Presenting Research as a Freshman—Not as Crazy as It Sounds!

Being a freshman speech path major can be pretty intimidating—between trying to acclimate yourself to “college life” and hearing the upperclassmen talk about how hard it is to get into grad school, it’s overwhelming. You jump ahead in your mind and start to wonder if you’ll be accepted into grad school, not to mention doubting if you’ll even make it through undergrad!

Feeling Lost

Last year, I started my freshman year at East Stroudsburg University as a CSD major, as well as a colligate athlete. School was going great, but lacrosse was a different story. I ended up quitting mid-October. After that, I felt lost. I’d never been amazing in school, and lacrosse was what defined me throughout my youth and high school years. Not having it anymore made me feel like I wasn’t enough. I also began to worry that when I did apply to grad schools, good grades wouldn’t be enough.

Thus, my journey to distinguish myself from my peers began! I wanted to show grad schools, and myself, that I was capable of doing great things, even as a freshman.

Finding My Passion—And Setting Goals

In my Introduction to Communication Disorders class, my professor talked about how many people assume that just because a child stutters, they have a learning disability as well. I was so fascinated by this topic and realized that it’s an issue a lot of stutterers and their families face.

Not only did I want to learn more about people’s perceptions about those who stutter, but I wanted to bring the topic to light among others. That’s when I thought about the Pennsylvania Speech-Language-Hearing Association (PSHA). I knew students could present at the PSHA Convention, but there were usually only a few upperclassmen and grad students who got the opportunity. What chance did I have as a freshman?

Well, I wasn’t going to let that stop me! I worked around the clock with my professors to put together a poster proposal and in January I submitted my research project titled, “Societies Perceptions of Persons with Fluency Disorders.” In February, I received the best email of my life—an acceptance letter asking me to present my poster and the Convention in Pittsburgh in March!

Presenting at PSHA

The Poster Session at PSHA was held in a large room with researchers’ posters hung up on big boards. Attendees could walk around at their own pace and chat with the researchers whose topics grabbed their attention. My poster was the very first one attendees saw as they walked into the room—so nerve-wracking!

I presented my research to professors from some of my favorite grad schools, as well as amazing PSHA and ASHA Board members. After just a few minutes of presenting, I became more comfortable and was even laughing with these notable professionals!

The best feeling during my presentations was when they asked me what year I was in school—no one believed I was only a freshman in undergrad! They told me how impressive it was and that they knew I’d go far in the profession. A PSHA Board member even told me she expected to see me back next year and couldn’t wait to see what I do next.

This experience made me realize that just because you’re young, you should never doubt yourself. No matter your age, you’re capable of amazing things—as long as you’re willing to put in the hard work that comes along with it.

I encourage you to find a topic that interests you … research it … learn all you can about it. Then set a goal for yourself—a crazy goal that seems completely unrealistic—then go for it! You never know what you’ll accomplish until you try!

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