I’m going to assume that at least one perspective grad student has stumbled across my blog, so this post is for YOU! One year ago exactly I was in a post-grad-school-application daze, having (finally) heard from all the schools I’d applied to (yeah yeah, I know I ended that sentence with a preposition). The journey to that point had been far from simple-my roommates at the time could attest to the stone cold fact that I’d been a total basket case for the few months leading up to the glimmering moment when I heard back from schools.
So, if you are a junior-going-on-senior in a speech and hearing undergrad program, or a post-bacc who will be applying next fall, here are some of my tidbits of knowledge to share about how to make the process of applying to grad school a little simpler:
- Think Looooooong and Hard About Where You Want to Apply: remember, you are not just attending school in this city/state; you are living there for at least 2 years. You tend to hear from everyone that you sell your soul when you start grad school. While this is true to an extent, you definitely will have some time to live your life if you prioritize well. Make sure you consider the pros and cons of the city where you will end up living, because there’s nothing worse than having some glorious free time and hating everything around you that you could be doing with it! Do you LOVE mountaineering? You probably should consider schools within a 50 mile radius of a mountain. Can’t live without the ocean? Think east coast or west coast (best coast)!
- Make Checklists: Ok, I admit that I love checklists and make them for everything, but I promise this will be your greatest survival tool through the application process (Katniss-Everdeen-style). I think that the 1,837,429,324.8 hoops you have to jump through in finishing all aspects of an application are a way to filter out the weaklings from the strong. You will need to complete the application for the official grad school AND also for the Speech-Language Pathology department (often this one has supplementary questions to go along with it). You need to send official transcripts (usually one to the official grad school and another to your department). You need to send GRE scores (barf). The list goes on and on. Make a separate check list for each grad school and stick to it. Call often to make sure things have arrived! Who cares if you annoy the receptionist? This is YOUR future!
- Survive the GRE’s: I scream, you scream, we all scream when we think about the GRE’s. This exam is horrible, terrible, overwhelming, and required. So get over it and get studying! Unless you are a standardized test pro, this is a stressful step in the whole grad school application process, but I promise you will survive it (I did, so I know you will too). I didn’t do a study class ($1,000…no thank you), but I did spend many a weekend at Barnes and Noble taking as many practice tests from the GRE study books as I could get my hands on. I didn’t actually write in the books, just sat with them and took practice test after practice test. You will never memorize every word that shows up in the analogies section or every math concept, but you can “learn the test.” All those practice tests helped me to pace myself and recognize which questions expected calculation of some sort vs use of a shortcut.
- Read Up on the Faculty and Resources at Your Schools: Some schools have better access to certain areas of study than others. Take the time to look at the current research being done by faculty as well as the types of clinics, hospitals, schools, etc. associated with the schools you’re considering. If your heart is set on working on a cleft team, there are certain schools with more access to that than others. This doesn’t mean that you’ll never get the opportunity at a different school, but you might have to advocate for yourself a bit more or seek out topics that aren’t explicitly taught by your faculty.
- Make Your Personal Statement PERSONAL: don’t spend your precious space telling your dream school about how important ethical practice is, or the importance of evidence-based practice. They know! Trust me. You have to remember that although you might know how awesome and amazing you are, the faculty reading your application probably don’t know you from a hole in the wall. This is your chance to tell them about YOU. Are you fascinated by velocardiofacial syndrome? Tell them! Do you have aspirations of developing an app for elementary kids with dyslexia? Mention that! Yes, you need to sound professional and intelligent, but don’t forget to sound like you and let your passion shine through!
None of these suggestions are fool-proof, but hopefully they can help to set some of your stress at ease. I wake up every day feeling blessed to be a part of the University of Washington’s grad program, but I have not forgotten the anxiety and effort that went into my applications. Trust me though…you’ll make it, and undoubtedly become a fabulous SLP!