Graduate school….seems daunting when you haven’t even graduated from an undergraduate program. I’ve always had a dream of achieving my Master’s Degree and I knew early on in my journey at California Lutheran that I was going to work hard to get to that point. I didn’t know exactly where or how I’d be starting that journey, but I knew it was in my near future. The summer going into my senior year, I knew it was time to buckle down. This is a story about my experience preparing for graduate school with some tips and tricks that may be helpful!
To give you a bit of background on myself, I am an Interdisciplinary Educational Studies major with a minor in Psychology (the minor is irrelevant, but why not put it in there). In order to teach in California you have to get a specific type of credential, depending on what you are wanting to teach. But California is one of the strictest states you can get your credential from. I decided I really wanted to get into the University of Santa Barbara for their 13 month Credential and Master’s program. I soon learned it was a rigorous program, but the amount I could learn and grow from being in that community would be incredible and tremendously beneficial. Depending on how many people applied to the program, my odds of getting accepted might be lower than I wanted. I respected the fact that UCSB keeps the cohort size small, but those odds made me so nervous. Before I could get to the stress of waiting to hear what would be decided, I needed to complete a few steps.
In order to achieve getting my credential, I was required to get through some difficult tests. Those tests are: the GRE (similar to the SAT but 10x harder), the CBEST (very similar to an SAT), CSET (which consist of 3 subtests). Since I want to teach elementary school, I needed to take the CSET tests that are for multiple subject teaching candidates. Those specific subtests are broken down as follows: Subtest 1 tests on history (World Civilizations, U.S. History & CA History), Children’s Literature & Linguistics; subtest 2 is on math and science (Physical Science, Geology, Biology & a little bit of Astronomy); subtest 3 is on human development, physical education with visual and performing arts (dance, music, art, theatre). Those tests were exhausting and I put a lot of time and effort into preparing as well as taking the tests. Each time I took one of the subtests, I felt I failed and I would need to take it again. To my surprise, each email I opened and read the golden word…PASS.
My tests were passed, but another part of the application process was a whole checklist of things to do. Three to four letters of recommendation, a series of short answer questions including my statement of purpose, my resume and more. I worked on getting all those requirements in order as soon as I could because I didn’t want to be seen as a slacker to the university, so I set a deadline for myself to turn it in two weeks ahead. Time was getting close to my set deadline and I couldn’t complete my statement of purpose. To me, this statement was going to define me fully to the University and I was nervous as to what they were going to think. I kept having writer’s block and I struggled with which words needed to come together to make any sense at all. I was one week behind my set deadline and one week before the actual deadline and it still wasn’t finished. I was anxious about saying the wrong thing, but I sat down and I completed it. I knew it was as perfect as it could be, but I needed to stop trying to make it perfect. A burden, but a blessing, I’m a perfectionist and try to make sure that anything I do is to as perfect as possible.
Two days after submitting my application, I received an email from the Admissions Office from UCSB inviting me to interview for the program. I was happy that my application was liked and they were interested in getting to know me further. I chose my interview date and got to work preparing. When the day arrived, I was a nervous mess trying to pump myself up rather than bring myself down. I went into the interview, feeling not so confident but portraying otherwise. I came out of the interview feeling as confident as I could. I felt as though the interview was amazing and that I had a good shot. I put myself all out there and it was in their hands. Six days later, I was sitting in CA History, checking my email account and I saw that I got an email from the admissions office. Sure enough, I received an unofficial congratulations and I started to tear up. I was beyond ecstatic that all my hard work didn’t go unnoticed and that I made it! Being accepted into this program was beyond encouraging to know that my chosen path is the correct path for me.
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College isn’t easy and there is a lot of learning and growing while getting a Bachelor’s degree, but if you keep your head held high and your eyes on the books, you’ll get through it no problem. There are a few things I learned and wish I knew going into my senior year. I wanted to share my experience with everyone to hopefully help someone who isn’t going to get the help or guidance they are looking for. Take it as you wish, but here are my tips and suggestions for applying to grad. school.
Tip #1: Start looking into graduate schools early!
- If you start looking into it early, you know what each school will be expecting of you and all the requirements you need to fulfill. Especially if you are a Education major, there are a lot of steps that need to be done.
Tip #2: Find an internship or do some volunteering in your future field.
- The only way you are going to know if you are on the right path or not is to try it out. It’s also beneficial for your resume. The more experience you have, the better it will be when you are looking for a job. Many places won’t hire a new graduate who has no experience. Plus you’ll want to network and have a handful of people to help you with advice and opportunities.
Tip #3: Get to know your professors!!!
- I get that sometimes you can’t stand your professor, but it’s good to get to know them. It’s important to build that relationship because they are more willing to help you out and if you go to a big school, they will know your name. If they know who you are, they notice you more and check in with you to see how your college journey is going. This is so important when you go back to them asking for a letter of recommendation. Many programs, if not all, require letters of recommendation. If the professor has a relationship with you, the letter will be more personalized instead of generic.
Tip #4: Study!!!
- If you’re an education major, be prepared for a lot of tests. What I have noticed is many students go into take the test without studying and then they wonder why they won’t pass. Whatever test you are going to take, get those books at Barnes and Nobles or whatnot and take your time to study! Don’t think you can study in a day, you need time to study and practice, especially if you are going to be finishing your undergraduate studies at the same time. Speaking for education majors, I would suggest taking your CSETs separately so you can really focus on each subject.
Tip #5: Save your money.
- Unless you come from wealth, I suggest saving your money. With all the expenses for the tests, applications, etc. it will get pricey. Start saving a little here or there, so you can pay for those tests. The total for all my tests was: $600, which is a lot when it’s all at once!
Tip #6: Enjoy your senior year and be present!
- It’s easy to find yourself with senioritis real quick. I know I did and when I got my acceptance from UCSB, I was really done. Now that I’m close to my last full month at CLU, I kind of regret it. I wish I really relished all the activities and memories I have and continue to make in my senior year. So have fun and enjoy your senior year!!!