Tips for Incoming OTD Students

Hey readers! This blog post is intended for incoming OT students, specifically at MGH Institute of Health Professions. But, some of these tips may also apply to you if you are moving to Boston for school in general! I am going to answer a few questions that I personally had going into OT school, as well as some frequently asked questions that you guys asked me. I hope this helps you to prepare for the move (if you are moving) and the transition to OT school! If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out on Instagram or right here on this post!

Before we get into the FAQs…CONGRATULATIONS! Getting into OT school is no small feat. You should be so proud of making it this far! The first semester will be tough, I’m not going to lie, but you WILL get through it. Anatomy is…a lot…to say the least. More on that later. I will be posting an Anatomy Survival Guide soon, so stay posted! For now, let’s get into the FAQs about moving to Boston and what to expect in your first semester of OT school.

Moving to Boston

FAQ: Where do most students at the IHP live?

Most students at the IHP who live in Boston live in the North End, Charlestown or East Boston. Students also live in Somerville and Cambridge, however, the commute is a bit longer/not as accessible from there. Others live further outside of the city. (Including myself – I grew up in MA, so I commute from home. For this reason, I asked my classmates some of your questions in order to give you the most accurate answers I could!)

FAQ: What is the commute like?

The commute varies based on where you live. Unfortunately, there is no T stop that is right near the IHP. Here is a quick breakdown of what your commute may be like:

  • If you live in the North End: your best option is to walk (about 20 minutes) or take the shuttle from North Station to the IHP.
  • If you live in Charlestown: your only option is to walk or bike.
  • If you live in East Boston: your best option is taking the blue line train to the Aquarium stop, then taking the ferry from Long Wharf to Charlestown. The ferry runs all day (in all weather) and is a quick 8-10 minute ride that drops us off right in front of our school!
  • From Cambridge or Somerville: you will probably end up Ubering a lot, however, I believe the orange line goes to Somerville (there isn’t a stop directly near the IHP though), or you may bike if you are close enough.
  • From South Station: myself and a few other students take the commuter rail into South Station. From there, we walk about 15 minutes to the ferry from Long Wharf to Charlestown. The IHP does have discounted commuter rail passes, however, you have to buy an unlimited pass for the semester to get the discount. I did it in the fall, but this spring I am not taking the train often enough to need an unlimited pass.
  • If you drive: There are two garages you can use at school. There is the Building 199 garage, which offers a discounted parking pass for IHP students (great deal!), and there is the Nautica garage, which does not offer a discount but is closer to the far side of campus. Usually, the Building 199 garage is closer to where our OT classes are, but we do have a few classes on the other side of campus and in the winter our small campus feels like a very long walk!

FAQ: Car vs. Public Transportation?

If you live in the city, a car is not necessary. You may want one if you work far away or have a personal necessity. Unfortunately, having a car in Boston can be pricey. This is totally a personal preference! In my experience, public transportation is reliable and allows you to get wherever you need to go in Boston.

FAQ: When should I start looking for an apartment?

Late April-early May is probably best for a June 1st move-in. This is dependent on when you want to move, though! Some students also decided to sub-let for the summer and then find an apartment in September. This worked for some students who were unable to travel to Boston to search for an apartment ahead of time, and because more apartments open up in September.

FAQ: How long does it take to find an apartment?

2-6 weeks depending on where/when you are looking and how picky you are!

FAQ: How do I find a roommate?

FAQ: Best things about living in Boston?

Consensus from my classmates:

  • The ability to use public transportation or walk everywhere.
  • Lots of fun things to do! (Some of my suggestions: Check out the Lawn on D, Fenway Park, Newbury Street, take a swan boat ride at the Public Garden, go to the Museum of Fine Arts, and check out all of the history here! The Freedom Trail goes right by our school!)
  • FOOD! The North End is home to tons of amazing Italian restaurants. (You NEED to try a cannoli from Mike’s Pastry!)
  • The sports teams (Go Pats!)

What to Expect in Your First Semester

FAQ: Is it hard?

Yes, but it is doable. Hey, I made it through! I suggest time-blocking (or whatever form of scheduling your time that works for you) to ensure that you have plenty of time to study and do homework. This is especially important for Anatomy, which took most of my time last summer.

FAQ: Can I have a part-time job while in school?

Yes! Many of my classmates have a part-time job (or a few…I myself have three…). Our schedule is set up so that you have time for fieldwork, and you typically do not have class every day of the week or on weekends. You can use these times (except for designated fieldwork days) to have a part-time job. It is so important though to know yourself and what you can handle. I work about 10-15 hours a week, which is the amount of time that I can manage. When I was previously working closer to 20 hours a week I was really stressed and felt like my social life, self-care, and time designated for studying was lacking.

Side note: Make sure you have enough time for YOU. I can’t stress this enough. Make sure that you are happy and taken care of before you add more responsibilities to your plate.

FAQ: Are there any clubs or organizations that I can join?

Absolutely! The IHP has tons of clubs that you can get involved in. I am part of SOTA (the Student Occupational Therapy Association) and Best Buddies. You can see a list of clubs and organizations here.

FAQ: What classes will I be taking?

During your first semester, you will be taking two classes: Clinical Anatomy and Foundations of Occupational Therapy Practice. Just taking two classes over that first summer is very manageable and allows you to get a feel for what grad school is like instead of getting thrown right into a full-time course load.

You can see all of the classes that you will take throughout your career at the IHP, as well as any other information here.

FAQ: Should I buy or rent my books?

For your first semester, you should definitely buy the Willard & Spackman book, which will be referred to over and over again throughout OT school. It is really the foundation behind OT practice and is really important for all OT students to read! I personally did not get the anatomy books, however, I know that a lot of people did and found them really useful. The atlas was probably the most helpful!

FAQ: What is the fieldwork process like?

You don’t need to worry about this for a while. For all Level I fieldwork placements, you will be placed somewhere that relates to the OT practice class that you are taking that semester. For example, this semester I am taking the OT in Mental Health practice class, so my fieldwork is related to mental health (including a day in inpatient psych!). You will find out where you have been placed during the first week or two of the semester. (You do not have fieldwork during the first summer.)

As for Level II fieldwork, you will get more information about this from the fieldwork office probably during the fall. During your first spring semester, you will let them know what your “preferences” are for fieldwork, and they will do their best to meet your preferences. You can do Level II fieldwork in Boston, back home where you are from, or anywhere else in the U.S.! They recommend going to two types of settings for Level II fieldwork. So, even though I want to be in pediatrics, I will request one placement in ped’s and one in another setting. More on this later when I go through this process myself!

FAQ: What exactly is the ADE?

You also don’t need to worry about this for a while. ADE stands for Advanced Doctoral Experience. I still don’t have much information on it and I am in my third semester! From what I know so far, I believe that during research class in your second fall semester, you will formulate a research question and be paired with a faculty mentor and a site. As I go through this process, I’m sure that I will update the blog! You can read about what the class of 2018 did for their ADE projects here!

As always, please feel free to reach out if you still have questions! Good luck in your first semester and stay tuned for that Anatomy Survival Guide! I can’t wait to see you all around campus 🙂

Thanks for reading!


4 thoughts on “Tips for Incoming OTD Students

  1. Hey Allison, this was super helpful. I currently live in Charlestown but will probably be back in the Northshore area for the start of school. I have a quick question, was orientation for new students in person or taken online? How close to the start of the semester was orientation?
    Thanks in advance

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your question! You will get an orientation schedule as well as your schedule for the summer semester soon! Unfortunately I cannot remember exactly when, but I think I started on June 1st…somewhere around then. You will have one week of orientation in person (pretty much 8am-4pm every day) before the start of classes! 🙂 I hope this helps!


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