Pre-professional Programs - Occupational Therapy
Jasmine Fritzemeier, a 2020 College of Saint Benedict graduate from Mitchell, South Dakota, was a nutrition major and psychology 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?
A liberal arts education from CSB/SJU equips students with new ways of thinking, exposes students to multiple perspectives and sets them apart as forward thinkers in the world. I have taken several courses outside of my major and minor that have challenged my perspective and lead to tremendous growth as a student, future professional, and person. The large base of knowledge I have gained definitely set me apart from other graduate school applicants.
The classroom experiences at CSB/SJU promote discussion, collaboration and questioning, which provides students with a firm foundation for a successful future in graduate school and the workplace. Graduate programs recognize the liberal arts education from CSB/SJU as one that molds students into flexible thinkers and successful learners that can adapt and thrive in many areas.
What makes the pre-occupational therapy program at CSB/SJU unique?
The pre-occupational therapy program at CSB/SJU is unique because it is flexible, and students can choose to take different paths to reach their goals. There is not one major or minor that is right or wrong. Students have the freedom to choose what interests them while still completing the required prerequisites. It is very doable to complete a major, minor, common curriculum, prerequisite coursework and study abroad, and still be involved on campus. The flexibility contributes largely to the liberal arts experience, and this has allowed me to have very positive experiences inside and outside of the classroom.
The access CSB/SJU students have to resources, including the large Bennie/Johnnie alumnae/i network, one-on-one academic advising, professional development resources and personal support from professors and peers sets students up for success beyond graduation. The Allied Health Club at CSB/SJU is also a great resource for students to get information and meet students with similar goals and interests. Allied Health Club hosts informal events that provide students with opportunities to learn about graduate programs and how to be successful in the application process.
What has your experience with the CSB/SJU pre-occupational therapy program faculty been like?
The pre-occupational therapy faculty at CSB/SJU want nothing more than for their students to be successful in whatever they do. My adviser, Don Fischer, has been a great resource during my four years here. He helped me to develop a successful four-year plan, directed me toward shadowing and volunteer opportunities, answered my questions about the application process, reviewed my application materials and helped me prepare for my interviews. Don goes above and beyond to support students in their trials and successes.
How would you describe the workload and/or academic expectations related to this pre-professional track?
The academic preparation required for occupational therapy programs is quite rigorous but very manageable. It can be a challenge to fit everything in, and, like anything else, requires dedication. I found it most helpful to come up with a plan as to how I would fit in the required coursework as early in my college career as possible. This allowed me to know which semesters would be more flexible and which ones I did not have as much flexibility. Not every class or prerequisite is created equal. Therefore, it is important to do some research to prevent becoming overwhelmed with four very demanding classes all in one semester. I was most successful when I had a mix of classes that I enjoyed and were a healthy challenge.
What has been one of the greatest challenges you have faced in college?
One of the biggest challenges I faced in college was deciding where and how I wanted to spend my time. At CSB/SJU, there are so many opportunities to be involved and things to do that I often found myself in a whirlwind of decisions because I couldn’t do it all. This often led to having to turn something down because there are just not enough hours in the day. I am so grateful for the many opportunities I have been offered and the time management and prioritization skills I have gained along the way.
What advice do you have for students considering the pre-occupational therapy program?
The biggest piece of advice I would give is to get all the experience you can! Numerous shadowing hours are so important to not only set yourself apart from other graduate school applicants but also to make sure that occupational therapy is the right career for you. Experiences in OT settings are most definitely valuable, but outside experiences can be just as valuable. OT programs are looking for well-rounded students, so don’t be afraid to gain experience in other settings. Volunteer experiences, study abroad, employment and involvement in extracurricular activities are also looked upon favorably. Many skills from these activities are transferrable to skills needed to be successful in graduate school and as an occupational therapist. Having a wide range of experiences set me apart from many other applicants I interviewed with.
What are your plans for after you graduate from CSB/SJU, and what are plans after graduate school?
In July 2020, I will be attending the University of South Dakota in Vermillion to pursue my Doctor of Occupational Therapy. After graduate school, I hope to begin my career at a pediatric outpatient clinic.