This is part one of a three part series. Once you've applied, check out part two, 10 Things to Do Before Starting an Online Graduate Program in Speech-Language Pathology and part three, 5 Things to Do to Prepare for Your First Clinical Placement as an SLP Graduate Student!
You’ve decided that you want to get your master’s degree in speech-language pathology, but you’ve heard rumors about just how competitive the application process is, and you are kind of panicking. Don’t worry – we’re here to help! There are a few things that you can do to make your application stand out amongst the rest.
While there are some obvious tips (you want to have a high GPA, solid GRE scores, etc.), we’re dishing out advice that goes beyond that. Here are five things that you can do to spruce up your application and make admissions boards swoon over you!
Volunteering shows admissions teams that you are willing to take that extra step and donate your personal time to the field. It’s important that you volunteer somewhere that relates to the industry: hospitals, schools, and nursing homes are a few great examples. You can even take the time to learn which SLP setting is best for you as you search through possible volunteer settings as this can help you to focus your time in your graduate program.
Spending a decent amount of time volunteering in places like these will sharpen your communication skills and allow you to beef up your resume. Plus, any supervisors that you might report to during your volunteer time can be potential candidates to write you solid letters of recommendation, too!
Get involved in research
Most graduate programs like to see applicants that have been involved in research to some extent. This could mean volunteering in a research lab, finding a position as a research assistant, or even doing your own directed research.
If you didn’t know, speech-language pathology is a very research-based career, so demonstrating to admissions personnel that you are already well versed in reading and comprehending research will advocate that you are already an asset to the field of speech-language pathology. Some undergraduate programs even offer elective courses that allow you to do directed research for course credits!
Networking and getting to know your professors and other professionals in the field will not only provide you with valuable insight but will help you to build strong relationships that can last throughout your career. You can also connect with practicing SLPs through social media! NewGradSpeechTherapy has the Social Media for SLPs interview series with five SLPs that have made a huge impact in the world of social media.
Plus, having built true professional connections with your professors and practicing clinicians will lead to stronger, less generic letters of recommendation. Your letters of recommendation, along with your letter of intent, give admissions teams a qualitative glimpse into who you are as a student and as a person.
Not to mention that networking early on can also set you up for opportunities in your future career. The relationships that I established as an undergraduate student have proved to be beneficial even in graduate school. I attend a different university for graduate school, but I still have contact with mentors that I met in undergrad. Even now, they are more than willing to share their knowledge with me and help me become a successful, confident clinician.
Shadowing will also help you build connections with industry professionals, but it will also give you a look into what it will really be like to work as an SLP. Shadowing practicing speech-language pathologists shows that you are willing to take initiative to learn about the field. As an undergraduate student, I shadowed a local SLP and getting to see how she interacted with her clients solidified my desire to apply to graduate school.
After investing my time and energy into building a relationship with her, she even offered me a job as a speech-language pathology assistant. This was another valuable opportunity for me to gain insight into what it's like to work as a clinician. Make sure to keep documentation of the hours that you spend shadowing (signed by the SLPs you shadow) so that you can include the hours on your resume! While you're updating those hours, make sure you know what to remove from your resume as well!
Build a portfolio
Some programs give you the opportunity to submit additional documents to support your application. If this is the case, you should absolutely take advantage of it! You should have a portfolio ready with any treatment plans, SOAP notes, or relevant papers and projects that you did throughout your undergraduate program. Submitting artifacts like these is evidence that you are already well on your way to becoming a competent SLP.
Application season can be stressful, but by implementing these tips, you can head into the process with confidence and poise. When you’re in the midst of submitting applications, remember why you chose to pursue this field and keep that at the forefront of your mind. Good luck!