Nicole Schmidt received her Bachelor of Arts this spring with a major in psychology, extended minor in linguistics, and certificate in the linguistics of speech science. She has been accepted into the UBC Master of Science program in Speech-Language Pathology for Fall 2020.
What is the story behind your decision to pursue Linguistics?
I started my studies with the intention of becoming an elementary school teacher, but after some volunteer experience in a classroom setting, I realized that this was not going to be a good fit for me. I loved teaching but preferred a one-to-one setting. After speaking with my aunt who has worked as a teacher and a school psychologist, I thought speech-language pathology might be an interesting career. I did some research, met with some SLPs, and started working under the supervision of an SLP. Through these experiences as well as my studies in psychology and linguistics, I developed a passion for helping others communicate, not only to make their lives easier but to allow them to engage in social interactions, which are so rewarding and essential to the human experience.
A big aspect of the SLP application seems to be the volunteer experience. What kind of volunteer experience did you have? How did this experience relate to your goal?
I felt it was very important to balance the academic portion of my application with a variety of volunteer and work experience. I started working as a Behaviour Interventionist in the spring of 2018, and in Fall 2018 became a Speech-Language Pathologist Assistant (SLPA), which I'm still currently doing with school-aged children with ASD. This experience gave me the opportunity to learn from different SLPs with years of experience (I had a few different supervisors over the years), as well as to learn so much about delivering therapy, such as teaching different speech sounds, phonological awareness, and other language skills.
I also volunteer as an RA in the Autism and Developmental Disorders Lab in the Psyc department. I felt this experience gave me a better sense of how research informs clinical practice.
More recently, I have started volunteering with the Stroke Recovery Association of British Columbia. I work with other volunteers and a supervising SLP to facilitate a communication group with post-stroke participants to give them a safe space to practice communicating as most of the participants have varying levels of aphasia. This experience has really helped me diversify my experience, as my other volunteer/work experience was only with children and youth. It has also been a really fun opportunity to get to know people in different walks of life. I've learned a lot from them!
How did you build a strong SLP application?
When I was building my application, I focused on balance and diversity. I wanted to make sure I showed that I could excel both in academics and practical experience, including personal relations with clients/participants.
Regarding academics, this meant a lot of hard work and a lot of visits to office hours. Professors want to help you; they enjoy when students are engaged and interested, so asking for help in office hours shows that you actually care about their class! Going to office hours frequently also helped me build good relationships with my professors that made things much easier for me and my professor when it came time to ask for a reference letter because they knew me better and I felt more confident that they would be able to write a good reference letter for me.
When it came to practical experience, I tried to start early, although I definitely could've started earlier. When I applied for my Masters I had about 800 hours as a Behaviour Interventionist and almost 800 hours as a SLPA. I feel that the balance between having a lot of hours under the supervision of an SLP, as well of the diversity of experience with my volunteering in the lab and with the stroke recovery group, strengthened my application.
Finally, in my statement of intent, I focused on conveying what kind of clinician I would be (e.g., passionate, empathetic, motivated) and what I was most interested in within the field of speech-language pathology, including potential research ideas (how communication challenges affect social interactions and how joint attention affects later language development). I wanted the committee to get a sense of my personality to make my application more than a number and a list of qualifications. Included at the end of your statement of intent for UBC is the list of SLPs and audiologists you have shadowed. I spent a lot of time meeting with and shadowing SLPs in a variety of clinical settings, including the school district, community health, and private practice. I feel that the number of different SLPs I shadowed, as well as the variety of clinical settings also strengthened my application.
- LING 321: Phonology
- LING 350: First Language Acquisition
- PSYC 450: Advanced Topics in Developmental Psychology (Social and Moral Development)