Graduate school hosts preview event

Office of Graduate School provides tools, resources

Andrew Goodliffe, assistant dean of the Graduate School and associate professor of geophysics, said the distinction between the undergraduate and graduate applications boils down to the relationship between the student and the department where he or she is interested in applying.

“When you put in a grad application, the package that you submit is actually going to the department and being reviewed by the faculty members,” he said. “So the faculty members are going to read those letters of recommendation, they’re going to read that statement of purpose, they’re going to look at this in detail. So it’s very different than undergrad admissions.”

Students should also be prepared to take an admission test, such as the Graduate Record Examination or the Graduate Management Admission Test, at least one year before they plan to enroll in graduate school. Results from the exam can take three to six weeks to return, and the exam can only be taken every 30 days. They should also check which exam their prospective department or college prefers, because graduate programs do not all follow an identical application process.

Claire Patterson, a graduate student studying speech language pathology, applied for graduate school early in the fall because her program’s application deadline was in December. At the time, she was still deciding between attending graduate school the next fall her senior year and working, but she wanted to apply regardless to gauge what improvements, if any, she would need to make when re-applying if she decided to take time to work.

“For Alabama, since I had done undergrad here and undergrad clinic, I didn’t have to have any references, because basically everyone on the admission board knew who I was,” she said.

During the summer Patterson spends her mornings and early afternoons in clinic placements and her evenings taking two classes, four days a week. The clinical placements are required each semester, with more than half of them taking place outside of the on-campus clinic.

“Placements are what they’re called for where we do our clinical practicums, and we do two placements in-house at the speech and hearing center here, and then we do three placements other places, so schools, hospitals, rehab centers, early intervention, anything like that,” she said.

Even though teaching assistantships are unavailable for Patterson during the summer semesters, it is one of the ways many graduate students are able to afford ?graduate school.

The earlier students take the exam and then send in their applications, the more likely they are to receive financial aid from their respective programs.

Dr. Blake Bedsole, Director of Graduate Enrollment Management, said scholarships are awarded differently than they are for undergraduate students. While the graduate office awards fellowships, the scholarship support comes from the ?various departments.

“Scholarships are all given by the department of the program, so a lot of assistantships come from the college,” he said. “So it’s important, again, to build those relationships with your college, build those relationships with your faculty members, because faculty members are going to be making those types of decisions.”

In addition to awarding fellowships, the graduate office also coordinates various events and programs, such as Tide Together, Graduate Parent Support and Women in STEM Experience, to help graduate students stay on course to finishing their degree.

Two events in particular, the Graduate School Day Preview in the Ferguson Center on Sept. 18, and the Alabama Connection Graduate School Fair Series at Stillman College Oct. 6-9, reach out to undergraduate students and familiarize them with applying to graduate school.

Patterson said graduate school is hard, but it is also fun and she has learned a lot.

“It’s like a completely different life phase,” she said. “I’m much closer to a ?professional than I am a student.”

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