How to Survive SLP Graduate School

My first semester of speech language pathology graduate school is over!! Boy, is that a mouthful or what?! I said goodbye to my clients yesterday, which was so so so sad. I honestly felt so lucky to be allowed into my client’s lives and to be able to spend so much time with them!

I’ve learned a lot, both inside and outside the classroom, and here is my take on surviving SLP graduate school:

1) STAY ORGANIZED. You can read how I kept my millions of articulation cards organized here. But, more importantly, keep your clinical paperwork organized! Each person will eventually find a system that works for them but the sooner the better!

What I do is… take data on the same sheet every session. Unfortunately, I lost the link to where I found my favorite but it’s really basic and could be replicated in Excel. After session, I compute the accuracies in red and three hole punch the data sheet.

The data sheet gets filed in a binder in it’s respective section (one for each client). That way, when I’m trying to analyze long term trends, I can flip through the pages and see all my data over time. I try and track the same goals in the same rows as well so /k/ initial in word accuracy is always first, and medial is always second, etc…. This helps SO much when writing end of the semester reports, or when writing the A section of my SOAP notes.

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In my pictures, you’ll see exactly what I do. For my client with aphasia, you can see how many more informal, subjective notes I take vs my articulation client where it is mostly +/- based.

The last thing I do to help stay organized is use one clipboard binder for each client. That way I can keep things I use every week (e.g., visuals) in that client’s binder! As I prepare things throughout the week for a session, I can keep it in a binder so worksheets, papers, and games don’t get lost in piles on my desk! Can you ever imagine how I’d lose anything on this desk?!

Messy Desk

Bottom line: find a system that works for you and stick with it! Taking data on scrap sheets will only make your job harder when it comes time to analyze the semester!

2) Make a friend. While sometimes grad school can feel a bit clicky for my tastes, I’ve made one friend that I know has my back no matter what. I think having somebody to talk things over with and vent to can make all the difference. If you don’t feel like you are fitting in with your class, don’t despair. Make a skype date with one of your friends every Saturday and warn them you might need to vent for 20 minutes. Talk to your mom on the phone. Send emails to your boyfriend. Make an SLP friend over the internet. Whatever you have to do! But don’t try and do this program alone. Knowing somebody has my back has been really important to me.

3) Spend time with your professors. And be really honest with them! Before my first day with my client with aphasia I was reallly nervous. I had no prior adult experience and felt out of my element. I told my supervisor that and she really calmed my nerves. She also told me she appreciated knowing how I felt, so she could provide appropriate feedback to help me! Also, if you have personal circumstances that might delay you turning in a SOAP note or something, I’ve found that it’s always a good idea to talk it over with your supervisor.

Bottom line: If you spend time with your professors, they will understand your needs better. They will be more forgiving of mistakes. They will be able to give you better advice and criticism.

4) Drink wine. Okay you all don’t have to drink wine… but I do think it’s important to take time for yourself and have fun once and a while! My roommate and I are excellent at this and keep a chilled bottle of wine available at all times. I’ve also fallen in love with frozen yogurt because it’s a great way to take a break from school for 20 minutes and eat something delicious!

5) Stay ahead. You’ve probably heard this a million times, but it is CRITICAL to do in graduate school. When you get an assignment, do it right away! The people I know who are the most stressed in school are the ones up really late finishing an assignment due the next day. Which brings me to my next point…

6) Maintain a regular sleeping schedule. And eat well! This one probably doesn’t need to be elaborated on, but I’ve found that I wake up easier, go to bed easier, and don’t need coffee in the morning if I go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.

7) Stay inspired. What we do is important and I think sometimes in the stress of school and tests and exams and SOAPs and paperwork and meetings we lose sight of that. I have a binder with clear sheet protectors where I keep notes, drawings, cards, etc… Anything that makes me realize that I’m appreciated and my work is important! When I’m feeling down I look through it and think back to all of the amazing people I’ve gotten the opportunity to work with and the impact I’ve made.

For those of you that haven’t had any life changing experiences, try and get some! Go out there and volunteer for a weekend at a camp for children with special needs! Ask a hospital SLP if you can shadow! Get involved so you can feel inspired when you hit your lows.

8) Keep things in perspective. You may be stressed about a test or a paper, but most of the client’s you are working with really have bigger concerns. They may have just had a stroke, had a child diagnosed with Autism, or they may be teased endlessly at school. Never forget that you are in a human service field. Grad school will end, but your client will need to communicate with others every single day of their lives. You might be the only person in a day who truly listens to them! Take that honor seriously, and don’t let it be overshadowed by a paper or exam.

So the take home lesson is stay positive, word hard, and stay thankful for being in a growing field that makes a positive impact on people’s lives! We are all so lucky :)

Thanks for reading and have an amazing weekend all of you fellow speechies! I truly appreciate your support.

Lovely comments so far...

  1. As a second year grad, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head! Great post! :)

  2. Tammie Grismer says:

    I loved your post — your insight will take you far in this profession! I’ve been in the field, the trenches, the combat zone, the speech room, etc. for 21 years and I absolutely love this job. You are right on — the grad classes, exams, and papers will eventually end and will turn into IEPs, evaluations, medicaid billing, RtI meetings and plans, etc., but what matters above all is the children/adults we serve and their families. There is no greater reward in the world than to help an individual become a competent communicator. I wish the best of everything to you as you continue through and complete your graduate program!

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  1. [...] posted a little bit about how I take data in my How to Survive SLP Graduate School post, but here it is again, with more detail (after going through second semester!). I’ve provided [...]

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