Application

All applications for the Entry Level Occupational Therapy Doctorate (EL-OTD) program are submitted online directly through Occupational Therapist Centralized Application Services or OTCAS.  OTCAS opens in mid-July and closes on December 1st.  

All application materials must be submitted to OTCAS.  Priority consideration will be given to applications completed by the preferred deadline of November 1st.  We will accept through the December 1st deadline when OTCAS closes.  All applicants, whether new or reapplying, will be required to start a new application and submit required materials. Be sure to review the entire contents of your application for accuracy prior to submission.  It takes some time to complete the online application, so it’s important that you begin the application process early. Information can be entered into the application pages over time allowing you to build the application gradually until it is complete.  If you have applied to the VCU OT program previously you will need to reapply through OTCAS and VCU Graduate Admissions, with a new application.  Transcripts and GRE scores will carry over.  New written statements and letters of recommendation are needed.
Application Fees:  There are separate fees for OTCAS and VCU Graduate Admissions.  OTCAS has a Fee Assistance Program.  More details can be found here.  
The application consists of the following components, which must be submitted by the November 1st deadline.

VCU OT Checklist 2021

The Early Decision process provides an opportunity for applicants to be considered for admission prior to the review of the general pool of applications.  The deadline for Early Decision is October 1st

Considerations for applying Early Decision include:

  • VCU must be an applicant’s top choice of programs for OT education
  • Complete prerequisite coursework no later than the Fall semester in the year of application
  • Complete all other portions of the application in OTCAS by October 1st deadline (See descriptions below - Earned Bachelor’s degree, Personal Statement, Value-Added Essay, Letters of Recommendation, Observation Hours, VCU Graduate School Application through OTCAS Applicant Gateway)
  • Notify otentrylevel@vcu.edu of your wish to be considered for Early Decision

Early Decision applications will be reviewed, interviews scheduled and offers made as early as possible.  Application through Early Decision does not guarantee admission.  The Committee reserves the right to defer an Early Decision applicant to the regular admissions process.  

Applicants accepted in the Early Decision process are expected to accept the offer of admission, pay the deposit, and enroll in the VCU Entry-Level Occupational Therapy Doctorate program.

 

Students enter graduate education in OT from a wide variety of educational and work backgrounds. There is no particular major that is preferred over another. Students have entered the program with degrees in a wide range of majors including: psychology, biology, health or rehabilitation sciences, kinesiology, exercise science, physical education, anthropology, sociology, social work, English, foreign languages, history, political science, religion, communication, nutrition, art, art history, theatre, music, dance, recreational therapy, industrial design, special education and business. Diverse academic preparation makes for a wonderfully, rich collection of individuals in each cohort.

Transcripts from all colleges and universities attended, indicating an earned Bachelor’s degree and appropriate prerequisite courses must be submitted to OTCAS.

If you are still taking classes, as soon as your Fall semester grades are available, you must have your official Fall semester transcripts sent to OTCAS so that they can verify the grades that you post when OTCAS reopens for the Academic Update. It is imperative that you submit your Fall grades and transcripts as soon as possible. OTCAS will notify all applicants by email when they reopen for the Academic Update and your original transcript submission has been verified. This generally occurs after the Fall semester is complete.

 

All applicants must take the required 26 credits of prerequisite courses. These courses have been specifically selected to prepare students for success in the OT curriculum. Excellent performance in these courses is considered to be a good predictor of performance in our curriculum.  Courses in the EL-OTD program build upon the knowledge gained in these courses.

Please read the prerequisite course requirements carefully. Courses marked with an asterisk (i.e., Human Anatomy & Physiology I & II, Lifespan Development, Abnormal Psychology, and Statistics) require that no more than 7 years have elapsed from the course completion to the date of enrollment in the EL-OTD Program.

* Human Anatomy and Physiology (with labs) - Two semesters

8

*Statistics – A basic statistics course should cover, descriptive statistics, t-test, chi-square, analysis of variance (ANOVA), linear regression and correlative analysis.  We find that often an entry level statistics course does not cover the required content and that two statistics courses are needed to receive the content.

 

3

* Developmental Psychology or Lifespan Development - Development across the life span, i.e., from birth through elderly, is the emphasis of this prerequisite. Many courses say they cover the life span, but may primarily focus only on one area (e.g., childhood, adolescence, adulthood, or the elderly rather than all of these). Read course bulletins and course descriptions carefully and take course(s) that prepare you well across the life span. At some schools two semesters of development is necessary in order to cover the lifespan. If a child development course is taken, an adult development course or a course in aging must also be taken to cover the lifespan.

 

3

* Abnormal Psychology or Psychopathology

3

Sociology or Anthropology - These credits must be taken within Sociology or Anthropology departments.  These additional social science courses do not have a 7 year required time limit.

 

3

Other Social Sciences (psychology, sociology or anthropology) - These credits must be taken within Psychology, Sociology or Anthropology departments.  Introductory courses will count towards this requirement. Recommended courses include Cognitive Psychology or Psychology of Learning.  Political science, history and economics courses are not acceptable for this prerequisite requirement. These additional social science courses do not have a 7 year required time limit.

 

6

Minimum total prerequisite credits

Depending upon the number of courses that are taken to fulfill some prerequisites, applicants may end up with a higher number of prerequisite credits. 

 

26


In addition, although not required prerequisite courses, it is recommended that students take a Kinesiology and a Medical Terminology course.

PLEASE NOTE: Prerequisite course credit for advanced placement courses or other learning or work experiences are not accepted for prerequisite credit. Prerequisite courses must have an earned letter grade. 

It is not necessary to have completed all prerequisite coursework by the application deadline of December 1. Applicants can complete prerequisite coursework being taken for the first time during the Spring semester before enrolling in the EL-OTD program for the Summer semester. Prerequisite courses being retaken must be completed in the preceding Fall semester and cannot be accepted if taken during the final Spring semester.  When completing your electronic transcript, On your OTCAS application, be sure to include any Spring semester courses that you are taking, and/or those that you anticipate enrolling in. If prerequisite courses are taken in the Spring, accepted applicants will be offered a provisional acceptance until a final transcript indicates that all outstanding prerequisite courses have been successfully completed at an "A" or "B" level. Any applicants who were offered provisional acceptance will be responsible for demonstrating that they completed their remaining prerequisites at the required "A" or "B" level before beginning the first day of class.

We're no longer requiring GREs for application. If you have taken the GREs and would like to send your scores to OTCAS use the code 1219. 

The Personal Statement to be written as one and a half to one and three-quarters (1 ½-1 ¾) single-spaced pages in 12-point Times-Roman font with 1” page margins and no more than 1200 words. The average file size is about 15 KB vs. the 5 MB file size allowable through OTCAS. The following three questions should be addressed:

  • Why you are selecting OT as a career
  • How an entry level doctoral degree in OT relates to your immediate and long-term professional goals
  • How your personal, educational, and professional background will help you achieve your goals

Applicants should highlight their knowledge of OT as a profession and demonstrate high desire to pursue a degree in occupational therapy.

 

The VCU EL-OTD Admissions and Recruitment Committee is committed to the construction of a class of highly capable, lifelong learners, capitalizing on the diversity of differences in backgrounds, ideas, thoughts, values, and beliefs. The Committee also recognizes the need for accepting and graduating classes of students that support the American Occupational Therapy Association’s commitment to building a globally connected and diverse workforce. The Committee's responsibility is to review the pool of applicants to compose a class where every member contributes in special and unique ways to the makeup of the group. Students admitted to our program must be capable of succeeding in a very rigorous graduate program. Grade point averages and Graduate Record Exam scores help us assess those academic factors, but it takes more than academic success alone to become a successful OT.  We have chosen to require a “Value-Added Essay”, for applicants to describe personal qualities and experiences. The Value-Added Essay, builds upon the OTCAS Personal Statement, and offers you the opportunity to highlight any special qualities that set you apart from the many other qualified applicants to the program.

In an essay of no more than 1200 words, choose three (3) of the suggested activities that you have pursued or achieved an accomplishment in.  Outline the nature of your responsibilities within these activities and describe any personal qualities, skills, and/or characteristics that were developed as a result of engagement in these activities, and how you would bring value to the next cohort of OTD students and the profession of occupational therapy.  The list below are suggestions.  Please feel free to use any of your life experiences.  

  • Leadership/group contributions – e.g., student government experience, community involvement, leadership in organizations, family responsibility, etc.
  • Engagement in research - e.g., experience working in research, contributing to functions of a laboratory, etc.
  • Personal life challenges - e.g., living with a person with a disability, member of a minority group, or member of underrepresented or underserved population. etc.
  • Sports involvement – e.g., membership on teams, participation in competitions, etc.
  • Creative and performing arts experience
  • Work experience
  • Sustained engagement in volunteer experience
  • Study abroad
  • Additional experience outside of those listed above, and not related to scholastic achievement

Three (3) letters of recommendation are required.  A recommendation from an occupational therapist is preferred, but not essential. Applicants should only ask OT practitioners for a letter if the practitioner knows the applicant sufficiently well to complete the reference fully. Other appropriate references are former college or university professors, academic advisors, employers and other healthcare providers. No personal references will be accepted. You will enter information for your references into OTCAS.  References will receive an invitation from OTCAS to complete an online rating form and upload their letter of recommendation. 

Documentation of a minimum of 10 observation hours.  Please note that this is a modification for the 2021 application cycle.  

Resources for completing hours and reporting form can be found here and here.  

 

After your OTCAS application has been submitted, you will receive an invitation to the Virginia Commonwealth University Entry-Level OTD program Applicant Gateway, where you can complete the application to the Graduate School and pay the application fee.  This is a fee to the VCU Graduate School, and is a separate fee from the OTCAS fee. 

Our holistic evaluation of applications involves considering the applicant’s experiences and personal attributes alongside their academic achievements.  An applicant can demonstrate their knowledge of OT through the Personal Statement.  The Personal Statement, Value-Added Essay and the Interview give applicants an opportunity to highlight their skills, qualities, and/or characteristics developed as a result of their unique life experiences.  This accounts for 60% of the total application score, while academics account for 40% of the total score.

 Diversity 60, Academics 40

 

Reviewers and Interviewers, of the Admissions and Recruitment Committee, are comprised of faculty and staff, current students, alumni, and OT practitioners.  Reviewers review and score the written portions of the application.  Interviewers are blinded to scores of the Reviewers, and rate applicants based on what is presented in the interview.  Applicants are encouraged to share their own experiences to illustrate their points.  

Scoring of the Personal Statement includes a basic understanding of the profession of OT, knowledge of the breadth and depth of the profession, and how pursuing a degree in OT is compatible with your personal and professional goals.  Also included in the scoring are grammar, mechanics of writing, ability to convey ideas, and content.  

 

In scoring the Value-Added Essay, we are looking for an applicant to describe three unique non-academic experiences, your roles and responsibilities in those experiences, what skills, qualities, or characteristics you gained as a result of those experiences, and how all of this contributes to your value as a member of a cohort of OTD students.  Grammar, mechanics of writing, ability to convey ideas and content are also scored.   

Scoring of the interview consists of professional presentation, knowledge and passion for OT, compassion and empathy, critical thinking, self-awareness, and knowledge of diversity, equity, and inclusion.       

 

Qualified VCU undergraduate students participating in the University Honors Program may apply for guaranteed admission to the occupational therapy program before matriculation at VCU or early in their undergraduate studies. For more information, contact the The Honors College at (804) 828-1803.

For non-native English-speaking applicants, regardless of immigration status, a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is required.  More information can be found here.  

Your unique experiences and the skills, qualities and characteristics that you have developed as a result of your experiences are a large part of the evaluation of the application.  It is critical that you highlight this in your written statements and the interview.   

Applications with strong written statements tend to stand out.  Your written statements are your introduction to the Committee.  The Committee recommends that you start your essays early in the process and that you continue to edit and refine them, so you have produced documents that represent you well.  

The Personal Statement and the Value-Added Essay are different.  In the Personal Statement, applicants should demonstrate a basic understanding of the profession of OT, knowledge of the breadth and depth of the profession, and how pursuing a degree in OT is compatible with personal and professional goals.  Observation experiences can help you in crafting your Personal Statement.  In the Value-Added Essay, we want you to be more personal.  We want to know about your transformative life experiences, your roles and responsibilities in those experiences, what skills, qualities, or characteristics you gained as a result of those experiences, and how all of this contributes to your value as a member of a cohort of OTD students.     

Letters of Recommendation are another area that can be overlooked in the application.  When approaching references to write a Letter of Recommendation, make sure that you have chosen three persons that can write to your different attributes, strengths, and performance.  You want your letters to be distinctive, so it may help to provide your references with what you would like to be addressed in their letter.  Specific examples in letters are also very helpful.  One letter from an occupational therapy practitioner is preferred.  Make sure that this is someone that knows you and can write more about you than the fact that you observed for so many hours. 

Applicants should be aware that the occupational therapy licensing board, National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapists (NBCOT), may deny an individual the opportunity to sit for an examination if an applicant/student has a criminal history, is convicted of, pleads guilty or nolo contendere to a felony or other serious crime. Successful completion of the EL-OTD at VCU does not guarantee licensure, the opportunity to sit for a licensure examination, certification or employment in the relevant heath care occupation.