Grad Schools, SLPs, and Oh My God What if I Don’t Get in!

We have entered that twilight time that most SLPs try hard not to remember… That time of “did I apply to the right places”, “what if I don’t get in,” and “Did I miss the deadline.”

Choosing grad schools to apply to is hard. This is your LIFE you’re talking about after all. It’s not something to be taken lightly. But it is also extremely stressful because … well… it’s your life! So for those upcoming graduates, how do you decide which programs to apply to? For those experienced SLPs, what would you say to them about the pro gram you attended? What are the key things they need to look for in a grad school?


Guess what? Now is a GREAT time to weigh in (see what I did there??? I know, I can hear my students groaning already!)

Regardless of my bad jokes, the deadlines are approaching, students are in a bit of a panic, and decisions need to be made. So I thought today’s post would be perfect for ideas of what to look for in a grad program.

First off… here are some truths.

  • Most employers don’t care WHERE you went to school. They only care that a) you have the degree, b) you can get licensed/certified, and c) you know what you’re doing. This whole “top 5 school” thing really doesn’t matter to anyone who writes your paycheck…but may matter when it comes to paying back student loans.
  • Just because you think you’re interested in schools (or hospitals or adults) right now doesn’t mean that you will always be. One of the glories of this profession is that it allows you to change your work focus. Don’t stress quite so much about it being a “medical” program or a “pediatric” program. Yes, they matter a bit, but all accredited programs are required to offer at least the basics in these areas. Keep those doors open! 
  • Clinical experiences are not all the same. ALL accredited programs have to offer clinical experiences in pediatrics, adults, assessment, etc. Some programs have it set up so off-campus experiences are arranged for you. In some programs you have to arrange these experiences for yourself, which could be challenging. Some programs do not offer undergraduate clinical experiences – some do. In my opinion they all should…but I’m biased.  


These students were some of my undergraduate clinical students. I am beyond pleased with what they learned and am honored they wanted a picture with me. 

What’s even better is that in just a couple of short years, these ladies will be out taking the profession by storm! I love their passion, desire to learn, and willingness to step up to the plate! 

  • Look at the cost of the program. For instance, at my university (Minot State) we do not charge out of state tuition (as of the 2016-2017 academic year). Many universities charge up to double for out of state residents. For instance, Minnesota State University – Moorhead (just across the river from North Dakota) charges double for out of state residents. Southeast Missouri State University also charges almost double for out of state residents (unless you go there for a doctoral program and then it’s nearly triple). In addition to the basic tuition cost, you need to look at the cost of living in the area (housing), fees, books, etc. Keeping in mind – your employers REALLY don’t care where you went to school. {hint: I just pulled up the universities website and did a website search for “cost of graduate school”.]
  • What is the climate of the program? Are students encouraged to ask questions? Encouraged to attend national conventions? PLEASED to be working with their supervisors? 

These are students who attended ASHA 2016. They all attended the presentations where their supervisors and/or faculty were presenting. It was wonderful to see not only their support, but their willingness to learn new ideas!  

  • For those of you that don’t get in this first time around. Don’t give up hope. Fine tune your letter of intent. Shadow an SLP to gain some experience. There is always hope. Some states will allow individuals with a bachelor degree to work as an SLP (in fact, North Dakota is looking at doing just that as a licensed SLPA – it is in congress currently).

When I first attended my university, I’ll admit I didn’t look into all of this (for my undergrad)…I was naive and attended the university closest to my home. When I applied to different programs for grad school, many of these were exactly what I considered. I had high standards and I wasn’t going to uproot my daughter for a less than stellar experience

For me, the bottom line came down to clinical experiences and cost of attendance. I’m pleased with where I went and even more pleased to be working there now. If you know students who are finishing up their grad applications – feel free to forward this post to them. 🙂 So tell me… What was your grad school like? Would you go there to work? Would you recommend other students go there? Drop me a line here and let me know.

Until then…Adventure on!


PS: This is a shameless plug: If you’re interested in grad school, my program is accepting applications until 2/15. If you do apply because you read this post, please drop me a note and let me know. It won’t get you special consideration, but I’d love to wish you good luck and congratulate you in the fall once you’re accepted.

One thought on “Grad Schools, SLPs, and Oh My God What if I Don’t Get in!

  1. Good advice for folks applying to grad school. I would also add that if they don’t get in the first time around, attend conferences/workshops/seminars to expand your knowledge base – that will look good on an application. Great references from employers is always a plus. I was surprised at how many people did not want to pursue the grad degree (our undergrad class was 85) and were perfectly happy to be an SLPA for their career. Being a non-trad student (older) and a single mom to two young children, I really didn’t have the option to move to a better program as I couldn’t afford it. I was able to stay in the house where my children were since they were born and SO fortunate to be only 20 minutes away from a university with a complete Comm Dis program. I did well in my undergrad years (I showed that admissions woman who suggested I have a Plan B after looking at my high school transcripts – I made Highest Honors that first semester) but still was on pins and needles waiting for that letter of acceptance to grad school (they had only 20 seats). I literally danced a jig back to my house after opening the letter at my mailbox. (I also had a vanity plate on my motorcycle that read “SLP2B” – thought of that when I saw the tag above. 🙂 Sold that motorcycle to pay for ONE grad course. That was an ouch.)

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