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Students working in a low-income clinic

Pre-Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapists plan, organize and administer therapeutic treatment to patients suffering from injuries or diseases.

Interested in a career in occupational therapy?

At the School of Science at IUPUI, students seeking professional careers in occupational therapy are exposed to opportunities that no other school in the state of Indiana can offer.

Through comprehensive coursework, hands-on experience in the classroom and labs, one-on-one guidance from professors, and research, internship and leadership opportunities in the School, five surrounding hospitals, and the IU School of Medicine, graduates of the School of Science are well prepared for occupational therapy school and beyond!

See all Pre-Professional Pathways

What will you learn?

Physical and occupational therapy schools do not usually require students to complete specific majors during their undergraduate years of schooling. However, there are specific prerequisites that should be completed in order to be admitted into a professional school and many benefits to selecting a biology, psychology, or physics major as you pursue success in the physical and occupational therapy fields, including: 

  • Pre-requisites for most professional programs often favor and lean heavily toward science majors. 
  • Often times, PT and OT schools look for students who have already completed an ample amount of job-shadowing in their respective fields. The School of Science at IUPUI provides students with the guidance, teaching and resources necessary to fulfill these requirements. By studying science at IUPUI, students have opportunities to work, learn and participate in research in the School of Science, IU Med School, and five leading hospitals surrounding IUPUI's campus. 
  • Many science undergraduate degrees are marketable to future employers even if the student chooses not to pursue professional schooling.

What will you do?

Occupational therapists are allied health professionals who are dedicated to the rehabilitation of individuals with mental, physical, emotional or developmental disabilities or handicaps. Occupational Therapists plan, organize and administer therapeutic treatment to patients suffering from injuries or diseases.

Prepare for an Occupational Therapy Program

The School of Science office for Pre-Professional & Career Preparation (PREPs) will support you throughout the process of preparing for an occupational therapy program. From advising you on pre-requisite courses and professional development activities to helping you through the application process, PREPs can assist you in every step.

Admission to an occupational therapy program is very competitive. You need to plan thoroughly from the start to be successful. The links below include detailed information on everything from the courses to the application process. If you are an IUPUI School of Science student, we strongly encourage you to make an appointment to meet with a pre-professional advisor.

Schedule an advising appointment


Admission to the OT graduate program requires successful completion of a baccalaureate degree, prerequisite courses (which can be worked into most undergraduate degrees), and other admission criteria.

You may choose any undergraduate major as long as you also complete the OT prerequisite courses. In any given year, the IU OT program accepts applicants from fifteen or twenty different degrees and majors.

The master's program itself, and the professional coursework, takes two full years to complete, including Summer sessions (starting second Summer session during the first year of your professional coursework), and incorporates fieldwork assignments at affiliated centers located in Indiana and other states.

IU OT admission information

NOTE that other OT programs will have different requirements and enforce different policies. It is recommended that you research other programs in order to plan your prerequisites and other admission requirements, and the timing of your courses and the application itself.


  • Introductory Psychology PSY - B110
  • Psychology - Life Span Development PSY B-310
  • Abnormal Psychology-PSY B380 
  • Introductory Sociology SOC R-100 or Introductory Cultural Anthropology ANTH A-104
  • Statistics - STATS 30100, SPEA K-300, SOC R-359, PSY B-305, ECON E-270
  • Anatomy w/lab - BIOL N-261
  • Physiology w/lab - BIOL N-217
  • Physics w/lab - PHYS-P201 or PHYS 21800 * must be up to MATH 15400- Algebra and Trigonometry level
  • Medical Terminology - HIA-M330, CLAS C-209, or RADI R-108

Each OT program has its own set of prerequisites! Most OT programs require a minimum grade of at least "C" in all prerequisites ("C-" not acceptable).

Download a Pre-OT Timeline to help you stay on track for occupational therapy school!

Become a Science student

Entrance Exams

Graduate Record Exam (GRE) - Revised Test

While the IU occupational therapy program does not require the GRE as part of the application process, many OT programs do require that you take the GRE revised General Test.

Gaining Relevant Experience

Clinical Observation (Job Shadowing)

IU pre-occupational therapy clinical observation requirement

Prior to submitting your application, the IU OT program requires that you complete at least 40 hours total of observation and/or volunteering with either an OT or OT Assistant, in at least 3 different OT practice settings (e.g., acute care hospital, outpatient clinic, mental health center, school system). Doing so will enable you to appreciate how a OT's responsibilities differ from one kind of setting to another.

The IU OT program requires validation for each observation. You may obtain a form to document your observation at the School of Health and Rehabilitative Sciences.  


Research, Internship, and Leadership Opportunities

One of the biggest benefits to studying science at IUPUI is the accessibility of our world-class professors, and the ability to participate in research and internships.

The School of Science at IUPUI offers various programs for students to become involved with both research and other leadership opportunities throughout their undergraduate experience.

One of those programs is the Life Health Sciences Internship. This one-year program provides students the opportunity to participate in both clinical and scientific research opportunities throughout IUPUI's campus and the surrounding hospitals and labs.

  • Internship Opportunities 
  • Research Opportunities
  • Involvement Opportunities
  • SCI-I-390: Health Professions Shadowing course is a 0 or 1 credit hour Satisfactory/Fail class that exposes students to the healthcare field through shadowing and being mentored by a healthcare professionals. Students gain hands on experience, basic knowledge and insights into the career of healthcare professionals.

Application Process

Letters of Recommendation

While the IU OT admission process does not require letters of recommendation, many programs do require that you submit two or three letters. Click the link above for important tips and information.

Personal Statement / Essay

Many OT programs require a personal essay, however the IU program does not.

Admission Interviews

As part of the admission process, many OT programs, including IU's, will invite a select portion of their applicants for an interview.

The IU OTD program normally interviews the top 75 applicants (based on CGPA and prerequisites).

Certification in Basic Life Support (BLS) for Health Care Providers

Prior to beginning professional coursework, many programs require that you become certified for adult, child, and infant CPR, commonly referred to as BLS certification, Health Care Provider CPR, or CPR for the Professional Rescuer. Training courses are offered for a fee through the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross.

Central Application Service for Occupational Therapists (OTCAS)

Some OT programs require that you apply for admission through the Occupational Therapy Centralized Application Service. OTCAS went live in December 2010. A good number of programs still have their own applications and do not use OTCAS, which means that many applicants will apply to both OTCAS and non-OTCAS programs.

IMPORTANT: Each program has its own individual application cycle. Program application cycles and deadlines are different from the OTCAS application cycle! The OTCAS cycle usually opens in July and closes in June of the next year.

  • If you apply to at least one OT program, then certain portions of your application will be retained even if you are not admitted, in case you decide to reapply. (We strongly urge you to apply to at least 6 or 8 programs!)
  • If you complete all or part of the OTCAS application, but then decide not to apply in that cycle, OTCAS will delete your unsubmitted application the following June, when that application cycle closes. 
  • Therefore, you may not want to invest the time in completing the OTCAS application until you are sure you will be applying in the upcoming cycle. 

For example, if you planned to apply to certain OTCAS programs, during the summer / fall 2016 application cycle, you would probably want to wait until after the new OTCAS application has opened that July. If you were to open your application instead in April or May, all your work would be deleted in June when the old cycle closes, unless you have actually submitted your completed OTCAS application. 

Occupational Therapy Program Interview Questions

If you are unsure how to answer any of these questions, check out Step 2 of our Interviewing resources for detailed tips on how to correctly answer tricky interview questions.

Questions About You

  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. What are your two best points?
  3. What are your two weakest points?
  4. What are three things you want to change about yourself?
  5. How do you handle conflict?
  6. Explain your leadership/research/volunteer experiences.
  7. What extracurricular activities are you engaged in?
  8. Which of your college courses interested you the most?
  9. What interests you outside of Occupational/Physical Therapy and getting into Occupational/Physical Therapy School?
  10. Where do you see yourself in five/ten years?
  11. What do you do in your spare time?
  12. Why did you choose the undergraduate school you went to, and if you could, would you do anything differently?
  13. What do you do to relieve stress?
  14. What course was most academically challenging for you?
  15. What life experiences have made you a better person?

Questions About Your Occupational/Physical Therapy School Goals

  1. Why do you want to be an Occupational/Physical Therapist?
  2. When did you decide Occupational/Physical Therapy was a good career choice for you? 
  3. What steps have you taken to confirm that you want to be an Occupational/Physical Therapist?
  4. What do you feel are the most important qualities in being a good Occupational/Physical Therapist?
  5. What opportunities have you had to observe an Occupational/Physical Therapist?
  6. How will you handle the stress of Occupational/Physical Therapy school?
  7. Outside of Occupational/Physical Therapy school, did you ever consider any other health profession?
  8. Why do you believe you have the ability to undertake the study and work involved in Occupational/Physical Therapy school?
  9. Explain the role of an Occupational/Physical Therapist.
  10. What did you like/dislike about the Occupational/Physical Therapy offices you have observed?
  11. What would you like to do if you are not accepted into Occupational/Physical Therapy school?
  12. What steps have you taken to acquaint yourself with the role of an Occupational/Physical Therapist?
  13. What aspects of your life experiences do you think makes you a good candidate for Occupational/Physical Therapy school?
  14. There are many specializations in Occupational/Physical Therapy, which specializations are you more interested in and why?

 Questions About Occupational/Physical Therapy Program

  1. Why do you want to attend this Occupational/Physical Therapy program?
  2. How are you a match for this Occupational/Physical Therapy program?
  3. Describe your method of learning.  How does this fit with the Occupational/Physical Therapy program?
  4. What schools did you apply to and why?
  5. What do you look for in a good Occupational/Physical Therapy program?
  6. Why do you want to go to school here?
  7. Why should this Occupational/Physical Therapy program choose you over other candidates?

Current Issue/Scenario Questions

  1. If you walked into a hospital room to work with a patient and they wanted to wait until a TV program was over, how would you handle the situation?
  2. You have a patient whose English stills needs some improvement and you do not speak their language, how do you overcome the language barrier to assist them with their needs?
  3. Provide an example of a time that you had to make an ethical decision. What was the situation and what did you do?

Personal statements

Most graduate and professional programs require a personal statement as part of the application process. The personal statement is an appropriate place to share your career goals, strengths, experiences, personality, and academic successes and obstacles.

Getting Started

Often time schools require a general, comprehensive personal statement. With the general personal statement, you are allowed maximum freedom in terms of what you write. This is the type of statement often required for medical or law school applications. However, business schools and other graduate schools often ask specific questions, and your statement should respond explicitly to the question being asked. 

Despite the type of personal statement you're asked to write, you need to think of your statement as an opportunity to show how you are unique among all the other applicants. A concise, well-written personal statement is going to carry more weight than one that is long-winded or difficult to read. The following tips will help you craft a compelling personal statement.

Get started by answering the following questions:
  • What is unique or impressive about my life story? 
  • What are my professional goals? 
  • What are my core values? 
  • What is the most compelling reason for the admission committee to be interested in me? 
  • What do I know about the field I am pursuing? 
  • What obstacles, disadvantages, or hardships have I overcome? 
  • How have I involved myself with the community? 

If you need help brainstorming ideas for your personal statement, our PREPs advisors are more than happy to help you get started.

Once you have answered the questions above, begin to fill out the following outline: 

Paragraph I

Begin this paragraph by explaining what motivates you to go to graduate or professional school. You should address some, if not all, of the following questions in your first paragraph:

  • Why do I want to go to graduate or professional school?
  • How does graduate or professional school fit with my career goals?
  • Why do I believe I am an able candidate?

Paragraphs II, III, IV

Your qualifications and participation in extracurricular activities make up the next several paragraphs. This is the body of your personal statement and should answer the following questions:

  • What activities have I participated in that are relevant to my career choice?
  • What are my academic accomplishments, skills, or interests?
  • What have I learned from these accomplishments, skills or interests?
  • What have I overcome? What challenges have I faced? 

Paragraph V

You want your final paragraph to show that you are looking towards your future. Make sure your conclusion answers to these two important questions:

  • In the next several years, how do I see myself evolving?
  • Why will professional or graduate school be an important stepping stone leading to my life's work?

Tips and Tricks

In addition to the information above, the following advice taken from Purdue's Online Writing Lab can also help you craft a captivating personal statement: 

Answer the questions that are being asked. This seems obvious, but if you are applying to several schools, you may find questions in each application that are somewhat similar. Don't be tempted to use the same statement for all applications. It's important to answer every question as specifically as possible, and if slightly different answers are needed, you need to write separate statements.

Tell a story. Create your application so that it shows and demonstrates who you are through concrete experiences, stories, and examples. One of the worst things you can do is bore the admissions committee. If your statement is fresh, lively, and different, you'll be putting yourself ahead of the pack. If you distinguish yourself through your story, you will make yourself memorable.

Be specific. Don't, for example, state that you would make an excellent doctor unless you can back it up with specific reasons. Your desire to become a lawyer, dentist, etc., should be logical and the result of concrete experience that is described in your statement. Your application should emerge as a rational conclusion to your story.

Concentrate on your opening paragraph. The lead or opening paragraph is generally the most important. It's here that you either grab the reader's attention...or lose it. This paragraph also serves as the framework for the rest of the statement.

Tell what you know. While being as specific as you can in relating what you know about the field, be sure to use the profession's jargon to convey this information. Refer to experiences (work, research, etc.), classes, conversations with people in the field, books you've read, seminars you've attended, or any other source of detailed information about the career you want and why you're suited for it.

There are certain subjects you should avoid. References to experiences or accomplishments in high school (or earlier) are generally not a good idea to mention in a personal statement for graduate or professional school, focus on something more recent. Avoid potentially controversial subjects (for example, religious or political issues). If your reader disagrees with you, your application may be unfairly scrutinized.

Do your research. If a school wants to know why you're applying to their school rather than another school, do some research to find out what sets your choice apart from other universities or programs. If the school setting would provide an important geographical or cultural change for you, this might be a factor to mention.

Pay attention to the technicality of your writing. Be meticulous. Type and proofread your essay very carefully. Many admissions officers say that good written skills and command of correct use of language are important to them as they read these statements. Express yourself clearly and concisely. Adhere to stated word limits.

Avoid cliches. A medical school applicant who says that he's good at science and wants to help other people isn't exactly expressing an original thought. Stay away from often-repeated or tired statements and stories.


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