Sunday, March 29, 2015

Your OTCAS Questions Answered!

Hey everyone!

As you know, I've been working hard on applying to MSOT programs for Occupational Therapy. This post will be an informative Q&A for other students who are on the same track as me currently or in the future. I ran across some ambiguities so I can clarify them all now!

Before I start writing, I just want to express how extensive this application is. Do not plan on doing it in one session. Start at least a month in advance so that you can work on it in chunks from time to time--especially if you are in school or working. You need to type in your entire academic transcript one class and grade at a time from every school you have attended. It is tedious and time consuming so be warned. Don't procrastinate!

1. OTCAS requires a cover letter that you can print through your account to be sent with every school transcript you send out to them. You must order your transcript in person and ask for your form to be included in the envelope or email a scanned form to your transcript office if they allow it. 
This allows OTCAS to organize and file your transcript faster. 

P.S. I sent one without a cover letter accidentally and then a second one with a cover letter. Both arrived to OTCAS but that doesn't mean it will necessarily happen to you. Please check your transcript status! It will say received once it is processed on their end.

2. Your personal statement should be "limited to 1 page (approximately 7,500 characters)".
This is ambiguous because 1 page on word is about 2,000 characters but 4 pages on Microsoft Word is about 6,500 characters. So what do they want? One page or under 7,500 characters?

I believe that they offered 7,500 characters for a reason but it doesn't mean you need to "over write" an essay. I emailed them about it when I was writing and they gave me the same answer saying it was more of a guideline. Just make sure that you answer their questions in a unique and personalized way. One page in my opinion is a tad short to answer it all thoroughly but I'm not saying it's impossible. I used about 6,000 words because that's how long it took to develop my essay.

3. You are required to write in the amount of hours you spent in your extracurricular and shadowing activities. Sometimes, the estimated hours makes no sense to fill in but you are asked to estimate as best as possible. For example, I have childcare experience from the past 6 years but no hourly count on it. I estimated it by how often I usually work and multiplied that by my average work shift. Then, I multiplied this number by the number of years I was working to get an estimate. 

4. Most programs will have a supplementary application for you to complete alongside the OTCAS application. From my experience, they are not very long and just require some general information on you along with a supplemental fee. Some programs will not ask of anything from you but the OTCAS application.

5. Make sure you send transcripts to the school directly if they request them. Even though they will receive it through OTCAS, most of the programs wanted me to send them transcripts from every school I attended directly to them. Make a little excel spreadsheet or write down when and where you sent out what to in order to keep things organized! If you like handwritten notes like me, I got a accordion style folder and made tabs for every school I was pursuing. I had a sheet with all important passwords, confirmation numbers, and checklists of things I completed and needed to get done.

6. Most students are taking prerequisite classes while applying or waiting on grades during the application cycle. OTCAS will offer a one time academic update in order for you to update any new grades into the designated section. This means that you can include the classes you are currently taking but not done with in the transcript section and apply to your school of choice. Later on, the OTCAS update will forward all new grades you enter to the programs you submitted to already. just make sure you send out separate transcripts to the schools if they requested it as well one your final grades are in.

7. OTCAS has steps towards verifying your application, Do not submit it a week before it's due because it's stated on their site that it can take up to 3 weeks to process and verify your application. The sooner, the better! :)

8. Regularly check in on your application (weekly or even bi-weekly) on verification after completion and to see if they are receiving your transcripts. This way, you will be on top of everything. 

Hope these tips help! Good luck and remember that your best is good enough!

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