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Which School...applying, interviewing, accepting, curing deficits from undergrad

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Yesterday I started a thread titled, "How do these schools choose applicants...answers for success."  My hope is that this will be helpful to those who apply next year and also be encouraging to those here who might find themselves reapplying next year.  As I stated yesterday, after attending a seminar put on by the top 100 colleges in the country about getting in and choosing a grad school, my eldest grad and I walked away with inside information which helped us make very informed decisions on what to do.  I'm passing this along to you in hopes that this will help you too.  


Everyone comes to this process with positives and negatives...there is no perfect candidate. Your job in the process is to turn your negatives in positives. So if your undergrad school is not the perfect high ranking school which gives you bragging rights and in turn gives you a leg up into the high ranking grad schools who want your stats to help their stats...then you need to think of how you can "cure" that.  For instance, you may be able to say that you chose to attend a school close to home because of finances, family support, helping out your family or because of work.  Finding a reason, (not an excuse) and explaining that you gained something from that experience beyond just the academics which has better prepared you to attend grad school is an  asset. If you chose to go away from home to a school which is not high ranking you may be able to "own that decision" and explain how you grew from that choice.  If your choice was determined by your high school grades, then you again have the opportunity to turn a negative into a positive by showing your determination to prod on and break through barriers.  If you are a candidate straight out of undergrad, then you need to display your maturity.  Remember grad schools view someone who has been in school all their life as a less stable candidate to get through the rigors of grad work.  They are concerned about burn-out. Most grad schools want their candidates to succeed, not fail.  So your job is to find something in your life which has prepared you for success, aside of the deficit of youth.  For instance, one of my grads faced an extreme health issue for several years while still attending college and getting good grades. No professor ever knew that grad's condition until surgery became necessary and even then that grad carried on and completed every assignment. That grad went straight from undergrad into a very competitive grad program by using that experience as a springboard to depict perseverance.  If you don't get accepted this year, think of things you can do to make yourself a more desirable candidate for next year.  Have you noticed that many of the professors in SLP have out of degree majors in undergrad? Many of those undergrad degrees are in English, other languages or linguistics.  Instead of doubling down in the rehab area for a year, think about, if possible, teaching school overseas for a year. You then bring to the program three things we were told grad school admittance committees like...multi-cultural experience, experience outside the mold and foreign travel. Ask your undergrad school for help with placement into one of these foreign teaching programs.  


Many grad applicants choose schools to apply to or commit to based on the location, either to their home or to their desired place to live.  But my suggestion for both is to evaluate how you fit into their program. Are you better served by being a big fish in a little pond or a little fish in a big pond?  if you are the little fish...you need to be someone who is driven to keep up.  If you are a big fish you need to be someone who is driven to stay ahead. Think about how this will effect you under the demanding pace of grad school.  If you are reading this and you are applying for the 2015-2016 schedule, then evaluate the strength of your GRE and grades to match the schools.  You do not want to under-apply...meaning being way over their parameters...these schools will think you are using them as your backup plan and they want people who they believe will actually want to come.  Conversely you do not want to over-apply.  However, having said that I think that people under-evaluate themselves and self-edit themselves out of a program which might be very viable. For instance if you have high grades and have one blip in the GRE which doesn't quite match, you still might be a very likely candidate depending on your other experience and how well you write that personal statement.  So choosing schools which fit with your stats and desires...either on the medical side or the school side should be the priority despite the location.  (I do recognize that some people have moving constraints, so try to apply this information as best as you can within those constraints.)  When choosing a school, most people look at location then at the finances. If you are going into the medical side, where you graduate from matters. It can be the key for good placement and salary after graduation, so the financial costs need to be evaluated against the potential financial gain.  If you plan on working in a school setting choosing a less expensive school does matter because usually the salary return isn't as high and paying back loans may be difficult. If you are currently trying to choose between schools...then check the financial viability of your school choices.  Are any of your choices in danger of going under or being decertified? Have they been in the last 5 years? Does your school of choice admit a lot of students and fail some?  This is a red flag of a forced fail school...a school which creates a curve and fails people out of their program.  Whereas you may be able to do well at a school like that, would it be a pleasant or a stressful experience?  Schools which take out of major candidates with leveling years, semesters or extra units often design their programs to admit half of each category.  Since the applicant base is not equally represented, those applying from within major are at a disadvantage. If you are an in major, do not load up on these in your application pool.   


Finally, if you are currently headed into the interviewing process and you have some deficits, then think about how you can turn those negatives into a positive to bring to the table. Think of possible questions you may be asked, devise 3 concise, but informative answers, with word picture examples. Remember you want to be rememberable. You may be able to use only one answer but if you need to cure a deficit you may be able to bring it out in a way that is natural to the question or in the "is there anything you would like to add" category.  Don't be afraid to own it, otherwise it can become your elephant in the room...but don't allow yourself to create a cheesy answer...you don't want to look like the sleazy politicians that do this insincerely on a daily basis.  




Edited by MamaLiz
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