Managing money as a graduate student

Graduate school is expensive.

Even attending a public university and paying in-state tuition, graduate school costs 7k/year for tuition, plus tuition for summer clinic placements and internships, health insurance, food, car insurance, gas, books, and rent — all of these expenses quickly add up.

When the clinic announced that we had to pay $100 for CPR certification and background checks, a lot of us were thrown. The unbudgeted small expenses tend to be worse than the budgeted large expenses, possibly because we suddenly realize that we cannot eat out for the rest of the semester in order to accommodate the new expense into our already thin budgets.

My tips for minimizing graduate school debt:

1. Apply for scholarships and assistantships at your home university. Most departments have some funding available for students, whether through endowments or through the graduate school’s assistantship funds. Ask in your department about applying for these. If your speech pathology program doesn’t have enough for everyone, look in other departments. Graduate assistantships might be available in your university’s writing center, housing department, or tutoring services. Your strengths as a SLP student will be put to good use in all of these departments.

2. Buy used clothes. Thrift stores are great, and most have days when clothes are half off. This is where you want to buy your clothes for clinical placements. I bought seven cardigans, two dresses, a pair of boots, two pairs of dress pants, and four skirts for twenty five dollars at my local thrift store. Need more reasons to shop at thrift stores? They prevent waste and so help the environment. They support local charities. It’s fun to look through the racks to see what you can find, and you might end up finding a donated textbook for a dollar instead of 150 dollars…

3. Buy used textbooks. $150 is too much to spend on a single book. Your professors will specify a certain edition. It is almost always fine to buy a prior edition (Amazon is a great resource). Otherwise, there is usually a copy in the library. Don’t check it out and hog it all semester, but you can use it for reference if your older edition seems to lack updated information.

4. Drink in. It’s too expensive to buy all of your alcohol at the bar.

5. Cook. Eating out is expensive, too. Don’t do it every day. I usually put some meat, vegetables, and rice into my slow cooker on Sunday and eat that most of the week.

6. Live with a friend. Half the bills, twice the fun.

7. Apply for external funding. Scholarships available for SLP students include:

On a happier note, I was about to apply for another part-time job until I did the math. I might have ten hours a week to give to another job, and at eight dollars an hour, that’s eighty dollars a week. After I graduate, I’ll make three times that much in a day working at a school. Don’t give up — you will be making money soon!



Reading Comprehension sites/apps

Recently, five links to sites and apps to help kids with reading comprehension appeared at Free Technology for Teachers.

Here are some of their top picks, along with mine:

Rewordify: Rewordify is a free website that translates English texts into easier English.

From frustration… …to understanding
You will soon speak more eloquently about a greater number of contentious contemporary issues due to your erudition. You will soon speak more beautifully about more argument-causing modern topics due to your (amazing knowledge).

Speak It is a Google Chrome extension that reads aloud the contents of a web page.

Readworks provides research-based units, lessons, and authentic, leveled non-fiction and literary passages directly to educators online, for free, to be shared broadly. The ReadWorks curriculum is aligned to the Common Core State Standards and the standards of all 50 states. Most importantly, ReadWorks is faithful to the most effective research-proven instructional practices in reading comprehension.


Amazon Prime

The agony of accidentally clicking “free standard shipping” instead of “prime 2 day shipping” when ordering on Amazon.

When you first realize what you’ve done:

When you can’t help checking the shipping status every few hours (or minutes):

The rage it induces when my package is still “in transit”:

On the day when it says my package will arrive, every time I hear something outside of my apartment move:

When it finally arrives, and I hear the knock on the door, but I can’t answer it because I chose the worst possible moment to take a shower:

I silently weep, knowing that I won’t have my new shoes until tomorrow.


3D Printing Food

A company in Germany, Biozoon, is printing food suitable for patients with dysphagia on 3d printers. The food is solid and can be modified with spices and colors. Once eaten, it melts in the mouth, allowing people who need to have a modified diet for swallowing to eat it.

I have a fear that it would taste a bit like flavored cardboard.

More here.



Good stuff happening on the internet this week in speech pathology:


Autism TED Talk

Worth reading if you don’t want to watch:

Based on epidemiological data, we know that one of the causes, or one of the associations, I should say, is advanced paternal age, that is, increasing age of the father at the time of conception. In addition, another vulnerable and critical period in terms of development is when the mother is pregnant. During that period, while the fetal brain is developing, we know that exposure to certain agents can actually increase the risk of autism. In particular, there’s a medication, valproic acid, which mothers with epilepsy sometimes take, we know can increase that risk of autism. In addition, there can be some infectious agents that can also cause autism.

And when you look at those concordance ratios, one of the striking things that you will see is that in identical twins, that concordance rate is 77 percent. Remarkably, though, it’s not 100 percent. It is not that genes account for all of the risk for autism, but yet they account for a lot of that risk, because when you look at fraternal twins, that concordance rate is only 31 percent. On the other hand, there is a difference between those fraternal twins and the siblings, suggesting that there are common exposures for those fraternal twins that may not be shared as commonly with siblings alone.

As we did this, though, it was really quite humbling, because we realized that there was not simply one gene for autism. In fact, the current estimates are that there are 200 to 400 different genes that can cause autism. And that explains, in part, why we see such a broad spectrum in terms of its effects.

How are we going to intervene? It’s probably going to be a combination of factors. In part, in some individuals, we’re going to try and use medications. And so in fact, identifying the genes for autism is important for us to identify drug targets, to identify things that we might be able to impact and can be certain that that’s really what we need to do in autism. But that’s not going to be the only answer. Beyond just drugs, we’re going to use educational strategies. Individuals with autism,some of them are wired a little bit differently. They learn in a different way. They absorb their surroundings in a different way, and we need to be able to educate them in a way that serves them best. Beyond that, there are a lot of individuals in this room who have great ideas in terms of new technologies we can use, everything from devices we can use to train the brain to be able to make it more efficient and to compensate for areas in which it has a little bit of trouble, to even things like Google Glass. 

Join the interactive autism network.

Why SLPs should learn other languages

Speech pathologists help people learn language. They might help children with autism learn pragmatics, children with SLI learn morphosyntax and semantics, adults with TBI relearn phonology — overall, we are in the business of language learning.

However, speech pathologists tend to be monolingual. Why?

Perhaps it is because speech pathology degree programs tend to follow a very strict course of study that does not really allow for many outside courses like languages. Maybe study abroad programs do not complement the speech pathology curriculum. Or speech pathologists feel so exhausted from the requirements of knowing all about English that they cannot be bothered to learn all about another language. Most speech pathologists will work in English-speaking countries, so maybe they’re not interested in learning another language since it seems a waste of time.

These are all valid reasons, but the benefits of learning a second language far outweigh these concerns.

Know English better to teach it better. It seems counter-intuitive, but learning another language makes you better at your native language. There is a reason that kids who study Latin tend to beat the monolingual English speakers on the English part of the SAT. Learning another language and having to translate it back into English makes you very aware of English’s morphosyntactic structure, phonotactic rules, and semantic maps. If you learn an Indo-European language, you begin mapping the morphemes of the new language to English, and this gives you a framework from which to begin teaching new words to your students. For example, knowing Latin and Greek helps me to break down the morphemes of unfamiliar words in order to guess their meaning — so “imbibe” comes from in + bibo (to drink), after some bilabial place feature spreading, so I know that “imbibe” means “to drink in” or something similar without having to consult a dictionary. How could you teach that to students? Babies need a BIB when they’re drinking.

Wer fremde Sprachen nicht kennt, weiß nichts von seiner eigenen
Those who know no foreign language knows nothing of their mother tongue.
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Understand what your clients are going through. For kids with SLI, speaking English is just as hard as speaking a foreign language. You’ll appreciate the work they put into communicating much more if you have experienced learning a second language and trying to communicate while keeping in mind vocabulary, semantics, grammar, morphology, syntax, and phonology. It’s a pretty overwhelming task. Add to that confusing cultural mores living abroad, and you’re closer to understanding how a kid with a pragmatics deficit struggles with communication. You’ll be much better equipped to help them after this, too.

Knowing a second language prevents dementia. The news has been reporting this for a while. Learning a second language prevents Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. We are not yet sure why, but speech pathologists know that using language requires a lot of brain activity. Using two languages will require even more, which could keep the brain healthy.

“These findings suggest that bilingualism might have a stronger influence on dementia than any currently available drugs.” – Thomas Bak, University of Edinburgh

Meet the demands of your job. Speech therapy sessions require a lot: making goals, recording utterances, dealing with behavioral issues, and making therapy seem like a game while keeping up your professional goals. Bilinguals tend to have better attention spans and be better at multitasking (here and here).

Reach more students. As America becomes more diverse, the need for speech pathologists who speak other languages is growing. Spanish is a particularly important language, as Spanish is the second most prevalent language in the States right now.


ASHA agrees that bilingualism is beneficial. Though this is targeted at educating SLPs about the benefits of children who are English language learners, this is applicable to SLPs as well.

Many research studies cite the cognitive-linguistic benefits of being a fluent bilingual speaker. Experts have found that children who are fluent bilinguals actually outperform monolingual speakers on tests of metalinguistic skill.

In addition, as our world shrinks and business becomes increasingly international, children who are fluent bilingual speakers are potentially a tremendously valuable resource for the U.S. economy. Most Americans are currently monolingual speakers of English, and are finding more and more that it would be highly advantageous to their professional lives if they spoke a second language.

Traveling is more fun. When you go on vacation, it is very nice to be able to speak the local language. You can ask the locals where the best food is, or you can order something special at a restaurant. You understand the food options, can manipulate the public transportation, and won’t get ripped off at the market.

So, SLPs — learn another language. It will make you a better speech pathologist.

The easiest languages for English speakers to learn are Indo-European, especially those of the Germanic or Romance branch. German, Dutch, Spanish, French, and Italian are good places to start.

More on easy languages here and here.