Friday, April 7, 2017

Graduate School Application Season | For the Future SLP!

March and April are two of the most stressful months for potential graduate students. Schools are dropping acceptances, wait lists, and rejections left and right, and hopeful college seniors all over the world are anxiously refreshing their email inboxes thirty-eight times a day. Call me biased, but I think if you're a CSD major (communication sciences & disorders), it's even more stressful.

Despite the high demand for speech-language pathologists and audiologists, the graduate programs required for these careers are pretty tough to get into, and anxiety levels for students are at an all-time high during application season. Having been rejected, waitlisted, and finally accepted, I thought I would share some insight I gathered from personal experience over the last year:

Accepted! 

Congratulations, the hardest part is officially over. I know I’m gearing this post toward all graduate school applicants, but if you’re a speechie like myself, give yourself a giant pat on the back (and pop a bottle of champs!) because these programs are stupid competitive and you made it. Having said that – now’s the time to drop the competition. If your classmates are waiting to hear back from similar programs, be humble and be supportive! I only had one good friend applying to programs with me last year. One good, brilliant, super humble friend (hey there, Ali!). She was getting into programs left and right and well…I wasn’t. But she was so supportive, caring, and kind to me throughout the grueling process of waiting to hear back. She knew I was an anxious mess nearly 95% of the time, and she gave me so many words of encouragement and genuinely wanted me to be successful. When I eventually got accepted to USF, she was almost just as happy as I was (and I was ecstatic when she got into Vanderbilt!). Application season is rough on everyone…the least you can do (especially if you’ve been accepted!) is to be kind. You never know how badly someone could use some inspirational words.


Waitlisted! 

Being waitlisted to a school is bittersweet, isn’t it? You still have a chance of getting in, but who else is on the waitlist? What’s their GPA? What’s your placement? Is it ranked? When will I know? A month from now? 10 days before the program begins? You’d think I’m being excessive, these are allllll thoughts that were running through my mind daily when I was waitlisted to my current program. It’s exhausting, and a bit daunting. A few pieces of advice when you get waitlisted:

  • EMAIL THEM BACK ASAP. Too often, applicants leave their waitlist email chillin’ in their inbox while they wait a few months for the next update to arrive. Do not be one of those people! If you really want to get into that program, say so. All it takes is a simple, “thank you so much, I’m excited to be placed on the wait list, XYZ University is my #1 choice” etc. etc. 
  • Send an "addendum" to your application. Note: double check the program's policy on sending in additional documents or updates. If you've completed additional observation/volunteer hours or joined a new major-related campus organization, let them know! This shows that their program is still at the fore front of your mind. Not sure what to say? Here's a quick look at what I sent my program last year while I was on the wait list:
    • "As an applicant on the wait list, I wanted to send an addendum to my application. Attached is my updated resume. I believe increasing my number of volunteer/observation hours at ______ attests to the fact that I would be a strong candidate for the program. Also, please let me know if I can provide any additional letters of recommendation. Thank you for your consideration!" 
  • Ask about attending the program's open house. Again, this lets them know you're interested!
Having said all that, know when to pump the brakes on your contact. You want them to know you're interested, not crazy...even if that's how you're feeling at the moment!

Rejected...

I applied to a decent number of schools, and I am not ashamed to say that I got rejected from a few. Even if I wasn't dying to get into the program, I wanted them to want me, ya know? Rejection sucks in all forms, and it's okay to acknowledge that...so allow yourself to be sad or upset. Give yourself a night to make fancy drinks at home or get your mind off of it by going out with your best girlfriends. Binge watch Netflix with a large pizza or spend a night curled up with a novel and a cup of tea. Acknowledge any negative feelings you might be having, allow yourself to feel them for awhile, and then do your best to get past it!
  • Bonus: After you've gotten yourself together (or if you aren't even the least bit upset, you can do this right away!), shoot over an email or a phone call to the program director and ask their recommendations for re-applying next year. Maybe they were looking for more volunteer hours or a couple extra points on your GRE verbal score. It never hurts to ask, especially if you plan on reapplying during the next application cycle. 
Additionally, remember that these are tough programs to get into, with hundreds of applicants per school. There might always be someone with a "better" GPA or GRE score...so find something to make you stand out even further next time around! Give yourself this next year to work as an SLPA at a local school to save some serious $$$ and look into volunteering opportunities. As tough as it may seem, the only way to get past rejection is to get yourself "back in the game." You got this!

Are you in the process of applying to graduate school? If so, what are you studying?!


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