Academics & Coursework

Before applying, occupational therapy schools expect that applicants develop certain competencies. Students develop some of these competencies through undergraduate coursework, while they develop others through experiences outside the classroom. Occupational therapy schools review your application looking for indicators that you have developed these competencies. They will expect you to have completed specific coursework to be eligible to apply and maintain a certain GPA to demonstrate academic readiness for graduate study.

Choosing a major #

Occupational therapy programs do not require a particular major for admission. Pre-OT students may select any major and degree to combine with the courses required for admission to occupational therapy school. You should select a major in which you are genuinely interested, in which you can excel, and one that provides latitude to pursue an alternate career path if you choose not to attend occupational therapy school.

In addition to completing a set of prerequisite coursework, pre-OT students need to develop strong interpersonal, communication, and problem-solving skills. Coursework in the humanities and social and behavioral sciences can help you build skills in these latter areas.

While some majors may be “common” or “popular” among pre-OT students, that does not mean that these majors are preferred by admissions committees or are more competitive majors for admission. Rather than choosing a major based on what you think will “look good” on an application, choose a major that interests you and will provide the foundation for multiple career pathways.

Pre-occupational therapy coursework #

Each occupational therapy program establishes its own course requirements for admission, and these vary from school to school. The most commonly required courses include anatomy, physiology, psychology, sociology, and statistics. Course requirements for Indiana University’s Occupational Therapy Program in the School of Health and Human Sciences are listed below. 

Some OT programs may not accept Advanced Placement (AP) credit, credit-by-exam, or exemption from degree requirements to fulfill admission requirements, or may only accept such credit under specific circumstances. Research program requirements and contact programs if you have AP credit or credit-by-exam.

As a pre-OT student, you should plan to apply to multiple schools. Begin researching their requirements early to determine what additional courses are required for admission. You should contact programs to confirm that the suggested IU Bloomington coursework fulfills their requirements. 

Course requirements for the Indiana University  Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) program #

Indiana University offers an entry-level Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD). Students planning to apply to IU’s program on the IUPUI campus should complete the coursework below and review the admission requirements on the Indiana University OTD program website.

Course Requirements for IU School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences1, 2 IU Bloomington course(s) that can fulfill the requirement
Human Anatomy with lab3 ANAT-A 215
Human Physiology with lab3 PHSL-P 215 or BIOL-P 451
Statistics3, 4 PSY-K 300, SPH-Q 381, STAT-S 303, or equivalent
Introductory Sociology or Anthropology SOC-S 100, ANTH-A 107, or ANTH-E 200
Introductory Psychology PSY-P 101 or 1555
Lifespan Development6 SPH-F 150, EDUC-P 314, or PSY-P 315
Abnormal Psychology PSY-P 324
Medical Terminology7 CLAS-C 209

1. All prerequisite courses must be a minimum of 3 credit hours (with the exception of Medical Terminology) and completed with a grade of ‘C’ or higher. Dual credit courses are acceptable if recorded on a college transcript with a grade. AP courses completed with a score of 3 or higher are also acceptable. Students may retake up to 15 credit hours of prerequisite courses. Applicants must have no more than one (1) prerequisite course outstanding by the application deadline and the course must be completed prior to the start of the program in May. The outstanding prerequisite cannot be Human Anatomy with lab, Human Physiology with lab, or Statistics.

2. Human anatomy and human physiology must be courses for science majors and include a lab.

3. Must be completed not more than seven years prior to application deadline.

4. Must include both descriptive and inferential statistics.

5. PSY-P 155 recommended for psychology majors or minors.

6. Course must include entire lifespan of human development from conception to death (infant to old age).

7. 1 credit hour minimum.

Academic record and GPA #

Your undergraduate GPA is one of the primary ways occupational therapy schools will evaluate your application for admission. Occupational therapy schools review your undergraduate transcript and the grades you have earned in your courses as a way to evaluate academic competencies that you have gained. Grades are considered to be a reliable predictor of how you would perform in occupational therapy school. Admissions committees look at your undergraduate transcript for indications of whether you will have the intellectual abilities and self-discipline to succeed in the demanding OT school curriculum.

Most programs have a minimum undergraduate cumulative GPA requirement of 3.0 or higher and require all prerequisites be completed with a grade of “C” or higher. Keep in mind that these minimum grades are rarely competitive for admission, as admitted students usually have considerably higher grades and GPA’s.

What is a competitive GPA? For the 2020 entering class at the Indiana University Occupational Therapy (OTD) Program the average cumulative undergraduate GPA was 3.67 and the average prerequisite GPA was 3.77. As a pre-occupational therapy student, aim for a cumulative GPA of 3.6 or higher to be academically competitive. GPA is not the only factor in admission, but a low GPA cannot be overcome by other factors in admission.

How will my GPA be calculated?

The OTCAS application used to apply to occupational therapy programs has its own method for calculating your GPA. When you apply using the OTCAS application you will type information onto your application from the transcripts of all colleges and universities you have attended, including the title of each course, number of credit hours, and the grade earned for each course. This information will be used to calculate various GPA’s.

OTCAS does not replace grades when you repeat a course. If you repeat a course, both the original and the new grade will count toward your cumulative undergraduate GPA.

Thinking about retaking a course?

When you apply to occupational therapy school your GPA will be re-calculated by OTCAS, the centralized application service. OTCAS does not replace grades when you repeat a course. If you repeat a course, both the original and the new grade will count toward your cumulative undergraduate GPA.

Occupational therapy programs will also evaluate your prerequisite GPA. Some occupational therapy programs will allow a certain number of retakes or repeated credit hours to be counted towards your prerequisite GPA, using only the higher grade in your prerequisite GPA calculation. However, before you retake a course to try to earn a higher grade, you should speak with an advisor and carefully consider all the ramifications of your decision.

Occupational therapy schools will use a GPA in prerequisite coursework to evaluate you. Be aware that grades in prerequisite courses essentially count double during the admission process as they are used in calculating both your cumulative undergraduate GPA and your prerequisite GPA.

We strongly urge freshmen and transfer students to focus on academics and making the transition to challenging IUB coursework. Strong academic performance is the crucial foundation upon which a successful application is built.

A word about parallel planning #

What is parallel planning? It's a smart strategy to ensure your success. There are many possible paths to your goal of a healthcare career! Some students convince themselves that there is only one career for them – but the truth is that you could potentially be successful in a wide number of fields. A parallel plan is a plan you create that you can pursue right alongside your first choice of a career. Parallel planning allows you to efficiently change paths at some point if you discover you do not like or no longer want to pursue your primary career path.

How could you create a parallel plan? Explore your interests, goals, and values. Meet with a career advisor. Think about other goals you would like to achieve alongside being an occupational therapist – for instance, would you like to encourage healthy lifestyles, focus on a particular population (for example, individuals with disabilities, children, or the elderly), or work in a creative career? Your answers to these questions may help indicate additional career paths through which you could find meaning and success.