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Tying in "Non-SLP" Experiences In Your Statement

12 July 2014

Like many others, I'm currently in the process of preparing for the grad school application season. (How is it senior year already?!) For some majors, this might just begin and end in one month in the middle of the semester... for speech-language pathology or audiology, this 'season' begins in the summer. There are just so many things to prepare and tick of the checklist before the school year begins. One of the items we were told to at least brainstorm is the statement of purpose (sometimes referred to as the 'letter of intent').

Although numerous students say that the GRE and GPA are weighed more heavily in the process, many agree that the statement of purpose helps play a decent role in picking out more suitable candidates. It's essentially a written elevator speech, so you want to write it wisely. There's the usual tips of: minimize the sob stories, limit cliches and over-used phrases, specialize it (or at least some of it) for each school, and focus on the prompt. A good amount of the schools, at least those in the CSDCAS system, want you to write about why you want to do this as your career and why you want to study at their school. Naturally, most of the applicants like language and helping others, so you may want to find other key points. You may also want to focus on something that stands you out from others so that you are memorable... did you spend a summer in Costa Rica or can you make handmade crafts? Consider adding a small tidbit about this special thing, but make sure you tie it in with speech pathology or your goals.

So how can you tie it in? Or what if you don't have any experience with children or disabled citizens? Focus on the key traits of the job and one experience that illustrates them. Here are some examples from my life that you can draw from:

1. Working in the school cafeteria.
 Not so glamorous of a job, but certainly something that has been needed throughout my undergraduate career! I've done several of the stations, including: dish room, cleaning tables, salad bar, the specialty station and the sandwich station. I've spent most of my time in the sandwich station, so we'll go from there.

Key traits: communicate clearly with others, patience when filling orders, understanding dietary or cultural restrictions, being friendly to all customers

Experience: Some international students have dietary restrictions that I must follow. This has included taking off gloves (since they touched meat) and looking at ingredients on food items. Their accents may be difficult to understand, or their culture requires one to not look people in the eye for reassurance, so patience when asking for repetitions is necessary.

2. Freelance Writing. 
I dabble in freelance writing in my free time. This has ranged from blog posts for other websites to articles of varying lengths for an Asian pet supply company's magazine.

Key traits: prompt replies, professional correspondences, adjusting to different styles of writing, researching topics in further detail, international client base, adhering to deadlines

Experience: Throughout my experiences as a freelance writer I have had clients from a variety of countries. Each client has had different views of time and deadlines that I had to adhere to. Some projects have required interviews and exchanges with professionals in the related field to gain knowledge. These experiences have strengthened my level of professionalism, my ability to work independently and in a group, as well as molding my writing to the style they desired-- whether it be a short, witty introduction or an informational piece on pet dental hygiene.

Both of these examples showcase novel ways to view ordinary tasks and would help make me stand out to potential schools. Remember, everything requires communication, so you're already one step ahead! All you have to do is try to find other key characteristics that might illustrate how you can either  (1) adapt to grad school education (like writing notes and papers), (2) prove that you'll be a good clinician (hence the multicultural cafeteria experience), (3) demonstrate what brought you to this point, or (4) has helped you prepare for your future goals. I'm not sure if I'll use either of these, but at least these may help you with your statement!