Hey readers! Lots of my followers are about to embark on their OT school journeys, so I thought that this would be a fitting post as we head into the fall. First of all, congratulations! You have chosen an amazing profession and you should be so proud of getting into OT school. Whether you are about to begin a doctoral program, masters program, or a 5-year bachelors to masters program, hopefully this post will be helpful. Here are my tips for preparing for your first day of OT school:
Get an agenda
This is the most helpful thing for me in OT school. I like to write out all of my assignments and readings in my agenda – due dates, readings, exams, presentations, etc. As soon as the syllabi come out for the semester, I put everything into my agenda. This helps keep me on track and keep up with the reading. Another option is to print out your syllabi and keep them on your desk or in a place where you will see them all the time. You can then cross off items on your syllabi as you finish them.
What to wear & bring
For your first day, unless otherwise specified, I would wear something nice. Not too casual, not too dressy. Some schools require business casual every day, but mine does not. Most of the time, I wear gym clothes to class! For your first day of orientation or class, however, I would say to wear a professional dress/skirt, or pants with a dressy top. It’s better to dress too professionally on your first day and get more casual as the days go on than to show up too casual on your first day. In terms of what to bring, I would pack a bag or backpack with whatever supplies you need for school (folders/notebooks, agenda, laptop, any forms that they require you to bring if applicable), a reusable water bottle, lunch if not provided during orientation, and a few snacks. Orientation is usually pretty long, so you want to have snacks and water available!
Find a study space or a study buddy
I don’t like studying with other people often, but I definitely do like to have a go-to study spot. Before class starts, check out study areas on your campus or in your city and figure out what a good environment is for you. I like going to my local library or coffee shop if I need to get out of my house (too many distractions!). Other great options are your school’s library and study rooms. And if you like studying with others, this is a great way to make friends in your cohort!
Write or draw it out
Along with finding the right study environment comes finding the right way to study. I find that the best way for me to study for a big exam or competency is to re-write my notes using color (I love colored pens and highlighters), drawing out diagrams or body parts (hello, clinical anatomy), or doing hands-on practice with a classmate before a practical or simulation. Find what works for you!
Step out of your comfort zone
Your focus will definitely be school while you are in your OT program, but don’t forget to check out your campus’ clubs and extracurricular activities, as well. I joined the Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA) and Best Buddies right away when I started OT school, and now I am the SOTA president. Joining clubs is a great way to meet people from other disciplines (i.e. our future coworkers!) and to be part of organizations that you are passionate about. These are also great leisure and social occupations, as well as resume builders!
If you are balancing school, a part-time job, friends, leisure, exercise, commuting, and other responsibilities like I am, time blocking may become your best friend. I find it really helpful to block off time for certain activities (e.g. studying). This helps me find time in my schedule for things that I want to do rather than have to do. Limit distractions, put your phone away, and get your work done. Then, you will have time for leisure!
Find a hobby
Future OT students – you will learn about occupational balance soon. It’s really important for us to practice what we preach! Find hobbies that you enjoy, especially if you just moved to a new city for OT school. For me, this looks like exercise, reading, walking my dogs, blogging, and getting together with friends or my significant other. Make time for the things that are important to you, and you will be able to give more to your schoolwork in return.
Breathe & have fun!
Last but not least, take a deep breath and have fun! OT school is hard, but it is so rewarding. I love my classes, my school, my cohort, and my instructors. Even on tough days, try to remember why you want to be an OT and how going through OT school will be worth it in the long run. It will fly by, so enjoy the ride!
Thanks for reading, and good luck on your first day!