The Best OT Student Resources (2022)

Here is a list compilation of the best resources for occupation therapy students that I have found over the years. The post includes tips for OT fieldwork, writing, studying, staying organized, connecting with other OTs, etc.

OT school is hard work—and life outside of school doesn’t exactly stop.

To thrive in OT school, you definitely need to keep your nose to the grindstone.

But, at the same time, it’s worth coming up for air to explore the best occupational therapy resources for students.

It has been ten years since I (Sarah Lyon, OTR/L) was in OT school, and I remember those years as the busiest time of my life.

In retrospect, I spent the entire time in survival mode, and I did not invest time in figuring out how to simplify and streamline processes. And then when I started working, and wanted to reference my student materials, I simply couldn’t find them.

This article contains my own advice—along with the advice of a recent student, Emily Lieberman, MA, OTS—to help occupational therapy students thrive. In it, we attempt to gather the best resources for OT and COTA students in one place.

 

1.) Staying organized

Please, don’t be like me.

I paid for my disorganization in school for years afterwards.

I found myself hauling boxes of scattered papers and disorganized notebooks each time we moved because I wasn’t sure what was important.

And forget about finding something to reference when I actually needed it!

Here are some practical organizational strategies I have collected is over the years:

If you’re more oriented to the “paper and pencil” style and using print resources:

  • Buy a daily planner. (Now in my professional life, I love the Get to Work Book. If only I had found it sooner!)
  • Buy a folder for each class. You can keep returned assignments, tests, and other important documents in that folder; this makes them easy to reference when needed.
  • Buy lots of notecards and highlighters. You can never have enough of these!
  • Buy three-inch binders for each course. You can use these to organize all of your papers, handouts, PowerPoints, etc.
  • Consider digitizing your materials. If you’re the type who loses physical paperwork, keep a Dropbox or Google Drive folder where you can scan and store all your old course materials.
  • Explore using Rocketbook. It can preserve the kinesthetic learning aspects of taking notes, while allowing you to store and access your notes in a digital format.
  • Tab out your PowerPoints. You can use those dividers that have reinforced holes and erasable tabs. (This can be done the night before the class so you can hit the ground running.)

If you’re more oriented to the “paperless” style and using digital resources:

  • Explore apps for organizing notes, tasks and projects. Notion and Evernote are currently two of the most popular apps that allow you to organize your notes, manage your tasks and collaborate on projects. If you want something more minimalistic, Workflowy and Google Keep are both good, lightweight choices for running notes and to-do lists.

    At the other end of the spectrum, apps like Trello and Asana with more robust project management features can help you break down large projects, track progress and coordinate with a team. As of the most recent update to this article, all of the above currently have free plans for personal use.

    Many people also love using apps like these to organize their personal lives, and if you have entrepreneurial aspirations, this type of tech literacy will serve you very well going forward!

Organization tips for everyone:

  • Use a digital calendar. Google Calendar is my calendar tool of choice. It is simple to use, syncs well with most phones, and is free. The ability to set notifications to occur at specific times before important events such as exams or big projects is very helpful. You can also categorize items by color, which helps you distinguish between upcoming assignments, events, or tests.

  • Get ready for lots of digital files. Even if you’re a paper-and-pencil diehard, you’re going to have digital files.
    • First are the files you’ll be creating as you write papers, create presentations, etc.
    • Second, with universities progressively moving to Learning Management Systems like Canvas and Blackboard, you’ll likely be downloading syllabi, lecture slides, etc. from an online course page (even if your class is fully in person).
    • Third, if your OT school assigns Google accounts to students, your instructors may share files back and forth with you in Google Drive.
    • Last, your classmates are very likely to want to collaborate by sharing documents and slides in the cloud.
  • Use a consistent system for naming and organizing your digital files. Generally speaking, there are three methods people use for naming and organizing their digital files.
    • No method whatsoever: A long list of files with names like, “Untitled document” and “185139-Article Text-470927-1-10-20190329.pdf.”
    • The folders-upon-folders method: Files live nestled within 5+ layers of folders, e.g. you have an “OT School folder” and inside that folder is a “Classes” folder. Inside that folder lives a “First year” folder,” which contains a “Fall” folder,” which holds a “Pediatrics” folder, in which can be found a document entitled “Notes.”
    • The exactly-what-it says-in-the-name method: A long list of files with names like, “NOTES courses_pediatrics,” “NOTES courses_neuro,” “REFERENCE ebook PhysDys_Pedretti,” REFERENCE guide telehealth assessment_OTpotential.”
  • Here are some guidelines for a middle-ground approach to simplify naming and organizing your files:
    • No untitled files! Always give a file a name, even if it’s not the best name
    • No files with nonsense names! Especially with downloads, you might have to re-name
    • No more than 3 levels of folders
    • Within folders, use names that are at least minimally descriptive – A good strategy is to put the category in capital letters and details in lowercase letters, e.g. “COURSENAME notes” or “PRESENTATION specific topic.”
  • Plan ahead for access to your digital files. If you have a Google account through school, you’ll likely be sharing files in Google Drive with other students, instructors, etc. and it may make sense to keep all your school-related files stored under your school account.

    Think ahead, though, because most schools will deactivate your Google account at some point after graduation, and you don’t want to lose everything!

    Fortunately, there is a process to transfer Google Drive files from a school account to a personal account; go to Google Help and search for “copy content from your school account to another account.”

    If you’re not already forwarding your school email into your personal email, you can also use this process to transfer over messages into your personal account, if you want.
  • Make sure you own your most important digital files. Keep in mind that if you don’t own a digital file in Google Drive—if it is only shared with you—then your access to that file is at the mercy of the owner and could disappear at any time without notice.

    This might happen if the owner deletes the file, removes your sharing rights, or discontinues use of their Google account.

    Cultivate the habit of making copies of important files for yourself, assuming you have permission to do so. Here are some examples of different types of files and how you might want to handle them:
    • A guest lecturer shares a PDF file of a patient education handout they created and gives permission to save it → make a copy right away. You can add any pertinent info in the file title or document details, e.g. the name of the original creator and what permissions you have to modify or share it.

    • Your advisor shares a Google Docs file of a blank template for you to track your personal goals and accomplishments in the program, which you are supposed to update every semester → make a copy for yourself after significant updates. Be sure to name your own version something like “MY COPY personal development plan_Semester 3” so you don’t get confused and update the wrong version.

    • A classmate shares a Google Slides file that your group will be working on for the next 8 weeks → make a copy as soon as the project is complete.
 

2.) Improving your study habits

Part of improving your study habits simply involves keeping your nose to the grindstone.

But, you can also leverage these practical strategies to set yourself up to study well in the first place, so you can get the most out of your study time.

Here are some tips I’ve gathered from fellow practitioners:

  • Attend open lab hours whenever possible. Take advantage of these opportunities! The key here is just practice, practice, practice. Keep going to the open labs until you feel very confident in content areas. Bring a friend and quiz each other until you aren’t getting anything wrong. Depending on your program, there might be optional times set aside when students can come together to practice:
    • identifying anatomy
    • applying hands-on skills like ROM/MMT, transfers and manual techniques
    • using adaptive technology, mobility aids and durable medical equipment
    • navigating lines, tubes, beds, lifts, etc. in simulated home and/or clinical labs
    • and more!
  • Break seemingly insurmountable tasks into smaller chunks. Once content is categorized into smaller elements, set aside dedicated time to study that material. I’m a fan of 40-45 minutes of studying, then taking a 10-15 minute rest break. Some people like to string together shorter segments, like the traditional “Pomodoro” method of 25 minutes on task followed by 5 minutes of break.

    (The note-taking and task/project management apps above can help with chunking,  prioritizing and tracking what you need to achieve. A quick search will turn up a ton of timer and “brain break” apps and YouTube videos that can help you remember to stop and shift attention.)

  • Collaborate with your peers. Organize small study sessions with one or two other students, then practice teaching each other what you have studied. Attempting to teach the content will help you see what you understand well—and which areas will need more attention. 

  • Consider concepts like the Pareto Principle and Parkinson’s Law. Explore how they affect how you approach studying.

  • Consider using paid resources. I bought Kenhub as an extra digital anatomy study resource. There are several other sites, apps, and resources that may be worth their price tag in exchange for the extra knowledge you’ll gain from using them.

    MedBridge Education has a robust library of video courses that can be very helpful, especially on fieldwork! They offer a major discount for students. (I am an affiliate of MedBridge, because I think they provided needed long-form video content.)

  • Don’t spend every moment of your free time studying. There is a point of diminishing returns with this strategy. Incorporating exercise, meaningful activity, time with friends/family, etc. will help your brain “refresh” once you’ve hit a “mental wall” while studying.

    Don’t try to push through the feeling of the mental wall. Instead, take a break and do something active to recharge your mental batteries.

  • Draw diagrams whenever possible. Drawing helps you retain memories and solidify what you’re learning. I find that my performance on tests is better if I can create a mental image in my head based around the question being asked.

  • Examine how tweaking your daily habits. I highly recommend the book Atomic Habits to help you build the habit of studying into your day.

  • Limit distractions. To stay focused as a working professional, I rely on website blockers, like Block Site, to limit my time on social media sites. Honestly, I do not know who people get work done without using tools like this!

  • OT Flashcards – Quizlet. This can be used at doctor’s appointments and other scenarios where you have down time. The pro subscription lets you record audio (not just text) with flashcards.

    This enables you to study more efficiently during commutes. You can also share usernames, so you can swap your study materials with classmates to make sure you’ve covered all the bases.

  • Practice as many study questions as you can. You can ask professors where to locate practice questions. Also, use your textbooks, ask library employees if there are tools that provide extra questions, use Quizlets you’ve created based off course content, use others’ Quizlets, and use questions from other online resources (if you search a specific anatomy content area online followed by “and quiz” in your search terms, several free quizzes will pop up).

  • Print out blank templates of confusing structures and processes. Make multiple copies, then label the pages time after time until things stick.

  • Record every class—and I mean every single class. Then listen to them constantly, especially when driving. (Keep in mind that you need to obtain permission from the professor in order to legally record classes.) Some schools automatically do this, using a tool called “Echo.”

  • Review material to ensure it sticks. If you study something today, then focus on a new chunk of information tomorrow, that’s great. But make sure you also spend 10-15 minutes tomorrow reviewing today’s content. It can be challenging to keep yourself motivated to do this when the work is piling up, but it’s extremely effective if you remain consistent.

  • START STUDYING FOR THE NBCOT EXAM NOW! Make flash cards and, as each course is taught, pay attention to HOW particular questions are worded. There’s an app called “NBCOT OTR,” which makes studying quick, convenient, and doable by providing “bite-sized” questions that don’t overwhelm you on a daily basis.

  • Take handwritten notes as often as possible. Studies have indicated that taking handwritten notes improves your ability to learn and maintain the information. Options like Rocketbook are a great option to take those handwritten notes, but then store them digitally!

  • Take the VARK Assessment. It will help you determine your learning style and explore study strategies that will work best for you.

  • Take your notes for anatomy on graph paper. Drawing the material can help tremendously.

  • Understand the rhythm of your day. I’m a big believer that different times of day lend themselves to different types of work. This books is a great read on this: WHEN: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.

  • Utilize your school’s resources. Many schools have people designated to help students understand their learning styles and practice good study strategies. Make an appointment to go to one of these sessions early in your OT school experience. Many schools also have resources for you to access practice questions for various courses.

    Some have great anatomy resources like “Winking Skull,” where you can toggle between labeled/un-labeled structures for practice. Library staff are typically best suited to help you navigate school resources like this.
  • Watch relevant videos. You can often find them on YouTube, and they’ll help to clarify confusing concepts.
 

3.) Improving your writing

In OT school, you will likely find yourself undertaking much more technical writing than you did in your undergraduate program. The amount of writing only increases when you become a practitioner. You will have to write efficiently and accurately.

I cannot imagine life without my Grammarly subscription. For $11 a month, it checks all of my writing, including emails, Facebook posts, and blog articles.

Citation Machine has also come in handy to give a starting point in creating references.

If you haven’t read the book “On Writing Well,” I highly recommend it for general writing style guidance.

Here are some more tips:

  • Be proactive. Whether you go with something like Grammarly or an onsite service, be proactive. It makes all the difference.
  • Build your own editing team. You might also want to find one or two friends who will review your papers if you do the work to review theirs as well. You can catch a lot of errors this way!
  • Explore your school’s resources! Our school has a writing center that edits our papers and sends back recommendations, including technical edits. This resource is very nice, but likely underutilized by most students.
  • When using citations, better safe than sorry. I had sometimes had trouble using Citation Machine, so I used my own school’s online writing center for help. I also used my required writing textbook. I think there’s a lot of value in knowing how to cite references in common formats, such as APA, by memory.
 

4.) Connecting with fellow students and OT practitioners

The OT network you establish in school will become one of your top resources as you head into practice.

Eight years after graduation, my former classmates are often still the first people I call if I need to talk through something.

For a list of pre-established OT communities you can plug into, check out our post: OT Forums and Communities.

For generally staying up to date on OT trends, I’ve really been inspired by the podcast Dr. thOTs this year!

  • Strive to create value for fellow students whenever possible. Sometimes, we hide behind social media and lose out on creating deeper relationships. Invite a few people in your class over for dinner or an activity of some kind. Develop friendships. Friendship with classmates will often organically transform into a situation where you can turn to each other for support on various challenges you might face during school. 
  • Use group chat. Group chat programs like GroupMe are becoming popular as a way for students to connect outside class, not only about school but also just for fun and to make social plans. Sometimes the Student Occupational Therapy Association or graduate assistant for the OT department will facilitate setting this up for an incoming cohort, but if not, consider taking the initiative yourself!

5.) Staying abreast of therapy and general healthcare trends

Your success as an OT will depend on your ability to navigate the larger healthcare system, and to stay abreast of its constant evolution.

Don’t get OT tunnel vision. Make a point to keep up with general healthcare trends starting now, and you’ll already be ahead of the curve when you graduate.

Here are some of my favorites avenues to do so:

  • New York Times – Well

  • The WebPT Blog

  • What the Health?” Podcast

  • Keep tabs on influencers. I follow influencers who are authorities in their respective fields or specialties. Whether it’s on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, keeping tabs on what influencers are saying is helpful to stay on top of all sorts of updates in the profession and healthcare industry.

  • Keep your AOTA membership active. This helps you stay in tune with the latest changes in OT. Sometimes you’ll also hear about changes in healthcare as a whole. Joining your state-level OT associations is also an excellent way to stay up-to-date on local issues. State-level associations offer conferences and webinars, lobbying days and other advocacy efforts, and opportunities to network.

  • Use social media to find the areas of the profession that interest you. It’s easy to go to something like twitter.com/search and type in a particular aspect of healthcare that interests you. You can do this with other platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok, and Facebook as well.
 

6.) Building your support system

After my first year of OT school, I was ready to quit.

I was frustrated, and I couldn’t really seem to find a good outlet beyond talking to my parents. If you are dealing with frustrations, talk to fellow students and professors. And again, don’t underestimate the value of looking for online support.

No matter what the root source of your frustration may be, there is probably an online conversation happening about the topic.  

  • Seek support early. Don’t wait to reach out to professors, peers, other school resources, and even outside resources for the support you need. Sometimes, students avoid asking for help in a timely manner because they feel a sense of embarrassment or don’t want people to know they are struggling. Waiting to reach out for support will lead to increased stress and usually result in a decrease in school performance.
  • Understand school resources. My OT school offers helpful resources such as mental health support at no additional cost to students. Some classmates also utilized learning specialists to help them identify effective study strategies to learn complicated course content. Each school is a little different, so pay close attention to the resources mentioned when you attend orientation.

Services go by different names on different campuses, but many of the most relevant student support functions typically reside in a division called something like “Student Life,” “Student Affairs,” or “Student Services.”

There may also be relevant services under a division with a name like “Academic Affairs,” the graduate school as a whole, the specific college or division in which OT is located (e.g. Health Sciences) and/or the OT department itself.

When in doubt, any of the following people who should be able to help you get oriented: your academic advisor, the program director or chair of the OT department, the Dean of Students, the Student Ombuds, or staff in Counseling and Psychological Services.

If the first person you contact doesn’t respond or get you connected properly, don’t hesitate to reach out to someone else or visit offices in person until you have what you need.

 

7.) Thriving during your fieldwork

After helping supervise students, I now have a new appreciation for the challenge of quickly learning the ropes in a new facility, not to mention the nuances involved with navigating the supervisory relationships.

Lean in on your aforementioned support networks; chances are others are dealing with similar scenarios. Here are some additional fieldwork resources to help you along the way:

  • Answers to Your Fieldwork Questions – AOTA

  • 10 Tips for Navigating a Non-Traditional Fieldwork – Gotta Be OT

  • Keep reading blogs like OT Potential: I really enjoy reading blog posts from OT Potential. In addition to gaining new knowledge on specific topics like fieldwork, I’m also able to learn about useful outside resources to help me succeed in school and beyond.

  • Listen to OT podcasts: The OT Potential Podcast is a great place to start. But, also search for other OT podcasts that have episodes on fieldwork or fieldwork-related topics.

  • Look for time-saving resources. I purchased tools that were specific to the fieldwork settings in which I worked. I used materials from Pink Oatmeal and Tools to Grow OT so I had more ideas for treatment sessions during my first pediatric fieldwork.

    Free Facebook groups are also a great source of support to fieldwork students. There are so many terrific resources out there; don’t limit yourself to what you’re provided in OT school!

    One thing I’m really passionate about in the OT Potential Club is collecting a library of assessments and documentation examples for you to reference.
 

8.) Preparing for the NBCOT exam

Ultimately, school is preparing you for the NBCOT exam. NBCOT has an awesome suite of resources to assist you when that time does come.

I have never used Pass the OT, but this resource is also worth checking out.

Ultimately, this is when your aforementioned organization will come into play big time. It will be WAY easier to review your course content if it is organized.

 

9.) Managing your finances

Managing your debt should technically start before OT/COTA school even begins, and I encourage you to continue thinking about debt management during school.

Gotta Be OT has a good list of steps you take to secure funding while you are in school.

To keep your eye on the big picture, here is my post on occupational therapy and student debt.

  • Pick an inexpensive OT school! This is one of the most effective ways to keep your debt burden under control. Consider other factors such as degree type (MSOT vs OTD), length of school required, and cost of living when making your decision.

  • Read articles from Fitbux. Most students understand little to nothing about the loans they’ve acquired during school. Some of the most informative financial posts I’ve read have come from Fitbux blog posts.

  • Seek advice from your school’s financial office. They often have many helpful resources to help you manage your debt.
 

10.) Planning ahead for job searching

I had my first job lined up before I even headed into my second fieldwork placement!

This is a unique circumstance, but it is honestly never too early to get a pulse on the job market.

Check out my resources: 

I’ve also seen this book, Occupational Therapy Student to Clinician, come highly recommended.

Here are 2 more tips:

  • Keep a pulse on jobs in your desired area before you graduate. I periodically search jobs on Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and a few other sites. Even if I’m not ready to apply for jobs, it’s nice to get a sense of what to expect when it’s time to look for jobs.
 

11.) Looking to the future

You are going to leave OT school as a generalist, but OT school is the perfect time to start exploring speciality practice areas. If you are interested in exploring specialization, I recommend the following articles: 


Bonus: Discounts for OT students!

Oh, how I miss the days of student discounts! Please enjoy these discounts on my behalf!

Student & New Grad Discounts to the OT Potential Club

OT Potential Club Student Discount

At OT Potential, we strive to give students a community that will stay by their side as they transition into the workforce.

For this reason, we offer a 50% discount off the first year to OT/A students!

Students always love our documentation examples 🙂 But, what’s most important to us is helping you form a habit of spending time in research and reflecting on your practice.

The OT Potential Student Discount

MedBridge student discount (You pay $100)

MedBridge is a continuing education resource that many OT practitioners use and love. I wish that I had signed up for continuing education courses when I was still a student, so I could have referenced them during fieldwork and my first year as a new practitioner. (I love MedBridge and am an affiliate.)

Learn about the MedBridge Student Discount here.

General student discounts

Last, but not least, here are some general student discounts you can take advantage of:

  • The Ultimate List of Discounts for Students

  • Experiment with tools that aren’t required: I purchased tools like PhysioU to help me better understand certain concepts relevant to OT. They have discounts for students who want to try their platform out. Another tool I would consider purchasing that comes at a discount for students is YouTube premium. YouTube premium is more than just ad-free viewing.

  • Explore unconventional options. It’s helpful to look into whether you can qualify for Medicaid and even use food stamps when you’re in school. Some OT students do qualify for this, but it’s best to check early so you can save the most money if it’s an option for you. Medicaid can also really help with family finances if you are having a baby while you’re in school.

  • Look for big-brand discounts. The Apple store often gives good student discounts. I got a free pair of BEATS headphones when I bought my laptop through Apple as a student! Amazon Prime is also much cheaper for students.

What about you? What resources would you share with fellow OT students? I would love to make this post stronger with your input!

About the Authors

Emily Lieberman, MA, OTS

(2022 Update) Emily Lieberman, MA, OTS 

Emily will be completing her Masters of Occupational Therapy from Eastern Michigan University in 2023. She earned an MA in Educational Leadership while employed in higher education student services and prior to that, worked in nonprofit organizations serving migrant and immigrant communities.

As a side venture, Emily provides technology and systems consulting to OT entrepreneurs who offer continuing education and coaching to other therapists.


Andy Nielsen, OTS

(2017 Update) Andy Nielsen, OTS

Andy is the founder of Pre-OT Success and OT Growth. Prior to OT school, Andy graduated with a degree in business management and worked for several small-to-medium sized businesses. He’s passionate about helping more OTs pursue entrepreneurial adventures.

When Andy is not learning more about how to become a better occupational therapy student or come up with new business ideas, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two young children at home or in the great outdoors.


Sarah Lyon, OTR/L

Sarah Lyon, OTR/L

Sarah received her MS in occupational therapy from NYU in 2011. Since 2012, she has been writing about occupational therapy on her own site, OT Potential, as well as other sites such as VeryWell Health, WebPT, and MedBridge.

10 replies on “The Best OT Student Resources (2022)”

Hi Grant! Thanks for the comment!! I’m pretty sure you were a student more recently than I was so if there are any resources you think I should add, let me know! I graduated in 2011, so I rely on more recent students to help me stay up to date!

I am about to start OTA school this fall and I want to spend the next three and a half months studying some foundational topics. What would you recommend? Is there any topic/subject you wish you had a head start with?

Hi Steven! Congrats on your OTA acceptance! That is a great question. Two things. 1 what topics related to occupational therapy are you most interested in? Those are the ones I would pursue. For me personally, I am interested in healthcare trends so I would spend my time reading books by Atul Gawande or maybe God’s Hotel by Victoria Sweet.

Second, I would really take the three months to develop good habits that will help you succeed once school starts. For example, start getting up early and exercising. Spend a couple evenings a week just reading. Sometimes processes like this help more than actual content!

Yes! This is splendid advice! I am actually really drawn to mental health rehabilitation, so I could start there. And I will definitely begin getting ready for the new schedule and lifestyle by living it. Good call! I am so excited. I know that as soon as I get one year of experience I would love to do one of the weekend bridge programs to become a full-fledged OTR! haha My goal in life is to be the best OT I can be, and to sincerely change lives. I love what OTs do! It’s incredibly special! 🙂 That’s why I’m so eager to start learning.

I am entering my 5th semester of 9 in an OTD program. I am interested in making this semester the most as I feel as if I have wasted some time. I am interested in ways I can start obtaining leadership roles to add to my professional portfolio that will set me apart from my peers. I am committed to going to annual conference this upcoming year, and going to student conclave. What are some suggestions you would recommend that would add to my resume?

Hey Eathan! Check out the email I just sent to you! I forgot to mention the AOTA Emerging Leaders Development program as a great addition to a resume.

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