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Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is the use of assessment and intervention to develop, recover, or maintain meaningful activities (occupations) for people with disabilities, injuries or impairments. Occupational Therapists earn either a master’s (M.S.O.T.) or doctorate (O.T.D) degree in Occupational Therapy through an Occupational Therapy School.

THe University of Houston does not currently offer a degree program in Occupational Therapy.

There is no single "best" major for pre-OT students nor are there any majors that will make you stand out. Instead, you should consider the pre-requisite courses required for admission by OT programs as well as the types of classes or majors that you would be most interested in pursuing.  As long as you show proficiency in the sciences and a general pattern of challenging yourself, your major is largely unimportant to admission committees.

That said, the more common majors for pre-OT students include: Exercise Science, Nutrition Sciences, Health, and Psychology. Majors such as Biology or Biochemistry, while suitable, do not often inherently include the specific courses that a pre-OT student will need for admission into many programs in their degree plan.

The basic course requirements for OT school are as follows:

  • Anatomy & Physiology: BIOL 1334/1134 and BIOL 1344/1144 (*BIOL 2301/2101 and BIOL 2302/2102)
  • Kinesiology: KIN 1532, or KIN 3309 if Biomechanics is required
  • Physics: PHYS 1301/1101
  • Lifespan/Human Development: PSYC 2307 or PSYC 2308 or HDFS 2317 (may need to clarify what is required with intended OTD programs)
  • Medical Terminology: HLT 3323
  • Statistics: MATH 2311 (*MATH 1342) or MATH 3339 or PSYC 3301 (*PSYC 2317)
  • Social Sciences: PSYC 1300 (*PSYC 2301) or SOCI 1300 (*SOCI 1301) or other courses
  • Abnormal Psychology: PSYC 4321
  • Neuroscience/Physiological Psychology (for UTMB): BIOL 4315 or PSYC 3341 or PSYC 4341

*Updated course names/numbers effective Fall 2021

While most OT programs will require the above pre-requisite courses, it is up to you to visit the individual schools’ admission office’s webpage to confirm their specific admissions requirements and policies.

OT programs via the OTCAS application compute several different GPAs for each applicant:

  • Undergraduate Cumulative: GPA includes postbaccalaureate undergraduate courses. 
  • Graduate Cumulative: GPA includes graduate courses only. 
  • Each Institution Attended: GPA may differ from the college or university transcript due to grade standardization process. 
  • Science:  GPA includes anatomy and physiology, biology, chemistry, and physics courses. 
  • Combined Science and Math: GPA includes all courses in the science GPA, plus math.
  • Course Subject: Separate GPA for every OTCAS course subject:
    • Humanities
    • Mathematics
    • Natural Sciences
    • Other Science
    • Social Sciences

Yes, to a certain extent, you may complete pre-requisite courses outside of the University of Houston. However, our general advice is that if you are enrolled at the University of Houston, you should only take courses that fulfill prerequisites for your professional school application at the University of Houston. Taking 1-2 courses in the Summer outside of UH is not a big deal, but avoid making it a regular occurrence, as it can give them impression your actively avoiding taking difficult classes at your home institution.

That said, if you are a transfer student bringing in credits from another institution, then you do not need to retake prerequisites for your professional school application. That includes transfer students who are transferring from community college as well as four-year institutions. The quality of your education will be tested in the coursework that you take once you enroll at the University of Houston.

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is the standardized exam that OT school admissions use to measure an applicant's readiness for their program. 

The GRE is offered monthly via University Testing Services. You should plan to take the GRE in your junior or senior year depending on when you plan to apply. Most applicants take the GRE between January-May as they head into the application cycle.

The GRE consists of three sections:

  • Quantitative
  • Verbal
  • Essay
You should not plan to take the GRE more than 1-2 times.

There are no hard and fast rules for gaining admission into OT school. That said, a competitive applicant has:

  • Strong GPA (>3.5)
  • Strong GRE (>305 combined)
  • Pattern of taking challenging coursework and credit-load (>12/semester)
  • Extra-curricular involvement (leadership in student organizations, research, employment, etc.)
  • Significant experience or exposure in occupational therapy settings (shadowing and/or employment)

The key is to perform well in your science classes, do well on the GRE, and immerse yourself within various healthcare settings, including shadowing OTs, PTs, and physicians.  It also important that you follow your interests as well, even if they are not directly related to healthcare. Sports, literature, film, music, acting, dancing, hobbies, and any sort of competition all fall in this category. Admissions committees value applicants that well-rounded and have interests outside of medicine. 

As in any career choice, applicants should confirm their decision to become an Occupational Therapist through personal experience. Such experience ranges from shadowing an Occupational Therapist, working in a clinic or hospital alongside other healthcare professionals.

OT programs require that applicants have experience observing or shadowing occupational therapists in action. Shadowing requirements for admissions can vary in a few aspects between schools including hours required, number of environments, and types of environments. While most programs require 40-60 hours minimum, more is recommended. It is common for programs to suggest that students complete their shadowing in at least two different environments – inpatient and outpatient. Variety in shadowing is always helpful but is also important to try to get a well-rounded experience in each environment since shadowing is regularly discussed during admissions interviews. Documentation of experience is required.

Keep track of all experience (date, location, description) because some schools will request a log of your experience and employment when you apply. Further, many schools  require a letter of evaluation from an Occupational Therapist with whom you have interacted.

Extracurricular activities, such as club affiliations and volunteering, are an important part of the OT application. OT programs are looking for students who not only demonstrate that they can manage rigorous courses while staying busy, but also those who are compassionate, enjoy working with people and are dedicated to serving the community.

Students should keep in mind that depth of commitment and leadership experience are also considered. As a result, it is best to focus on strong engagement in few activities rather than to spread oneself too thin.

While there are many benefits to getting involved in undergraduate research, it is not required for admission into most OT programs. Therefore, if a student were not interested in research, they would be better served dedicating that time to other activities such as volunteering or shadowing. Students interested in research should plan to dedicate at least a year to a specific project or research lab.

Most OT schools utilize the OTCAS application. All OT programs in Texas currently use the OTCAS application service. Non-participating OT schools will use their own individual application. 

The OTCAS application usually opens in July 1 each application cycle, however, OT programs differ in terms of their individual application deadlines. Most deadlines in TX are in the Fall for a Summer start.

Importantly, do not begin entering any information into the OTCAS application system until it opens for the admissions cycle in which you plan to apply.

You should apply to multiple OT schools. Further, it is important that you research the requirements and mission of each school to which you hope to apply.

Occupational Therapy Application Timeline

January - April
March - May
  • Prepare for and take GRE no later than May
June

Review OTCAS application instruction manual

Gather and compile any remaining materials in preparation for July application submission

Confirm preparation of all LORs for July submission to OTCAS evaluator portal

July

Primary application (OTCAS) opens in mid-July

Submit primary application, transcripts and all letters of recommendation

Utilize Campus Mock Interviewing Practice Resources
August

Complete secondary applications within two weeks of receiving them

Utilize Campus Mock Interviewing Practice Resources

September

Interviews begin

Complete secondary applications within two weeks of receiving them

Fall

Interviews continue until spring

Complete OTCAS Academic Update upon completion of Fall Semester

Spring

Complete OTCAS Academic Update by February if not previously completed

Submit any additional updates or requested information to individual schools

Make final choice of school

Yes, OT schools will require applicants to submit 3 individual Letters of Evaluation as a part of their application.

These letters should typically consist of:

  • One letter from licensed OT practicing in the US
  • One letter from a science faculty member
  • One additional letter from another healthcare professional, faculty member, or teaching assistant, advisor, employer, or supervisor.

Note: Always waive your right to view your letters of evaluation.

Yes, although most applicants focus mainly on GPA and GRE scores, the personal statement is a very important component of your application and should be carefully written. This is your opportunity to highlight things about you that are not mentioned in other sections of your application and to distinguish yourself from other applicants.

The OTCAS essay is limited to 1-page, 4500 characters.

The following essay question is required for the OTCAS application:

Explain why you selected occupational therapy as a career and how an Occupational Therapy degree relates to your immediate and long-term professional goals. Describe how your personal, educational, and professional background will help you achieve your goals.

Coming soon. Check back to see how Coogs do when they apply to OT school.