Kayla Chao

August 22, 2022

What are some big take away skills that you learned while studying linguistics?

One of the biggest take away skills I learned from my degree was how to critically analyze information and data. This is something that I have carried into my academic career but also my everyday life. There is so much information in the world and being able to navigate through it all is such an important skill. Another big lesson I took away was the importance of collaboration. I learned about this through my work at the Language and Brain Lab and through group projects in class. But, most importantly, I learned how crucial this is during studying to help understand critical concepts. Sometimes all it takes is having something explained to you in a slightly different way or working through a concept out loud. So, rely on your peers, ask questions, form study groups! This is so important to help stay engaged in your field.

A big aspect of the SLP application seems to be volunteer experience. What kind of volunteer experience did you have? How did this experience relate to your goal?

The volunteer experience is such a huge part of the application and also so helpful in determining if SLP is the right fit for you. The knowledge you accumulate through classes is so important but nothing is comparable to actually getting that hands-on experience. I was fortunate to have been a part of many different volunteer positions with so many inspiring clinicians. I volunteered as a program assistant as part of aphasia recovery programs, a speech therapy assistant with various clinics and as a literacy tutor for reading programs. I also had the opportunity to volunteer at Sunny Hill Autism clinic at BC Children’s hospital which allowed me to see more of the work of an SLP in the assessment and diagnosis process. All of these positions were so rewarding but also insightful in understanding what I hope to specialize in. I learned my passion lies in working with neurodivergent children, so I’m really excited to continue exploring this in graduate school.

How did you build a strong SLP application?

I started putting my application together super early and went through draft after draft. My first draft was completely different than the one I ended up submitting. I had lots of people look over it, as well. I asked clinicians, professors, friends and family. It can be really helpful getting another set of eyes on it, especially someone in the field who has been through this process at some point. The linguistic academic advisor, Rita Parmar, was also very helpful in walking me through the process and providing me with feedback every step of the way.

Although all parts of the application are important, in my opinion, the letter of intent is one of the most important. It’s really the one thing that will set you apart from the hundreds of other applications they receive. But it can be really tricky to write concisely and eloquently about why you want to be a clinician. This was something I really struggled with. The best advice I can give is to draw on your personal experiences as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to boast about all the wonderful experiences you were a part of how those shaped you to be a great future clinician. You want your personality to shine through your application!


  • LING 290: The Science of Speech
  • LING 350: First Language Acquisition
  • LING 812: Special Topics in Speech Communication


My best advice would be to get out in the field and immerse yourself as much as possible! Seek out every volunteer and work opportunity and make those connections in the field. Also, don't be afraid to be vocal during classes and to get to know your professors, those are also important connections you will need. Lastly, don't be discouraged if it doesn't work out the first round. I didn't get in my first year applying and though it felt disheartening at the time, I gained so much valuable experience and knowledge in that year off. In hindsight, I feel much more prepared for the challenges I will face in the graduate program and also more confident in my abilities to be a well-rounded SLP.