Obtaining Letters of Recommendation: A cautionary tale

Given that at least 2 to 3 letters of recommendation are required for most graduate programs, it may seem reasonable to ask several professors for letters in the hopes that your minimum requirement will be met. However, it is extremely important to be aware of what that professor can say about you. Therefore, I would urge you to only ask professors/ employers that you have worked in a close capacity with, either as a research or clinical assistant. Finally, you want to avoid having a “cookie cutter” letter of recommendation written on your behalf. A professor might say, “yes” to writing a letter, but if they don’t have anything to say, it will be clear in the letter they write. They will use ambiguous phrases like, “DaisyLamb asks a lot of questions in class” and “she is highly motivated.” While these phrases aren’t negative per say, they will be read by graduate committees as “generic” or “ordinary.”

Dos and Don’ts of asking for a recommendation:

1. Professors are extremely busy people. Do not ask them for a letter of recommendation too close to the application due date.  Aim to ask for a letter at least three weeks prior to the due date. Given that most applications are online, professors will need to fill out several pieces of information about you (and several of your peers) and need adequate time to do so.

2. Do schedule meetings in person. This should not be the first time a professor has met with you in person. At the very least a professor should know your name, face, what you hope to study in graduate school and one thing that separates you from your peers.

3. Do send one reminder email if your due date is approaching and you have not yet received a response.

4. Don’t sent several emails to a professor. If they agreed to write a letter on your behalf, and you know them in a close capacity, they will make sure to send everything on time. This is not their first year of writing recommendation letters for students.

5. Do say something like, “Will you be comfortable writing a recommendation on my behalf?” as opposed to, “Will you write my recommendation?”

6. Do try to organize your paperwork / university portals as efficiently as possible. Provide your professor with a follow-up email that contains a cover-letter, personal statement, and information about you.

7. Do send a hand-written thank you letter!

Good Luck!!

Keeping your personal statement personal!

A large part of what constitutes your graduate school application is your personal statement. While a personal statement can seem intimidating at first, it can be completed successfully.

Some tips for success:

1. Think about what impression you make on the graduate committee. The committee is likely composed of professors who have had either clinical or research experience (likely both) in the field of speech language pathology. What does your personal statement (PS) tell them? Your PS should inform the committee of your clinical and research interests (i.e. what you hope to do) and experience (i.e. what you have already done) while using language that speaks to your knowledge of the field.

2. No room for fluff! There’s absolutely no room in your personal statement for sentences that are not direct and to the point. Articulate what your research interests are based on what seems interesting to you. Avoid broad language and phrases like, “I would like to pursue speech and language therapy.” Of course you do! What specific aspects of the field interest you? Feel free to explore the many subfields of Speech Pathology via the ASHA website or through direct involvement with professors at the university you currently attend. Some subsets include: Dysphagia (swallowing management), Apraxia of Speech, Aphasia, Accent Reduction and Modification, Fluency and Voice Disorders. You’ll have a better opportunity to experience the various subsets of the field upon admission to a graduate program, but it is beneficial to consider what you may be interested in.

3. Last but certainly not least, you! What unique perspective or experience will you contribute to the university? What makes you stand out from the 20 other “highly motivated and ambitious” applicants?

The best way to  answer these questions is to begin writing! It does not matter what you write exactly, but if you’re on the path to starting your personal statement, you are that much closer to finishing it!

Best of Luck!

The SLP graduate school application process

Hi!

Let me just say that I’ve been there. The graduate school application process can be a daunting one, especially if you’re hoping to become an Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP).  There’s the GRE (that math section especially!), a personal statement, letters of recommendation and picking which schools you’d like to actually apply to! It’s a lot to consider and prepare for. The good news? You’re not alone. I’ll be updating this blog with tons of resources to help you along the way 🙂

My first tip: Find a graduate student (or anyone really). A graduate student mentor can help you to define your goals, check your personal statement for clarity, and provide you with an insight into the graduate school experience. If you do not currently have access to a graduate student, you should consider reaching out to the graduate school coordinator at the school(s) you are planning to apply to. The coordinators will generally send out an email and interested graduate students can volunteer to provide you with a tour of the university’s facilities and answer any questions you may have.

Check back here for more tips, tricks and helpful hints on your journey to becoming an SLP!