Ahh, the joys of being a junior in the education system again. This period in anyone´s education career, high school or undergraduate, can bring on many questions and fears, as well as anxiety and excitement about the future. At least I can say I´m ‘experienced´with this, as it´s my second go around. I get to have to fun of diving into the university searching once again, investigating the options and questioning them later on until I´m certain Ive picked the best ones. At least I have figured out my passion in life and now it is simply finding the best school for my needs and interests, so that helps take a load off my short stature.
There are some similarities in looking for an undergraduate and graduate program, which do make the process somewhat similar and easier to navigate. But as with everything, even grad school searching presents some new challenges as well, such as: Do the ratings count? Medical or Educational focus? What makes a program superb and-or well-known? Are smaller, lesser-known schools just as good? What about online programs? … and I can probably list 100 more questions that have been gnawing at me since I began my search. (I´ve even had some dreams lately regarding graduate school. So the ´fun´just doesn´t end!) … Before you begin to worry, I´m completely fine! It´s simply that my mind loves to keep on thinking, even when my body wishes it´d rest for some well-deserved, non-SLP related sleep.)
I´m certain others are are in the same situation as myself, anxious to begin their search and visit programs, so I´ve complied a list of characteristics that may help narrow down one´s higher education pursuit and create a humongous, personalized grad school puzzle.
–Location: There are actually quite a few things related to location that might weigh heavily in one´s decision on graduate school. First: the type of environment the school is in. Some may prefer city life or suburban/rural. And even within that… you may want the suburban feel, but with access to a city for entertainment and clinical opportunities. For me, I know I´d like to stay in the Eastern US due to proximity to family (although going abroad would be sweet). Second: Climate. Each area of the US and Canada is home to it´s own climate. If you´re a hot-weather-lover from Florida who hasn’t seen snow in your life, perhaps attending a university in Canada or New Hampshire isn’t for you. Even along that, you may be accustomed to Pennsylvania´s humid heat, but not Arizona´s dry heat. Third: Connections. Some opt to attend a university in the general area where they wish to work and live beyond graduation. This is great for building local professional networks before graduating!
–Online vs In Person: Similar to the location puzzle piece, you may want to consider if you are able to travel and live in a different setting than you are now. Would you rather stay home, find clinical placements in your area and be near the ones you love? Maybe you have a family to take care of and your partner has a steady job that you’d rather not leave. Keep in mind, you may have a higher aptitude for learning in-person than online, or you may not have the self- motivation for solely studying online. Also, due to the increased popularity in online programs over the past few years, they have become quite competitive to be accepted into! Some are also fairly expensive, and don’t allow for research or other educational/funding opportunities.
–Results: Check the program’s outcomes on the Praxis, employment and graduation rates. How many of each cohort graduate, pass the Praxis and are employed after obtaining their CCC’s. These are indicators of how well-prepared their students are with the education the school offers.
–Size of Program: There are two things under this category that go hand-in-hand: school size and cohort size. Do you want to attend larger or more well-known university? Does having a more recognized school on your resume matter to you? …What about the number of students in accepted into your cohort? Each program allots for a certain number of acceptances, and even then only a fraction of those attend. Cohorts are generally small in this field, but they can still range from something small like 15/20 to a ‘larger’ group of 30/40 (some may be larger, I’m not sure.). All cohorts have their own sense of a family and level of tight-knittedness, depends on how large of a group you feel comfortable with!
–Faculty-Research: Make sure the faculty are interested in the same disciplines as you are, especially if you want to research on the side. By having faculty interested in similar things you are, you are open to a wealth of knowledge that you can access and present questions to. If you wish to learn more about bilingual populations but no one in your school is well-versed in that, then how will you gain the knowledge you need to work with that population later?
–Cost: For a number of graduate students this is a major issue. Most schools have a lower in-state tuition, which may want you to seek education in your state. Some schools offer great scholarship or assistantship packages. You have to keep an eye out for these types of things when you decipher the patterns in the graduate school puzzle. Of course, some also place cost lower on the pedestal if the clinical placement options are great. It’s up to you to weigh which is more important.
–Thesis Option: Do you wish to do a Master’s thesis to research a specific topic you’re intrigued in or to begin your publishing career to build up your doctoral application? Some schools only offer the comprehensive exam option, so you’ll want to make sure it has this option. ALSO make sure the professors are well-published and well-known in their respective fields, and preferably still publishing and researching. You want them to hold PhDs, as well. These are those little color indicators in the puzzle that tell you this school is great for research and still cranking it out with engaged faculty.
These are only the edge pieces of the puzzle. Be sure to check back soon for the filler pieces that you may want to consider for completing the puzzle for your perfect school! Good luck to all you #preslp and #slp2b students in your endeavors!