases and upbringings as a Southerner have impacted my perception of the people here (I had no idea what an ‘Erewhon’ or ‘Cava’ was).

Here are some of my own takeaways about California that you should be mindful of and how you can take advantage of your new home!

Be mindful of:

  • Traffic/Driving: “It’s only 5 miles away. The drive can’t be that bad.” That’s what I’m used to saying when driving around home in Arkansas. I was so quick to judge my friends here who would complain about driving (I am humble enough to say now I have learned the error of my ways; sorry friends). Driving in California is not for the weak; there will be days where you will spend more time on the road than at your actual destination. Californians have unspoken rules about driving that as an outsider, until you get yourself on the road, you won’t understand until you’ve experienced it. Tip: call a friend/loved one while you’re waiting in traffic! You know they’ve been dying to hear all about your life in the program and it’ll make you feel better. You can also listen to podcasts or take it as an opportunity to practice some of the mindfulness techniques you will soon learn from RRE class!
  • Prices: I remember as I was driving from Arkansas to California, the progressive increase in gas prices as I got closer and closer, had me shaking my head the entire time. The days of cheap items and tax-free weekends were over. Since then, I have accepted my new reality of the high cost of living here, but understand now that California would not be what it is today without it. Tip: if you can, sign up for EBT to receive monetary assistance for buying groceries.

Take advantage of:

  • Fun Experiences: My bank account hated me for the amount of money I was spending at Disneyland and Universal, but just like a kid in a candy store, I couldn’t help myself! Although I love all the nature activities there are to do back home, being able to go to amusement parks and beaches whenever I want is a plus in my eyes. Cool events like themed club nights (High School Musical and One Direction night made teenage Jaida so happy) and shows at the Hollywood Bowl are ones that I would’ve never experienced back home and I am grateful to be living in a state that gives me access to new and exciting experiences.
  • New Cuisines: Being raised in the South, I pride myself on the delectable cuisine that is ‘Southern/Soul food’. Comprised of foods such as ribs, fried chicken, cornbread, baked beans, mac & cheese, I was a bit saddened to know the “southern food” here will never taste like how it is back home. However, I have been able to try so many different cuisines that are not as widely present in Arkansas (shoutout to cohort A for introducing me to Korean bbq, pho, and chilaquiles!).

While your experience may be completely different than mine, I hope that this advice can help you in preparing for your transition to living in California.

Kbbq always hits the spot!

Kbbq always hits the spot!

Food & wine at Disneyland? I’m sold

Food & wine at Disneyland? I’m sold

GoT at Hollywood Bowl: an experience I’ll never forget

GoT at Hollywood Bowl: an experience I’ll never forget

First Dodgers game!

First Dodgers game!

Movies on the beach!

Movies on the beach!

Transported back to Medieval Times

Transported back to Medieval Times

Supporting a fellow classmate on the ice!

Supporting a fellow classmate on the ice!

Leah Mary

Tips to Survive OT School ⟩
January 29, 2023, by Leah Mary

Classes Life Hacks

1. Study with friends at the library, café, or home
As they say, misery loves company! But in all seriousness, studying with my friends was the number one thing that helped motivate me to study. It was a great way for us to have hands-on practice for labs (like transfers or motor control), quiz each other, or ask questions. My favorite places to study are Dulce, Doheny Library, and the USC Village.

2. Visit office hours
Whenever I didn’t know something or was anxious about a test, I always went to open hours. Our professors want us to go to those office hours. They structure it in an engaging way, especially when there are multiple students. This is an excellent chance for you to answer other students’ questions with the confirmation of our professors.

3. Kahoot
I used Kahoot for every test in the Entry Level Master’s Program. Classes like OT501, OT538, OT534, and even the Comprehensive Exam, Kahoot was a great study tool to help me conceptualize topics, create questions, and understand big-picture ideas.

4. Microsoft OneNote for note taking
Imagine having multiple color-coded binders that classes, topics, and weeks can organize but all on your computer. I knew I was overwhelmed with the number of courses, PowerPoint slides, research articles, and loose papers we get during the program. Having one application to organize everything made it easier to study and later use during my fieldwork and residency.

5. PDF Expert for the iPad
During the program, there were some classes where I liked to type my notes and others that I wanted to handwrite. PDF Expert is a free application that allows you to download your PDF slides to your tablet, write directly on the slides, and save them on your computer.

6. Gym shoes
Especially for classes such as Adult Rehabilitation and Motor Control, gym shoes are a must for optimal ergonomic support. Both Adult Rehabilitation and Motor Control labs involve lifting and practicing transfers with patients and students. Therefore, wearing the proper shoes is essential for your overall physical health.


These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things ⟩
January 21, 2023, by Mika

Housing and Transportation International Life Hacks Living in LA School/Life Balance

Hello again and Happy New Year, my friends!

I wanted to start off the year with a blogpost about one my favorite childhood songs from the movie, The Sound of Music. If you have watched the movie, you might have remembered the scene where Fräulein Maria comforts the children amidst a storm. She tells them (or rather, sings to them) that whenever she feels scared or sad, she remembers her favorite things to help herself cheer up. Now, as a material girl, I kind of used this coping strategy as well to help me adapt to life here in Los Angeles. With that, I present to you some of my favorite things or must-have’s that helped me the past months.

1. Water Filter Pitcher
Moving to a new country requires you to find ways on how locals get their basics, like food or water. Based on the suggestions of some friends and family living in the States, they recommended me to get the Brita water filter pitcher. So far, I don’t have any problems with this brand that I bought; however, you can also opt to buy cheaper brands. These water filters also come in different sizes (even in a dispenser) and are available in local supermarkets like Target and Walmart.

2. Tide Pods
This has been a game changer for me doing laundry since it makes everything more efficient and quicker. This was not a common product back at home so when I discovered this, I really felt like a caveman discovering new technology.

3. Sink Garbage Disposal Unit
Okay, this device got me shouting U.S.A., U.S.A.! to my friends back at home LOL. Again, we don’t have this technology so I was happy to discover this in most American households since it made washing the dishes more convenient.

4. Air Fryer
This is not new technology for me but it definitely helped me save time in cooking meals in between studying. Shoutout to my lovely roommate for sharing this with all of us in the apartment!

5. Tabo (Dipper)
The Filipino in me is definitely showing with this one. I definitely cannot do my self-care occupations or other household chores without my beloved tabo or dipper. Although you can purchase these through Amazon or in Filipino supermarkets, I was able to buy a portable one (it was made of a rubber-like material so I could fold it to fit in my luggage) back home in the Philippines.

6. Dustpan
From what I understand, most locals use vacuum cleaners to clean their floors. However, I like to go Filipino old school and use a broom and a dustpan to clean some of my floors. For those who prefer cleaning this way like me, I wanted to share that I bought a detachable dustpan back at home and brought it here since most of the dustpans here were hand-held and quite-small, which often triggered my back pain when cleaning.

7. Mobile Applications
I found several mobile applications that had made my stay here in L.A. more convenient. Here are a few I found helpful:

  • Ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft
  • Public transportation apps like Transit and Tap
  • Online shopping apps like Amazon (As a student, you can get Amazon Prime for free for 6 months!)
  • Food and grocery delivery apps like Door Dash, Uber Eats, Amazon Fresh and Wee! (an Asian grocery delivery application)
  • Yelp to find recommendations of places to eat around the area
  • USC Gateway mobile app to help you know everything that’s happening in campus and to navigate your university life

8. Gifts (and snacks!) from home
Moving out of your comfort zone to a new country will bring about bouts of homesickness and loneliness from time to time. That is normal — it’s okay not to feel okay sometimes! To help me get through those moments, I’m blessed to have a good set of family and friends who sent some gifts and snacks to help me remember home. It definitely also helped that social media made keeping in touch with them possible!

And that’s the end of my list! What about you, what are your favorite things that get you by?

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