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Vanderbilt or UT Dallas?

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I'm really glad to say that I've been accepted to my top two schools, Vanderbilt and UT Dallas! I'm really torn as to which one to attend, though. I'd love some input from others -- feel free to weigh in! 

Background: My areas of interest are voice, neuro, and fluency -- however, I hope to get a wide array of experiences in graduate school and I'm not fully set on a specific direction yet. I think I'd like to work in a hospital or rehab position with adults. I also have a lot of interest in research and would love to get my PHD to someday do research and teaching in the world of academia. I do not have any debt from undergrad. 

Vanderbilt has always sort of been my dream school. It has incredible facilities, outstanding research opportunities, and a small cohort (about 20 students in my cohort, 40 MS students total). The model of supervision is much more one-on-one than other schools. It's sounds more academically rigorous which appeals to me. The downside is that tuition will be 56K (after a 25% scholarship I was offered from Vandy).

UT Dallas: 
UTD seems like a reasonable choice. It's not as exciting as Vanderbilt and doesn't have quite the same big name recognition, but I know that it turns out solid SLPs. It's a very large program (about 60 students in my cohort, 215+ MS students total) and offers a lot of good placements in the Dallas area. One big plus is that tuition it's cheaper at around 33K in tuition. 

Ultimately, I feel like I could probably do alright at either school. I lean towards Vanderbilt, but it will be an extra 23K or so in loans. Any advice about either school, or simply whether or not it's worth taking on more loans for a program I might like better? 

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I am a current MS-SLP student at Vanderbilt. I also applied to (and was accepted to) UT Dallas. Choosing Vanderbilt was a no-brainer for me, as it has been my dream program for years, and Nashville is my hometown. I understand the issue of cost; unfortunately, the amount of funding that Vandy used to have available just isn't there anymore. Kudos to you for getting the 25%, as not many folks get money as of my application cycle. The clinical experiences and research opportunities are worth the extra cost (to me), though, as they will land you any job you want down the road. Also... While the ability to "customize" my class schedule at UTD was very appealing to me (read: avoid peds classes lol), I'm glad that I'm being "forced" to get a more general degree from Vandy, peds classes and all. I will be more prepared for the Praxis test and a more well-rounded clinician overall. 

Did you apply to the voice specialty track? You get tons of amazing opportunities if you're on that track (and even if you aren't, you can still get many of the same experiences.) Regardless of track/no track, beginning in the summer (3rd semester), you can have placements in The Voice Center, Pi Beta Phi Rehabilitation Institute (adult neurogenic communication disorders), acute care (adult neurogenic communication disorders, especially cognitive and swallowing evals), Tennessee Rehab Center (lots of TBI stuff with young adults), and the Nashville/Murfreesboro VA (literally everything under the sun). If you're interested in fluency, we have two clinicians in the pediatric clinic who specialize in stuttering. (Note: They still see a few adults who stutter even though they're based in the pediatric clinic.) I'm working with one of them now. As you can see, tons of opportunities are available to students with your interests!

I'm not sure if you've seen my comments on others' posts, but I've mentioned how wonderful the supervision model is at Vandy. I'd be happy to elaborate more on that if you'd like.

Feel free to reply here or e-mail me if have any other questions! (kelly.j.fussman@vanderbilt.edu)


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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm at UTD now and I think it's great. The facilities here are decent enough and there are plenty of great research opportunities. I think it is closer to 90 students each year, which can be overwhelming, but it's nice to be able to meet new people all the time. 

Like Kelly said, you get a lot of freedom in choosing your classes, and I am avoiding neuro classes like the plague. However, you do end up taking at least two each of ped and adult focused classes. I feel like I am getting a pretty general degree here. The clinical director specializes in fluency and voice, and those classes are wonderful. I'm sure she would be excited to find really good placements for someone who shares her passions. The program does have less one-on-one supervision, but I think that has helped me become more independent as a clinician. The first two semesters are core experiences, and there have been about 15 students in each of those, with one or two supervisors. My current supervisor is always accessible and spends quite a bit of time working with us with our clients. As you start to move off campus, supervision becomes more individual. And, like you said, Dallas offers a wealth of clinical placement opportunities. 

I know Vandy is a very highly ranked school, but UTD is as well, so I don't think you should really let name recognition be a factor in this decision. Personal biases aside, I think 56k is entirely too much to pay for a degree. I am already stressed enough about the ~30k that I'm spending, so I couldn't imagine spending any more. I did end up picking the most expensive of my options, though, because I felt the school was the best fit for me.

Let me know if you have any specific questions about the program!

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