SLP Admission Story: Julianne Bittante

May 29, 2023

Pursuing a career in Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) is one of the most popular paths that students from our program choose to take. To pursue a career in this field in Canada, a graduate degree is required, and admission to the SLP graduate programs in Canada is highly competitive.

This year, we received news that nine students from our department will be starting graduate programs in SLP and Audiology in Fall 2023!

One of these students is Julianne Bittante who has just completed a major in Linguistics, minor in Learning and Developmental Disabilities, and a certificate in the Linguistics of Speech Science.

Julianne began at SFU in 2019 as a second-year transfer student from Trinity Western University. During her time at SFU, she worked for and volunteered with various organizations including March of Dimes Canada and Monarch House. She also worked as a Research Assistant for the Language Learning and Development Lab at SFU from Spring 2022-Spring 2023. In her spare time, she likes to read, practice calligraphy and watercolours, and spend time outdoors with friends.

Julianne has now been accepted to McGill’s Speech-Language Pathology master’s program and will be moving to Montreal in September to continue her studies. We asked Julianne to share her SLP admission story and a few words of advice to future SLP applicants.

What attracted you to the Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) field?

When I was in grade 10, I completed a career test for one of my classes and to my surprise, the suggested career was Occupational Therapist, which I had never heard of before! When I researched this field, I found that there were many aspects of the career that I loved: the individualized care, the opportunity to work with children, etc. As I went through high school and began university, I began to realize that while I loved the idea of being a therapist, the “occupational” part was not the right fit for me.

In my first year of university, my mom suggested I take Linguistics, as I have always found languages interesting. I soon realized that SLP was the perfect mix of what I wanted in a career as I could use my passion for language to provide individualized therapy with the goal of supporting successful communication.

As I have learned more about the field of SLP, I have found several other aspects of the field that attract me. I love that in this field, there is so much diversity. I can leave the door open to many different settings, like healthcare and education while also not limiting myself to a specific age group. I also like that I can even switch settings later in life if I want. I think that within the field of SLP there is also some creative freedom in terms of the structure of each session and each client’s individual needs, which I’m hoping will keep me on my toes.

How did you build a strong SLP application?

I have known since my first or second year of university that I wanted to pursue a Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology, so basically everything I have done to build my application has been completed since then. Rita Parmar, the Linguistics Advisor, suggested that I focus specifically on GPA, research experience, and volunteer/work experience to prepare for master’s applications. I tried to make each of these areas as strong as possible, as my goal was to make myself a well-rounded applicant.

During the earlier years of my degree, I focused on experiences, like SLP shadowing, that would help me to decide if SLP was the right path for me. When COVID made volunteer opportunities and work experience scarce, I began to focus on my schoolwork and enrolled in some of the more challenging courses I required.

In the last year or two of my degree, volunteer and work opportunities began to open again post-COVID, so I focused on gaining as many research and volunteer experiences as possible before my application was due.

When the time came to put my application together, I felt that I had a strong amount and variety of experiences but learned that this stage of the process was all about presenting myself well on paper. I started very early and worked hard to create a clean and professional resume that was concise, but accurately described what all my various experiences entailed. I went through many drafts when writing my letter of intent and ended up with a different version for each school to which I applied. Rita was very supportive and met with me several times, providing me with excellent feedback during each step of the process. I also asked other people, including a few close friends, my parents, and my former English teacher, to read over my letters. I personally found the letter of intent very difficult to write, as there was just so much information that I wanted to include in only 500 words! I narrowed my letters down to include only my most impactful experiences and connected them to my desire to be an SLP.

What were some of the most influential courses that you took in our program?

What are you most looking forward to in McGill's SLP program?

One of my favorite parts about McGill’s SLP program is that the practicums are integrated into the entire program. Students complete at least 1 day of practicum per week during regular semesters in addition to having full-time practicums at other times during the year. I am so excited to begin learning in a hands-on environment while continuing my class work.

I am also really excited about a few new courses that McGill is introducing, such as Intro to Counselling for SLPs and Genetics in SLP Practice. I think these courses are so relevant to the practice of SLP but they are not ones that are often a part of SLP programs.

Lastly, I am very excited to be a part of the small SLP cohort (about 30 students) at McGill, and I am hoping that being a part of this small class will give me and everyone else a chance to really get to know each other and make strong connections.

What advice would you give to future SLP applicants?

  • Strive to build as well-rounded of an application as possible. Not only did it serve me well in receiving multiple acceptances, but it also allowed me to observe many different areas of the field. I always thought I wanted to work with children as an SLP, but it was through my time volunteering with the Aphasia Peer Connect program run by March of Dimes Canada that I learned how rewarding it can be to work with adults. Similarly, I was hesitant to begin a Research Assistantship as it was completely new territory for me and I was not sure whether I would like it, but I had a great experience working with Dr. Henny Yeung at the Language Learning and Development Lab. I gained so many valuable experiences during my time there, including running many participants in studies and presenting at the 2023 UBC LSURC conference.
  • When opportunities like Research Assistantships and volunteer positions come up, apply even if you are not totally sold on them yet! You probably will not regret giving it a try, even if it does not work out, but you might regret not applying when you had the chance.
  • Try not to limit yourself to applying to only one graduate program. I never thought that I would end up going to McGill until I received my acceptance, and I almost didn’t apply to McGill in the first place! If you can apply to multiple programs, I would say to go for it because you never know what will happen.

Congratulations to this year’s program admits!

Accepted to the University of British Columbia Master of Science in Speech Language Pathology:

• Farzana Ali
• Kylie Brajcich
• Tabatha Mason
• Rebekah Stevens
• Sydney Walton
• Janitta Wong

Accepted to McGill University Master of Science (Applied) in Speech-Language Pathology:

• Julianne Bittante

Accepted to the SLP Masters Program at California State University, East Bay:

• Gillian Eggeling

Accepted to the University of British Columbia School of Audiology and Speech Sciences

  • Samuel To