As a junior-year undergrad CSD student, I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve felt lost within the major—in good ways and in bad ways. As much as I love it, sometimes the CSD major can feel overwhelming while trying to balance school, work, and personal life. There are so many things I wish I could tell my freshman-self to keep my feet grounded and eyes on my goal to become an SLP.
For those of you just starting out in the undergrad CSD major, I hope these tips can help you feel more confident and less stressed . . .
1. Shadow an Experienced Clinician
Shadow an experienced clinician as soon as you can. Don’t wait until you’re knee-deep in junior- and senior-year CSD courses to take on a shadowing opportunity. The great thing about shadowing is that you can do it without any qualifications or prerequisites, and it gives you amazing insights into audiology and speech-language pathology.
My first shadowing experience was during my freshman year. At the time, I’d jumped into CSD courses without knowing much about what the discipline required and feared I was stuck in a major I wasn’t going to like. During a 101-introduction course, one of my assignments was to complete a therapy observation at Marshall University’s clinic. My nerves shot through the roof! Fortunately, I walked out of the therapy observation feeling excited for my future in CSD. I knew of my love for this field immediately! I encourage you to discover if that love is there for you as soon as possible.
2. Join NSSLHA—At the Local Chapter and National Levels
I’m a member of Marshall University’s NSSLHA chapter, and it’s truly amazing. We’ve participated in multiple community service events and put a lot of effort into sharing knowledge and spreading awareness about CSD in the community. Through the chapter, I’m part of a group of students struggling through, yet enjoying, the same classes . . . and my fellow chapter members actually understand my CSD jargon! Going to college can be a nerve-wracking experience but building comradery with other #aud2b and #slp2b students is one thing that should be fun. NSSLHA definitely made college—and being a CSD major—fun for me!
National NSSLHA membership can be a game-changer for a student’s college career, and with the NSSLHA-to-ASHA Conversion Discount, it extends far past the college experience and into your professional career as a certified ASHA member. I plan to take advantage of this great member benefit!
3. Talk to Your Professors
Your professors are there for you and can be some of your biggest cheerleaders, but you have to reach out to them! Knowledge exudes from my CSD professors. Asking a question may seem intimidating, but they know the answer, and they want to help you!
When I was in high school, my teachers gave me the impression that I’d be “on my own” in college. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Professors understand the struggle and confusion that comes with new material, and they usually include adequate time in their class plan to provide some extra help to their students. Try to help yourself first with the given materials and your very own brain power, but always realize that your professors are just an email, a phone call, or an office visit away. Get to know your professors! It’ll make your college experience and your learning experience much richer.
I was one of those students who had to “learn how to study” in college. It required a lot of trial and error, a lot of patience, and in the end, for me, a lot of notecards. It’s always difficult to give studying advice because one person’s strategy may not work for another person. My CSD courses revolved around new material that I had little to no background on, and that was frightening to me at first. However, my teachers never missed an opportunity to explain how all of this abundant (and occasionally overwhelming) material applies to my future—and which aspects are most applicable. As a student, all of this information is important now! I recommend keeping themed binders that categorize all of the information covered for each CSD course you take and for other courses that pertain directly to your major. They make great study guides for exams and big finals. I plan to revisit mine in other classes and while studying for entrance exams.
5. Do Something “Extra” in CSD—Now, Not Later
This is the most important piece of advice that I wish someone would have given me during my freshman year. For CSD majors, there’s no such thing as “coasting”—there’s simply too much to learn and only four years to learn it! Don’t wait until your senior year to do something that will make you look good to your dream graduate school, potential employers, or that tempting doctoral program that’s calling your name. Do something that will set you apart from others! There are so many summer programs, jobs, and activities that can make you a better CSD student and a well-qualified (fill in the blank: job applicant, prospective hire, graduate student, PhD student). Be proactive!
In closing, remember to make your undergraduate CSD program fun. It can be stressful and overwhelming but also rewarding. Enjoy the experience, take on challenging opportunities, study, and see how much the CSD major can offer. Your future career is waiting, and you’re in charge—now!