We are going to give you tips for getting into graduate school for Speech and Language Pathology. We understand that it can be very difficult to get into grad schools in our field, but it is totally possible. You have to put some hard work into it but it’s worth it. Our instagram followers wanted some tips from us, so here you go!! (This is all based on our experience. We both went to Washington State University and we LOVED our experience.)
1. GPA matters: Yes, your grade point average is very important for graduate schools, so make sure you try your best in undergrad. It is important that you have good grades in your major classes because the graduate admission committee looks for that. If you do not have a high GPA, it is not the end of the world. I know many people who got into grad schools with “okay” GPAs; however, they had great resumes, GRE scores, and recommendation letters. If you have under a 3.0 GPA and you have been applying to graduate schools and you are not getting into any schools, consider taking a semester or year off and take major related classes. You can try to get into a graduate program for Special Education (since the SpED programs are generally a lot easier to get into than SLP programs) and take a semester worth of classes and get all As!! This way graduate schools can see that you are able to get As in graduate level courses.
2. Study smarter not harder for the GREs: The thought of taking a big comprehensive assessment like the GREs can be very daunting but our best tip is to study smarter not harder for this big test. The test covers a vast amount of areas so there is no way that you can be 100% prepared for this test. By this point, you have probably had a lot of academic experience so just trust in the general knowledge that you have in these areas (verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and writing). One thing that really helped was to purchase the manual produced by the company who creates the test (ETS). You can purchase it here: GRE Test Prep Book. I truly feel that this was what allowed us both to receive such a high score on the writing portion of the test. I went through the writing samples provided in the manual and used the same format when taking the test. I think scoring high on the writing portion of this test is something that graduate schools really look at especially if you are planning on doing research. If you are able to show grad schools that are you able to perform high on the writing assessment of this test, it shows them that you have the writing skill set necessary to write for academia. Just remember this test is just one portion of your application!
3. Recommendation letters: The graduate admission committee trusts what your professors or previous clinical supervisors write about you. Make sure you are building relationships with these people throughout your undergrad years. I (Sanaz) got really great recommendation letters from my professors and supervisors. I worked at a Speech clinic as an aide for a year during undergrad and I also volunteered at a private clinic and a hospital and I asked all my supervisors to write me letters. Most schools only wanted 2-3 letters but I sent them 4-5 letters. I’m not sure if you can do this for all schools, but I know my recommendation letters were a big factor for my admission to graduate school.
4. Personal statement letter: This is your chance to introduce yourself to the graduate department so spend A LOT of time writing, rewriting, and proof reading. Make sure you ask 2-3 people who are grad students or have been to grad schools to read over your letter. This is where you sell yourself and you tell the admission committee why they should pick you over the other candidates.
5. Visit the schools: This might be a bit difficult to do specially if you are applying to lots of grad schools but pick your top choices and pay the Communication Disorders Department a visit. This way they can put a face to your name. Make sure you tell them how their school is your top choice and ask them what you can do to get into that school. Don’t wait until the last month to do this.
6. Apply to lots of schools: There are pros and cons to this, but I (Sanaz) really think that the more schools you apply to the more likely that you’ll get into some. If moving away is an option, apply to out of state schools as well as schools in your home state. I never thought I would move outside of California for graduate school but I ended up getting into WSU in Washington and although I had to live apart from my husband and make some sacrifices, I think it was totally worth it.
7. Reach out the speech department: During the application process, make sure to reach out to those program’s communication department advisers. They will be one of the greatest tools that you can utilize during this process. There are many steps to completing an application and you want to make sure you complete them all before sending in your application. Make sure to check in with them periodically as well and see if the school has received the paperwork you submitted. I (Christine) will share an embarassing story with you. I called one of the schools I had applied to just to check to see if they had received my paperwork and they had informed me that they had not. I kept thinking to myself, I swore I sent it in. Well when I looked back at my receipt from the post office (always make sure to get a delivery confirmation receipt and insurance), it turns out I had sent it to the “communication” department’s address rather than the “communication disorders” department. If I hadn’t called to check in with them, I would have never realized this error. With that being said, don’t call the department frequently to keep on checking on your application’s status because some schools actually do mark down how many times you call to check on it. Just call to check up on it and ask any pertinent questions that are not answered on their website. Trust in your application and yourself. As hard as it is, once the application leaves your “hands” it becomes a waiting game.
8. Get out there: Use this time to explore the vast field that SLPs can work in– school, hospital, home health, skill nursing facilities, private clinics, etc.. Connect with local SLPs in your areas and ask if there are opportunities to come in and observe or do volunteer work. There are many speech and hearing clinics that are non-profit and would probably be thrilled to have volunteers. With that being said, use this time to really EXPLORE the different options out there and don’t just limit yourself to only one setting. During undergrad, I (Christine) knew that I wanted to eventually work as a school SLP. Even though I knew this and volunteered at my university’s early childhood education setting, I still volunteered in a brain research center and at the Children’s Hospital. If you’re worried these settings may not take volunteers, it truly never hurts to just ask and you never know they might be able to point you in the right direction of places that do.
9. Balance: Applying to grad school and making sure that you have all the right things on your resume can be time-consuming and an engulfing process but make sure you find a balance between it all. Yes, it is important to study for classes, volunteer, job shadow, study for the GRE, get involved in research, take on a speech/hearing/language related job, etc. but make sure to find time for those other things you enjoy in life. Whether that be reading, taking a class at the gym, having lunch with friends, spending time with family, whatever it may be, just make sure to schedule time for these things too. These things will help get you through the daunting process of applying to grad school and serve as stress relievers when times get tough. Balance can also be applied to your resume, don’t worry about only having good grades or only having experiences related to speech language pathology on your resume. Make sure that you have a fine balance between the two. This will show grad schools that you are a well rounded candidate. One thing that I saw in my journey through grad school were students who were overly concerned by academics (which I don’t disregard as being important) but that was where all their focus went. These students didn’t think about volunteering or getting real life experiences, which I think will come to play an important role when actually working with clients/patients. Make sure to find that balance in your life and in your resume as you go through this process.
10. Never give up on your dreams: No matter what life may throw your way, never give up on your dreams. You picked this field for a reason, so let your passion drive this process and I guarantee it will show through in your application. Don’t over think it and make yourself out to be someone you’re not on paper. Always stay true to yourself and never give up on this dream of being a SLP. Grad schools will think highly of your commitment to keep trying and persist at following your dreams. If you’ve applied to grad schools and didn’t get in, try again but find something during that year to add to your application, writing prompt, or resume that will make you stand out from the rest. Reiterate in your cover letter and writing prompt that don’t give up easily and that you are willing to put in any amount of effort needed to make this dream come true. Most importantly, believe in yourself!