Three Years Down. Take a Breath.

13 May

Summer is here, and for me, that means New Start is here. For the fourth year, I will spend my weeks with the wonderful staff of the New Start Summer Program. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the program, New Start is a six week summer program for incoming freshmen, allowing them to live in the dorms and take classes before Fall semester starts. I’ve been in the program as a student and also spent two years on staff as a peer advisor. This year I’ll be the Hall coordinator, which means I’m the boss!

dancing

I’ll be living in the dorms and supervising the program’s resident assistants. I’m so excited for this opportunity. Not only will it provide a tasty, full-time paycheck, it’s also great work experience that will help make me a competitive applicant for graduate schools this Fall. Wait. What?! THIS FALL??? As in just a few months away?!

problems

Huh. I’ve been  so wrapped up in finishing this semester strong that I almost forgot what lies just ahead. That means this summer = graduate school prep time. *sigh.* Well, this is what my undergraduate career has been working towards, so here goes! Time to look back over what I’ve prepped so far and what needs to be done. I’ve got a good start – I’m making progress towards my degree, I’ve taken a graduate school prep course, I’ve started researching programs. Most importantly, I’ve had the chance to visit my dream school and talk to faculty. If you’re thinking graduate school may be the answer for you, don’t underestimate how important contacting your schools can be. If you can’t visit in person, email and call. If your name is one the faculty recognizes, that could mean the difference between an acceptance and a rejection letter.

rejection

One of the best things you can do for yourself is gaining relevant experience as an undergraduate – as often as possible. I want to go into a student affairs program and an eventual career in a university (think of student affairs as anything assisting students on a university – admissions, dean of students, advising, student programs, etc.). To get ready for this, I have held a variety of positions in student affairs programs on campus. I have worked for Student Affairs Outreach (obviously), New Start, and Prodigy. Whether you’re interning, volunteering, or have a paid position, get out there and work in the field. It’ll make your resume look great in applications and also give you a chance to test drive your future career. It’s better to find out if you like or not now than five years down the road.

Okay. So like I said, that’s a good start. What do I have left to do?

californian

1. Narrow down schools to apply to. Finish up program research to find programs you want to apply to. Make sure it’s not too few or too many. It also helps to have a variety of schools – from dream schools to safety schools.

2. Look over the requirements. Programs will have GPA requirements and entrance exams. Figure out what you need to do to meet those requirements.

3. Prep for the entrance exam and take it. Depending on your program, you may have to take an entrance exam. Take time and study for them and give yourself enough time to take the exams and receive scores (it could take several weeks!).

4. Ask recommenders for their help. Most graduate and professional programs require letters of recommendation. Ask your recommenders month in advance (like six months. Seriously.) and let them know when you’d need the letters and how many you’re asking for. Don’t assume they’ll say yes, and have back up plans in case one of your recommenders says no.

5. Provide recommenders with materials. They’re doing you a favor. Help them out by giving them a copy of your resume and personal statement, along with an email detailing what you’d like them to emphasize (GPA/academic ability, involvement, work experience, etc.) Note: some recommenders may want more direction than others. When in doubt, ask your recommenders how they’d like you to be involved with the process.

6. Assemble your application materials and submit them. As early as possible. Then sit back and wait for the acceptance letters to roll in, and don’t be discouraged if they don’t!

It’s a long process that can seem daunting, but I guarantee that if you start early and prepare well, you’ll make it through!

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