Thoughts from Tutors

Six Things I Wish I Knew Before Applying to Graduate School

by Kayla Klenke, TECHniques Center Tutor

My name is Kayla Klenke and I have been a tutor at the TECHniques Center since August 2015. I am currently a senior in the Speech Language and Hearing Science program at Texas Tech University Health Science Center. During my sophomore year, I learned my intended field of study required a graduate degree. I just completed the application process and found myself to be quite overwhelmed at times. I developed these six tips that I hope help you on your journey to graduate school!

  1. It is never too early to start preparing

There are a lot of steps involved in the graduate school application process. Most programs require an application, fee, letters of recommendation, resume, standardized test score (e.g., GRE, MCAT, LSAT), and a statement of purpose. This can sound overwhelming, but if you start early and take your time you will end up with a great application.

It is always smart to continue to update your resume and emphasize your involvement and relevant work experience. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is similar to other standardized exams, such as the ACT or SAT, that test your verbal, quantitative, and writing skills. When preparing to take the GRE, the best advice is to spend time studying (Barron’s Essential Words for the GRE and Kaplan study materials were so helpful) and take the test during a break from school.

If your application is due in December or January, I would encourage you to take the test the summer before for two reasons. One, you have time to study and take it while you are not trying to learn other information from classes. Two, it gives you time to take the test again if you do not get the scores you want. Regardless of if you are a freshman or a senior, if you think you might be interested in graduate school, start preparing!

  1. Use your resources

As a student involved at Texas Tech and the TECHniques Center, you have so many resources right at your fingertips. First and foremost, the Career Center at Texas Tech (located in the Wiggins Complex) is your hub for graduate school resources. The Career Center can help you with resumes, statements of purpose, interviews, or even help you find a job. The staff at the Career Center is encouraging and wants nothing more than to help Red Raiders succeed.

The counselors at the TECHniques Center are another great resource. Many of the counselors have attended graduate school themselves and have great tips on how to start preparing for grad school. As we all know, they work so hard to help everyone at the TECHniques Center be the best student and person they can be.

Lastly, your professors can be some of the greatest recourses and are often who write your letters of recommendation. A majority of the time, professors will have the same graduate degrees that you aspire to complete. Developing good relationships with professors and approaching them for advice can drastically impact the strength of your application.

  1. How to get great letters of recommendation

As I mentioned, good relationships with professors (and hopefully your counselor at the TECHniques Center) is crucial for getting strong recommendation letters. You want the people who write your recommendation letters to be professional individuals who can attest to you work ethic, academic mentality, and positive demeanor.

Let’s talk about letters of recommendation etiquette for a moment.

Although counselors, employers, and professors are often more than happy to write you a good letter (if you have maintained a good relationship with them), it should never be assumed that someone will write your letter. Regardless of how well you know professors and supervisors, when requesting a letter of recommendation, you should formally ask the individual if he or she would be willing to write you a letter and give him or her any additional information (often your resume) he or she may need. Once you have the individual’s consent to write one of your letters, you should follow up with a thank you letter or email thanking them for investing in your future.

  1. Let’s talk about $$$

Similar to an undergraduate application, graduate applications require a fee for processing. Fees can range depending on the university (mine ranged from $30-$75 per application). Another hefty fee is for standardized entrance exams. The GRE costs about $200, the MCAT is about $300, and the LSAT can range from $90-$200. The last expense is your college transcripts. At Tech, your official transcripts are only $5, but need to be purchased for every school you are applying for.

When dealing with this much money, it is best to develop a spreadsheet. This can help you organize the cost for each school and it may help you narrow down what schools you want to apply for, so you can save a little money.

  1. It takes time (and lots of it)

As I stated earlier, there are many components to a graduate school application. This may take quite a bit of time and money. However, it is an investment in your future and you must be willing to put in the effort. The quality of your application (especially the components like the statement of purpose and resume) will affect what you get out of it. The better your application is, the more likely you will get research or teaching assistantships or scholarships.

So how can you stay organized and make your application the best it can be? Try working on one application at a time. Create a spreadsheet about what is required and what you have completed. Go step by step and take your time! Graduate school comes with substantial responsibilities and you want to show the admissions board that you possess the qualities required for such a program.

  1. Back up plans

Even if you never thought about attending graduate school, I encourage you to research and consider it as an option after you finish your undergraduate degree. Just as we talked about earlier, Tech has so many resources and you could check with your TECHniques Center counselor, academic counselor, or Career Center staff member to see what graduate programs are offered in line with your bachelor’s degree. Start doing some research to see what programs you may be interested in and the requirements for admission. Even if you do not think that graduate school is an option for you, there are so many programs available that might be a perfect fit for you! Graduate school can be competitive, but many programs offer assistant level positions that will improve your application if you choose to wait a semester or year to apply.

Regardless of what path you choose after you graduate at Texas Tech, you have a great university and staff members that are rooting for your success!

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