Senior Scaries: What We Wish We Knew Before Applying to Grad School

As an undergrad senior, you’re about to start your grad school application process—that is, if you haven’t already!

It can feel daunting—researching schools, finding the right ones, taking the GRE, pulling together your GRE scores and transcripts, writing your resume or CV, drafting what seems like a never-ending list of personal statements, and asking professors for letters of recommendation—yikes!

If you feel overwhelmed and aren’t sure how to start, that’s totally normal! We all felt that way. To help get you through the process, I reached out to my friends on NSSLHA’s Executive and Regional Councils and gathered some tips and tricks to help get you through the process.

I Wish I Knew…

Teffany Ventura, National NSSLHA 2018-19 President-Elect

Teffany Ventura, President-Elect
Towson University | AuD Major

I never realized how time consuming applying to grad school would be! I thought, “Oh, just a couple of essays, that’s easy.” But I got so used to writing research papers, I forgot what it was like to write creatively. It took a lot of time to brainstorm, organize my thoughts, and talk about myself professionally, while also meeting each application’s personal essay requirements. So, start early and give yourself enough time to really think through each essay.

Kevin Kock, National NSSLHA 2018-20 Vice President for Finance

Kevin Kock, Vice President for Finance
The University of Iowa | AuD Major

I wish I knew that most schools allow you to email students or take campus tours. Once I realized it was an option, I took several campus tours to help me decide which programs would be a good fit for me. Then, during the interview stage, remember that you’re also interviewing the program. Ask questions about the student outcomes, how they ensure your competencies, faculty research projects, and even what they like most about living in the area. It can make a huge difference when deciding where to attend.

Jennifer Blake, National NSSLHA 2018-20 Northeastern Regional Councilor

Jennifer Blake, Northeastern Regional Councilor
Long Island University—Brooklyn | SLP Major

I wish I’d been more prepared and understood the entire application process earlier. I had no idea that some schools use CSDCAS (an online program that allows you to use a single application to apply to multiple programs), while others use their own application processes.

Tips and Tricks

Delphanie Wu, National NSSLHA 2017-19 Southern Regional Councilor

Delphanie Wu, Southern Regional Councilor
Vanderbilt University—School of Medicine | AuD Major

Ask for (and welcome!) diverse feedback on your personal statement. I worked closely with my undergrad school’s writing center, and asked other CSD friends and an English major friend to review it. It helped getting feedback and perspectives from many different eyes!

Brandon Roppel, National NSSLHA 2018-20 Vice President for Programming (AuD)

Brandon Roppel, Vice President for Programming (AuD)
Northern Illinois University | AuD Major

Ask for your letters of recommendation early! Depending on your school size, almost everyone in your class will be asking the same professors and supervisors for a recommendation. By asking early, you’ll ensure your professor has enough time to complete your letter before application deadlines.

Mariah Benz, National NSSLHA 2017-19 Central Regional Councilor

Mariah Benz, Central Regional Councilor
Minnesota State University—Moorhead | SLP Major

Maintain positive relationships with professors even after graduation. They’re essential to graduate school scholarship applications and first-job references!


Words of Encouragement

Chelsea Woodard, National NSSLHA 2018-20 Vice President for Academic Affairs

Chelsea Woodard, Vice President for Academic Affairs
James Madison University | SLP Major

Believe in yourself! Try not to compare yourself to others who are applying to the same schools. No two applications are the same, and everyone brings something different and special to a program. Let yourself relax after you finally submit that last application and try not to worry about what might happen in the future. YOU DID IT!

Aya Khalil, National NSSLHA 2018-20 Vice President for Student State Officers (SLP)

Aya Khalil, Vice President for Student State Officers (SLP)
California State University—Sacramento | SLP Major

Stay focused on yourself. One of my personal struggles throughout the grad application process was having everyone around me talk about where they were in the process—then compared it to where I was. I felt stressed and pressured that I was behind and that I wasn’t doing enough. While it’s helpful to talk to others about the process, it’s also important to take it at your own speed! As long as you meet the program’s deadlines, you’re good!

Charlotte Miller, National NSSLHA 2017-19 Vice President for Planning

Charlotte Miller, Vice President for Planning
SUNY—College of Plattsburgh | SLP Major

Apply to that reach school! Even if your GRE scores or grades don’t meet the minimum. I was feeling brave, so I applied to one of the top programs in the country. My GRE scores were well below what they considered minimum, but I applied anyway… and was accepted! You never know what’s going to happen unless you try!

And if you don’t get into a program at first, keep trying. I have friends who got into grad school on the first try, but others had to apply several times before getting in. It’s a tough market out there! Some even took time off after undergrad to explore other options—ABA therapy, assistant positions, etc.—and loved it. There are ways to stay in the field without getting into grad school immediately.

Leilani Melendrez, National NSSLHA 2018-20 Western Regional Councilor

Leilani Melendrez, Western Regional Councilor
San Diego State University | SLP Major

Remember why you started. Was it to help others? To get more involved in your community? Be an advocate? Focus on your personal interests and why you decided on a career in speech-language pathology or audiology. Reminding yourself why you’re passionate about this field will keep you going through the hard times!

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