Volunteering is an extremely important part of your grad school application; not only as a requirement, but also to confirm your that you’re on the right educational path. No one’s situation is exactly the same: you may be a university student in a town you’re unfamiliar with, or, you may be a mature student, working full-time along with your studies. Regardless of your position, here are some questions to consider when looking for a volunteer placement.
Who Do You Know?
Leverage the opportunity to use your connections. Do you know an SLP or know someone who knows an SLP or know someone who knows someone who knows an SLP? You see where I'm going here...
Take what you can get: arrange a short meeting over coffee, a visit to their workplace, a day-long job shadow or potentially a volunteer placement.
Where Can You Go?
Do you know of somewhere local where you could volunteer? Assess your limitations: do you have a car that will allow you to travel a decent distance or do you have to take the city bus? Before considering a volunteer placement, make sure you can easily access the location.
Does Your School Provide Opportunities?
Does your high school or university offer a placement/practicum opportunity? You could potentially fulfill course credit while gaining volunteer experience for graduate school. Plus, this placement could be a stepping stone to a more long-term volunteer position or reference letter in the future.
Do You Have The Courage To Ask?
You may not have personal or professional connections with an SLP, therefore you will have to go out of your way to find a placement. There are some people you can ask to assist you with your search. Your professors or academic counsellors may know organizations or individuals that you can contact. If not, do you have the courage to “cold call” to find a volunteer placement? Here’s an example of a template email you could send to an SLP.
My name is ____ and I am a ___ year student at ____ University (or high school). I am interested in a career in speech-language pathology and would like to gain volunteer experience in the field. I was wondering if you have volunteer placements available or the opportunity to job-shadow an SLP. I am free on ____day from ___am/pm to ____am/pm or ____day after ____am/pm.
Points to Include:
Optional: More specific personal information like research interests, applicable related experience, interpersonal attributes that would make you a helpful volunteer
Optional: If you’ve researched the place you want to volunteer, you could include those details to show that you are aware of what they specialize in
If you live in Ontario, you could visit the OSLA Volunteer Posting Page (Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists). You can view volunteer postings or post your information for someone looking for a volunteer.
Have you found a volunteer placement in a different way? Share in the comments below!