Application FAQs

When do I apply?
The deadline for applications to begin the program the following summer is December 1 of the prior year. The online OTCAS system is available from mid-July to December 1 for submitting application materials to VCU. Applicants can begin the process and add to their application throughout this time period until the December 1 deadline. Applications close at 11:59 PM December 1st. No late applications will be considered. Applications will not be reviewed until they are complete, all courses and grades have been verified by OTCAS using official transcripts, all letters of reference received, all official GRE scores received and the VCU Graduate Admissions Application submitted. Applicants taking prerequisite courses during the fall semester will have the opportunity in December to update their fall grades in OTCAS. Anyone who takes fall courses must submit another transcript to OTCAS at the conclusion of the fall semester to verify fall grades. Applicants can check the status of their applications through OTCAS and VCU Graduate Admissions.

It is highly recommended that applicants routinely check their OTCAS application following submission for internal messages. It is ultimately the responsibility of the applicant to insure that all materials are received at their designation and that any questions regarding the application are cleared up in a timely manner. 

Do I need to send official transcripts to OTCAS and VCU?
Applicants are required to send official transcripts directly to OTCAS for verification as part of the application process. If you are taking courses in the Fall, please insure that you send those official transcripts to OTCAS following completion of these courses. You do not need to send official transcripts to VCU even though it says that you need to do that as part of the Graduate Admissions application process. Graduate Admissions allows the EL-OTD Graduate Admissions Committee to use the verified electronic transcripts for admissions purposes.
If you are accepted into the EL-OTD program and accept the offer of admission, you will be required to send VCU official transcripts from every college or university that you have attended. These are sent to:

Virginia Commonwealth University
Division of Strategic Enrollment Management
Office of Admissions
Graduate Admissions
408 W. Franklin Street, 3rd Floor
Richmond, VA 23284-2526

They need to be received within 2 weeks of enrollment.

Do I need to send letters of reference to VCU Graduate Admissions?
No, letters of reference are completed electronically by your references through OTCAS. You supply the contact information and your references are contacted to complete the online reference form.

Do I need to send my GRE scores to VCU or to OTCAS?
You need to request for ETS to send your official scores to OTCAS using the Designated Institution (DI) Code of 1219. DO NOT send your scores to VCU at 5570. They will not be retrieved or entered into OTCAS. The only way to have OTCAS enter your GRE scores is to send them directly to them using DI Code 1219.

Do I need to submit my essay/personal statement to OTCAS and to VCU Graduate Admissions?
Submit your personal statement responding to the questions identified by OTCAS as part of the OTCAS application. The Valued Added Essay is submitted as a PDF attachment on OTCAS as a supplemental VCU requirement. 

I've made a mistake on my OTCAS application. How can I correct this after it is submitted?
Please refer to OTAS FAQ's for further guidance: https://portal.otcas.org/applicants2013/faq/otcas_faqs.shtml If you cannot answer your question from the FAQ's, contact OTCAS directly for further instruction.

Do you have an Early Decision option?
Yes! The Early Decision period will run from mid-July, when the OTCAS application cycle for the following summer becomes available until November 1st. Applicants who apply during the Early Decision period will be notified of acceptance by December 1st if prerequisites are not being completed during the Fall semester or by January 15th if the Committee needs to wait for verified fall grades. See the Early Decision Section of the Webpage for eligibility criteria. 

Can I apply before I have completed all of the prerequisite courses? 
Yes. Prerequisites do not have to be completed before applying. However, all prerequisites must be completed before classes start in June. If you are in the process of completing prerequisite courses and you are accepted, you will be offered a provisional acceptance contingent upon successful completion of any remaining prerequisite courses at the "A" or "B" level. All applicants who accept offers of admission to attend VCU must have all official transcripts from every college and university attended sent to the VCU Graduate Admissions within 2 weeks of enrollment. Once all final official transcripts are received applicants with provisional acceptance will be issued a full acceptance. Applicants will have the opportunity in late December or January to update their application with Fall grades. OTCAS opens your application for Academic Update for a short window of time for you to make these changes. No other areas of the application will be available for revision. You will receive notification from OTCAS when this is available. 

Do I have to complete all of the required observation hours before applying? 
Yes, all 30 observation hours need to be completed by the application deadline of December 1st as this section cannot be updated. Thirty hours are the minimum number of hours required. You can certainly observe for as many hours as you have time for beyond that. You can continue to volunteer after the deadline for more experience if you choose.

How does the Graduate Admissions Committee evaluate an application?
The Entry Level Graduate Admissions Committee uses a formula to calculate a final application score. The formula takes into account a variety of factors, weighted in various proportions. The formula is as follows:

Quantitative Criteria-50%

- 5% - Overall GPA on all college/university coursework.
- 20% - Prerequisite GPA on 26 credits (8 courses) that are specifically required for our program.
- 10% - GRE Verbal percentile score
- 10% - GRE Analytical Writing percentile score
- 5% - GRE Quantitative percentile score

Qualitative Criteria – 50%

- 30% - Personal Statement in OTCAS evaluated on the basis of grammar and mechanics, organization of ideas, content, and overall impression. 
- 10% - Value-Added Essay
- 10% - Recommendations -Rating scales and qualitative comments from references

How do I make my application competitive?
Applications are competitive with excellent marks in prerequisite courses, good test scores, strong recommendations, and well composed essays. Good observation experiences often contribute to excellent personal statements. Over the last five years the number of applications has grown from just over 100 applications to over 500 applications for the 42 places in the class. It is a competitive program. Both quantitative and qualitative information contribute equally to the final score, but the quantitative information is calculated first and the total applicant pool rank ordered based upon the applicant’s quantitative score. We are able to give a full review to the top 150 applications based upon quantitative score.  So the better prepared you are in your undergraduate coursework, greater the likelihood that your application will receive a full review. However, because the Graduate Admissions Committee equally values the qualitative aspects of the application, the better your essays (personal statement and value-added essay), the more competitive your application will be. Applicants with high quantitative scores are declined for admission based upon their essays. The Graduate Admissions Committee recommends that you start your essays early in the process and that you continue to edit and refine them over the course of the summer and fall so you have produced documents that represent you well.

The Graduate Admissions Committee (GAC) members have expressed concern that some applicants had limited comments from their references. The comments were positive, but not specific or distinctive in any way so the reviewers did not have the quality information that they needed to award the application the full range of points possible for references. As a committee, GAC decided to counsel applicants to inform their references of the importance of the depth and quality of their written comments and perhaps schedule time to meet with their references to share their experience and reasons for their interest in OT with them. 

If I was declined for admission, should I consider reapplying the next year?When applicants who do not receive an offer of acceptance contact us about improving their application for resubmission there are two areas that frequently pose problems for applicants. Any applicant who received a grade of "C" in any prerequisite are counseled to retake that course and earn a letter grade of an "A" or a "B." As the applicant pool as grown larger and more competitive GRE scores have risen. We have seen an increase in the mean scores for the accepted class over the last five years. See Demographics. We suggest that applicants who did not attain GRE scores at the level of the mean scores for the accepted class consider retaking the GRE before reapplying. We also suggest preparing for the GREs before taking them using self-study materials and practice tests.

What grade point average is acceptable?
The Graduate Admissions Committee looks at the GPAs of applicants in two ways - an overall GPA (OGPA) and a prerequisite GPA (PGPA). At a minimum you must have:

- an overall undergraduate GPA of 2.70 and
- a Prerequisite GPA of 3.25 or better.

However, in recent years the mean overall GPA has been around 3.5 and the mean prerequisite GPA has been around 3.8. This means that successful candidates are earning predominantly A grades in their eight prerequisites. The lower overall GPAs have most frequently been amongst nontraditional students whose GPAs were earned as undergraduate students a number of years ago, but who have excelled in their recent prerequisite coursework that has to be taken within the last 7 years.

The Prerequisite GPA is very important to the Admissions Committee because these courses are considered a better indicator of the knowledge that you will need for your OT courses. Our program is a graduate program that requires a minimum GPA of 3.00 to graduate so we accept students who we feel will be capable of earning "A"s and "B"s in challenging courses at the graduate level. All prerequisite courses should be at the "A" or "B" level. Applicants with a prerequisite GPA lower than a 3.25 are considered ineligible for admission. It is very rare, with the increased competitiveness of the applicant pool in recent years, for an applicant who has earned a "C" in any prerequisite course to be accepted into the program. This is true of our program at VCU but may not be true for OT programs at other schools. Prerequisite courses in which an applicant earned a grade of "C" can be retaken and only the highest grade will be used to calculate the prerequisite GPA.

What Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores are acceptable?
In general, we prefer to see GRE scores above the 50th percentile. The mean percentile scores for the Verbal and Analytical Writing Subtests for the last few years have been in the 70th - 80th percentile range. Each GRE test score is considered separately. The Verbal GRE score and Analytical Writing GRE score are weighted more heavily in our admission process than the Quantitative GRE score because of their greater application to OT practice. The minimum Analytical Writing subtest score that we accept is a 4.0, which is generally at about the 54th-56th percentile. For the mean GRE scores for students admitted in the last five years, see Demographics .

The second time I took the GRE my Verbal score was better. Which one counts?
The GRE scores must be current within the last 5 years. If you have taken the GRE several times within the 5-year limit, the highest overall test scores from one, single testing will be used. We will not combine the best individual subtest scores from different administrations of the test.

Do you look at courses taken at a community college differently than courses taken at a university?
This question is generally posed in relation to prerequisites. Community college courses are acceptable for prerequisites particularly for applicant who have completed their degrees. Courses taught at four-year colleges or universities are often more challenging. We encourage you to find the best courses that you can to prepare for graduate school. Think of the eight prerequisite courses less as hurdles that you need to cross in order to get into school, and more as building the necessary foundational knowledge for graduate study. The stronger and more comprehensive your prerequisite preparation, especially for in the area of anatomy and statistics, the more prepared you will be for the rigorous graduate courses that require that you build upon that requisite knowledge. Take the most challenging prerequisite courses that you can. But a grade from one school whether a community college or a university are evaluated equally.

Why is the human lifespan development prerequisite 3-6 credit hours?
Our human development prerequisite requirement is for lifespan human development. If you take a child development course, you will need to take a course with an adult perspective. A gerontology course is permissible. In this case it will take two courses, or 6 credit hours to achieve the lifespan perspective. The total required prerequisite credits in social science whether you have one or two development courses is 15 credits.

I took a 4 credit course in Human Anatomy and Physiology with Lab. This was all my college offered.
You must have two semesters in human anatomy and physiology with lab. If a college only offers a 4-credit anatomy course, you can take a 4 credit physiology course to fulfill this prerequisite requirement.

My courses are graded as Pass/Fail. Is this acceptable?
Pass / Fail grades are not acceptable for prerequisites because they cannot be calculated in a grade point average (GPA). 

I have taken all of the required prerequisites and I still have electives hours to take this coming year what do you recommend that I take?
You are free to take any course that interests you.  The Graduate Admissions Committee recommends that competitive applicants take a Cognitive Psychology and a Kinesiology or Biomechanics course, if possible. Remember that medical terminology is also recommended.

How do I find places to fill the 30 hours of OT observation required? Can you make specific recommendations of places to contact in the Richmond area?
Clinical settings with OT can be found in most hospitals, outpatient clinics, schools, nursing homes, and home health agencies in your area. Use the telephone book or the web to identify possible facilities and call to see if they provide OT services. We do not make specific recommendations, but the VCU Health System, Sheltering Arms, Children's Hospital, St Mary's, Henrico Doctors Hospital, Chippenham Hospital, Chesterfield County, Hanover County, and Henrico County and Richmond City Schools and many more facilities all employ OTs.

Does the program offer credit for prior courses or work experience to replace any content of the curriculum?
No, students admitted to the program are expected to complete all coursework in the curriculum. No credit is given for prior courses or work experience.

I still have a lot of questions that need answering.
Monthly applicant Information Sessions are scheduled from 1:00-2:45 PM on the third Friday of each month throughout the year and an evening session is held the first Wednesday of October. Attending one of these sessions allows you to visit VCU's Department of OT, to hear about the program and the admissions process and to talk with students currently enrolled in the program. Please review our Entry-Level Program web pages thoroughly. If you still have unanswered questions, email your questions to otentrylevel@vcu.edu or contact the Program Manager, Lawrencine Smith, by e-mail at lsmith@vcu.edu or by phone at (804) 828-2219 from 9 AM - 4:30 PM weekdays.