Pre-Occupational Therapy program

Help people participate in activities.

  • Are you interested in interacting directly with patients and providing compassionate care?
  • Are you an active listener and good communicator?
  • Are you interested in how the human body works and moves?
  • Are you interested in how people cope with and recover from illness and/or injury?
  • Can you motivate people?

Occupational Therapy may be right for you! Pre-Occupational Therapy is NOT a major at UW-La Crosse. It is a statement of your intention to apply to OT programs. You will still need to select a major to complete a degree at UWL. 

What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapists help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. Common interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes.

More information can be found on the UWL Occupational Therapy graduate program website and via the American Occupational Therapy Association.


  • General Biology (BIO 105)
  • Anatomy & Physiology I & II (BIO 312 & BIO 313)

While chemistry is not a prerequisite, General Chemistry I (CHM 103) is needed in order to take BIO 312 at UWL.

  • College Algebra (MTH 150) needed for CHM 103 at UWL 
  • Elementary Statistics (STAT 145) or Mathematical Models in Biology (MTH 265) 
  • Fundamental Physics I or II (PHY 103 or PHY 104)
    • Physics for the Life Sciences (PHY 125) has been discontinued; PHY 134 does not count for UWL's OT Physics prerequisite
    • Physics is not a common prerequisite among other regional OT programs
Social Sciences
  • General Psychology (PSY 100)
  • Abnormal Psychology (PSY 204)
  • Lifespan Development (PSY 212)
  • Plus any sociology or anthropology course; suggested: Introduction to Sociology (SOC 110) or Human Nature/Human Culture (ANT 101)
Additional requirements
  • Medical Terminology (CHE 220, HP 250, or RTH 355). If your undergraduate program requires medical terminology, you will want to follow the requirements as listed in the UWL Undergraduate Catalog and consult with your faculty advisor before taking a medical terminology class

Make your intention to pursue an Occupational Therapy career official by adding it as an "intended pre-professional track".

Declaring a Pre-OT track will help you determine common requirements for OT programs in our region. However, each program's requirements vary. When selecting coursework, it is important to consult the websites of the programs to which you plan to apply.

OTCAS provides a GPA calculator.

Learn more about UWL's OT graduate program requirements.

Many professional schools do not accept prerequisite courses that have been taken online or at non-U.S. institutions; AP, IB, AICE, and community college credit policies vary by school/program.

Grow through experience

Gain work or volunteer experiences
  • Work with and/or observing an OT.
  • Help people with activities of daily living. CNA and "direct care" positions are a great way to do this, but you can also volunteer for on-campus programs and/or at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, special programs, or any place where you gain experience helping others. Search for local health-related jobs on Handshake.
  • Volunteer your time in a way that matters to you, with a population or an organization in need. Search for local volunteer opportunities on Ugetconnected.
  • See gaining experience for additional resources.
Learn about the profession

Become more aware of the profession by reading articles about OT, go to related presentations, join the Pre-OT Club, and more.

Study OT characteristics

The UWL OT graduate program website shows some of the characteristics you should look to develop as you gain experience.

Join the Pre-OT Club
  • Advisory information and updates about OT
  • Periodic visits from the OT faculty, health professions staff, and OT/PT professionals
  • Community service opportunities related to OT
  • A peer group to help support you

Prepare to apply

Select a program

To learn about the various programs where you might apply, ACOTE Online is a good place to start. Always then consult the individual programs' websites for the most accurate and up-to-date information.


Some OT programs will require the GRE exam. However, UWL, UW-Madison, and several other regional schools, do not require it. See more about standardized testing.

How to apply

Most OT programs participate in the centralized application system Occupational Therapist Centralized Application Service (OTCAS). This is a single online site where you can submit most or all of your applications. Visit the OTCAS Help Center to learn more. See Apply with confidence for more information on personal statements, letters of recommendation, interviewing, and more.


The UWL OT Program's timeline page gives a good sense of the process of applying. The admission cycle usually starts in July, and you'll need to consult each programs' website for application deadlines.

Pre-OT application year timeline

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

GRE, if needed

Submit OTCAS app

Practice interviewing

Interviews into the winter months

Personal statement writing process

Talk to letter writers (early/often!)

Update your letter writers

Finalize your school list (ACOTE)3

Note: “Forced” gap years are common (due to not getting an acceptance); “planned” gap years have become more common.