Tips for First Years
Here you will find some tips and tricks, for the students, by the students, for surviving the transition from your undergraduate studies to graduate studies:
1. Check your e-mail regularly. E-mail is the primary mode of communication for this program, so be sure to check your email every day for important updates on classes, assignments, or group projects.
2. You are no longer in competition with your classmates. You are already in the program, so relax and play nice. This may be a difficult transition for some of you, but you will cope better in this program if you use your classmates and professors early on for support and as resources.
3. It is a good idea to be organized right off the bat. The courseload is heavy; you’re going from 5 classes to 8 classes.
4. Talk to your second year buddy. Don’t be afraid to e-mail them if you have questions or concerns about anything. They are there to help you, and they’ve definitely been through what you’re feeling!
5. Get all the vaccinations that you need for fieldwork early. Once you start the program, there is not a lot of free time during the day to go and wait in the University Health Centre. During the school year the lines at the centre are long, and you may be looking at wait times of 3+ hours.
6. Start projects early. We know that this is difficult, because it is really easy to put things off if they are not due for a while, but things do tend to pile up fast.
7. Don’t get upset if you get a bad grade. Go see your professor if you feel overwhelmed or have concerns, they genuinely want you to succeed and will do what they can to help you.
8. Time management is really important in this program. Use the agendas that they give you at the beginning of the year, and make sure to write down every deadline so that you don’t accidentally miss one. Another good idea is to get a 4-month dry-erase calendar that will give you a visual of when everything is due, use Google Calendar, or use an electronic device (i.e. iPhone; Blackberry).
9. Attend classes. It is not like undergraduate studies where you are just a number and your professors don’t care if you are there or not. In this program, the professors do care, and will be annoyed if you skip their class without emailing them with a valid reason.
10. Get into the habit of bringing a lunch to school every day. The first semester of OT is full of long days, the cafeteria doesn’t have a food aside from vending machines, and it will be much cheaper for you in the long run.
If you do bring a lunch, don’t forget utensils.
11. For physical examination labs (which are colloquially referred to as “naked” labs), you won’t be actually be “naked” for labs – you will just be required to change into loose-fitting gym clothes. There are changing rooms (with lockers) conveniently located right next to the lab.
12. Try not to stress out too much over practical exams (OSCEs). Practice in advance so it becomes second nature, it will lower your anxiety levels considerably.
13. Prioritize your assignments when things are piling up and you feel overwhelmed. Pay attention to how much an assignment is worth and prioritize according to what it is weighted.
14. Don’t listen to rumours about assignments/project/exams. Use each other for support and as resources, but always clarify with your professors if you are unsure about a deadline or requirement. Rumours about deadlines have a tendency to circulate among students.
15. Make time to do FUN things that are not school-related. Occupational balance is important for your overall health.
16. Have questions, comments? Talk to your professors.
17. MscOT is a professional program, with an emphasis on practical skills and establishing a knowledge foundation that will enable you to practice as an entry-level OT. This program differs from what might be expected of a traditional graduate school program, which has more of an emphasis on scholarship and research.