Finding the right school for any degree program takes time and research. This is especially true in healthcare, which has seen an influx of applicants in recent years – meaning a more competitive application process.
As a “career changer” going back to become a speech language pathologist (SLP), the process was a bit more intense this time around!
There are a number of schools in the NY area with great SLP programs.
To narrow down where to apply, I first looked at the basics: cost and location, application requirements, number of prerequisite courses needed (since I had to take most of them!), and the program’s reputation. I also considered how each program was structured, including typical class size, availability of research opportunities, any specialties that were emphasized, and whether they included classes for TSSLD certification.
The School Interview
Even more telling was the interview. That’s where my perceptions of each school were solidified. The interview allowed applicants a glimpse into how the program functions, the attitudes and styles of faculty, and in some instances I even met current students in the program.
Each school had its own vibe that surfaced within the first few minutes of arrival. This is the point at which I seriously started narrowing down options. Not all schools offered interviews, and as much as I dislike talking about myself, I wish that was a universal requirement because it does provide additional insight. There were several schools that I remained relatively indifferent to, and ultimately eliminated faster, because of the lack of face-to-face exposure to the school’s culture.
After sorting through nearly every school in the tri-state area (and a few beyond), I applied to 10 schools. Since most SLP programs only have Fall admissions, I wanted to maximize my options to reduce the likelihood of waiting another year to reapply if I didn’t get accepted. An excessive number of personal essay drafts later, I had several school options to choose from – it was definitely worth the extra application fees!
Making a Decision
When it came down to making a final decision, I went back to my original criteria with the perspective of what I had learned during the interviews (or not!). One thing I learned quickly in my pre-reqs: SLP students work really closely together, so I wanted a smaller program that fostered the sense of being a team.
I also wanted a school whose clinic accepted a broad range of clients so I had exposure to the greatest variety of clients possible. Some schools are more involved in placing students on externships in their 2nd year and some are hands off. Searching for those opportunities can be overwhelming, so school-provided assistance helped seal the deal for me!
Overall, there aren’t a lot of financial aid options in grad school, but every bit helps. Some schools have high tuition and don’t offer much aid so that was a quick way to cut options down, particularly if I wasn’t attached to the program itself.
My road to becoming an SLP hasn’t been as straightforward as most students’, but has been exciting nonetheless!
I’ve learned it’s really never too late to change paths – if you’re sure it’s where you want to be, it’s worth the extra time and effort. I’m looking forward to gaining as much experience as I can in graduate school as an “SLP-to-be!”
I hope you found this information useful for pursuing a degree in speech language pathology yourself.