How to Keep Your Cool While Applying to Grad School

Hello all! As some of you may know, I will be graduating from UCSC this spring and attending University of the Pacific for my Master’s program in Speech Language Pathology in the fall! It’s definitely a bittersweet feeling, but I’m extremely excited for graduate school!

Graduate school probably sounds scary for a lot of people, and it’s definitely not the only option you should be looking at right after UCSC. However, I just wanted to share my tips for applying to graduate school. I know that every program varies, and my specific experience during the application process is probably very different than other people’s. Still, here are some general tips and thoughts to keep in mind:

1) Start EARLY. The earlier, the better!

Graduate schools often change their requirements year to year, and the application portals don’t typically open until October. Still, looking at the prerequisites for grad school as early as possible is vital. For example, as a psychology major, I never needed to take biology or chemistry classes. I was really shocked to find out that those were two requirements for the graduate program I wanted to pursue, and I managed to squeeze those classes in during spring quarter of my junior year. If I had done my research earlier, I wouldn’t have been so panicked!

Also, grad school applications are just plain time-consuming. It’s best to get them out of the way sooner rather than later.

2) Try talking to your department advisers for your Majors AND Minors!

I have been interested in pursuing speech language pathology since my freshman year here at UCSC. However, as a psychology major, I didn’t really know who to talk to. I never received any information about speech language pathology from the Psychology Department, and I was definitely confused about where to start.

Little did I know, the Linguistics Department regularly hosted career talks about speech language pathology with UCSC alum guest speakers! Even though I am minoring in linguistics, I never seriously spoke to anyone in the Linguistics Department until my senior year. I really wish that I had tried to contact the Linguistics Department with my questions a lot earlier.

3) Check out the Career Center!

Even if the degree you’re looking into is highly specialized, the Career Center can still assist you and get you in touch with other people that have more information. Also, the Career Center can notify you about related internships or volunteer opportunities!

4) Do your research! Undergraduate programs can vary drastically from the graduate programs at the same university.

Just because a school was your “backup school” when you were first applying for college does not mean it’s necessarily a “backup school” for grad school. For example, one school that I applied to accepted less than 8% of all applicants into its graduate program, even though it accepted over 60% of all applicants into its undergraduate program. Don’t be blindsided and make sure you look at the admission rates for the specific program you are applying for!

5) Try to stay calm and don’t overload yourself during the application process.

I have always enjoyed staying busy, but I definitely overdid it during my fall and winter quarters. I was working as a resident assistant, a writing tutor, and a research assistant for a psych lab. Additionally, I was taking some very challenging classes and volunteering with CAPS. Adding the gigantic stressor of graduate school applications was definitely more than I felt comfortable handling. Even though everything turned out okay, I wish I had KNOWN what I was getting myself into beforehand. I think I would have cut down on my extracurriculars to give myself more free time.

One thing that actually was a huge help to me during fall quarter was talking to a counselor at CAPS. It felt good to just talk to somebody and hear their perspective. My counseling sessions relaxed me and made me feel less anxious. I would recommend it to anyone who feels that they need the additional support! Remember, CAPS is open Mondays through Fridays from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm and you can call to make an appointment or access crisis services at 831-459-2628!


These are all of the tips I have, and I wish all of you the best of luck! Yes, grad school and graduation can be really frightening and stressful. However, remember to try your best and breathe. Just getting into UCSC proves that you are a smart, capable person that can accomplish great things!

I hope my tips were useful, and I hope you have a wonderful rest of your quarter!