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:
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.
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!
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.