Finishing your undergraduate degree is an exciting and daunting time period, especially for those hoping to become speech-language pathologists. Since a Master’s degree is essential to becoming a clinician, the months leading up to graduation are often filled with concerns about graduate school. Many aspiring SLPs work on and submit their graduate applications during their senior year. This means graduation time also brings about acceptance and rejection letters — and waiting on those can be nerve-wracking to say the least.

Our most recent guest on The Missing Link for SLPs podcast knows the struggles that accompany applying to graduate school all too well. In fact, Jordan McLaren touched on the anxieties students often experience during her interview. Jordan is currently waiting to hear back from the graduate programs she applied to, and she’s no stranger to “what ifs.” 

It can be tempting to fall down the rabbit hole of questions like “What if I don’t get in?” This is why working on your mindset is a crucial element when it comes to graduate school. In fact, having a healthy mindset about the future can help you far beyond higher education.

One way to shift your perspective when worrying about applications is to change “what if” to “why not.” It’s a small alteration of your thought process, but it helps build confidence in your future. Rather than focusing on what can go wrong when applying to school or a job, think about what could go right. Ask yourself why you wouldn’t get the opportunity. If you’ve worked hard and followed your passion, you’ll often find there’s no reason you shouldn’t be chosen. With that knowledge, you may find yourself pursuing opportunities you wouldn’t have dreamed of before.

If you aren’t picked for an opportunity, however, learning to accept rejection as a normal part of life is another major step toward improving your mindset. There are plenty of SLPs who don’t get into graduate school the first time, but they continue trying. Rather than losing faith and giving up after rejection, learn to embrace it. Use it as a learning opportunity rather than dwelling on it. 

Jordan even recommends making a habit of asking questions you know may be answered with “no.” Doing so will make rejections feel less overwhelming when they do come in. Then you’ll be able to accept them more easily and move forward on a different path.

And that’s the most important thing to acknowledge when planning your future as an SLP: There’s no definitive path to get there. Some clinicians go straight from undergrad to graduate school, sticking to every step of their plan. Others are forced to pivot from their original outline, but they still wind up in an area of speech pathology they love. Understanding that every SLP’s journey is different will take some of the pressure off of applying to graduate programs. After all, your future doesn’t need to depend on a single outcome.

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