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How do these schools choose applicants....answers for success


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Hi,

I've been lurking and reading everybody's story for awhile.  I want to give some input to try to help those who come along next year and hope to those who may have not been successful this year.  My perspective is as a mom who has guided successfully two children into grad school, one specifically into a SLP program.  I don't pretend to have all the answers, but I do have a few which may be helpful. When my eldest grad wanted to enter a very competitive program, we found an admissions seminar put on by the top 100 schools in the nation for that field.  We talked to representatives from almost every school & attended a discussion program specifically devoted to what it takes to get in.  The following information is what we learned, which is information we applied to my SLP graduate candidate.  First the scores and the grades are not as important as you might think...they are the framework for what they are really looking for...which is getting to know you.  So, if one of you is a little higher on the GRE in one area than another but overall fits loosely within the parameters & another person is extremely high across the board, they are not necessarily going to choose the higher performer with some magical mathematical equation they've worked out. You and the higher performer have both been added to the pile of possible choices. They will next look at the resume which may or may not weed out candidates because everyone can puff their accomplishments.  But once you are in the potential pile there are 4 factors which will matter the most.  1. Which school did you get your undergraduate degree from?  Does it have a strong program for your major and/or a high ranking?  Does that ranking help them in their ranking by choosing you?  This might seem unfair, but it is all about ranking for competitive schools.  2. Are you just finishing your undergraduate work?  If so, and you want to enter grad school immediately, you are at a disadvantage...they favor those who have done something between undergrad and grad school because you are a better risk.  Someone who has lived a little and learned from that time spent are considered a more stable applicant.  3. What do your educational references say about you...what picture do they paint? Choosing those references thoughtfully and carefully matter. Choosing someone who can write well, not just report glowing copied and pasted information.  4. The number one factor is your personal statement which is the single most important piece of information which sets you apart and provides them with a picture which they paste to your application. From then on your application has an "identity name" created for it. For instance when we were at the seminar we heard someone on the admissions board of one of the schools talk about a personal statement of a young man who after undergrad went skateboarding throughout Europe. In his statement he described what he had learned from that experience and how that had influenced his decision to go to grad school. From then on he was "the skateboarder" and they kept referring back to him when they were looking at other generic applicants. Remember, your statement is not your resume reiterated your statement should tell them about your character, with examples which are applicable to your choice of an SLP grad program.  I hope this helps and I am here to elaborate if needed.  I also have a few more thoughts about the process if anyone is interested.  

 

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Thank you for posting this!  Although all of my applications have been submitted at this point, it is still nice to see some light shed on the whole admissions process (I had no idea students applying straight from undergrad were at a disadvantage!).. it is encouraging to know that we are not just a "number" but that most programs make an effort to look at applicants holistically.

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Thank you for posting this!  Although all of my applications have been submitted at this point, it is still nice to see some light shed on the whole admissions process (I had no idea students applying straight from undergrad were at a disadvantage!).. it is encouraging to know that we are not just a "number" but that most programs make an effort to look at applicants holistically.

 

 

Very good insight!  thank you! :)

 

 

Wonderful insight, thanks for sharing! 

 

I'm glad this was helpful and I wish each of you success!  

Edited by MamaLiz
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I'm glad someone said something, because I'm a little put off of these forums sometimes by people's obsessions with numbers. People who say "Oh you have a 3.9 GPA you'll get in anywhere!" or "I can't believe I got rejected with a 3.9..." or "This school was my safety. How could I get rejected! My stats are great!"

 

There is no such thing as a safety school at the graduate level, at least in this field, and I firmly people personal statements have MUCH more importance than many people here give them credit for. It might only be 500 words sometimes (or less!) but you need to make that the best 500 words you've ever written about yourself. You might have a 3.9 GPA and an awful SoP! That's a bit telling.

 

I do think people need to take this with a grain of salt though because we are still not the adcoms and not all adcoms at every university are the same, but the point is it's not just a numbers game, and it's nice to have confirmation that that may be true! Yet we all focus on the numbers so much. I mean, we even have a results page where people will just list Accepted/Rejected/Waitlisted with their GPA/GRE scores, or people list only those in their signatures with their results, which is not representative of how the system works at all and is just encouraging this way of thinking. They don't have us get those letters of reference and write that personal statement for nothing. Of course GPA and GRE are a factor, but they're not the only ones.

 

Even so, I'm taking the GRE in a few weeks, and I'm still panicking because I want a good score, because it won't hurt. :P And I know my GPA is on the lower side of typically admitted candidates, but I also know it's not the end of my application before I even started it.

 

I also think showing interest in the school is important, and schools ask you to say "why this school" in your SoP but I'm still struggling on how to do that sometimes. lol

 

Anyway, thanks for the reminder that it's not just a game of GPA and GRE. :) I think it's something we need to hear more often.

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I'm glad someone said something, because I'm a little put off of these forums sometimes by people's obsessions with numbers. People who say "Oh you have a 3.9 GPA you'll get in anywhere!" or "I can't believe I got rejected with a 3.9..." or "This school was my safety. How could I get rejected! My stats are great!"

 

There is no such thing as a safety school at the graduate level, at least in this field, and I firmly people personal statements have MUCH more importance than many people here give them credit for. It might only be 500 words sometimes (or less!) but you need to make that the best 500 words you've ever written about yourself. You might have a 3.9 GPA and an awful SoP! That's a bit telling.

 

I do think people need to take this with a grain of salt though because we are still not the adcoms and not all adcoms at every university are the same, but the point is it's not just a numbers game, and it's nice to have confirmation that that may be true! Yet we all focus on the numbers so much. I mean, we even have a results page where people will just list Accepted/Rejected/Waitlisted with their GPA/GRE scores, or people list only those in their signatures with their results, which is not representative of how the system works at all and is just encouraging this way of thinking. They don't have us get those letters of reference and write that personal statement for nothing. Of course GPA and GRE are a factor, but they're not the only ones.

 

Even so, I'm taking the GRE in a few weeks, and I'm still panicking because I want a good score, because it won't hurt. :P And I know my GPA is on the lower side of typically admitted candidates, but I also know it's not the end of my application before I even started it.

 

I also think showing interest in the school is important, and schools ask you to say "why this school" in your SoP but I'm still struggling on how to do that sometimes. lol

 

Anyway, thanks for the reminder that it's not just a game of GPA and GRE. :) I think it's something we need to hear more often.

 

One more piece of advice... :) Do not take the GRE without first taking a prep course especially if your GPA is on the lower side.  Kaplan has one and so do others. Also please read my post today, "Which School...applying, interviewing, accepting, curing deficits"...all my insight mentioned comes directly from attending the seminar of the top 100 grad schools in the county for a very competitive grad program and spending two days listening and asking lots of questions.  

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One more piece of advice... :) Do not take the GRE without first taking a prep course especially if your GPA is on the lower side.  Kaplan has one and so do others. Also please read my post today, "Which School...applying, interviewing, accepting, curing deficits"...all my insight mentioned comes directly from attending the seminar of the top 100 grad schools in the county for a very competitive grad program and spending two days listening and asking lots of questions.  

 

Mmm I can't agree with that. That's a strong blanket statement to make. Not all students need a prep course (or can afford it... the test itself is $185 plus the cost of a course?). Plenty of people can do just fine on the GRE without a prep course, with the proper study tecniques and study time. And Manhattan prep books. Those are gold. The point is, you should prepare for it well and actively. How you do that, and how you do that best is up to you. It depends on the student. Don't feel like you NEED to take an expensive prep course, and they do get expensive, especially when the cost of education is already so prohibitive.

 

I haven't taken it yet, but I am confident in my ability. I just have general testing nerves because it doesn't seem like there's ever enough time to study, but that'll go away test day.  But still, you should prep for it well.

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Mmm I can't agree with that. That's a strong blanket statement to make. Not all students need a prep course (or can afford it... the test itself is $185 plus the cost of a course?). Plenty of people can do just fine on the GRE without a prep course, with the proper study tecniques and study time. And Manhattan prep books. Those are gold. The point is, you should prepare for it well and actively. How you do that, and how you do that best is up to you. It depends on the student. Don't feel like you NEED to take an expensive prep course, and they do get expensive, especially when the cost of education is already so prohibitive.

 

I haven't taken it yet, but I am confident in my ability. I just have general testing nerves because it doesn't seem like there's ever enough time to study, but that'll go away test day.  But still, you should prep for it well.

 

I appreciate your point of view.  All my "advice" is based on information gleaned from the schools themselves and not from other students or their experiences.  Whatever you choose to do, I wish you the very best for your future. 

Edited by MamaLiz
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Mmm I can't agree with that. That's a strong blanket statement to make. Not all students need a prep course (or can afford it... the test itself is $185 plus the cost of a course?). Plenty of people can do just fine on the GRE without a prep course, with the proper study tecniques and study time. And Manhattan prep books. Those are gold. The point is, you should prepare for it well and actively. How you do that, and how you do that best is up to you. It depends on the student. Don't feel like you NEED to take an expensive prep course, and they do get expensive, especially when the cost of education is already so prohibitive.

 

I haven't taken it yet, but I am confident in my ability. I just have general testing nerves because it doesn't seem like there's ever enough time to study, but that'll go away test day.  But still, you should prep for it well.

I agree with with this. My first stab at the GRE I took a course and it was a waste of my time and money. My next go rounds were successful based on me approaching the test study through techniques learned in the text books and not the ones in the course. While the course may have benefitted many, my style of learning and the tools I needed for success were fundamentally different.

Another point I disagree with is the "undergrad" institution matters... I have actually spoken to quite a few people who sit adcom at some top schools in our field and they flat out said they didn't consider the undergrad school. So while I would say that some schools may look at the undergrad, not every school at the top does. I also come from these so-called nationally ranked schools.

I agree with point number two to an extent. I feel like my age/experience has made me successful and in my statement I made sure to capture why that experience will make me an amazing clinician and why it will allow for me to be successful in their program. However, I don't think it puts anyone at a disadvantage if they know how to sell themselves in a statement. I have watched three graduate program cycles and I have seen a lot of success straight from undergrad (ie the 22 y/o applicant).

References and statements - I agree. They definitely sell the candidate. My references sold me for sure!

Ultimately, it all comes down to "fit". Do you fit the mold that they are looking for that year? And as Mango said we are not adcoms... Every year they look for something different and something the same - whatever that may be.

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I took a prep course and it was somewhat helpful, but I used magoosh.com and it was INCREDIBLE for helping me prep for the GRE. it's online so you get the feel of the test because you are doing test questions and writing essays on the computer. just my opinion!

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  So, if one of you is a little higher on the GRE in one area than another but overall fits loosely within the parameters & another person is extremely high across the board

 

My opinion: The key here is "fits loosely".  You need to apply to schools where your stats fit, at least loosely.  I've followed these boards and seen many many instances of applicants applying to institutions where they have absolutely no chance of acceptance.  The reality is that hundreds of applicants are applying for a few spots.  Most schools have parameters of fit and they are rejecting those who don't fit those parameters immediately.   They will then examine other issues to narrow down even further.  That is where your SOP, experience, LOR's, etc., are useful.  Do absolutely pay attention to the stats of those accepted at various schools.  While those stats may not wholly portray those admitted, they can give you a good idea of who that school admits.  Pay attention to those accepted immediately, those waitlisted, and the stats of those who get off the waitlist.  So, your stats may not "fit" the immediately admitted, but may fit those who are accepted off the wait list.  You can also start to determine which schools weigh GPA higher than GRE's, and vice versa.  You have the data, use it to your advantage.  If you are not accepted in a certain application cycle, you need to take a long hard look at your stats and the schools where you applied.  If you can determine the issue is your GRE, then raise your GRE scores.  If the problem is your GPA, that is going to be harder to remedy.  GPA is an indication of how well you do in classes and that is important for graduate committees because you have to make a B or better.  If you can't do well in undergraduate classes, then they are going to suspect you are not going to do well in graduate classes.  In that case, try to take some graduate classes, do extremely well in them, and mention that in the next cycle.  Try to develop relationships with professors who will fight for you and explain away your shortcomings in the LOR.  You may also need to apply to different schools the next time around.   Some schools favor their own graduates.  Some schools primarily only take in-state students.  Some schools favor those with CSD majors.  Some schools want extensive experience and research - other  schools do not.    Carefully research the schools, try as much as possible to choose places where your stats fit the admitted profile as determined by edfind and grad survey results, and hang in there.  Twinguy7 did an excellent job of researching schools and finding schools that might overlook his GPA deficiencies.  His method is a model for those who don't have the very best stats in the world. 

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My opinion: The key here is "fits loosely".  You need to apply to schools where your stats fit, at least loosely.  I've followed these boards and seen many many instances of applicants applying to institutions where they have absolutely no chance of acceptance.  The reality is that hundreds of applicants are applying for a few spots.  Most schools have parameters of fit and they are rejecting those who don't fit those parameters immediately.   They will then examine other issues to narrow down even further.  That is where your SOP, experience, LOR's, etc., are useful.  Do absolutely pay attention to the stats of those accepted at various schools.  While those stats may not wholly portray those admitted, they can give you a good idea of who that school admits.  Pay attention to those accepted immediately, those waitlisted, and the stats of those who get off the waitlist.  So, your stats may not "fit" the immediately admitted, but may fit those who are accepted off the wait list.  You can also start to determine which schools weigh GPA higher than GRE's, and vice versa.  You have the data, use it to your advantage.  If you are not accepted in a certain application cycle, you need to take a long hard look at your stats and the schools where you applied.  If you can determine the issue is your GRE, then raise your GRE scores.  If the problem is your GPA, that is going to be harder to remedy.  GPA is an indication of how well you do in classes and that is important for graduate committees because you have to make a B or better.  If you can't do well in undergraduate classes, then they are going to suspect you are not going to do well in graduate classes.  In that case, try to take some graduate classes, do extremely well in them, and mention that in the next cycle.  Try to develop relationships with professors who will fight for you and explain away your shortcomings in the LOR.  You may also need to apply to different schools the next time around.   Some schools favor their own graduates.  Some schools primarily only take in-state students.  Some schools favor those with CSD majors.  Some schools want extensive experience and research - other  schools do not.    Carefully research the schools, try as much as possible to choose places where your stats fit the admitted profile as determined by edfind and grad survey results, and hang in there.  Twinguy7 did an excellent job of researching schools and finding schools that might overlook his GPA deficiencies.  His method is a model for those who don't have the very best stats in the world. 

Excellent points and comports exactly with the information gleaned from the seminar we attended.  I tried to hit on those points with my other post topic yesterday, however, I think you have done a much better job of conveying this information.  It's all about comparing, evaluating and matching, plus doing what you can to repair your deficits though your LORS and your SOP without making excuses.  

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