11 Lessons from OT School

Welp, I am officially done with OT school. Graduated and everything! In the past few months I’ve been reflecting on my two years of learning. OT school was hard – like really hard. But I not only learned a ton about OT, I learned a lot about myself. So here are the 11 lessons I learned in OT school!

1. Make time for rest.

Making time for rest is incredibly important, not only in grad school, but life in general. Rest is so important that if you don’t prioritize time to relax and take a break from work, your body will decide that for you, and you won’t get to choose when that happens.

Despite believing I had total control of my life and had mastered my work-life balance, I was sick so many times in 2019, it was like God telling me over and over to REST! I started the year off with a double ear infection + bronchitis, immediately following the completion of that round of antibiotics, I got pneumonia, I had strep throat, the common cold, and even found out I was allergic to Annie’s white cheddar mac and cheese and had to miss baby day in my peds class while I got an epi shot at urgent care. I am not the kind of person to take breaks, at least while in OT school. I thought it was okay because I never got tired of learning, and the work is never ending anyway. But it turns out my body and subconscious did need those breaks! So learn from my mistakes- schedule in time for rest.

2. Having a social life is a necessity!

While I’m all about spending time by myself, there’s just something different about spending quality time with friends or classmates. People that you can vent to, explore the town with, try new restaurants with. Incorporating a social life into your time in grad school will help prevent burnout and keep you motivated during those long study sessions and exam weeks. And who knows, maybe you’ll meet some of your best friends while in OT school!

3. You know more than you think you do.

This is something I’ve been telling myself and others since my second semester of OT school. So often we doubt ourselves and our abilities. Now that I’ve gone through both of my level 2 fieldworks and provided skilled therapy to countless children and adults (all while using the OT knowledge I learned in school) I feel confident in saying that I know more than I think I do.

Don’t get me wrong, imposter syndrome is a real dang thing, but it’s completely normal to feel that way! We are forever students, learning and growing with the profession. We may not know absolutely everything there is to know, but after 4 years of undergrad and 2 years of grad school, we sure as heck know something.

4. Adaptability is an OT’s best friend.

Having the skill of adaptability is incredibly important as an OT (and probably as a human being as well tbh). I felt like I was constantly being tested in school as our instructors would change dates or times at the last minute, and even moreso during fieldwork when parents would cancel sessions last minute, a treatment session didn’t go as planned, or I had to work with minimal equipment. OTs are naturally creative, this will help you cope with ever changing environments, people and situations, and you’ll learn to never be surprised.

5. Be assertive with your learning.

The only way to ensure you are receiving a good education is by being assertive with your learning. In grad school, no one is going to baby you or ask if you need extra help, these are things that you need to recognize for yourself and seek out services or more learning opportunities to make sure you are understanding concepts. Take advantage of the services your school provides, like tutoring or open-lab hours. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or go to your professors’ office hours. If one of your professors specializes in an area that you are interested in, get to know them, ask them about more opportunities to get involved in that specialty or about mentorship.

Bottom line, you are responsible for your quality of education. Take advantage of the little time you have in school and use all of the resources you have wisely!

6. Invest in what is important to you.

Whether it’s time or money, invest in what is important to you! During grad school your free time is very limited (and your financial resources are pretty limited too), don’t spend your free time doing things that don’t matter to you or won’t help you out in the long run. Is there a specialty area you’re interested in? Try volunteering! I volunteered all the time during grad school and gained so much experience that I otherwise wouldn’t have gotten if I spent my free time sitting around or doing extra studying. Can’t decide whether to rent, buy, or borrow textbooks? Choose to buy the textbooks you feel will be most helpful to you years from now, trust me you won’t need to own all of the textbooks they recommend. Rent the books that class requires of you but you don’t see yourself opening again, and borrow textbooks that are rarely used. I purchased only the textbooks that pertained to topics I am interested in (pediatrics, spinal cord injury and a few of the general OT books) and rented or borrowed all of my other textbooks.

7. How to work in groups.

Nothing like OT school to teach you how to work in groups, especially a lot of different groups at the same time. I think I had like 18 group chats in my GroupMe at one time for different projects and assignments… This is a skill that will go a long way once we are working in the field though! The medical field is all about interprofessional collaboration and working with others for the benefit of the client. Having the skills to work well with others, demonstrate leadership skills and the ability to compromise are all important in the real world. Embrace the group projects, even if it’s super annoying!!

8. Comparison is the thief of joy.

This goes for any aspect of life, not just OT school. I often found myself comparing grades, comparing my relationship with professors, and comparing how organized I was for class, and I always felt like I was falling short. But the reality is, you’ll never be perfect, you’ll never get the perfect grades, and you have no idea what your classmates are going through behind the scenes! Make mistakes, figure out what strategies and organizational methods work for you, and most importantly, don’t compare yourself to others. Embrace all that comes with OT school and work your butt off!

9. Organization and discipline are key!

One of the most important skills I learned in grad school was how to be organized and discipline myself when it came to studying and preparing for classes and exams. This is a skill I didn’t have in undergrad and my grades suffered for it. I really devoted a lot of my time and effort to staying on top of tasks and assignments, and keeping myself accountable for studying and avoiding procrastinating. No one else is going to hold you accountable for your success, so make sure that you create a firm plan and figure out methods that work for you to ensure that you don’t fall behind!

10. You are more than a student.

When you’re spending hours upon hours studying, day in and day out, you tend to forget that you are more than a student. Being a student can be exhausting if I’m being honest, your biggest priority is retaining all of the information you’re learning in all of your classes, and it’s easy to forget that there is life beyond school. But remember, you bring so much value to the world, through your friendships and relationships, through your passions and hopes. Don’t forget that.

11. Passion will carry you through almost anything.

On my most stressful days, when I was still at school by 9pm, studying and feeling like I was going nowhere even though I had an exam in the morning, all I had to do was remember why I started OT school to keep me going. Your passion for the profession will be your motivation. Always remember your ‘why’. Write it down, post it everywhere, talk to your classmates about why they chose OT. Keeping your ‘why’ in mind will make all of the long days, group projects, and stressful moments worth it.


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