Chapter Four: The Essays with Many Names

When we last left our hero, Sir Stu was in the midst of completing his online application forms, the “paperwork” that needed to be filled out as part of an application.

Now if you recall, Sir Stu did not have all the requisite parts of his application yet. Among other things, he still needed to write his essays! After going through all of his applications and writing down the essay topics for each school, Stu began to plan out his personal statements, which were also often referred to as Statements of Purpose, SoPs, or just plain essays.

Most essay topics were quite similar between schools. They asked Stu to write about his interests in the field, why he wanted to become an SLP, what experiences he had had, and what his future plans were. Some schools got creative, and asked questions completely unrelated to this. They wanted Stu to write about a time he had overcome a challenge, to propose an idea for a research project, and so on and so forth.

Stu decided that he would focus first on the topic that most schools wanted him to write about – himself and his interests and goals. So, he began by asking himself the very same questions that the essay topics did. Why did he want to become an SLP? What first sparked his interests? How did his academic, extracurricular, volunteer, and work experiences influence him? What goals did he have for the future? He also asked himself, for each school, why he wanted to go to that school in particular. Did it have unique classes that he liked? An on-campus clinic? A chance to be involved in research?

Once Stu had answered these questions, he began to write an outline for a general personal statement, which he could later edit to address the questions of each school that he was applying to. With great fervor, he wrote his personal statement. When he felt that it was ready to be looked upon by human eyes, he logged onto Rutgers CareerKnight, and made an appointment with a career counselor to specifically discuss his personal statement. This was a  free service that Rutgers offered, and it was very useful indeed! Sir Stu also asked his friends, family, trusted advisers, and current grad students to read his paper and give their opinions as well. With feedback in hand, Stu edited his essay – and sought more feedback, as needed. At last, Sir Stu had completed his personal statement. Next, he adjusted his statement to fit the specific questions and word limits for each program that he was applying to – finally submitting the essays when he felt that they were perfect. 

Sir Stu then moved on to the schools that had specific essay topics that did not ask Stu to write about himself (at this point, Stu was starting to feel like a narcissist, and these other essay topics were frankly a relief)! For each of those essays, he considered the questions carefully, made outlines, and wrote essays within the word limit. He looked for feedback on those essays as well, and soon, they too were ready for submission!

Stu had fed the essay-eating head of the many-headed graduate school monster. However, it had taken him several months to do so. And that was okay. This was one of the most important parts of the application, and as such, required careful consideration and great effort. With this step out of the way, Stu could move on to other parts of the applications process.

What would Sir Stu do next?
Read on tomorrow, as the journey continues…


Chapter Three: Filling Out Many Forms

When we last left our hero, Sir Stu Dent of Rutgers University had just completed his observation hours and taken the GREs.

Several months had passed. Sir Stu spent these months further researching graduate programs, and getting more work and volunteer experience. Now, it was nearly the end of the summer – and that meant that soon, Sir Stu would be filling out a bunch of forms for his graduate applications!

Since the applications process could be fairly expensive, Stu tried to calculate how much money he would spend on each application. He checked with each school’s website to find out their application fees (and looked into getting a fee waiver by visiting the school’s graduate open houses, if such offers existed). He also remembered that sending his official Rutgers transcripts, which all schools required, may cost him money. Although Rutgers kindly agreed to send the first two transcripts he ordered for free, each additional transcript would cost him $7. He added in the cost of sending GRE scores (beyond his four free score reports from test day), which would cost $27 per report. The price quickly grew as Sir Stu went down his list of schools. He thought that perhaps he would consider narrowing down the amount of schools he applied to once more, to exclude schools that he did not truly wish to attend.  

With his expense list out of the way, Stu took his list of schools in hand and went to each school’s website, to make an account and begin his applications.  As he was making his accounts, he made sure to take note of each username and password that he used on a sheet of paper, as it could be overwhelming to memorize all that brand new login information at once. He also noted which schools used CSDCAS, the common application for applying to SLP programs, and signed up for a CSDCAS account as well.

Before he sat down to his forms, Stu first gathered materials which he thought he might need. He went to his myRutgers page, and downloaded his unofficial transcript, for some schools asked that he upload it to their website, or otherwise use it to fill out information about classes that he had taken while an undergraduate. He also made note of Rutgers’ four-digit code, 2765, which some schools asked for on their applications. Then, he began to fill out his forms. Most of them could be finished quickly, as the forms asked for simple information like his name, address, basic demographics, and work/volunteer experience. Stu skipped over questions asking for information or items he did not have yet, like a completed personal statement. He knew that he could always save his progress and come back to finish his forms a little bit later. 

Sir Stu also made sure to take note of the essay questions for each school, and to write them down, so that he had a list of essay topics available to him when he began writing his personal statements. He downloaded a spreadsheet to help him keep track of all of this applications and materials.

Stu had at last begun his applications.

What would Sir Stu do next?
Read on tomorrow, as the journey continues…

Chapter Two: Observation Hours, Experience, and the GREs of Doom

When we last left our hero, Sir Stu Dent had just finished compiling his list of graduate schools that he wished to apply to.

If you recall our analogy from yesterday, a graduate school is a many-headed beast and one must feed each of its heads if one ever hopes to be accepted by it. Stu decided that for the next few months, he would focus on feeding two of the heads, named Observation Hours and GRE Scores. He also decided that he would use this free time to gather magical tools for befriending the monsters in the form of volunteer hours and work experience.

Stu scoured the land far and wide in search of places to observe. He asked schools, both public and private. He asked hospitals, both big and small. He asked rehab centers and private practices and random strangers that Sir Internet had introduced him to. He had many a door slammed in his face, and many people did not even bother coming to the door at all! But at last, Sir Stu found places to observe licensed speech-language pathologists in action. After each observation, he made sure that the kind SLPs filled out his observation log, and before he knew it, Sir Stu had completed the requisite 25 hours! Sir Stu was quite relieved. One head of the monster had been fed. However, he still had many heads to go.

Stu next decided to face a challenge most horrific – an exam known as the GRE. What the GRE stood for, he knew not. He knew only that he had to take it, and take it well. With the help of Sir Internet, Stu contacted the ETS and scheduled a date to take this examination. Upon seeing the price to take this exam, Sir Stu did nearly faint. It was in this moment that he decided it would perhaps be wisest to take the exam only once (in order to save his money), and to study well beforehand. Still, Stu scheduled his exam for rather early in the year, so in case he did not do as well as he hoped, he could take it once more.

To study for the GRE of doom, Sir Stu took it upon himself to seek free resources where he could find them. The ETS offered two free practice exams, which Stu took advantage of. The local library offered Stu free test prep books. And come fall, Stu’s very own Rutgers University typically offered free prep courses, though they filled up quickly, so Stu did not rely on them too much.

Now, Sir Stu knew that he was a decent test taker. He had taken his practice exams and done fairly well. That said, had he done poorly on those practice exams, Stu would have sought out prep courses on his own, though it hurt his wallet deeply to do so.  

Test day had arrived and Sir Stu came prepared. He had studied for weeks, brought his admission ticket, his ID, and a healthy snack to the test center, and sat down to take the dreaded exam. It took him nearly four hours, but at last he was done – and his scores, generated automatically, were perfectly acceptable! He aimed for at least a 150 in both the verbal and quantitative sections, and he had met his goal. His writing scores would come later, but Stu knew that they would be decent enough, as he had prepared for all of the the writing prompts on the exam in advanced (for the prompts for both the Issue and Argument sections  were drawn from a pool, that was available to him via the ETS’s website).

Before Stu left the test center – and believe me, he could not wait to get out – he decided to take advantage of the opportunity to send four score reports to his prospective schools for free. He did so, as sending score reports to his schools after he left the testing center would cost a not-insignificant sum of money.

And with that, Stu had fed yet another head of the many-headed graduate school monster.

What would Sir Stu do next?
Read on tomorrow, as the journey continues…

Chapter One: Choosing Schools to Apply To

As promised, here is the first post in our series of posts about grad school applications!

In the beginning….

It was a warm morning in early May and Sir Stu Dent of Rutgers University was finally free. He had completed his final exams with great success, and now he was officially done with his junior year of undergrad. He had nearly four long months before he was to begin his senior year. He wanted to spend the summer relaxing – but alas, Stu was not an ordinary undergraduate. No, Stu had bigger hopes and dreams. Stu wanted to go to graduate school for speech-language pathology, or maybe audiology if that is your preference, and that meant that he would have a long journey ahead of him.

And so on that warm morning in early May, Sir Stu began to plan.

Now as I’m sure you are all aware, applying to graduate school is like fighting a many-headed monster. Only instead of fighting the monster, you have to feed it to get on its good side, and each of the monster’s heads wants something different for dinner, and you’ll likely be facing multiple monsters at the same time. Oh, and you won’t know if any particular monster has become your ally until months after your final battle, when it mails you a letter with its decision.

Wow, this seems terribly overwhelming thought Sir Stu. And Stu was right. But Stu also knew that with proper planning (and postponed procrastination), he could befriend at least a few of these beasts.

When fighting a formidable foe, one must know their adversary well, so naturally, Sir Stu’s first step was to learn more about the many-headed monsters, who heretofore shall be referred to as “graduate schools.” Stu began by visiting his town’s wise man, a Sir ASHA Edfind. Sir Edfind knew all about graduate schools. He could tell you which programs existed, and in which lands they were located, and how long it would take to graduate from one. He was great!

Stu arrived at Sir Edfind’s home(page) with a notebook and quill in hand, and as Sir Edfind answered Stu’s many questions, Stu began to compose a list of the graduate schools that he found most appealing. When he was done, Stu had many names on his list – far too many to realistically befriend them all – so Sir Stu decided that he must learn even more, in order to narrow his list down to a reasonable amount of schools, perhaps three to nine.

Stu’s quest for knowledge next took him to Sir Internet, who could describe each potential graduate program to him in detail by showing him a window into the monster’s mind known as a “website.” The website allowed Stu to see which kinds of courses were offered, if there was an on-campus clinic, what the cost of tuition was, and other factors that Stu deemed important to him. With this information in hand, Sir Stu proceeded to narrow down his list. With a swish of his quill he crossed out the names of several schools that he felt were not a good fit for him, and circled and starred the schools that he liked best. Stu now had a proper list.

What would Sir Stu do next?
Read on tomorrow, as the journey continues…

Happy New Year and Introducing a Series of New Blog Posts

Happy New Year everyone! I hope this year will bring you plenty of health, wealth, happiness, and success. Like most of the seniors in our club, I am beginning my 2017 by finishing up my graduate school applications. It’s been quite the experience. Have you guys ever heard of a Rube Goldberg machine? It’s a type of silly invention that takes a very easy task – say, turning the page of a newspaper – and finds a ridiculously complicated, multi-step way to achieve it. Well, the applications process is kind of like one of these machines. It takes the simple task of applying to a school and turns it into a long, complicated, multi-step ordeal. Perhaps applying to colleges for undergrad was a similar experience, and I just missed out because I only applied to Rutgers? Regardless, now that I am nearly done with this difficult task, I have amassed a multitude of tips to help the next batch of graduate applicants out! I present to you, my project for the month of January: The Grad School Application Tips and Timetable. Each day from now until next Friday, I will write a post about one step in the graduate applications process. These will be written in a somewhat chronological order of steps (you should definitely choose the schools you apply to before starting to write your personal statement, for example). To make this slightly more entertaining for you, I will be turning it into a story, in which our hero, Sir Stu Dent of Rutgers University, must go on a daring quest to complete his grad school applications. Don’t worry if you aren’t much of a reader though, because there will be a googledoc at the end with a neat, color-coded checklist that you can use. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, in which our hero will begin his journey.

Graduate Applications and Other Things To Do

Hello everyone!

The wind is blowing, the leaves are falling, the temperature is dropping – and it’s already November! The second round of midterms, as well as class scheduling for next semester, are upon us. And for those of us who are seniors, so are graduate school applications! Although most graduate programs in the NJ/NY area have an application deadline of February 1st, right now is the perfect time to start or continue working on your applications.

The application process can be pretty overwhelming, especially if you are applying to multiple schools. At this point, you’ve probably picked out the schools you are applying to and are trying to keep track of the various parts of each application. To make the process a bit more organized, I’ve designed a grad school application template (which can be downloaded as an Excel file from googlesheets) that keeps track of the different parts of the application, such as letters of recommendation or personal essays. Essentially, it’s a simple, but well-organized, checklist. I hope that all of you prospective grad students will find it helpful!  You can access it here.

For those of you who are not applying to graduate programs this year, it is never too early to start exploring the field, graduate programs, and various opportunities that can provide you with valuable experience. Below are a few suggestions on what you can do:

  • Go observe! You can read more about getting observation hours here.
  • Look for research opportunities relating to speech, language, hearing, or psycholinguistics. You can find many opportunities at Rutgers through the Aresty Undergraduate Research Assistant Program, or by asking your professors in the linguistics and psychology departments, and some of the foreign language departments (Spanish, French, etc.). Some possibilities are listed below:
  • Find SLP-related places to volunteer, some options include:
    • Children’s Specialized Hospital
    • Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
    • Skilled nursing facilities
    • Private practices
    • Camps, clubs, classes, or events for people with special needs
  • Explore opportunities at Rutgers
    • Take a Fieldwork course in the Psychology department
      • Fieldwork: Child Development and Fieldwork: Autism can provide hands on experience working with these populations
    • Look for internships through the Psychology Department
      • Check the department website for available internships that coincide with your interests – usually you can earn class credit towards your degree through these as well!
    • Become a conversation facilitator for adult English language learners via The Conversation Tree
    • Join The Rutgers ASL club
    • Become a tutor for the various linguistics courses at Rutgers (some of which count as prerequisites for graduate programs) through Rutgers Learning Centers
    • Consider applying to teach a First-Year Interest Group Seminar (FIGS)
  • Participate in an internship this summer at NYU
    • The Rusk Health Center Opportunity Program offers students internships that allow them to observe professionals in the medical setting, in the field of their choice, for a month-long period during the summer. Participants will also attend lectures and group discussions. Applications are due at the beginning of January.
  • Visit graduate open houses! Most SLP (and AuD) grad programs have open houses in the fall and spring semesters. Check out the calendar on our homepage for upcoming open house dates for the graduate programs in NJ.

RU Courses and ASHA Requirements

Back in September, I wrote a post about the speech and hearing-related courses offered at Rutgers. However, those are not the only courses you may need as you prepare for a career in the speech and hearing sciences.

As of 2014, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) also requires those that want to be certified speech-language pathologists to demonstrate knowledge in the following areas:

  • Biological Science
  • Physical Science
  • Statistics
  • Social Science

You demonstrate this knowledge by taking at least one course in each of the above subjects, typically at the undergraduate level, as many graduate programs require you to have completed these classes prior to starting grad school. ASHA also stipulates that “research methodology courses in communication sciences and disorders (CSD) may not be used to satisfy the statistics requirement,” and “a course in biological and physical sciences specifically related to CSD may not be applied for certification purposes to this category unless the course fulfills a university requirement in one of these areas.” Unfortunately for us, that means that our Anatomy and Physiology of the Speech Mechanism class doesn’t count.

Anyway, if you are like me, the thought of taking a physics or chemistry (or stat, or bio) class – especially at Rutgers – is truly terrifying. We’ve all heard the horror stories of the D- class average in general chemistry, or the time-consuming calculus prerequisites you need to simply enroll in general physics. It’s enough to make one want to give up on their grad school dreams for good!

Ok, so I’m exaggerating. But the added pressure of unduly challenging math and science classes, when you are already trying to complete core curriculum and major+minor requirements, can be very stressful.

Don’t worry though, because there ARE math and science courses at Rutgers that are designed specifically for students who (usually) don’t plan to pursue careers that deal with these subjects, but who want to (or need to) learn the basics. Another bonus: almost all of these don’t require any prereqs!

Below, I’ve provided a short list of these Rutgers courses and their descriptions for each of the math and science topics that ASHA wants us to know about. As of the posting date, all of these courses will be available for you to enroll in for the Spring 2017 semester. Of course, you will still want to consult your prospective graduate programs to see which courses will and will not count towards ASHA certification, just to be sure.

Biological Science (course must cover human or animal biology)

  • Biology, Society, and Biomedical IssuesDiscussion of current topics and issues in human health and medicine, from a biological perspective.
  • Genetics, Law, and Social PolicyPrinciples of human and behavioral genetics and their legal, ethical, and social implications. Topics include genetic screening, counseling, and engineering; reproductive regulation; human behavior genetics.
  • Human GeneticsIntroduces the student to human genetics, from the micro level to the macro level.
  • Essentials of Human ReproductionAnatomical and physiological bases of human sexuality; biological and cultural aspects of sexual differentiation and psychosexual development, contraception, venereal disease, and sexual lifestyles.
  • Brain, Mind, and BehaviorHonors course discussing the interrelationship between the brain, the mind, and behavior.

Physical Science (physics or chemistry courses)

  • Concepts of PhysicsConcepts of physics and astronomy in their scientific, social, historical, and current technological context, with no mathematical problem-solving. How the physical universe works, from mechanics and the solar system to relativity, quantum behavior, and the Big Bang. Contributions of scientists from Aristotle, Galileo, and Newton through Einstein, Bohr and up to the present time.
  • Impact of ChemistryRelation of chemistry to human life, culture, and everyday decisions. Case studies used to illustrate chemical principles and examine issues of current concern, such as global warming, drug testing, ozone depletion, and heavy-metal poisoning.
  • Chemistry of Life  – Topics chosen from the fields of organic chemistry and biochemistry including proteins, DNA, RNA, and chemical origins of life. Emphasis given to nature of chemical and biochemical discoveries and the social responsibility of scientists.

Statistics (stand-alone statistics courses)

  • Statistics I  – Principles and methods of statistics, including frequency distributions, measures of central tendency and dispersion, simple probability, sampling, regression and correlation analysis, curve fitting, chi-square analysis, test of significance.
  • Intro to Stat for BusinessTopics include descriptive statistics, probability, random variables, sampling distributions, principles of hypothesis testing, and one and two sample T-tests.
  • Basic Stat for ResearchAs applied in fields other than statistics; treats research projects dependent on the use of observed data from planned experiments. Includes inference methods in estimation and hypothesis testing and general linear models.
  • Quantitative Methods in PsychologyQuantitative methods used in psychological research. Regular exercises required.

I have organized this list into a more detailed google doc, which you can view here:

The doc also has some basic Social Science classes you can take at Rutgers that may fulfill ASHA requirements.

If you know about any other introductory courses in these subjects at Rutgers, let me know in the comments below!


  • *All course descriptions are taken from the respective departmental websites, the Rutgers course catalog, and/or degree navigator. Consult department websites for more detailed information*