Chapter 1

Finding Your Best Path to Graduate School

An Important Message from Karen George,
founder of Chicago Speech Therapy

March 14, 2003 is a day I will never forget. I received news that I was accepted into Marquette University’s Communication Sciences graduate program and my life changed forever.

If you are reading this sentence, I assume you are pursuing a career as a speech-language pathologist. If you are – congratulations! We are about to become fast friends. This is the most incredible field and most rewarding career you can imagine.

If you aspire to be a speech-language pathologist, gaining admission into graduate school is a must. If you gain admission into graduate school, you will become an SLP. If you don’t – you won’t.

The resource you are holding in your hand is the secret key to unlock the door to getting into the graduate school of your dreams. This book, for the lucky few who discover and utilize it, contains life-altering information.

While countless aspiring speech-language pathologists struggle to gain entrance into graduate school, those who use this resource have their path clearly marked, and illuminated for them. By using this book, your application will virtually write itself! This resource will do the work for you! It is as easy as color by numbers.

This guide provides proven formats and formulas. It provides websites and links you can immediately access and benefit from. It shares specific examples of candidates who were accepted to multiple schools, some with credentials much less stellar than yours!

Don’t do things the hard way. Benefit from the knowledge and shortcuts discovered by those who came before you. I heard a famous quote years ago that I will never forget. It goes like this:

“A wise person learns from their mistakes,
but a genius learns from the mistakes of others.”

Don’t make the same mistake others have made. So many other aspiring SLPs commit very avoidable mistakes with their application – and then languish for a year until they can reapply. Don’t let this happen to you!

Your future career is at stake. I have personally witnessed the elation an aspiring SLP experiences when they are admitted into graduate school and their career is assured. Most aspiring SLPs rank this moment up there with getting a big engagement ring!

I have also witnessed the anguish, turmoil, and unending tears from candidates that cannot gain admission, and feel as though their dreams are slipping away. I have counseled them as they get pressured from parents and family to lower their sights and settle for being an SLP-A or daycare worker – even though this is not what they want!

I have been able to achieve my dream of becoming an SLP, and I don’t think you should settle for anything less if that is what you desire – but you have to dedicate yourself to the crucial process of applying and gaining admission into graduate school.

Make no mistake – getting into graduate school for speech pathology has become hyper-hyper competitive. Recognize this reality. Many applicants have no idea what it takes. They have no idea what they need to do to set themselves apart.

Some Scary Statistics

A recent conversation with an admission officer at a popular midwest program revealed these mind-jarring statistics: they received 492 applications for 26 spots in their graduate program! What is worse – about 40% of those 26 spots were already set aside for their undergraduate speech students and others who were accepted through their direct-admit program. That leaves 492 applicants competing for about 16 openings. Only about 3% of them will get accepted and 97% will be rejected. I thank my lucky stars that I was applying to graduate school 12 years ago!

Don’t be discouraged. You can get into the graduate program of your dreams – if you embrace the secrets contained in this book.

Let me briefly share my personal story with you. In the last 7 years, I have experienced more than most people do in a lifetime. After graduating from Marquette I secured a Clinical Fellowship position at a hospital and had the good fortune to work in pediatrics.

If you told me 7 years ago how this field would bless me – I would never have believed it!

In 2009, after 5 years at a hospital and months of thinking on the idea, I decided to start a private practice of my own. I met with a seasoned entrepreneur at Starbucks who walked me through everything I would need to consider. Our meeting lasted more than 6 hours! I had no idea what I didn’t know! I remember the barista sweeping up and telling us it was time to leave.

My start was quite humbling. Chicago Speech Therapy started with me, a cell phone, and a rickety kitchen table as my “office desk.” It took a while to secure my first client. During that time, I was worried I was not cut out to run a private practice. I even considered throwing in the towel several times! It is a good thing that my entrepreneurial friend talked me out of it.

Eventually, I enrolled my first speech client. Within weeks of me conducting my first sessions as a one-person private practice, my phone started ringing with referrals. In the coming months, I started receiving a steady stream of parents calling me and wanting therapy for their children.

We could barely keep up…

Before long, I couldn’t handle all of the calls I was receiving, so I hired a part-time SLP to help me. Within days, her caseload was full. Then I hired a full-time SLP to help us – within weeks, she was full too. The referrals kept coming and coming. Then parents started posting reviews of the great results they had – once those 5-star reviews accumulated, the call volume doubled, then tripled! After forgetting my iPhone at home one day, I returned to 14 missed calls and a voicemail full with new client inquires. Some parents had called back two and three times!

Due to the high demand, and our growing reputation, we had to hire the best SLPs possible. So I worked with an expert recruiter to design and implement a plan to attract those top-tier SLPs. It worked, and we hired one rock star after another! Every time we did, the reviews parents would post just reinforced how exceptional these SLPs were.

We rented a small office, then a bigger one, and kept adding more office space every few months to keep up with our space needs. I started receiving invitations to give talks about pediatric speech and language development to top hospitals and universities. One nonprofit even offered to pay me a $1,500 speaking fee! I turned it down and told them to apply it to their cause, but I was flattered at their offer!

In 2011, at the urging of several universities, we launched a Clinical Fellowship program. We attracted incredible candidates from elite programs across the country. One we hired, Christine, had just graduated from Purdue. She was incredible in so many ways! I remember the first time I read an evaluation she wrote. She was an incredibly accomplished writer, with reports containing such insightful prose, I found myself rereading them for enjoyment!

The team members we hired in subsequent years were just as accomplished. I remember a parent who was originally working with another speech practice. After the mom saw just one session with our therapist she immediately requested adding a second session. Within three weeks, she cancelled all sessions with the other practice and worked exclusively with our therapist!

The mom, Lauren, spoke about the substantial gains her child made in a few short weeks. She said it restored her faith in the field of speech pathology. Of course, Lauren went on to become a huge advocate for Chicago Speech Therapy and has since referred many families. I have dozens of stories just like this one.

If you ever have the chance to meet Mandy, Katie, Ali, Emily, Carli, Johanna, Grace, Stephanie, Samantha, or Paige, you will know what I am talking about. These are some of the most incredible and life-changing speech-language pathologists I have ever met.

I remember when a family from Europe called us, they found us online after coming across our reviews. They told me that they would move to America if we promised we would take them on as a client – talk about pressure!

Then we were approached by a publisher to author a book called A Parent’s Guide to Language Development Milestones. The publication was so well received that the publisher encouraged me to publish another guide, and then another.

This led to published guides on Articulation, Stuttering, Feeding, and more. Years later, I am fortunate to have authored and contributed to over 14 publications. We are currently working on dozens of new and parent-friendly books slated to be delivered over the next 28 months.

More requests kept coming. We added a monthly newsletter to help parents and pediatricians understand speech therapy in simple and friendly terms. In just the last 36 months, that newsletter now has over 162,000 issues in circulation!

Word spread about our newsletter and before long we were receiving requests by practices who wanted to use our content in their local market. So we launched a newsletter-licensing program and within weeks had dozens of speech practices across the country using our very articles and graphics!

In just a minute, I will tell you how all of this is directly related to me helping you get into graduate school.

One day, I received a voicemail out of blue from Marquette. I assumed it was a fund-raising call but upon returning the message, they notified me that I was selected as the Young Alumni of the Year from the School of Health Sciences for my work with children. I thought they had the wrong person!

That wasn’t all that has happened to me in the last few years. As the amount of clients we served grew and grew, parents loved the results and wanted more from us. At their request, we started a therapeutic day program for children ages 2-5 who needed additional speech and language support. Within a year it was one of the most sought after programs in Chicago!

Enough about me and Chicago Speech Therapy, but you can now see why I said, “what has happened to me in the last 7 years is more than most people experience in their entire lifetime!”

Running my practice and serving the greater-Chicago community with my team of outstanding SLPs has exceeded my wildest dreams. But now on to something you should find extremely interesting.

What I share next can make the difference between you getting into graduate school or not

Over five years ago, we had this idea: What if we could have aspiring SLPs work alongside amazing SLPs and help run a real practice? This would give aspiring SLPs a front-row seat and help them gain incredible, relevant experience in the field.

Based on this idea, we launched our Speech Therapy Practice Associate Program (STPA Program).

Through this program, aspiring SLPs work in our practice and serve in our therapeutic preschool program called CST Academy (feel free to read about our program online, we have a dedicated website at www.ChicagoTherapeuticPreschool.com). Through the mentoring and guidance of our expert team, these STPAs radically improve their applications and chances of getting into the graduate school of their choice, all while getting paid to do so!

Why am I sharing this? Because over the last 5+ years I have had a front-row seat as dozens of STPAs applied to graduate school. I see their resumes, statements of purpose, and transcripts. I see their GRE scores and I know their application strategy. I see their letters of recommendation. I talk to them every day as mid-April approaches.

When you see candidates applying over and over, year after year, patterns clearly emerge. In my efforts to advocate for these STPAs, I have logged hours and hours of time on the phone with admission officers – we know what they want and what they look for. We cracked the code.

Based on the unique insights gained from all of these experiences, we decided to put together this resource for you. If you only knew how much time, effort, research, planning and late nights have gone into this book – you would guard it with your life!

Do you know the 9 common mistakes that applicants make? We do, and we want to teach you how to avoid them. Are you familiar with the P-R-E-L-S method of writing compelling statements of purpose? Knowing how critical statements of purpose can be, I would not write one without employing this fail-safe method!

Are you looking to obtain a high or higher score on the GRE? If so, you have come to the right place. We’ve included an entire chapter dedicated to just that with secrets most students never discover.

Most applicants apply with a flawed strategy – but this need not be the case. When you secure your copy of this guide, you’ll see how we can walk you through the steps to discovering your optimal application strategy, and even inform you on which programs are most likely to accept you!

Do you know all the online resources that are available? Some of them are hidden and seem impossible to find! But don’t worry, we have listed dozens and dozens of them for you in our Resource Directory. Obtaining this resource alone will save you 15+ hours of searching.

Some programs are a little more “forgiving” if you have a mediocre GRE score or GPA. We list which type of schools these are and how to find them so you know exactly where to apply. I know someone who was denied for 2 straight years until she discovered the perfect school for her. She got in on the third try! This book would have saved her 2 years and lots of tears!

When I was applying, I didn’t know where to start because I didn’t have any samples to look at. This resource is chock full of samples. Sample resumes, sample statements of purpose, and sample emails to send when requesting letters of recommendation or when following up with a school. These are done for you, just cut and paste!
button1For most students, graduate school is a huge financial commitment. Would you like to save $50,000 or more off your tuition by securing a research assistantship? We share the techniques and strategies that an aspiring SLP from our office used. She saved $50,000 off her tuition by gaining this position! The school pursued her for this opportunity, not the other way around. You can have the same thing happen to you!

Most students do not approach references in the most professional way or they ask the wrong people altogether! Several admission directors have told us in no uncertain terms how vital letters of recommendation are. Those letters will make or break your chances of getting in. We tell you exactly who to ask, when to ask, how to ask, and how to be certain their letters will paint you in the best light. We’ve included all this and more in this one amazing resource.

We have even conducted a survey in which admissions officers shared exactly how their application process works. We know how much emphasis they put on each part of a student’s application. Within the survey, they also filled out a section about crucial advice for applicants. This guide is like having the answer key before you take a test! It is all included as part of your investment in this step-by-step guide.

I could go on and on and on – but let’s just get started already. By investing a small amount into this guide book now, you will be saving yourself time, money, and stress in your future. If you buy this book, honestly follow the advice and steps, and still don’t feel you received 10 times your investment – we will refund what you paid – no questions asked!
button2We truly want to help you. But we can only help as much as you allow us to.

As a future speech-language pathologist, you have the ability to impact both individual lives – and the world.

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Although it is easy to get bogged down with applications, personal statements, your transcripts, and your GRE score, it is important to reset our perspective and reflect on why we do this. The more effective we become at doing what we do, the more lives we can change. But this can only happen if you gain admission into graduate school.

Use this book to gain admission to graduate school and to become a speech-language pathologist.

Until our paths cross again.

Karen

Karen George, MS, CCC-SLP
Founder, Chicago Speech Therapy

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