Erin McNamara ’11: Occupational Therapy at Creighton University

  • St. Olaf really prepared me for professional school by instilling in me a strong work ethic and high standards for my academic performance.  I actually felt that my first year was much easier than St. Olaf! This year has been much busier since we went from 13.5 credits last spring to 18.5 this fall and has been more reminiscent of my days on the hill. Although it has been a ton of work, I haven’t felt too overwhelmed.  Like most Oles, I was involved in many activities in college and it really taught me to make good use of my time. Above all, it gave me the confidence that I am strong enough and smart enough to handle professional school.
  • Overall, I wish I had done more career exploration earlier in my time at Olaf.  I had heard about OT in high school and was pretty sure that I wanted to do either that or PT, but I should have shadowed/researched careers more in my freshman/sophomore year.  Fortunately, I absolutely love OT and am very confident that this is what I’m supposed to do, but I had limited exposure to the field until my senior year when I was applying to schools. I think that Oles interested in going into a health profession should try to see as much as they can in the health care field in order to really understand the roles that each member of the team (PT, OT, speech, MDs, nursing, rec therapy, PAs, etc) plays and find out what is best for them.
  • I wish that I had looked into grad school/professional school pre-requisites sooner as an undergrad.  I was lucky in that I came into Olaf with some AP credits, and was also very fortunate that between my two majors (Ex Sci and Psych), I had most of the pre-reqs covered for a good number of OT schools.  There were some schools that I did not apply to because I didn’t have some of the pre-reqs they required such as physics, calc, and orgo.  Looking back, I should have made more of an effort during my sophomore/junior year to research admissions requirements for specific OT schools I was interested in. I really, REALLY did not want to take any of those classes though, so I just took that as a sign that Creighton was a good fit for me because they didn’t require it! 🙂
  • I shadowed/volunteered at CSMR after either my freshman or sophomore year, but didn’t see any OT (just PT) and didn’t get a whole lot out of that experience.  I also shadowed two school-based OT’s– one at an elementary school in Farmington and one at a middle school in Northfield.  My best shadowing experience was the internship that I did during the fall of my senior year. I had a rotational shadowing internship through Northfield Hospital and was exposed to OT in a variety of settings such as long-term care, outpatient hands, outpatient neuro, outpatient pediatrics, and home health.  I learned SO much during this internship and absolutely loved it! Now that I’m in school, I know that this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of settings that OTs can work in. I wish I had done another internship like this one the spring or summer before in acute care/inpatient rehab in a hospital to get to see more “typical” OT practice.
  • From my understanding, the application process is simpler now than it was while I was applying.  I believe that most schools now use the OTCAS (Occupational Therapy Centralized Application System), negating the need to write essays/apply for each individual school. I would advise students to get their apps in early (I did by Oct. 25th) and to make checklists of each school’s requirements and due dates in one document.  There is a LOT to keep track of and I found that creating a checklist helped big time in keeping me on track.

Creighton’s OT curriculum has been revamped and will be implemented with next fall’s incoming class. I know that schools always have issues with St. Olaf’s A&P course, but when I applied last year and called about this they said “Don’t worry, we know how you do things at Olaf—you’ve more than covered everything that you need to.” J Double-majoring in Psych/Exercise Science was absolutely the perfect combination for this program—I’d recommend it!