If you’re pursuing a career in speech-language pathology, going to graduate school is a given. A master’s degree is required to practice in the field, and many speech pathologists even go on to get their PhDs. Bailee Jackson, our latest guest on The Missing Link for SLPs podcast, shared some insights into her own graduate school experience. A student in her second year of the program, she offers valuable advice for aspiring SLPs thinking about taking the next step in their education.
So, what should you know if you’re just starting to apply to grad school?
Sell Yourself in Your Application
The application process for graduate school can seem daunting, but it will be less overwhelming if you know how to sell yourself. Certain portions of the application will consist of straightforward questions and answers, but the resume and personal statement are critical to getting yourself noticed. You’ll want to ensure both of those documents make you stand out against other applicants — and Bailee offered tips on how to shine while writing both.
When it comes to listing experiences on your resume, referencing roles where you’ve had to collaborate with others can prove advantageous. Since speech pathologists often have to work with teams and clients from a variety of backgrounds, this will show that you have what it takes to successfully cooperate with others.
Additionally, it’s important to make sure your personal statement captures who you are and why you’re entering the field. Bailee’s professor told her to write what she wanted to, how she wanted to — and that’s some of the best advice she recalls receiving. So, when you’re writing your personal statement, don’t say what you think you should say. Speak genuinely instead, and let your personality shine through.
Finally, be sure to track your applications so that you know where you stand with each school you’re applying to. Staying organized is important when applying to grad school, especially if you’re submitting applications to multiple universities.
Master Time Management
As we mentioned, organization is a crucial skill to build when heading into graduate school. Equally important is time management, since you’ll be juggling a lot of responsibilities once you’re accepted into a program. Not only will you have classes to contend with, but you’ll eventually be handling clinical hours alongside any personal or professional responsibilities you may have.
If you want to put your best foot forward in every one of these areas, you’ll need to plan ahead. This way, you won’t lose track of assignments or take on too much at once. Using methods like time-blocking or list-making will help you be proactive and stay ahead of your schedule.
Find Your Support System
Something Bailee emphasized during her interview is finding and fostering your support system in graduate school, even if you’re busy. Through self-care and prioritization, she’s been able to maintain her faith and personal relationships while pursuing her degree. And one can argue that, with all the added pressure of graduate school, those relationships are even more important to have. After all, everyone needs a solid support system. If you find yours, make sure to hang onto it.
Forming relationships with your cohorts is another step you can take in order to build a support system. Those in the same program as you will be better equipped to understand the lows and highs you experience because they’re facing the same obstacles.
If you’re truly dedicated to your education and career, there’s a good chance you’ll struggle with perfectionism somewhere down the line. (Unfortunately, most of us do.) To that end, one lesson you should take into grad school with you — and beyond it — is to let go of that perfectionism.
Teaching yourself to look at mistakes as learning experiences will serve you throughout your career, and it will help you get through graduate school with less stress. After all, you’re there to learn. And you’ll have plenty of stories to tell one day as you begin to master speech pathology.