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The 1000 Piece Puzzle: Picking Your Perfect Grad School Pt. 2

19 July 2013

As promised, here is the second edition of hints for picking the pieces to finish your grad school puzzle. These are in no way to be weighed less than the previously posted characteristics for deciding on which programs to apply to/ attend. In fact, some of these may need more consideration than the others. Of course that is for you to decide, but if you wish to see the other list for comparison, then click here. There has also been great comments from others about factors to consider, so be sure to check it out. :)

Here is the second list of items that you may want to chew on (but don't accidentally aspirate on them, please.):

-Opportunities Available: Most of these come down to money, but some come somewhat hand-in-hand with that along with educational gains. Research Assistant - If you wish to engage in research with a professor, make sure the school allows for this. After that, check to see if any faculty are currently open to supervise a student researcher. Most teachers have a limited number of slots for RAs, and those spaces often go to doctoral students. Graduate Assistant - Does the school also have spaces for graduate assistants?  Do they give preference to certain students? The school I currently attend for undergrad only allows alumni undergraduate students to be graduate assistants for the department. Student Teaching/ Teacher's Assistant - are there opportunities to student teach or be a teacher's assistant? These could be viable options. They also are great building blocks for your CV and may help with getting a CFY. On-Site Clinic - Some universities don't have on-site clinics. This may not be a huge issue, but having one may provide another site for possble work. Some universities have clinics in which students can work. Student Teaching.

-GRE or MAT accepted: Although the majority of schools accept the GRE, some will accept the MAT as well. For some applicants this isn't an issue, but for those who are not great at timed standardized tests, this can be a huge benefit. Most that do accept the MAT accept it in conjunction with the GRE, though. Luckily, there are some programs that don't require the GRE, or just a lower score is accepted. For a list of these schools, click here.

-Clinical Placements: This one is another multi-colored puzzle piece. First, as mentioned above, is there an on-site clinic? Some studente prefer having an on-site clinic available as a back up if off-site clinic placements don't work or just for further experience and education. Second, what clinical placements are available? If you are interested in aphasia, are there clinical placements available that may have aphasia placements? What about bilingual/multi-cultural populations? Are there outpatient or inpatient facilities if you're interested in those? Make sure placements that you want are available.


-Research vs Clinical Orientation: There are some schools more research-oriented than clinically-oriented. This may impact your education and placements or opportunities/funding. This may take some dumpster-dive-type searching, but it's good information to know.

-Medical vs Educational Based: Many, many schools are geared towards education setting clinical education. There are few that actually focus on, or are more geared towards, the medical setting. This doesn't mean both school types don't offer clinical placements in the other setting or that if you go to one you will have great trouble finding jobs in the other sector, but you may be more well prepared for the specific setting. As far as I know there are a limited number that are medically based, of which you can view a list here. Also, the University of Pittsburgh offers a Clinical Doctorate (CScD) degree that's medically based. You can find that (and 2-3 other 'SLP clinical doctorate' degrees (SLPD)) on ASHA's EdFind, although I'm not sure if the others are medically-focused.

-Specializations/Certificates: Generally, most schools have some sort of specialty. Gallaudet has Deaf Studies; Penn State is known for AAC. Depending on your interests you may want to find a school that fits that. On top of that, some schools offer Graduate Certificates in certain studies. You may want to check into that as well, as they can give you valuable knowledge.

-Program Start Date/ Program Length: There are some programs who have Winter, Spring or Summer start dates. A good amount of these are online programs, but there are a some on campus programs who begin at these unconventional times as well.  I've also heard of a handful of schools with alternating admissions, admitting students every other year. You also may want to consider program length. This mostly pertains to those without a CSD degree or opt to do online programs, as these generally take an extra semester or two.

-Accreditation: Lastly, and what I would argue is the most important piece of the puzzle, the one that ties everything in, is accreditation. MAKE SURE IT IS ACCREDITED by The Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA). If it'snot accredited by this, ASHA  will not recognize your degree. To find those that ASHA recognizes, you can search for schools viaEdFind.

Once you've put the puzzle together and found some viable schools that can fit into it, talk to current or past students. You can find some on the Facebook, GradCafe, and Twitter groups. You can view my post on social media

If you have any hints, tips or pointers as to how you decided between schools, please feel free to share as well!

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for places to connect to people. You can also attempt to find professionals taht supervise clinicals for your prospective schools-- they can give insight on how well prepared students are. This may be harder to do, but worth a shot.