Road to Grad School #5: The Application Process and Getting Accepted

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.
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  • 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. 
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  • 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! 

Road to Grad School #4: Undergraduate Graduation

Before

I've been pretty busy these past couple of weeks between studying, finals week, preparing for graduation, and making sure everything is in line for my internship to begin next week. Thankfully finals week is over, graduation day is here, and everything for my internship is set (I think).

It's really hard to believe that today is my commencement for my undergraduate degree. Four years ago, I was preparing to graduate high school and writing my valedictorian speech. (Glad I don't have to do that again!)

Let me be honest, as I've told many people, I feel like I'm lying to the world when I say I'm graduating because I still have to complete my internship so I'll walk now and receive my actual degree later. And maybe this is my own way of being in denial that I'm graduating because really, it doesn't feel real.

The hardest part of this whole process may have been figuring out how I wanted to decorate my cap, if at all. I went through pages of Pinterest finds, asked friends and family for help, and finally with a little inspiration from all of the above came up with something of my own. I was thinking at first that I wanted to go clever, witty, and funny, but this ended up completely cheesy and more on the "inspirational" side, oh well.

I feel like the rest of this process has been pretty painless. The whole cap and gown pick up was simple. My gown is all nice and ironed thanks to my mom!

And now I just have to walk across the stage and then DONE. Okay, the fact there this is no "practice" for this thing is kind of freaking me out. I like to know what I have to do and how to do it and be fully prepared. That's not happening in this situation. We get a run down right before, and as I said, this worries me. It can't be that hard though, right?!

After

Well, it's all over. I'm an alumni of SVSU (pending the completion of my internship, of course).
Still doesn't feel real.

So the whole process was really easy. Although I will say those instructions that we were supposed to receive as far as what to do, yeah, never happened. It was a big game of follow the leader. The commencement information said that I was required to be there at 6 p.m., an hour and a half before the ceremony began. And let me tell ya, that was a slow hour and a half. I can only imagine it went by even slower for Matt and my family that were sitting and waiting for it all to begin. We finally started to line up at 7 p.m. and at this point, with still zero instruction, I was slightly concerned. Like I said, the processional, walking across the stage and back to our seats, and the recessional, I just followed the person in front of my and thankful that I wasn't the one in front!

I wasn't a huge fan of the ceremony being so late. It was dark by the time we were done, not great lighting for pictures. So, while my parent's headed home with my two youngest siblings, Matt and I went out for dinner at Harvey's in Bay City. Fried pickles, a burger, and a couple drinks, perfect way to end the day.

I've come a LONG way in the last four years. I've grown up a lot and made some necessary and positive changes. I am confident in saying that I'm perfectly content with where I am in this life, so, here's to celebrating this graduation and looking forward to working towards the next!

 

Road to Grad School #3: Planning for and Taking the GRE

Happy Thursday!

Although it's a bit of a gloomy day out, I'm so enjoying the warm temps Michigan has had to offer over the last few days. Is spring finally here?! I sure do hope so.

So, getting back on the track of this graduate school stuff. This past Friday I took my GRE (Graduate Records Examination). For those of you planning on going on to graduate school you may or may not be aware of this test, and you may or may not have to take it depending on what program you're going into. For my physical therapy program it was required, but for my dietetics program it was not.

Side Note: I've made my decision to pursue dietetics so I really didn't need the GRE; however, I already paid for the test and can still include my scores on my application. I figured it couldn't hurt to still take it.

Any student that has to take or is preparing for the GRE knows that it is a pretty big deal. Just one of the major components of your graduate application. I have learned a few things in preparing and here are a few tips to consider:

  1. Know what you have to score. Most graduate programs will give you guidelines and norms for their acceptance based on GRE scores. For example, when I was looking into programs for physical therapy I was able to find plenty of information on the program websites. They listed the required minimum score to be considered as well as the average score of the previous years accepted applicants. This can give you an idea of what you have to work for and what areas to focus on. Also, different programs are going to require different scores. Human services are about equal between verbal and quantitative, but engineering programs require a much higher quantitative score.
  2. Be familiar with the sections on the test. The test has a verbal (mostly vocabulary), quantitative (math-based), and writing portions. Each section has a few different types of questions that are asked. Some study materials list and dissect the different types of problems. (I'll talk more about study materials below).
  3. Vocab is key. A majority of the verbal section is all based on vocabulary. And to be honest, they use words that you've never seen or used and that you will most likely never see or use again. So, leading up to the exam, learn as many words as you can. It's never too early to start expanding your vocabulary. Whenever you hear a word you don't know, make note of it, and look it up. I took advantage of the Magoosh app in combination with my own flashcards.

4. Study materials do help! I didn't spend hundreds of dollars on study materials, in fact I don't think I even spent $50. If you feel comfortable with yourself enough to go through study books you shouldn't need the intensive programs. The study materials I bought were just a couple options from Amazon. To be honest, I started with the book from The Princeton Review and didn't even make it to the other. This one helped break down the types of questions and how to approach them. Approaching questions may be the most difficult part. Some of the questions can be worded in a tricky way, but as long as you know how to approach the problem, you shouldn't have any problems. These books also give a list of vocab words you will want to know.

I'll be completely honest, once I changed my graduate program, I worried a little less about studying. BUT, the studying I did do really helped.

As far as test day goes, just be as calm as possible. Be sure that you have your confirmation, two forms of photo ID, and give yourself plenty of time to get there, fill out paperwork and get started. The test is broken up into sections that only have 20 questions each so, if you tell yourself to just take it 20 questions at a time, that helps mentally.

If anyone has any other questions about the GRE and the process leading up to it please feel free to ask in the comments!

Have a wonderful weekend!