In 2017, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and jumped into teaching elementary school students. But my short stint as a teacher wasn’t as fulfilling as I thought it would be. There was a little voice inside my head that kept telling me I wanted more.
I kept thinking back to when my brother and I were kids. He was diagnosed with a developmental language delay at five-years-old and had speech and occupational therapy for most of his childhood. I watched him shy away from talking to others because he felt like he couldn’t communicate his thoughts. As his sister, I always knew what he was trying to say, but others couldn’t. Oftentimes, I’d be his translator.
I went with my brother to all of his speech sessions. Seeing his progress was phenomenal! Now, he can communicate his thoughts and speak for himself without needing others to say what he means. As an adult, Isaac is more communicative than ever. He works at the Cleveland Clinic as a manager of the patient transportation unit, where he speaks to people every day.
Seeing how far he’s come made me realize how much I want to help others communicate and help them realize they have a voice in the world. Maybe … just maybe … I was meant to be a speech-language pathologist, not a teacher.
Taking the Leap
I dwelled on the thought and decided to go for it. As a post-baccalaureate student, with a limited amount of time before the fall semester was supposed to start, I took my chances by only applying to one post-bacc SLP program at Cleveland State University. And I was lucky enough to get in!
I was new to the field but wanted so badly to succeed. I surrounded myself with like-minded people by becoming a National NSSLHA member and joining my local NSSLHA chapter. I attended the 2017 Ohio NSSLHA Conference and volunteered at the 2018 Ohio Speech-Language-Hearing Association Convention. These experiences opened my eyes to more than what I was learning in the classroom and allowed me to network with other SLP grad students and professionals.
My S.T.E.P. Experience
I dove right into my speech-language pathology and audiology classes, but still felt like I was behind other students who did have a bachelor’s degree in CSD. I needed all the guidance I could get, so I joined ASHA’s Student to Empowered Professional Mentoring Program (S.T.E.P.), where I was matched with an experienced SLP professional (and ASHA member). And even better—she was a professor at Cleveland State University!
Because she was at my school, I had the chance to go to her office and speak to her in person about plans concerning graduate school and the application process. She actually helped me discovered that I was missing a speech and hearing science class. I started to feel down over the thought of having to take an extra post-bacc year just for one class, but she was there to lift my spirits. She helped me call around to different SLP programs that would allow me to take the remaining pre-requisite courses as a grad student. Luckily, I found eight schools that would allow me to take the course during my grad program—what a relief!
My mentor and I are no longer in the same state, but we still communicate via email. I send her updates on my grad school journey and she continues to give me advice along the way. I’m finally starting to feel prepared and more confident as I’m applying to grad school!
Looking Forward to My Future
Being a post-bacc student had its tough moments but going back to school for speech-language pathology was by far the best decision I’ve ever made. I’ve learned so much in just one year! I can’t wait to finish all of my grad school applications and start getting accepted to colleges. I’m so looking forward to what my future as an SLP holds!