In January 2015, I shadowed a speech-language pathologist for the very first time. Speech-language pathology was something I'd been considering for a long time, despite having a degree and career in a completely different field. After more than a year of indecision, I scheduled a one-time observation at an outpatient center for a local children's hospital. Just over two months later, I put in my two-weeks notice at my job, signed up for the GRE, and swapped my salary for tips. Sounds easy, right?
Nope. It's never been easy. It's hard all the time, every day. What I'm going to say next is 100% cliche, but true nonetheless. Can you guess it?
It's worth it.Even if I don't get into graduate school this go around (speech-language pathology programs are notoriously difficult to get into), it will all have been worth it for me.
If you're thinking about going to graduate school for something completely different than your initial degree, making the first move can feel like a giant step. It is a giant step, and it's important to consider (and to expect) all of the following to happen once you decide that you are ready to make the jump:
- Think about it. Think about it again. Think about it some more. As I mentioned previously, I'd been thinking about SLP for a long time prior to actually quitting my job and returning to school. It started out as a random thought in my head in late 2013 and became a reality in early 2015. I am student loan-free from my first degree, so I really wanted to make sure it was something that was going to be worth going into debt for.
- Consult the people you love/the people who care about you the most. While the choice is ultimately up to you, I personally like to get feedback from my family, my boyfriend, and my very close friends before making big decisions. It's easy to make impulsive decisions on your own, but your friends and family are the people who can help you rationalize, and the people who will be your biggest supporters once you make the leap!
- Prepare yourself. Chances are, your life is about to change in a big way. It's time to get your ducks in a row. Quit your job if necessary, and find something more flexible. For me, it meant getting a serving job so I could spend most of my free time studying for the GRE.
- Find your why. Because you are 100% going to need one. Going into all this, I already had a perfectly good bachelor's degree in mass communication. So what if I didn't love sales? I could have easily found something else in (or out) of my field without putting myself through school once again. But the more I scrolled through endless job listings and descriptions, the less inspired I felt. It was within those moments that I realized what I was looking for: I wanted to help. Of course there was a lot more to it than that, but I wanted to do something where I could look back in years to come and say, "this really mattered." It's all a matter of opinion, but that was mine. So every break down I've had (there's been a lot), I've had to come back to my "why." It's probably what's kept me from completely losing my marbles.
- Adjust yourself, and remember that it's all temporary. I still haven't adjusted to being a broke college student. I thought I was done with serving forever, so going back to it was probably the biggest adjustment for me. I watch my friends from college go on vacation, plan their weddings, buy houses, etc. and I think, "that could've been me right now." But this, too, shall pass. I won't be broke forever. I won't be in school forever. It's all temporary. And I'll never look back and think "what if I'd gone back to school?" So it's a win.
- Immerse yourself in the field and keep an open mind about learning. Now that I'm spending my own money out of pocket (no loans until grad school, FML), it's a lot easier for me to dedicate myself to my studies. And while I won't always say this in the middle of an exam week, I truly enjoy [most of] what I'm learning. I'm observing at Tampa General Hospital every week and shadowing at an elementary school when I can. I'm getting good grades on my exams. I'm doing everything I can, because I chose this. What's the point of taking the leap if you're just going to half ass the journey?
Weeeellll, I guess I'm not really at my "after" point yet. I'm still on this crazy road. Some days I truly enjoy it, and sometimes I really don't. Some days it's hard for me to remember my "why." But along the way, I've met some great friends, and I've learned more about myself than I even thought possible. It's been kind of life changing, and I don't think I'll ever regret it, regardless of the outcome.