My last edition of this "Road to Grad School" series was my undergraduate graduation. That was the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. Since then I have spent hours upon hours attempting to perfect my application for Eastern Michigan University's Masters of Dietetics program and sent it off for review at the beginning of the year. After waiting what seemed like an eternity (in reality only about two months) I received my acceptance letter mid-March, the most relief I have ever felt...EVER!
While the process spanned over many months and even thought I sent in the application at the beginning of the year, I couldn't bring myself to write about the process until I had the final word from the school.
Here's a few things to think about for any application process
- Read, read, and read some more. My application was super wordy, had many necessary sections, and incredibly specific instructions. I read the whole thing through many times and then individual sections as necessary.
- Have a question? ASK! Don't be afraid to ask questions, in fact, I encourage it. I was once told that the staff actually makes note of when you contact them and it shows interest. Try to find a contact person from the program's website or the application itself. I was able to find my contact person through contacting the academic advisor and she was able to direct me.
- Make your volunteer experiences count. Most applications will require some kind of volunteer experiences. If possible, try to make your volunteer time pertain to your field of study. I was incredibly fortunate to have opportunities with Kingston Community Schools, Saginaw Valley Sports Nutrition, and Hills and Dales General Hospital where all of my hours were nutrition based. If you can't find hours that are specific to your program, at least obtain as many hours as possible. Making each portion of your application as strong as possible is imperative. Volunteer hours are one of the easiest ways to boost your application, if you have the opportunity, take advantage!
- Know the prerequisites far enough in advance and make a plan. Those that know me well enough know that I love to make plans, I need to know when and what is going to happen. As far as prerequisites, I'm not just talking about classes, some programs require certain immunizations and up to date certifications, like CPR. Some of these immunization series take months so you don't want to be caught up needing them completed for an application due in 3 months and the series takes 6 months, YIKES! My planning skills were lacking slightly as I was finishing my last prerequisite course. The end date of the course was 6 days before the application deadline and I needed official transcripts included in my application...oops. Luckily, it being a self-paced course, I busted my booty to get the class done in time to receive my transcripts in time. This was an instance where contacting the school helped, I informed them of the issue and they assured me that as long as the class was complete the transcripts could be sent at a later date if need be. That was reassuring, but still glad that I was able to send a fully complete application.
If you have already taken courses that may fulfill the prerequisites be sure to check to see if they transfer. Most universities have a web page that allows you to see how courses from other universities compare. Also if you think that the course is comparable but is not listed in one of these transfer databases, there are usually overrides done by someone in the department, usually you just have to collect the course syllabus and then let the individual know what class you took at what university and which prerequisite you're wanting to fulfill. Again, this is where contacting the university and/or your specific department comes in handy!
- Be aware of program specific requirements. For my program, being that I was applying to the distance-education, or online, program, I was required to find my sites for supervised practice experience (internship sites) and secure them for my first year before I applied. This information and signatures by my preceptors was required to include. This is where reading every word and doing so multiple times comes into play as well.
- Accepting your acceptance... That sounds kind of silly, but it's a thing. After receiving my acceptance letter mid March, I had until April 1st to return it to accept my position in the program and also register for a "first come first serve" course offered in the spring. I really wanted to get into this spring class, so receiving my acceptance letter on a Friday, I had all the paperwork completed and put in the mailbox on Sunday. Well, just over a week later, I receive my letter back. Why? Because I got too excited and forgot to finish writing out the school's address. This was on March 29th, and, as I mentioned, the paperwork was due back April 1st. So, the day after, I found myself in the post office paying $25 to have this thing sent overnight and I didn't end up getting a seat in the spring class.. :( So, acceptance is awesome, but calm yourself before trying to do anything important. ;)
To all my fellow students starting or in the application process, the best of luck to you!