Application Process & Timeline for Occupational Therapy

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Candidacy Assessment

Your preparation for application to Occupational Therapy programs should always begin with assessment of your individual candidacy. Use the Pre-Health Pillars Candidacy Assessment as a guide to self-assess and plan to speak with a Pre-Health Advisor about your progress.


Pre-Health Pillars Candidacy Assessment 


OTCAS: Occupational Therapy Centralized Application Service

This application opens each year in mid-July. You should specifically review deadlines for programs of interest carefully. However, despite program deadlines you are strongly advised to apply as early as possible due to the application processing delay and rolling admission cycle.

Graduate Record Exam

The exam consists of three sections:

1. Verbal Reasoning
2. Quantitative Reasoning
3. Analytical Writing

Test Preparation Resources

There are many types of test preparation resources that vary in cost and approach. Pre-Health Advisors do not endorse any of the providers below, but are happy to speak with you about how you might identify the style of preparation that best fits your needs.

Source Cost Level
Educational Testing Service (ETS) Free - Low
Khan Academy Free
Magoosh Low
McGraw-Hill Education Low
Clayborne Education Low - High
Princeton Review Low - High
Manhattan Prep Mid - High
NextStep Test Prep Free - High

Kaplan Test Prep

Free - High

Selecting Schools

It is essential to select schools that are not only a good fit for you academically, but also a good fit for your values, skills, interest, and that will help you become the professional you want to be. Take time to research programs prior to the application process. Here are some factors you should consider:

  • Admission requirements: coursework and clinical experiences
  • Institution's mission, goals, curriculum, grading system
  • Size of cohort/class
  • Location. Where do you want to live? Where will you have a support network in place? What is the cost of tuition and cost of living?
  • Where will you complete your fieldwork? What type of patient population will you serve (i.e. urban, rural)? Will this provide the experiences you hope to gain?
  • Does the school's mission and training focus align with your professional interests?

Recommended Length of School list: 5-7


Guidelines for Making a School List 
AOTA Find a School

Letters of Recommendation (LORs)

You must submit at least 3 and no more than 5 recommendations within the OTCAS application. Letters must be sent electronically through the OTCAS evaluator portal. 

You should determine any specific LOR requirements from programs of choice. However, letters are most commonly submitted by:

  • Faculty
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Employment or Volunteer Supervisors
  • Healthcare Professionals
  • Academic Advisors


Guidelines for Letters of Recommendation

Personal Statement

Your personal statement is a distinctive aspect of your application. It begins with reflection. Consider the following questions to begin:

  • Why do you want to become a occupational therapist? Why is this the profession you have chosen instead of another?
  • Think back to your experiences volunteering, shadowing, researching, studying abroad. Can you provide a specific story that deeply impacted you and your decision to become an occupational therapist?
  • What do you want the committee to know about you as a person or future colleague? What makes you a good fit for the profession?

Make sure to determine if you are applying to schools with specific character limits. OTCAS suggests considering the following topics:

  • How does the OT degree relate to your immediate and long term professional goals? 
  • How will your personal, educational, and professional background help you achieve your goals?



Request official transcripts from all institutions attended. Make sure to carefully follow OTCAS instructions for specific details on transcript submission to the application service or to individual programs. 


UVA Registrar's Office

Interview Preparation

Pre-health mock interviewing is available to students and alumni preparing for or currently in the health professions application cycle. Interviews are one hour and include a feedback session aimed at increasing your readiness and confidence before an actual admissions interview. To schedule a mock interview complete the following steps.

  1. Schedule Your Mock Interview With an Advisor: Contact the UVA Career Center at 434-924-8900 and indicate you are requesting a Pre-Health Mock Interview or schedule online through your Handshake account.

  2. Come to the Career Center to be Interviewed: Please dress as if this were a real interview. By doing so, you can become comfortable with an interview situation dressed in professional attire. The Pre-Health Advisor will provide feedback as to appropriate interview attire. If you do not have interview attire at this time, please dress in the most appropriate outfit you have available.


Interviewing for Health Professions Admissions 

Application Timeline

The entire application process lasts approximately 12-14 months, which spans a full academic year. Whether you plan to apply immediately after your 3rd year, 4th year, or after graduation, this timeline begins with preparation in the fall prior to application submission in mid-late July.

  • Have your resume reviewed by a Career Counselor to use when requesting Letters of Recommendation (LORs)
  • Attend all relevant application process meetings and workshops in preparation for July submission of your application
  • Begin drafting personal statement
  • Begin requesting LORs from faculty, occupational therapists, other letter writers
  • Attend all relevant application process meetings and workshops if not attended in October
  • Continue revising your Personal Statement Draft
  • Submit Interview Stream for Mock Interview Appointment
  • Finalize your Personal Statement
  • Consider Mock Interviewing if not previously completed 
  • Participate in Mock Interview if not previously completed
  • Take GRE no later than May
  • Confirm preparation of all LORs for July submission to OTCAS evaluator portal
  • Review OTCAS application instruction manual
  • Gather and compile any remaining materials in preparation for July application submission
  • Primary application (OTCAS) opens in mid-July
  • Submit primary application, transcripts, and all LORs
  • Utilize InterviewStream and Mock Interviewing
  • Complete secondary applications within two weeks of receiving them
  • Utilize InterviewStream and Mock Interviewing
  • Interviews begin
  • Complete secondary applications within two weeks of receiving them
  • Interviews continue until spring
  • Complete OTCAS Academic Update upon completion of Fall Semester
  • Complete OTCAS Academic Update by February if not previously completed
  • Submit any additional updates or requested information to individual schools
  • Make final choice of school

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