Tips for your occupational therapy application

Applying for an occupational therapy programme is an exciting time as you are taking the first steps towards becoming a qualified occupational therapist.

The application process for university can be quite daunting, so here are a few tips to help you through the process:

Before submitting your application:

Selecting your occupational therapy programme

Take some time to consider which occupational therapy programme is right for you. Things to consider include the location of the university, the campus facilities and the learning structure of the programme. Reflect on your own learning style and research which occupational therapy programme accommodates that the most. More information will be available from the admissions team at your selected university and the programme section on their website. Attending open days are also a great opportunity to meet the teaching team and talk to current occupational therapy students at the university. Also, check to see if the occupational therapy programme is accredited by the Royal College of Occupational Therapists - this means that the programme meets the educational standards set by the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT), and that you could work abroad. All of the programmes listed in our Careers Handbook are accredited by the Royal College.

Obtaining work experience

Most universities also request that for you to be eligible to apply onto an occupational therapy programme, you need to have obtained work experience shadowing an occupational therapist in practice. Each university will request a different number of hours for shadowing, so do investigate this with your chosen university. You might consider contacting local hospitals, trusts, charities and your local council where an occupational therapist is based to obtain this experience. If possible, try to contact occupational therapists working in a variety of practice areas as this will strengthen your application, and you’ll gain a broader understanding of the role. Remember that occupational therapists will be busy, so do plan this in advance, and some organisations will not be able to offer this kind of service at all.

Completing your university application:

Now that you have selected the university you want to apply to, the next step is completing the application. When applying for an occupational therapy programme, either through UCAS or directly to the higher education institutions, you will be asked to write a personal statement. Make sure that you spend time planning this, a good idea is to brainstorm ideas first so that as you start writing the application you have a clear direction and focus.

Your personal statement needs to:

Show your understanding of the role of an occupational therapist:

Your personal statement is a great opportunity to convey to the university admissions team what your understanding of the role of an occupational therapist is. Consider what you already know about occupational therapy; any experience shadowing one, different practice areas that they can work in and additionally the latest news in the profession. To help inform your understanding also consider taking a look at the videos we have produced, as these offer useful examples of practice. Our career handbook also contains some helpful information. Consider why you want to be an occupational therapist and what attracts you to this career.

Demonstrate you have the skills of an occupational therapist:

Take the opportunity to highlight to the admissions tutors that you already are beginning to show the skills, attributes and qualities of an occupational therapist. Think about occasions when you have used effective team working skills, empathy and good interpersonal skills and consider how you can draw upon these whilst you are a student occupational therapist. Upon reviewing the skills, qualities and attributes of an occupational therapist you may find areas that you could improve, consider what opportunities could develop these, such as taking part in voluntary work and becoming involved in activities in your local community. Consider how past study and experiences will support you in a career in occupational therapy.

For more information about applying to university read our career handbook.