Congratulations! You have chosen the field of Speech-Pathology and you have made the best career choice! (Not like I’m biased.) However, you are either an undergraduate or about to graduate and wondering how else to make yourself stand out among all the applications out there. Disclaimer: I am not part of any application review board and have no idea what each specific school looks for, but these are just some suggestions from someone who in graduate school.
- Volunteer to research in a lab.
Any lab! It doesn’t have to be speech-pathology/ communication science disorder related (but it helps). This is the easiest thing to do if you are still at a university. I have volunteered in many research labs in my time! I have volunteered in research labs in psychology, linguistics and of course our field. What your job is will depend on what the lab needs. I remember going out to the community and actually running the experiments as well as sitting in the lab writing emails trying to recruit participants. One research experience actually counted as a class and I even got paid to do one study! Just volunteer! It’s best to ask at the beginning of the semester OR even at the end of a class you did really well in and ask for any upcoming opportunities. Research seems scary, but your help will be most appreciated. Also, it looks good on your resume.
- Volunteer in the community
Volunteer with special populations in the community. Bonus points if you can work with special populations in the community and get paid. I was a behavioral therapist for about 6 months after I graduated with my B.A. It paid well but it was brutal and takes a special soul to do that. However, as my dad said, “if you can work with children with autism, then you can handle any other special population you will work with as an SLP”. I learned a lot with that job! I gained experience as a clinician doing home visits and taking data that can easily be transferred to any future home visits I will do. You can volunteer at a nursing home doing activities. Ask to speak with the activities director. Volunteer organizing events for runs that focus on a specific diagnosis (Alzheimer’s Walk or the Special Olympics). Become a caregiver for adults with developmental disabilities. Just do a google search for volunteer opportunities and see what excites you!
- Shadow a Speech-Language Pathologist
If you ever get the chance to meet someone who is willing to let you tag along, that would be a great experience! Remember to take note if you saw children or adults, what their diagnosis was, and what you did. Even if all you did was observe (because that’s really all you can do), ask what kind of intervention was done and why.
I suggest doing all these things as giving your time is just as meaningful as any donation. So when it comes to writing your letter of intent, pull specific examples from your volunteer time. It shows you have experience with special populations while saying you “like to help other people” without actually saying that phrase. NOTE: do not use that phrase!!!
Best of luck!