Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Advice for your First Year of Speech-Language Pathology Graduate School.

Note: This post is for my fellow or future SLP graduate students! Non-SLP following - you're more than welcome to read on, but if you're not interested, come back later in the week for more travel/personal bits :)

I can't believe my first year of speech-language pathology grad school has already come and gone. I start my second (and final!) year in just a couple of weeks, so I wanted to share a few bits of advice I've gathered from my experience as a first year speech-language pathology student for anyone who's about to start their program this month, or anyone applying in the future! I hope you find this at least a tiny bit helpful as you begin your journey! I certainly don't know it all (I don't think I even know half of it all), but after reflecting on the last year, I've found these to be true:



No amount of observation will prepare you for treating your own clients. Going in, I knew that I had no real idea what I was doing, but I didn't realize how true that actually was...ha! Every client is different, and finding what works while making sure it's an evidence based practice plus making it entertaining for your client (especially the kiddos) can feel especially daunting. But you will learn. Some days you'll want to cry, but you'll always learn!

Staying humble is key. It's no secret that these programs are tough to get into, so it's safe to say that you are one smart cookie! But as a student, or even as a seasoned SLP, you don't know everything (duh!). It doesn't matter how many textbooks you've read, how high your undergrad GPA was, or how many hours of observation you've logged (read above!). Be respectful of your supervisors, keep an open mind to your classmates' ideas, and always be kind. Remember that your supervisors and professors have years of experience with what works and what doesn't and you get to piggy back off that experience...pretty cool, if you ask me! Having said that, never be afraid to ask "why," or to ask if you can try something new.

Finding "your people" (or your person) in the program is so important. From clinical triumphs to formulating appropriate goals, complaining about a tough session or simply wanting to talk about your future profession - there are certain things that your classmates will just understand better than your parents, non-SLP friends, or significant other. These programs are tough, and you'll need someone to bounce ideas off of, to study with, to grow with. You're all in grad school now, so the competition is out the window (heads up - there will still be some people who are competitive AF...I say either kill them with kindness, or ignore them altogether).

Time management time management time management. In some ways, graduate school is a bit easier than undergrad. I can't put my finger on why that is exactly...maybe because getting into grad school is so difficult in itself that once you're actually there, all you have to do is survive. However, it requires a lot of time management. Unlike undergrad, you have to be readily available at any point for a meeting with your clinic group, your supervisor, or a team project. Add in your individual client, making treatment plans and writing SOAPs plus homework (and you know, existing as a human outside of grad school), and you can get overwhelmed real quick. Keeping a planner is important, as is being flexible...like, real flexible.

Understanding what you're learning and actually being able to apply it as a clinician is far more important than getting an A. I know, I know. We want all the A's! But remember that when you're interviewing in the future, they're not going to ask you about your 4.0 GPA - they'll be more concerned with your clinical experiences.

But it's also okay to not be interested in every single thing you're learning. As an SLP, you can wear a ton of different hats over the course of your career, but you probably won't be wearing them all at the same time. So don't feel guilty if learning about swallowing disorders and feeding tubes doesn't appeal to you. You'll find your niche!

You don't have to devote all of your time, energy, and mental space to school. 
And you shouldn't. Study hard, but make time for fun things and don't feel guilty about it.

Most importantly? Enjoy this time. Even when it sucks (because it will). Your classmates will become some of your best friends - take advantage of getting to see them every single day because you'll miss it when it's gone (AKA like I will be when we're all at different externships & in different classes this semester). 

If you're currently in a program or a seasoned SLP, any tips for incoming first years? Or if you're a graduate student for a different kind of program, what's the best piece of advice you could give, or that you've received? Let me know in the comments!


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