Applying to SLP Graduate School: Where Do I Start?

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As I said in one of my first blog posts ever, applying to graduate school was one of the most stressful periods of my life. And I’m still saying that after a year and half of graduate school itself!

I was convinced I wasn’t going to get in anywhere, so I was an absolute freak throughout the application process. So, to help those of you who may be in the middle of that process, I’ve attempted to compile some advice & resources that may help you through!

(1) First, check out my original post on tips for applying to graduate school here. While an ugly post (don’t judge, it was one of my first!!) so many of my tips are valid.

(2) Go to SLP_Echo’s site, scroll down a bit and look in the right column. There, you’ll find a section for YOU (aka people applying to grad school). Her posts are great!

Now you’re ready to begin.

{first}

 Pick out the schools you want to apply to! While this may seem easy, if you do this like I did, it involves A TON of work and research.

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I used this ASHA search engine. Just click “Masters” and then “Speech-Language Pathology” and start searching. You can also search by state, which is what I did (and ended up halfway across the country). Many of the schools in this search engine provide stats from their students including average GPA, areas of research, program size, and average GRE scores. LOOK AT THESE NUMBERS. If you have a 3.2 and the average GPA is a 3.9, please take that into consideration (read the section below). Same with GRE scores. If you are noticing a trend that your GRE scores are below average for most schools, consider retaking them!

Because I’m a freak (seriously…) I made an Excel spreadsheet of the schools I was considering and their average stats. I ended up applying to 9 schools: 3 in a competitive tier, 3 in a comfortable tier, and 3 “safety” schools. Note: There is no such thing as a “safety” school I learned. (The only school I got rejected from, not waitlisted, was a “safety” school.)

When picking schools from my mega-spreadsheet, I considered the following factors to be the most important:

1) Average Admission Statistics
2) Cost
3) Location
4) Professor/Research Areas (when these line up with your interests, it makes writing an essay A TON easier)

Your factors may be different, but figure out what you’re looking for and pick away!

But, how competitive of an applicant am I?!

This is what drove me crazy when I applied. I had good experience, but a less than stellar GPA. I had a good GRE score, but maybe some only decent professor letter of recs. Where did I stand?

After getting into grad school, I stumbled upon how my school makes admission decisions. THIS IS NOT A SECRET. It is a formula. Yes that’s right… all of the heart you put into your application gets translated to a number. So if you want to know how you stand, rank yourself on a scale of 1-5 in the following areas:

1-5   :   GPA - When ranking yourself for GPA (and GRE scores), consider the school you’re applying to. For example, if you have a 3.5 and the average GPA for the school you are applying to is a 3.3, I’d say  you have a 4-5 point GPA. But, if the average is a 3.8, you might have a 2-3 point GPA.

1-5    :    GRE – Again, compare your GRE scores to the school you are applying to!

1-5   :    Personal Essay – This one should really be a 4-5. No excuses here! To make it great, get creative, reflect on your life, and have tons of people edit it. I took mine to the writing center at my school, that provided free feedback. It was very helpful!

1-5    :    Letters of Rec – If you have 3 letters of rec needed for a school, average how good you think they’ll be. Honestly, I didn’t know my professors that well during undergrad so I kind of assumed theirs would only be mediocre. Take that into consideration!

1-5    :    Work Experience/Resume – Even if a school doesn’t directly ask for this, tie it into your personal essay. This stuff counts!

While you won’t be able to compare your compiled score to other students, doing this may help you figure out your weak areas and make up for them in other areas (or directly improving them!!).

{second}

Get organized, and start compiling needed information for each school. Again, because I’m crazy, I made a “cover sheet” for each school I applied to. This sheet listed all of the important dates/deadlines and important information (e.g. who was writing my letters of rec). I put checkmarks next to each to keep track of when I had finished each item for each school!

Consider not only when the application is due, but how. Many schools have online applications. Some are partially online and partially through the mail. Know these!

Print a blank monthly calendar online and use it for ONLY graduate school application dates.

{third}

Get to work! Ask the people who will be writing your letters of recs ASAP. Request your transcripts as soon as your fall grades are available (for most schools this will work, but it’s not worth it to get the fall grades if you are cutting it extremely close deadline-wise). Write, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite your personal essay. Did I mention rewriting it?

{let’s review}

 {first}: Pick out your schools. But, do so smartly! Research and do not simply apply to schools you’ve heard of or that your friends are applying to! Figure out how competitive of an application you have, and work hard to improve your weak areas. There is no excuse for a poorly written essay!

{second}: Get organized. Make a binder, and/or have a folder for EACH school including a cover letter with all the basic information.

{third}: Get to work! Contact your letter of rec peeps ASAP. Treat the application process like a job, and devote time to it each day/week.

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What else do you want to know about? Feel free to shoot me an email at speechymusings@gmail.com with any other questions! Or simply comment below!

Lovely comments so far...

  1. Loved this post – we are at the same points in grad school, and I agree, applying was the most stressful thing I’ve ever experienced. I had spreadsheets too!! Not only did I make them to organize the ASHA stats, but I also made one to organize due dates, number of letters of rec, app fee, etc AND to check off and date (because I trust no one) when each item was mailed/submitted. I hung these on my wall by my bedroom door so I’d see them all the time and stay on top of everything.

    Another tip I’d give to anyone doing this is GO VISIT any and all schools you possibly can. Email people in the program and find out if they allow interviews (most don’t) or if there is an open house or meet and greet. The only school I didn’t get into (as in flat out rejected) was also the only school I was unable to visit. These visits give you a chance to shine in person and give them a face to put with your application. It can really make a huge difference!

    • Yes yes and yes!! Thanks for your wonderful comment. I do agree about visiting if it is at all possible! Great advice, Katy!

  2. THANK YOU SO SO MUCH!! I am only a junior in my undergrad and already starting to freak out over graduate school. Your post has definitely shined some light and is being added to my bookmarks!

  3. This post is great, and thank you for it. You don’t address applying as a career changer though. I’m 32 and wanting to switch from an ESL teaching career and broaden my horizons. Applied to my in-state schools three times and got rejected from programs who say they are only looking to take 25 students a year. So frustrating!

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