Application Series: Six Months to Deadline

I mentioned in a previous blog post that you should start the process of applying to anything at least six months in advance.

“My application is due next week…I should probably start on my cover letter…” is not going to cut the mustard if you are planning on landing an offer. It just won’t.

Why? In the 2014-15 academic cycle, over 67,510 applications for master’s programs in speech-language pathology were submitted, but only 16,282 offers of admission were made (source). Let that sink in. That’s 51,228 applications that got a “no thanks” from prospective schools.

But whether you’re hoping to continue your studies, land your clinical fellowship, or are an established practitioner looking to make big moves, the bottom line is the same: it’s a dog eat dog world out there. Be the German Shepard. Be the Saint Bernard.

The only way to accomplish that is to have a strategy; you need to plan ahead. Six months should be adequate time enough to develop your application. Do these things:

Gather Intel

Take a look at applications from other schools or jobs. What are you going to need in order to complete your application? Account for skills and experiences, too. If most postings are asking for a standardized test score or a certain license, plan on it.

Having a comprehensive list will keep you from pulling out your hair when you’re trying to write three different personal statements in one week because you saw it coming. Go you.

Write Drafts

Now is a good time to update your resume (or write your very first one). This will give you time to shop it around for feedback. Take it to the career center at your university (side note: you probably still have access to this as an alumni) or asked trusted colleagues. Incorporate feedback as you see fit and go through the process again. Don’t forget to add to it as you accomplish amazing new things over the next half year.

Planning ahead will also help you identify gaps and give you ample time to fill them in. I’ve often found myself marveling at my clinical experience but shaking my head at my certifications. If you’re doing this six months ahead of time, you have time to take action!

Establish Skills

Speaking of, new skills take time to learn. Sure, you can take an online LSVT course in 16 hours.  But if you are hoping to apply for a fellowship specializing in head and neck cancer patients, you might want to volunteer with your local laryngectomee group. That’s experience you can’t get in 16 hours.

Develop Strategic Relationships

This may sound diabolical, but you need to spend the next six months developing relationships. If you are going to need three letters of recommendation, but you can only think of two people who you could ask, it’s time to meet new people. Take a class with a professor you aren’t familiar with and go to office hours. It’s even better if said professor is on the admissions committee. Go to a networking event and spark up a conversation. This is also a great way to build friendships with those who might help with job leads in the future.


 

Stay tuned for the rest of this series. Until then, you probably have enough on your plate. Reach out with questions in the comments section or contact us directly. 

SLP, #SLP2B, speech-language pathology

Stop Letting Others Take Credit for Your Work by Using This Method

speech-language pathology, SLP, #SLP2B, CFY

Stop giving others credit for your work.  It is a common pitfall – especially if you consider gender dynamics (see: Stop Negotiating Like a Girl) but there’s no reason to be passive about your achievements. Let’s pretend the following is an excerpt from a statement of purpose or cover letter:

I had the opportunity to shadow Jane Doe, SLP-CCC at Smith Regional Hospital. There, I was able to visit with patients and learn more about their experiences.

You “had the opportunity” to shadow? The way the sentence is written, you are a passive participant. Someone gave you the opportunity, when in reality you probably sought it out. I would bet that you are a motivated applicant (you’re here, aren’t you?) and you worked to get your foot in the door.

Part of showcasing your shadowing experience is also highlighting your motivation to learn. Try:

I shadowed Jane Doe, SLP-CCC at Smith Regional Hospital. Afterwards, I reflected on my interactions with patients and that  reinforced my desire to be a speech-language pathologist in a medical setting.

In one version you got lucky and someone let you into a room to talk with patients. Snooze. In another, you sought an opportunity to educate yourself and then used it to purposefully enhance your clinical practice.

Which do you think an admissions council or employer wants?

One way to claim ownership is to write in the active voice. Make yourself the subject and pack in action verbs. See what I mean here:

The point of this isn’t to make you a grammar nerd, but to help you understand how  to avoid passive voice because it gives away your power. Let’s try this again:

My university offers courses in dysphagia which taught me how to diagnose and treat swallowing disorders.

vs.

I implemented knowledge learned in academic coursework related diagnosing and treating dysphagia into clinical practice.

Much better. Ready, set, write!

 

 

Simple Ways to Narrow Down Your Grad School Application List

Speech-language pathology (SLP) grad school

This summer, use your precious free time to compile a list of graduate schools instead of sending snaps from the beach. Because even though applications aren’t due until winter, you need to start the process of applying to graduate schools at least six months before the first one is due. 

But where should you apply? Submitting an application can cost you over one-hundred dollars! Choosing your schools wisely can save you cash and stress. Take our sage advice to tighten your application list:

Know What’s Out There

According to ASHA, there are over 300 speech-language pathology programs. Educate yourself about your options using:

Make Your Program Work for Your Professional Goals

Every program is going to give you a well-rounded education because ASHA says so. However, some programs tend to specialize (or generalize, if that’s what you’re into). Rush University has a medical focus. The George Washington University has a transgender voice clinic. Make a list of 2-3 “must haves” and a few “wish list” options to narrow the field.

But Don’t Neglect Your Personal Goals, Either

Location (and cost of living) and tuition should factor into your decision. It may not be the best decision to apply to schools that come with a cross-country move or hour-and-a-half commute if you can’t bear to be apart from your hometown. For the adventurous types, can you afford to pay tuition and live in New York City?

Choose Schools You Have A Likelihood Of Being Accepted To  (And Ones You Don’t!)

Take a good, hard look at your standings. How do you stack up against other students who are being accepted to the institution? If the answer is “not so hot,” that’s ok! Apply anyway but add schools that typically accept students with your hard and soft skills. Check Grad Café for comparative data.


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