This post is for the new speech-language pathology student. Congratulations! YOU DID IT. All of those hours studying for the GRE, all of those nights you cried because you weren't sure you were going to get into graduate school.... it's now behind you! But ahead of you is slightly unknown. It's intimidating. It's a bit scary. I wish I had been more prepared for graduate school, not so much academically, but emotionally. Here are the 7 things I wish I knew as a new speech-language pathology grad student.
You don't need to be BFF's with everyone in your class. You don't even need to like them all. But your interactions are crucial to your overall mental well-being.
You're going to be spending A LOT of time with your cohort. You're going to learn about their family situations, their interests, their stressors, and their birthdays. You're going to feel like you can't wait to see a few of them, and you're not going to be able to stand a few others for reasons you don't completely understand (or maybe you do!). My advice is to try to step off on the right foot with everyone, whether it be holding the door for them, politely nodding and listening as they talk about their latest European adventure, or helping them out with notes they missed last week.
That being said- Do not feel pressured to do unethical things or change your own personality to accommodate them. You be you, this school chose you when you applied. They didn't choose a different version of you.
To add to that last sentiment, your differences make you a strong applicant and a strong graduate student. Be proud of your ethnic heritage, the languages you speak, your strong interests. Be excited to share your insights and past experiences. Do you speak a different language at home? Great! Are you an experienced teacher returning to graduate school to become an SLP? Great! Are you interested in a dual degree in audiology and speech-language pathology? Sweet! You get the idea now, right? Cherish what makes you different, even if its that you are passionate about the medical side of the field or want to do early intervention. Your insights will enrich the experience of all of your classmates. They most likely want to learn from you, whether they express that or not.
This may be your last shot to be a college student, so take advantage! Research opportunity in your area of interest?! Great! NSSLHA meetings? Sweet!
Many people don't take advantage of these opportunities because they are too worried about the fluency quiz the next day. They give up the enriching opportunities for getting a perfect score on an assignment or test. However, these enriching experiences will take you farther in your career than any 100% on a quiz.
I agree that studying is super important and not to be taken likely, but you can do well on an assignment and do the extra things too, if you can manage your time well. So, go do that thing that sounded interesting to you! Go audit that class, or apply for that grant. You will have the time.
Be kind to yourself. Graduate level work is different from undergraduate work. It's all new material, and on top of that, you have clinic. If you fail a quiz, or get less than a C on something, don't lose sleep over that one grade. It happens to the best of us! Learn from your mistakes, ask questions, and try to remedy what 'went wrong' the last time.
Concerning clinical work, especially be kind and gentle with yourself. This is where I had the most difficult time being understanding with myself. I expected to be able to meet everyone's expectations (news flash, you can't) and to be recognized for my hard work (I typically wasn't). Take it as a learning activity and grow some thick skin to take the critiques from your supervisors. It's a learning curve and you won't be great at anything right away.
If you were accepted into a graduate program, you know how to study, how to work hard, and are a serious student. Graduate school is even more challenging than your past four years, so it's even more important to find something fun to fill your free time (ok, let's be honest, you're going to have to schedule in free time). I'm not sure what you find fun, but fun for me was traveling to see my boyfriend (now husband) over the weekends. Worth it!
I'm not talking discounts at museums access to football games, but those things aren't bad either! What I mean is access to people whose life mission (or should be) is to research our field of learning and teach college students. You have a wealth of knowledge in the form of your professor at your fingertips. Ask you questions! Pick their brains. You also have graduate or clinical supervisors who should want to answer your questions (I should know, I am a graduate supervisor!).
I was able to pay off my student loans following graduate school in less than two years. I was able to do this was because I lived at home in graduate school, had a graduate research assistantship which helped cover some of my tuition, and I watched my spending habits. At this time I wasn't budgeting, but if I could do it over, I would budget. Do what you can to reduce costs and if you need to work while in school, do it!
It's easy to look back and see what I would change and keep the same. I hope these seven tips help you from making the mistakes I made, while following my advice that helped me during my last two years of school. To wrap it up, here are the 7 things I wish I knew as a new speech-language pathology grad student:
1. How you interact with your classmates matters
2. Be yourself
3. Take advantage of new opportunities
4. Don't beat yourself up
5. Have fun!
6. Take advantage of being a student
7. Reduce costs as much as possible
Again, congratulations for being one step closer to the career of your dreams. Anything is possible, and our field is one to be proud of.
Wishing you the best,
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