Pre-professional Programs - Occupational Therapy
Hannah Schwietz, a 2020 College of Saint Benedict graduate from Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, was a psychology major and Hispanic studies minor who has been involved in the pre-occupational therapy program at CSB and Saint John’s University.
Why study pre-occupational therapy at a liberal arts college?
Studying occupational therapy at a liberal arts college provided me with an opportunity to take classes outside of my major, which allowed me to explore so many different disciplines. These classes prepared me in innumerable and sometimes unexpected ways: my philosophy class taught me valuable critical thinking skills; my study abroad program introduced me to public health; and my ethics class provided me with a more in-depth understanding of our health care system. In addition to discovering things that I am passionate about, I developed writing and communication skills and learned to make connections between different classes and apply what I learned in class to the real world. I have no doubt that my education here prepared me for graduate school and life in my future career.
What makes the pre-occupational therapy program at CSB/SJU unique?
The pre-OT program at CSB/SJU is unique because of the people who are involved in it. My faculty adviser helped me outline a four-year plan that allowed me to fit in my major (psychology), minor (Hispanic studies) and semester-long study abroad in addition to my pre-OT prerequisites. My professors were genuinely interested in ensuring that their students learn to develop skills that will help them in the classroom and in the real world. My classmates provided a network of encouragement and we helped each other through the toughest classes. I also met some incredible alums who were eager to provide me with resources and help guide me through the process. We often hear about community at our institutions, and this idea is exemplified within the pre-OT program.
What has your experience with the CSB/SJU pre-occupational therapy program faculty been like?
The faculty have been immensely helpful, and it is hard to imagine being successful in this program without their support. As a first-generation college student with a lot of questions about college and graduate school, I called on my adviser, Don Fischer, for nearly everything. He helped me set up my four-year plan, put me in touch with clinics to get observation hours, and answered all of my questions about graduate school and the application process without hesitation. The faculty always make time for the students and are invested in helping us succeed.
How would you describe the workload and/or academic expectations related to this track?
One of the remarkable things about occupational therapy is that you can come from essentially any major/minor combination and still be successful in the field, so there is some flexibility with regard to the workload. The prerequisite classes vary based on each post-grad program but typically include some mix of psychology classes, statistics, anatomy and physiology, and a few others. I would say that the pre-occupational therapy track is challenging and graduate school programs have high expectations for incoming students, but our professors and faculty at CSB/SJU are determined to help you succeed.
What has been one of the greatest challenges you have faced in college?
One of the greatest challenges that I have faced in college has been simply being a first-generation college student and the oldest sibling (so the first in my family to go to college). Figuring out how undergraduate education works was difficult, but getting to the point of applying for graduate schools was even more complicated. I learned a lot during this process, and I am so thankful for the support I received from CSB/SJU.
What advice do you have for students considering the pre-occupational therapy program?
Get in contact with one of the faculty advisers to get a sense of the classes that you would be taking, watch for emails from the Allied Health Club, and look for places that you could volunteer or observe! Attending my grandma's occupational therapy appointments was actually how I discovered what occupational therapy was and realized that it was something I wanted to pursue, and from there I began trying to get experience in a variety of different settings. You will quickly learn what you like and don’t like, and if occupational therapy is something you are interested in the faculty will help you create a plan. Occasionally, graduate school representatives from occupational therapy programs will visit campus, so take advantage of that opportunity to learn more about the different graduate school options. Also, most students and alums are excited to talk about their experience in the program and offer information or advice, so don't hesitate to reach out!
What are your plans for after you graduate from CSB/SJU, and what are plans after graduate school?
I will be attending the Occupational Therapy Doctorate program at the University of Toledo beginning in the fall of 2020. While in graduate school, I hope to narrow down what setting I want to work in as an OT.