Being able to pay for college shouldn’t make or break your ability to earn your occupational therapy assistant (OTA) degree. Similarly, you shouldn’t feel as if you don’t have the support needed to thrive while in school. Whether you’re attending an in-person or online OTA program, this guide highlights scholarships, resources, and support systems available to you as an OTA student and explains how to best take advantage of them. Keep reading to learn about top scholarships for the 2020-2021 school year, tips for standing out from the competition, and academic and career resources that can help you excel on your path to becoming a certified occupational therapy assistant.
Scholarships and Grants for OTA Students
Scholarships are a popular option among occupational therapy assistant students due to the fact that they don’t have to be repaid so long as learners meet all the requirements of the award. This is also true for grants, work-study funds, and fellowships. Many students look at these types of awards first and supplement with loans after exhausting other options. Colleges and universities, professional associations, private foundations, and for-profit businesses all offer scholarships. Check out some of the best options below.
School-based OTA Scholarships
Finding school-based scholarships is a smart option for students who want to avoid the overly competitive national awards and focus their efforts on applications with a smaller pool of contenders. Scholarships open to OTA students throughout the country may receive hundreds of applications, while schools typically receive far fewer as the award is only open to attendees.
To find out if a prospective school offers any scholarships specific to occupational therapy assisting, there are a few options. Closely looking on the departmental or program website is a good place to start, as is reviewing general scholarships available. If you can’t find the information you’re looking for, try contacting the financial aid office or program director for more info. We’ve highlighted two colleges with outstanding scholarships for their OTA students below as an example of what to look for from your school.
National and Regional Occupational Therapy Assistant Scholarships
5 Keys to Landing Scholarships for Your OTA Degree
As we’ve discussed, scholarships are competitive due to so many students looking for financial support for their OTA educations. Because of this, it’s important that you don’t make any careless mistakes that preclude you from receiving consideration. For many awards, you only get one chance to catch the eye of panelists reviewing applications and making decisions. Check out our tips below on how to ensure you win the money you need to complete a degree.
- Be realistic: If you come across an occupational therapy assistant scholarship that requires a 3.5 GPA but you only have a 3.0, don’t waste your time. Apply only to awards you can realistically receive.
- Choose relevant references: If deciding between an occupational therapist or other medical professional who can speak to your talents or your old English teacher, go with the former. They can highlight your specific OT skills and interests.
- Follow instructions: Scholarship award panels can throw out your application for failing to go through the right steps. Review them carefully before getting started.
- Keep looking: Many OTA awards exist for current students rather than those who’ve yet to begin their studies. Research awards regularly while in school to find new opportunities.
- Differentiate yourself: If you have any work, volunteer, or personal experience with physical or occupational therapy, state this clearly and early in your application.
Where to Find Additional Financial Aid for Your OTA Degree
After exhausting all your scholarships options, you may find that additional funding is still needed. Other financial aid options exist, some of which require repayment and some which do not. Work-study funding is provided via the federal government and allows you to work part-time at your school in exchange for an hourly wage. Employment tuition reimbursement programs are a great idea if your employer wants to provide funding toward your education.
Best left as a last resort, the federal government along with private banks and financial organizations also offer a variety of student loans. These can help bridge the gap between available funds and cost of tuition.
Academic and Career Support Resources for OTA Students
As you work your way through your OTA degree program and prepare for your career, it’s important to take advantage of every support resource and group you can. From reaching out to the student support center at your school to becoming a member of an OT student or professional organization, there are so many ways to get academic and career-prep help. Let’s take a closer look at some of the best places to get this support below.
Occupational Therapy Assistant Student Support Centers and Services
Colleges and universities offer many valuable academic and career support services that can help you before, during, and after your time in school. Getting to know these early on can ensure you get through college and advance your career with the support you need to succeed. Services vary by institution, making it important that you speak with a student services professional at your school. To help give you an idea of the services you may have access to at your school, we’ve showcased the support services of two colleges that go above and beyond in their support of their OTA students.
Based in Kansas City, Cleveland University prides itself on being a school that’s intentional in its care for students – both during their time of enrollment and beyond. To ensure occupational therapy assistant students are prepared to join the ranks of OTAs after graduating, the school ensures students meet the eligibility requirements for the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant exam mandated for state licensure.
Students also gain access to support services though the College of Health Sciences, including a library, details on internships and clinical experiences, guidance on online degrees and courses, and information on graduation requirements. The school also put out “Your Complete Guide to an Occupational Therapy Assistant Career” to help students understand what the process looks like from start to finish.
St. Catherine University
St. Catherine University maintains campuses in California, Minnesota, Texas, and Virginia as well as online. As the school that launched the nation’s first OTA program in 1964, St. Kate’s works diligently to continue leading the pack in terms of support services. Students interested in the hybrid occupational therapy assistant program gain access to support finding fieldwork placements, once-a-month skills labs, personalized instruction, and assistance in finding a meaningful career.
To help students prepare for the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant exam, the program offers free prep classes to ensure students excel on their first try.