How ACR Helped Me Get Into Occupational Therapy School
Each year, a new batch of ACR Homes employees are proudly sent out to their postgraduate education programs. Because students working as Direct Care Professionals at ACR gain such unique hands-on patient care experience, It’s not uncommon to see such employees skip their gap year and get into the master’s degree program/doctoral program of their choice on the first round of applications.
Recently, we caught up with Direct Care Professional, Lindsey Schimpf to congratulate her on getting into occupational therapy school. Although she was accepted at more than one program, she will be starting the doctoral-level Occupational Therapy Program at the University of Minnesota in the fall of 2023. This interview includes information about her journey toward a career in Occupational therapy, how ACR Homes helped her get into occupational therapy school, and tips for students considering applying.
What undergraduate degree did you choose to help you get into Occupational Therapy School?
Lindsey attended the University of Minnesota for her undergraduate degree. “I went into college not knowing what to do,” She explained. “I took the Introduction to Health Careers class offered by the University of Minnesota and heard about Occupational Therapy. I thought it sounded cool because it was a mix of science and creativity.”
After learning about Occupational Therapy, Lindsey went on to pursue her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology, which studies the principles of mechanics and anatomy in relation to human movement. She told us that she choose Kinesiology because, “Kinesiology seemed holistic. It’s both physical and mental, and it’s more than just sports."
Additionally, due to her interests in the mind, she also minored in Psychology, which undoubtedly will come in handy in her future career as an Occupational Therapist.
What kind of patient care experience did you earn to help you get into Occupational Therapy School?
Knowing that getting into occupational therapy school is hard, with the average acceptance rate for the best Occupational Therapy schools being only 30.21%, Lindsey set out to gain healthcare experience as soon as she could.
“I had seen ACR Homes all around campus at the University of Minnesota,” she said. Because shadowing opportunities were hard to come by due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and she had proximity to ACR Homes, she started here to gain healthcare experience as a Direct Care Professional. “When I was offered the job, I was surprised because I actually got placed at ACR Homes’ sister company called Arthur’s Senior Care. I hadn’t thought of doing that kind of work initially, but I ended up really enjoying working with senior citizens and memory care.” She went on to explain that she feels as if she’s working with a wider variety of residents in her current role and loves the work because every day feels different. Going further in depth, she shared,
“My grandma has dementia, so it’s applicable to my life, and it’s given me an important set of life skills.” Regarding her job and Kinesiology, she told us that “The Direct Care Professional position relates to Kinesiology, and specifically Occupational Therapy because it relates to what I’m learning in class. If one of my residents does her physical and occupational therapy exercise, you can see how much they impact her life. If she stops, you can see the diminishing effects.,” she continued. “It directly impacts their quality of life.”
In addition to her experience working as a Direct Care Professional at ACR Homes, Lindsey had the opportunity to shadow Occupational Therapists and volunteer at the Courage Kenney Rehabilitation Institute, which many residents living in ACR Homes frequent. It’s an organization that serves people with disabilities and those recovering from serious injuries such as brain injury, stroke or spinal cord injury. It also provides rehabilitation therapy and a variety of independent living services.
How did the patient care experience you gained at ACR Homes help you get into Occupational Therapy School?
Lindsey shared, “ACR Homes and Arthur’s Senior Care were both included in my personal statement. I talked about it in the application questions related to professional experience”. She included stories about taking a resident with disabilities on a trip to Disney, learning about accessibility, working with medical equipment, medication administration, doing occupational therapies with residents, and the relationships she’s built with them.
During another application essay, she was able to talk about an important aspect of healthcare she learned while working as a Direct Care Professional. She said, “I’ve learned that you need to respect the independence of an individual while also providing care for them. It’s important to find the line between.”
Additionally, she expressed, “my experience at ACR and the Courage Center has made me interested in memory care and geriatrics in general.” Both were valuable assets on her application to the Doctoral Occupational Therapy School Program at the University of Minnesota.
“At first, I took this job so I could get into occupational therapy school,” she admitted. A sentiment we often hear at the start of someone’s experience at ACR Homes. But she continued, “The care for my residents has gotten me through. The simple conversations and the time spent doing activities together is what fills my heart with joy.” It’s clear that the experience became so much more to her than just a steppingstone to a future career as an Occupational Therapist.
A particular memory she has that’s related to occupational therapy is when she worked with a resident who was prescribed arm exercises by her OT. “I learned to be careful about my words so I could motivate her," she shared. "If I said, “let’s go exercise”, she would say no. Instead, I learned to say things like "let’s go do something fun", and then make it fun. She would be more willing to participate when I spoke like that.” When reflecting on her patient care experience, her big takeaway was in learning how to frame the experience to the residents. No doubt, she will carry that knowledge into her next stage of life.
What is the process of applying to Occupational Therapy School like?
Most Occupational Therapy Programs use the Occupational Therapy Centralized Application Service (OTCAS). This allows prospective students to use one application to apply to multiple participating OT and OTA programs through a single application process. Lindsey started the process during the summer in-between her Junior and Senior year of college. The application process opens at the end of July. Lindsey suggested that OT applicants should try and submit the application during the summer while they’re not in school and to work on the application in sections so that they can come back and look at things before submitting.
Aspects of the Occupational Therapy Program application will include (but are not limited to):
- Selecting the Occupational Programs you’re interested in applying to
- Submitting your academic history, personal information, and transcript information (which is entered manually)
- Attaching letters of recommendation (of which, you need at least 3)
- Inputting information about licenses or certifications you carry
- Totaling up and submitting the amount of Occupational Therapy Shadowing Hours you had (including signatures from the overseeing Occupational Therapists)
- Documenting you volunteer, work, and student group experiences
- Writing down your academic achievements
- Uploading a personal statement
- Submitting additional program specific materials
After going through the rigorous experience of applying, Lindsey recommended that applicants consider taking a personal statement writing class before the summer they intend to apply and to put a whole-hearted effort into the class. She told us that, “what you put into it is what you’ll get out of it.” Additionally, she recommended submitting the application at least 3-4 weeks before it’s due. If there’s a problem with the application, they will notify you and you can fix it in enough time before the deadline.
How are you spending your time before starting your Occupational Therapy Program this September?
Lindsey said, “I’m trying to do everything I enjoy!” She has a long list of achievements and involvements. Currently, she is the president of the Pre-Occupational Therapy Student club, on the executive board for Camp Kesem, works as a Direct Care Professional at ACR Homes, participates in the best buddies organization, and loves playing intramural sports.
We at ACR Homes want to give the sincerest and hearty “BEST OF LUCK” to Direct Care Professional, Lindsey Schimpf as she starts occupational therapy school. We couldn’t be prouder to be part of your story.