I had no idea what I wanted to do when I first set off to college my freshman year. I didn’t declare myself undecided, but I had my sights set high on Biology and doing Pre-Med. I’d grown up wanting to do something like House did (you know, that show with the cynical doctor whose sarcasm was way too inappropriate to probably use in a hospital setting…) However, that dream fell short when my freshman biology class at Truman State knocked me on my butt. Then I moved onto Health Science and Pre-Occupational Therapy. This seemed more ideal at the time. Less schooling, a secure future, good pay, and a variety of people and places to work, but this also fell short having to major in classes that mainly dealt with public and community health and its administration. I could barely keep my eyes open learning such rigorous material in class. Needless to say, I was more interested in the Pre-OT part rather than the health bit.
Then things changed and I had to move schools. I went to community college to figure out some stuff and take some classes that were paid for already having done the A+ Program in high school. I struggled to find my calling. I even took a business class to see if that would be my forte and… it definitely wasn’t. I wanted to do English because I loved reading and writing books, but I figured I could do that in my spare time if need be, especially since I didn’t want to teach it. Then I heard about Speech-Language Pathology. I had no idea what it was, but I knew it was a promising field to go into. I found out that it had to do with linguistic type aspects and essentially also English in a way with words, grammar, and language. The first class I took here in the major was one that compared the various components of language, and I knew from that moment on that it was what I needed to do with my life. Needless to say, I love it. I may not be passionate about it like people are about art or literature or psychology, but it’s a field I enjoy where I know I will be able to help others and their language. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s okay if you’re undecided, it’s ok if you change your major, it happens. You just have to find what works for you.
Last year, as a freshman I would hear professors tell me that it is common for people to switch majors in life at least once. I had not really believed my professors, in addition to my family members until that happened to me. When I started my college career I thought for sure that I had found the best major and knew that I could help people grow individually in a passionate way. I wanted to become a Speech-Language Pathologist since I had personally gone through language therapy as a child. I could give back my time personally to the greater community and allow other children know that they are not alone when having difficulties. Though slowly throughout the semester I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach that something was off, or uncertain about my life. During classes, especially one of my speech-language pathology classes, I would have those same thoughts, multiple times a day for multiple classes. I knew something was off in my gut but I had no idea what was coming and when I would find out what this was.
Once the summer almost hit, I had a language evaluation conducted right on campus since we have resources available. I received the results and of course I was diagnosed with a language disorder that could not be treated just through therapy. Honestly it is complicated to explain as to why I cannot really receive therapy for growth but it is alright not completely understanding. So upon hearing this news and really talking to one of my favorite professors, I felt devastated, one of my dream job opportunities was being taken away from me it felt like and all I wanted to do was blame myself and blame the way I was born, since this is something I have had since I was a baby basically. I felt alone that entire summer, even though I was the light of the party whenever with friends and having a blast. I felt alone in regards to the fact that I did not know what I was going to do with the rest of my college career. What would I major in? What kind of career can I pursue to hopefully one day maybe raise a family? So many questions and yet no where near able to find answers. I am thankful for my sister to have helped me think through possibilities of what to major in reflecting upon my own interests – helping people. Though through much time and patience, I really was able to find another major of interest that I completely and ultimately feel so comfortable in and actually enjoy my classes. I have a sort of peace within myself now when I sit in classes and sit with confidence — no more doubt. I really understand now what my friends and family meant by how the switching of majors really does happen to everyone – and it is still okay. We are not alone.
On Monday, I had the good fortune to take my PRAXIS examination. It’s the exam all students wishing to obtain licensure to become a speech-language pathologist have to take. It’s nerve-wracking because it’s expensive, and taking it again is a depressing prospect. You can take it as many times as you have to but you can only take it so many times; once you use up those “lives”, you have to wait until the next cycle.
I have been studying speech-language pathology for many years and one thing I definitely learned is that I’m not a standardized test taker. It’s terrifying. One would think that multiple choice questions are easy… not so for me. I am generally bad at math, so no wonder probability isn’t often on my side.
But God was that day. God always is. With a mix of prayer, practice tests, support, and studying, I passed the PRAXIS. And it felt great.
Standardized tests make up a large number of application processes. To be accepted into college, you have to take the ACT or the SAT, or some equivalent. Some students have to take the TOEFL (Test of English as Foreign Language). Of course, in our classrooms, our teachers are merciless when it comes to tests. When you’re thinking about graduate school, signing up to take the GRE is a dismal sign that you’re growing up. Then, certification requirements often include PRAXIS or other tests to make sure you’ve got the chops to be a licensed whatever-you-are-studying-ist.
Yes, those tests are necessary. I understand why they are. It just makes paperwork easier, and the process is simplified. These tests are an objective measure that can be used to determine eligibility. BUT it does not make you who you are. Never forget that. You can pass or fail a test, but it does not define you. That’s not to say, don’t try your best! I think you can trust that you know more than you know… and that you are receiving an education at an amazing institution that prepares you well for all of those tests you will need for your future.
So… I’ve spent the first six months in 2014 trying to decide whether I wanted to do a thesis or not. In the graduate program for speech-pathology, this is optional, so we have a choice. I asked around; students who did do one felt incredibly gratified and fulfilled. Those who did not do one were happy they didn’t. So apparently it’s a win/win situation.
I’ve always believed that research is an integral part of any profession, especially in speech-language pathology. So much of our practice depends on current research. It’s a part of our Code of Ethics to consider future advocacy and evidence-based practice.
I sat down and came up with the following list:
- Your resume is amplified by three thousand percent. Okay, well, maybe it just makes you look much more marketable.
- It’s really fulfilling. God’s always on your side.
- They open up areas you’d never dream about.
- More networking opportunities because you work with professionals from different fields and different schools locally or globally.
- Chances of getting a job increase.
- You learn tons about gathering and conducting research.
- People are more likely to take you seriously during and after working on said thesis.
- You’re a foundation for future research.
- You get to learn about something you’re really interested in!
- Other issues are addressed through your research.
- Major pride points when you’re done!
- You get to present at conferences and everyone will offer you jobs (maybe.)
- You may even get PUBLISHED.
- You give others the opportunities to share in your successes (and non-successes).
- Think of that Doctorate. Dr Liu? Yes.
- You get great support from your advisors and your department.
- It may be much harder to start if you decide to do one after you graduate.
- More access to resources because you’re in school. Think of how many free articles you get thanks to the Library.
- They’re definitely not as easy as they seem.
- How will you ever decide what to do?
- The Institutional Review Board is another process in itself.
- Dat defense at the end
- A doctorate really isn’t in store for you. Isabella Liu, M.S. CCC-SLP vs. Isabella Liu, PhD. M.S. CCC-SLP??
- Funding is really hard to get. Both for the class, and for recruiting participants if you’re doing some controlled trials.
- You’ll have to collaborate with other institutions if you need more resources.
- Longitudinal studies are exactly what they seem… long.
- You may have to start over from scratch.
- You’re still in school and working jobs when you’re doing your research.
- You have to sift through as much as you can of all existing research to compile your literature review, and not every 15 to 20 page article is going to be easy to read.
- Outdated sources are still credible to a certain extent so you can’t automatically throw those to the side.
- Your time will be eaten up by writing, writing, writing, reading, reading, reading…
- You may not get a supervisor that’s always on the same page.
- You reeeeaaalllllyyy don’t want to do one.
So… what do you think? It looks like the pros outweigh the cons. Some schools and departments make it a matriculation requirement, and I can see why. But when you have a choice, you’re faced with a tough decision that will eat up a lot of your time, but you have nothing to lose. I am reminded of the a quote from Albus Dumbledore of Harry Potter lore: “Soon, we must choose between what is right, and what is easy.”
Guess that pretty much decides it, eh?