The leap from an undergraduate speech program to graduate school can prove a challenging transition, especially for students who don’t know what to expect. That’s why Bailee Jackson, who is entering her second year of St. Cloud State’s grad program, came on The Missing Link podcast to discuss her experience. 

During the conversation, she touched on what soon-to-be graduate students can expect from the application process and what they should be aware of heading into their first year.

Slow Down and Take Things Step by Step

Of course, one of the most overwhelming aspects of transitioning from undergrad to graduate school is the application process. Bailee recommends embracing your support system and taking things step by step as you apply. 

Rather than viewing your applications as a monolith, break them down into individual tasks like taking the GRE and collecting recommendation letters. Once that’s done, filling out the applications themselves is typically straightforward and monotonous.

Waiting for responses can be daunting as well, but relinquishing control is all undergraduate students can do in that situation. This is where trusting the process and focusing on yourself can help tremendously.

Embrace Your Authenticity

The interview portion of applying for grad programs can prove just as intimidating as the applications themselves. Taking the pressure out of the situation helps, but that’s easier said than done. Bailee recommends embracing your authenticity and just acting like yourself in the discussion. 

Although it’s tempting to over-prepare and plan ahead, treating your interview like an ordinary conversation can take the weight off of the situation. Simply speak genuinely about your experiences, values, and goals as an SLP and things should flow naturally.

Choose a Program That Aligns With Your Values

Students who find themselves accepted into more than one graduate program will need to make a difficult choice. Bailee looked at multiple schools before deciding to pursue her graduate degree where she received her undergraduate diploma. That decision stemmed mostly from her values, and other aspiring SLPs can narrow their options by looking at what’s important to them in a Master’s program.

Expect New Challenges

Undergraduate speech programs teach mostly from videos and books, so students heading to the next level of education should be prepared for new challenges. Grad programs in speech require students to work with clients for the first time, and applying the information learned from books and lectures won’t always be simple and straightforward.

Instead of being overwhelmed by this reality, embrace the experience of learning and know that you’re not the only person dealing with that transition. Applying knowledge from class to real-life situations takes time to master, but all SLPs need to start somewhere.

Trust Your Knowledge

While working with clients will no doubt take some getting used to, new SLPs should also trust the information they have absorbed. Although it takes years to become an expert, graduate students and new SLPs shouldn’t discount everything they’ve learned in school. It’s important to acknowledge when you don’t understand something, but it’s equally as crucial to have confidence in what you do know. 

Keeping that mindset through the application process and beyond will help you become the best SLP you can — and it’ll help you power through the transition periods of life.

Want to learn more about Bailee and her journey to becoming an SLP? Listen to her and Mattie chat on The Missing Link for SLPs Podcast.

Did you know Mattie provides coaching to SLPs? Learn more here.

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