Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to talk on a panel of current graduate students to a group of undergraduate students about topics such as the GRE, the application process, and what grad school looks like. I thought I would share some of my insights as well as the other girls' sitting on the panel.
One of the points I want to emphasize is that you should look at each individual school when it comes to requirements. I found out that our school looks at the writing score more than the overall composite score. At other schools, the composite score matters, and they won't consider if you scored below a certain number.
I started studying one month before the test; other girls said they started studying for it 2 months in advance. Either way, you need to study. You may do well without studying, but most people benefit from studying. Whether you take a class or study from the book, you will learn tips about the certain components they look for in the writing section, what the strategies are for doing well on the various sections, and how to take the test efficiently.
Read the instructions ahead of time, be it during the practice tests or in the book. The directions are the same in those tests as they are in the real test. Read them ahead of time so that you don't waste that time while you're taking the test.
The biggest take away here is DO NOT WAIT! Get started right away, and do not wait until close to the deadlines to apply. Give your recommendation letters to the people writing them EARLY. Gently remind of them of deadlines without being too pesky.
Stay organized. Keep track of all of the information for all of the schools in an Excel spreadsheet. Have a folder or tab in a binder for each individual school with a cover sheet of their deadlines and addresses to send places. Whatever works for you. Just stay organized. Every school is different, and the information will start to blur together after awhile.
Your statement of purpose should be individual to that school. I don't mean that it has to be a completely separate letter than all the others. I had the bulk of the statement the same for every school and had the last paragraph unique to each school. Do be on the look out for specific requirements, because some schools have additional questions they want answered. These are really important, so do your research into what the professors research and what clinic opportunities there are. For example, I wrote about our early childhood placement, and they assigned me to it the very first semester I was on campus! I also wrote about working with bilingual kids in a certain clinic on campus, and they assigned me to that later, too!! They really do read those things-I promise!!
A typical day in grad school...well, first I would say there's no "typical" day. Every single day is different. For example, I have nothing on Mondays, but I have clinic and two classes on Wednesdays. I will give you the general day, though. Generally speaking, I have 1-2 classes, and they are 1 1/2-2 1/2 hours long. Chances are you'll have a therapy session or two that day, too. You'll have to get to school a little early to prep for that and make sure the cameras are on to record you. When you're done at school for the day, you go home, cook dinner, and do more work, be it homework or prepping for clinic. You never really stop working...A good way to describe it is this: It's like working a full-time job, except that you go home and do more work, instead of going home to watch tv (or whatever else).
Undergraduate classes are mostly about theory and normal language; graduate classes are more application and disordered language. Generally speaking, graduate school is a lot more projects than tests (for us anyway). I wouldn't say that it's necessarily more difficult. It's just different...and maybe busier. But not more difficult.
It's all about time management. You'll have a huge paper, clinic report, and a homework assignment all due the same day. Use a planner, Google calendar, etc. Find something that works for you. You will find all of the girls in my program writing in their planner quite frequently.
Do not be afraid to ask questions. You are there to learn. If you don't understand something, ask about it. Seriously though...just do it!
Ok I think that's pretty much a good summary of what was discussed. I hope that helped those of you who will be applying to grad school soon!
If you have specific questions, feel free to email me! I will try to answer it :)