Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Applying to Graduate School? Here's My Story.

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about applying to graduate school lately, so I think a good way to address this topic is to share my experience. It all began with the decision to go to grad school. I originally chose Psychology as my undergrad focus because I was fascinated by the classes, I enjoyed studying the material, and I knew that I wanted to work with people one-on-one. In order for me to have real client experience, I knew I would have to go to graduate school. The search began with More... a Peterson’s Guide (http://www.petersons.com/) that I purchased at bookstore (available at most public libraries also). I used this guide to research different graduate programs in Psychology, such as School Counseling, Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Psychopathology, School Psychology, Mental Health Counseling, etc. The Peterson’s Guide also helped me prepare for the application process by alerting me to the requirements for each individual program, but now it is imperative to get online and check the requirements for each program at their website and contact them to verify you have all the correct information too.

Of course there were many conversations that occurred with family, friends, and coworkers about going to grad school, and also there are important factors like finances and relocation. I was a little unsure of which program to go into, but I knew I didn’t really want to move too far away from home and also wanted to select a program that would give me several career options. I chose to apply to the School Counseling program at WSU (I probably should have applied to a couple other places but knew I really only wanted to go to WSU). School Counseling was a good fit for me at the time because it allowed me the flexibility to work with a diverse client field with constantly changing issues (academic, personal, career). Also, in Washington State, I would be able to go into Community Counseling careers if I went for the School Counseling degree and chose not to work in schools, whereas, a Community Counseling degree would not allow me to work in schools if I chose to change my focus. Hope I didn’t confuse you with that point.

Application preparation was surprisingly exciting, and I’m not really exactly sure why. I guess it was just the feeling of accomplishment that comes with putting something like a portfolio together. My application required these items: the actual paper application, a personal statement, 3 letters of recommendation, official transcripts, GRE test scores, and a resume. Often there are interviews done too, but I wasn’t applying for a research-based degree or a PhD, which often require interviews because the faculty wants grad students who are interested in their research.

I was concerned about gathering letters of recommendation, especially from a professor, because I wasn’t really the most vocal student; I made sure I had something to say for class each day, but I didn’t go out of my way to foster conversations between classmates. I approached one of my favorite Psych professors for the recommendation, and he was happy to help me out and was glad I was extending my education. He told me that most professors are more than willing to write recommendations for students who do well in their courses, even if they don’t verbally participate as much as others. This knowledge is something that I often share with WSU Online students who are concerned about asking a professor for a recommendation because they have never met them face-to-face. My 2 other letters of recommendation were from my employer and another from my best friend’s mother, who had been a School Counselor in the past, which enhanced the letter as more than just a personal recommendation. So, I had one personal, one work, and one educational letter of recommendation.

I turned in the application material around mid January, which is when most grad schools’ deadlines are, giving the schools/programs enough time to work everything out and offer spots to prospective students for the start of school in the fall. I found out I was accepted after about 3 or 4 months, which was very exciting, but there was a lot of paperwork and planning that followed. I had to officially accept the offer, had to fill out program paperwork, was contacted by a student mentor, had to tell work that I was officially leaving, family celebrations, and one of the most time consuming activities was finding housing. Luckily, I lived in Spokane, WA, which is only an hour and fifteen minute drive from Pullman, but I made several visits to view apartments, and eventually sign more paperwork. When it comes to finding work while attending graduate school, here is my recommendation, and this is very important: Be sure to look for graduate assistantships at your graduate school! What is an assistantship? Well, that is what I will be addressing in my next blog.

Take care,

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I enjoying to read this.You have nice article.

    Laura Brasnan