So, it’s summer and you’ve thought about taking the GRE … and you’ve kinda looked up some grad programs … but is it even the right time to start thinking about all of these things?
Yes! No matter where you are as an undergrad, begin thinking about the process and develop a timeline to help you achieve your goal of entering a grad program.
Many students plan to use the summer to get ahead; but quickly the beach, summer school, and life get in the way. Trust me—stick with your plan to use this time. No student ever regretted getting their materials prepared early!
Do Your Research
Look at a variety of programs that could be a good fit for you. ASHA’s EdFind is great place to start. Then, narrow your search by asking yourself:
- Do your credentials match the type of student they often admit (GPA, GRE, volunteer and research experiences)?
- What type of clinical/research experiences do students participate in?
- Who teaches?
- Is there student support?
- Does the program have a particular focus (medical track, bilingualism)?
Many of your questions can be answered online, so check out each school’s website to find admissions requirements, open house opportunities, course requirements, graduation rates, PRAXIS pass rates, employment rates, and scholarship opportunities.
It’s competitive out there. No one wants their first impression to a graduate admissions committee member to be that you don’t know info that’s easily found through a basic internet search. And you’ll increase your chances of being admitted if you’re a good fit for the programs you’re applying to.
Prepare Your Application Materials
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Organization! Create a spreadsheet of schools you’re applying to—include contact info, deadlines, requirements, and key facts about the program (refer to this when writing your personal statement).
- Resume/Curriculum Vitae (CV)—Programs vary in the term they use, but they’re looking for experiences that demonstrate your ability to succeed in the program—work, volunteer, clinical, and research experiences; and honors earned. These are usually two pages, but this is flexible.
- GRE Scores
- Personal Statements—Tailor your statements to the unique features of the program you’re applying to. Is there a clinical opportunity you’re looking forward to? Is there a faculty member you would like to do research with? Did you make it clear you are a good fit for their program?
Request Your Letters of Recommendation
- Develop a list of who you want to ask to provide your letters of recommendation—this all depends on your story. Your experiences, the requirements of the schools you’re applying to, and the story you want to tell the admissions committee will contribute to who you ask. Seek advice from your academic advisors and those that know your story to help you narrow down your list.
- Plan ahead. Faculty are often writing for many students at the same time, so ask your recommenders if they’re willing to write you a strong letter much earlier than you actually need it—at least a month in advance!
- Remember those application materials you prepped earlier? Provide recommenders with a “packet” of this same info (either electronic or hard copy—whatever meets their needs). This will make it easier for them to write your letter. Also provide them with any printed materials they’ll need to submit along with the letter (forms) and pre-addressed envelopes with stamps.
If you’re a freshman or sophomore, it might be too early for this part. But you can start thinking about how to set yourself up to have someone to ask. Consider volunteering in an undergraduate research lab, attending workshops, volunteering, gaining clinical experiences, and completing your observation hours. Figure out what study practices you can put into place next year to make sure your GPA and GRE scores reflect your potential.
Attend the ASHA Convention and meet with program representatives at the Graduate School Fair. Grad programs from all over the country will be there to answer your questions. Defray the costs by applying to serve as a Convention Student Volunteer (quick—the application deadline is September 5!).
What’s an Admissions Committee Looking For?
Admissions committees want to know if you’ll be a good fit for their program. Think of your entire admissions package as an opportunity to showcase your abilities. Help the committee understand your motivation and commitment to the field, strong academic and clinical promise, immediate and long-term goals, and personal uniqueness.
The application process is daunting but starting early and developing a realistic plan will increase your chances of success. I look forward to seeing your strong applications!
This content was originally posted on July 10, 2018.