10 Things You Need in OT School

If you’re about to start your own adventure through OT school, you’re probably wondering what you can do to prepare, what supplies you need, and how you’re possibly going to make it through in one piece. I’ve compiled a list of things that I bought and used during OT school that made all the difference for me personally. Some of these things you may not need, some of these things may be a necessity! What you buy is ultimately up to you, and the things that I found necessary may not help you at all, but this list might provide you with some insight into the reasoning behind some of the things I used and give you another opinion on things you have debated buying.

I am not affiliated or being sponsored by any of the brands or products I provide a link to.

1. iPad + Apple Pencil

Now, an iPad and Apple Pencil are absolutely not necessary at all. These products won’t make or break your experience in OT school, and they definitely won’t make or break your grades. BUT I can say that having an iPad and Apple Pencil absolutely made my note taking experience in and out of class so much easier. I used my laptop to complete most of my schoolwork, while I used my iPad and Apple Pencil to take notes!

The iPad eliminates the need for notebooks, binders and paper altogether. It saved me so much space in my backpack and was more sanitary to take into the gross anatomy lab since you can wipe it down with an alcohol wipe. I also used it as my planner by utilizing the calendar, which sync up to my phone and computer, and used a page on notability to handwrite my weekly to-dos (some, probably most, people prefer a paper/physical planner, so if you prefer a physical planner then that is a great option as well!)

Another aspect I loved is that your notes are completely customizable, and you can go back and change them as many times as you want (can’t do that with pen, and erasing pencil eventually ruins the paper). I used the Notability app to write up my notes and keep them organized.

I could also take pictures of textbook pages or handouts and stick them in my notes.

Here is a link to my blog about how I used my iPad in school.

Apple iPad
Apple Pencil

2. White Board

Studying for OT school means a lot of repetition, and I often found that repeatedly writing things down helped me retain the information better. While I did have a small sized, portable white board, I only ever used the huge white boards at my school to handwrite information and draw diagrams of body parts (I liked having the huge space to write everything out). When studying with friends, we would quiz each other by writing down the answers quietly on our boards and then talking through our answer choices. “I could just do that on paper,” you may say. Well, with a whiteboard you are making the more sustainable choice by not wasting paper, and not having to purchase paper every time you run out.

White Board

3. Clipboard

Many of my classes on campus were spent standing, observing and walking around to different classrooms while writing notes or answering worksheets provided by our professors. Not to mention fieldwork, where carrying around home exercise programs, information sheets, and blank sheets of paper for documentation and note taking was necessary. That being said, a clipboard is so crucial!

Keep it simple with a basic clipboard, or get one that has a storage component (better for privacy when you have documentation). Pro tip: go with a plastic or aluminum clipboard rather than a hardboard clipboard, these will be easier to sanitize!

Simple Clipboard
Clipboard with Storage
Foldable OT Reference Clipboard

4. Scrubs

This will definitely depend on your program, but I have yet to hear about an OT program where you don’t need at least 1 pair of scrubs (usually for anatomy labs). Now don’t go overboard with the scrubs you choose, stick to a simple pair, and get maybe 1 or 2 sets. I wouldn’t go all out with a fancy pair either, you’re only going to be using them for anatomy (of course this depends on your specific program), and once you start fieldwork you’ll likely be spending money on uniforms for those 3 months, and a new uniform for the last 3 months of a different fieldwork. I now have 11 pairs of scrubs of various colors because of each facility’s uniform requirements (any plain color in outpatient peds, and navy only scrubs for acute care). And of course that is going to change again once I am in the workforce! Wait for that fancy pair of scrubs once you’re in your long-term job setting and can justify buying an expensive pair.

AllHeart is a great site to get scrubs, from super cheap scrubs to those fancy ones!

You can also find most types of scrubs on Amazon!

5. Earphones

Since all of my class lectures were online, it was very important for me to have a good pair of earphones. I had a random cheap pair from CVS that I had to use because my apple earphones couldn’t connect to my laptop. Now I have Apple AirPods (the newer, noise cancelling ones), and I WISH I had these while in the didactic portion of my OT schooling. I love studying in coffee shops and having to listen to online lectures was made a lot harder with cheap earphones. With the AirPods I can actually connect to all of my devices without worrying about compatibility, and I can turn on the noise cancelling feature when I really need to focus on the lecture audio, and turn it off when I need to hear what my study partners are saying.

Apple AirPods Pro

6. Google Drive

Google Drive is a LIFESAVER (and free)! This is the easiest way to work on group projects, save documents that you need to access from different devices, or work on a presentation for class. Google Drive also has some amazing features, it’s user friendly, and easy to set up. I used Google Sheets, Google Docs, and Google Slides for any assignment that had to be shared, worked on as a group, or presented in class. I found out more recently about Zotero, a research app that is amazing, and Google Docs is compatible with this app (I wish I had Zotero while in classes… it would have been so much easier to reference research articles).

Google Drive

7. Backpack

This seems kind of obvious, but what I wanted to note is the importance of having a comfortable backpack with plenty of storage. I started OT school with an old Jansport backpack that ended up breaking a month in (it had been around the block a few times), so I had the opportunity to look into backpacks that were more specific to what I needed. I ended up choosing a FjallRaven Kanken backpack for several reasons:

  • It has a laptop compartment
  • It’s small but can carry everything I need in it (it’s surprisingly roomy). The small size also prevents you from overloading your backpack and placing strain on your back (back pain is a big issue in schools!)
  • It’s water-resistant (important in Florida haha)
  • FjallRaven is a sustainable and environmentally-conscious company and the products are made to last (after 2 years of constant use indoors and outdoors, the only wear you can see on my bag is a bit of dirt on the bottom since it sits on the floor so often)
  • The original Kanken backpack was created to solve the issue of back problems in Swedish school children, meaning that this is a comfortable backpack that will not give you back problems

8. Badge Reel

Most OT programs require you to wear your school ID/some form of identification while on campus or on fieldwork (level 1 and 2). This will vary, as some schools provide you with a name badge that you pin to your shirt or can be attached with a magnet (don’t buy a badge reel until you know for sure that you can actually use it). A badge reel will make your life so much easier, especially if you need to swipe your badge to enter places. I’ve also used my badge reel with my hospital security badge. And the best part is that they come in so many cute designs! I got a sunflower badge reel and it’s lasted me 2 years now and still going strong!

You can find tons of different types of badge reels on Amazon and Etsy!

9. A Hobby

When you’ve spent all day studying, working on group projects, or doing research, it is so important to take care of yourself, whether that’s going on a hike, laying out on the beach, volunteering, reading a book, crafting, or anything that makes you happy! My breaks were spent taking long walks on the beach with my friends, crafting (I love crocheting!), or exploring the town I was living in. Intentionally taking time to do something you love (not related to school or OT) is so important when it comes to avoiding burnout and stopping stress from building up. If you don’t already have a hobby, try exploring some new ones! Recently I’ve been loving working on jigsaw puzzles with my roommate, something I never thought I’d enjoy!

10. A Good Support System

Last but not least, before you start OT school, make sure you have a solid support system. Obviously this isn’t something that I can provide a purchase link for, but out of all of the items on this list, this one is absolutely necessary. Whether your support system consists of family, friends, classmates, or an online community; having someone to vent to, to spend your breaks with, and who understands your need to study a majority of the day, is so important. OT school is hard, and going through it alone is nearly impossible, remember to make time for social breaks, call your family or friends from home to stay in touch, go have dinner with your classmates after a hard exam. Humans are social beings, don’t forget that!


Runners up for this list included:

Coffee (or your preferred method of caffeinating)
Colored pens/markers
Index cards (or quizlet) for flashcards

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