Standing Out Without Stressing Out

Getting into Graduate School

I’m going to start this blog post by telling you exactly what NOT to do: be like me. 😂 Don’t get me wrong: I’m extremely proud of where I’m at today. But I now realize that I over-extended myself making the choices I thought I needed to make in order to get into graduate school. Friends, in one semester, I was president of our NSSLHA chapter, chaired our statewide convention, worked two jobs, volunteered in a research lab, fostered a service dog, and managed a course load that allowed me to graduate early with a major and two minors. It was too much: you name a resume builder that could make you “stand out,” and I was probably doing it.

This culture of hyperproductivity is both unsustainable and drains us physically, mentally, and emotionally. It also creates a transactional view of our self-worth: if I do this extra thing, then I will finally be good enough to get into graduate school.

The more graduate programs and graduate students I’ve gotten to know, the more I’m convinced that you can accomplish the same result while still taking care of yourself. Here’s the secret: pick a few things to do well, and ask for help when you need it. The reality is, you don’t need to do it all: your identity and experiences have already shaped a perspective that is bound to make you stand out. 

So what does “standing out” truly mean?

Honestly, I believe that all you really need to do to stand out is find ways to apply your individual perspective to a passion within the field of communication sciences and disorders. Have a strong relationship with your grandparents, and think you may be interested in working with adults? Get in contact with the local nursing home! Naturally curious and inquisitive that may lead to a future in research? Message some professors in your university, and see if they have space in their labs! An older sibling to kiddos you love? Email your local school district, and see if they need volunteers or special education aides for the upcoming summer!

Which brings me to my next point– the worst people can say is “no.” When exploring your natural passions in our field, it NEVER hurts to reach out to a contact and see if they have the availability to include you. At the very least, your name will now be on their radar for future opportunities. Connections truly matter in this field– you never know the impact one will have on the trajectory of your career.

Does this mean you have to know exactly what part of the field you want to specialize in? Definitely not! Trust me: as an upcoming CFY, I still don’t know where my area of expertise is going to lie. Everyone goes through this exploration process: leadership, volunteer, and work experience just allows you to start narrowing it down AND shows graduate schools that you’re taking the SLP-to-be journey seriously.

As you are moving through this exploration process, though, please make sure you do not stretch your schedule too thin. Ultimately, if you take away anything from this post, please remember this: it is more powerful to do a few things passionately and well than it is to do everything at the expense of yourself.

How do you know how much is too much? In my experience, I find that laying out your daily schedule can provide a good example. If you find that you’re consistently running from one event or assignment to the next and can hardly find time to breathe in-between, you may be shifting from standing out to stressing out. Remember from our #TuesdayTips: your self-care belongs on that to-do list, too!

What ideas from this post resonated with you? How have you managed to make the graduate school application process as low-stress as possible? Let us know in the comments below!

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