Saturday, February 28, 2009

Applying to MOT (Masters of Occupational Therapy) in Ontario

Convenience or Cash-grab... it depends on your point of view, but here in Ontario when you want to apply to an english-language Professional Masters program in Rehabilitation Sciences (aka physical therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology) you don't apply to the school. Instead, all students apply through a central application service called ORPAS.

Yes, you end up paying extra money for this application service in addition to the fees paid to each school you apply to, but there are some advantages too.
  • You fill out ONE application.
  • Pay ONE fee for all applications and transcript requests.
  • Send in ONE set of transcripts (saves a little money compared to ordering multiples to be sent with each separate application).
  • Send in ONE set of reference letters.
  • Send in ONE Personal Statement/Letter of Intent.
  • They confirm all the information you included in your application, and send you a verification report that lets you know whether all your transcripts/letters of reference made it in time. Individual programs won't do that for you.
  • They forward all your info/documents to each program you apply to.

Now before you start to feel all warm and fuzzy about this one-ness you should know that beyond ORPAS the MOT programs get very... hmm... something that means the opposite of my made up word one-ness. What I mean is:

  • Every program has its own entry requirements.
  • Every program has a different way of evaluating applicants.
  • Every program, though they share many of the same goals for program outcomes, has a different approach to pedagogy (aka how they will teach you the stuff you need to know).

So before you pick where you're going to apply, do some homework. You want to make sure that you're a competitive applicant for the program based on the evaluation criteria they use, and you want to make sure that the way they teach the program jives with how you learn.

A couple of "for instances":

  • Most programs assess your GPA based on your last 2 years of study (or equivalent in course credits). However, Queen's assesses you based on the GPA of your entire undergraduate career! If you had a stellar 1st year, or a prior degree where you did well, then this is a real boon to your application. However, if you're like most people and your first year was a rough transition that is reflected in your grades then guess what? You may have a reduced chance of getting in at Queen's.
  • McMaster's program uses a very different approach to teaching than the other universities. They use something called "Problem Based Learning", with very small work groups and more independent study rather than lecture or workshop based instruction. This approach might be your dream scenario or your worst nightmare. The point is to know what you're getting yourself into before you apply.

And now the two big mysteries in any application process...

  1. What do they want you to say in your Personal Statements/Letter of Intent? (Everybody but McMaster)
  2. What are they going to ask me in the interview?? (McMaster only)

The answer to both is, I have no idea!! I looked and looked and looked for information posted by other previous applicants giving hints or tips or don't-do-this stories. I found nothing :(

So... if there's anyone out there who has gone to the McMaster interview and wants to give people an idea of what to expect, send me an email!! I'll post your hints anonymously :)

As for the statements... I can tell you what they asked this year (see below). And if there's anyone out there who would like to comment on what sorts of things the admissions people look for in these statements, it would be most appreciated.

Best of luck to all who applied this year!!!


Clearly describe your reasons for pursuing a career in OT and how your personal experiences and background have contributed to your preparation for this career choice (maximum 5000 characters). <-- note, that's characters NOT words. It's about a page in 10pt. Arial font.

Demonstrate your understanding of the profession of OT by identifying 2 current or emerging trends in Canada's healthcare system and discussing how occupational therapists are well positioned to play a leadership role on healthcare teams (maximum 5000 characters).


  1. no news? I wanted some tips too for the letter of intent... considering I am coming from Qc and have a bachelor's in architecture, I don't know if I'm considered in the "4 years or equivalent" since I did 2 years CEGEP+3years bachelor's

    and wow I didn't know they would ask such... interesting and specific questions on the form!!

  2. Hmm... I'm not sure about the equvilency thing. But I'm sure that your situation is pretty common. Contact ORPAS, or check their website, and I'm sure they'll be able to let you know. And as for your background, it really doesn't seem to matter what your undergrad is in. As long as you have a good understanding of OT and healthcare in Canada... so that you can answer the application questions well and do well at the interview for Mac... then that is more important. It just might mean that once you're in the program you have to play some catch up with anatomy or psycho-social stuff.
    Anyway... best of luck in your application! Email me and let me know how it goes!!

  3. hey again,
    hope it's not too complicated for my references and so on to send the letter (and I read some schools use a form??) to ORPAS, I know they are ultra busy and wouldn't want to burden them too much...

  4. me again, I was wondering if it's not too personal, could you send me your letter of intent? I want to get started on that..


  5. Hi Sweet Pea!

    I am an undergraduate at the University of Waterloo and am looking to apply to OT! I stumbled across your page and was very excited to see your walk through the whole process of applying, getting accepted, and your first year at Mac!

    I know this is forward, but I was wondering if I could get some pointers for how you structured your answers? The applications are the same for this year's round.

    I'll be back to see what you say! Any tips or examples are appreciated!


  6. Hi S! If it's not too late to offer some suggestions then please feel free to send me an email and I'll be happy to share some ideas.
    Good luck! :)

    1. Hi Sweet Pea,

      I am applying in the OT program for the Fall 2014. I know its been a while since you applied, but I was wondering if you could give me tips on what they expect us to write in the letter of intent. The questions are the same as in 2009! My email is

      Thanks so much!

  7. Hi OTSweetPea, i love reading your blog and the tips. I have actually already applied, and got my comfirmation at ORPAS. It was kind sad because my last year (3rd year) avg. was a 3.75 which was great however my 2nd year was 3.10. So my total average is a 3.52 which in my perspective is low. So do I still have a chance of getting in anywhere?

    My references are great and my past experiences as well. Do you mind sharing your average going into the application process?

  8. Hello Anonymous Poster! Thanks for reading my blog :)
    I don't want to share my average here because I don't want anyone to think that the average is the most important consideration. While I'm not on any admissions committees (so I don't know what really goes on behind closed doors), I'm fairly confident that grades are only part of what they look at (and a small part at that). It would seem that grades are used as an initial screening tool to weed out applicants that are likely to struggle with academic work at the graduate level. However, after that it's the bigger picture they look at. Here at Mac, it's your interview. At the other schools it's your resume (UofT), your letters of recommendation (UofT and Queen's - I think?), and your statements (everyone except Mac).
    I can also say from talking to some people in my class that not everyone has a sky-high gpa. In fact, there are two people I know personally who got first round offers of admission, who were initially wait-listed for interviews because of their gpa. So, even if you're wait-listed for an interview it's not a lost cause!
    Best of luck with your application! And feel free to email me if you have any additional questions.

  9. I wish there were more blogs out there like yours! I applied to schools back in January and my application anxiety is high...haha.

    I'm very worried because although I have lots of OT volunteer experience in various healthcare settings, my GPA is not the best. I applied to UofT and my GPA (last 10 classes) is exactly what UofT says their cut off is. (but it is way below the average of last years class) I know you mentioned people were wait listed because of their GPA- and I was just wondering approximately what their GPA was?

    Hope all is well!

  10. For the past few years (including this year) Mac had a top 300 GPA cutoff of 3.54/4 for interviews.

    Western considers 3.4 to 3.6 as being competitive


  11. Hello I am not sure if you check your blog anymore but am really grappling with the second question in regards to OT, health care trends and leadership. In your response did you discuss health care trends then talk about how OTs are leaders in those trends or did you discuss the trends and then discuss how overrall OT's are positioned to be leaders in all interdisciplinary health care teams? I have discussed the trends and what OTs do in those specific trends then boradly discussed how ots are positioned to be leaders healthcare teams across the health care continuum

  12. Hello Anonymous poster :)
    An answer to your question would be quite lengthy for a "comment." If you send me an email at then I'll be able to send you a reply.
    The short answer is that I don't actually have any answers to your question, but I do have an informed opinion. My opinion is that the statement prompt IS very confusing and that its purpose is to give you an opportunity to demonstrate that you understand issues and trends affecting healthcare in Canada and that you understand the role for OT in that context. And with regard to the "leadership" bit... remember, we're registered health professionals. We are leaders in healthcare.
    The best advice I can give is: Get a friend to help you review and edit your statement. Preferably one who is also going through the same application process.
    Good luck with your application! Let me know how it goes!

  13. Cool blog!
    I am applying to OT and PT this year. I have started working on my application and it is totally stressing me out!
    I googled emerging trends in Canadian health care and OTs and it lead me here :)

  14. Hi OT Sweet Pea, are you still available to answer questions regarding OT apps?

  15. Hey Sweet pea! I was wondering how long your statement of personal intent was for each of the questions. I am writing mine right now. I am not quite sure how long it should be?

  16. Hello, I have gone through the application process. McMaster only looks at gpa of the last twenty classes. The minimum to apply is a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, however, Mac takes the top graded 300 applicants for interviews and only 60 something get in. That said the cut off last year was 3.57. The average cut off for PT programs is usually about 3.7. All of this information can be found on the ORPAS information booklet re. the program. The questions listed above only apply to UofT, which, even if they don't say they do, favours gpa. To be competitive a minimum of an A- is essential. Beyond this, it is highly recommended to gain some volunteer experience in the field of Rehab Science. Re. the second question, I found it helpful to ask some friends in the health care field (OTs, OTAs, Doctor friend, couple nurse friends) what they deemed as the most important two current trends. All said the same thing, which helped me to tighten up my research focus. Deadline is a few days away. Good luck to everyone.

  17. Just wanted to say thanks- your blog has been really helpful in answering a lot of my questions! I was just wondering if you used references for the second answer? Since there is a 5000 character limit I'm unsure about using references or not :)