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.

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 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!!).

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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.

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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?

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 {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!

Graduate Admissions Essay

When I wrote my essay, I remember thinking to myself… “I wish I could just read somebody else’s. Not to copy, but just to get a CLUE of where to start!”. So… here is the next best thing! Below is a list of topics I talked about in my essay, in order! This is obviously very personalized to me, and my life, but will hopefully help in deciding how and where to start!

1) Intro: I began with a personal story about my brother, what originally sparked my interest in speech-language pathology.

2) Paragraph 2: My work experience during my undergrad, and how my focus in Autism led me to want to continue my education at XYZ University

3) Paragraph 3: My background working in multidisciplinary teams, how they are important, and how I contributed to student organizations other than ones related to speech

4) Paragraph 4: The characteristics that will help me succeed in grad school. I talked about working nearly full-time during my undergrad, volunteering, etc…

5) Conclusion: Why I want to continue my education and why I picked that school. I gave information about that particular school and related it to my personal experiences outlined earlier.

Throughout my whole essay, I intertwined Autism and its importance throughout my life. I picked schools that had a focus in Autism so that I could make a fair case for why I wanted to go to each school.

I hope that helps! The most important thing is to proofread, proofread, proofread!

The Graduate School Application Process

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By far, the most stressful period of my life thus far was applying to graduate school. To be honest, I didn’t have the best GPA out there, but I was passionate. I was lucky enough to obtain an SLP-A position during my undergrad years, as well as doing Autism therapy and numerous other relatable jobs. I understand the stress involved in the entire process! Here are my bits of advice:

1) Start early! I know you’ve heard this a million times, but if you start an application at the last minute, it will show!

2) Don’t get too hung up on the numbers, but realize the numbers do count. I got into multiple universities with less than average statistics! It can be done, but realize if you have less than average numbers (i.e., GPA, GRE scores), you will need to make it up elsewhere if your application! Make sure you’ve volunteered or worked at relatable places. Make sure you have amazing letters of recommendation from professors in the department. And make sure your application is flawless. My advisor in graduate school told me that you wouldn’t believe how many people turn in applications with typos. Don’t be one of those people!

3) Have multiple people edit your essay! Do everything you can to find family, friends, colleagues, or supervisors that will edit your essay. Do not use fluffy language such as, “I want to help people” or “I’ve wanted to do this forever”. Really tell the admissions committee what you will contribute to their graduate class. Everybody wants to help people… What is unique and amazing about you?

4) DO YOUR RESEARCH. This is in caps for a reason. If you are nervous about getting in, DO NOT apply to all of the same schools as your friends. I know in my home state, almost everybody I knew applied to the same 5 schools. Use this website to search through all of the graduate programs in the United States. Email them! Find out what type of students they are looking for. Learn about their resources and their areas of specialty! Don’t be afraid to apply to smaller schools.

5) Take good care of the people writing you recommendations. Make each of them a packet containing organized information about each school they will need to send a recommendation to. Include the deadline for each school in addition how they should submit their recommendation (online, in the mail, or give back to you). Do send them a nice and thoughtful thank you note afterwards!

6) Don’t look at GradCafe. Resist the urges! It will only make you feel inferior. So many of my panic attacks were induced by GradCafe. If you don’t know what GradCafe is… good! Do not go look and thank me for saving you much stress!

Well, hope that helps! For me, the application process was more stressful than graduate school itself! If you want any advice or help during the process, don’t hesitate to email me at speechymusings@gmail.com. I’ll do the best I can to point you in the right direction. At the end of the day, be proud of the work you’ve put in to get to where you are!