In This Issue

A year in review: Experiences of first year school psychology students

An interview with three students who share their experiences in the field

By Paige Mission

Current SASP Executive Board Student Interest Liaison, Paige Mission, interviewed three students who recently completed his/her first year as a school psychology graduate student. Student A attends a mid-size private university in the northeast. Student B attends a large public university in the Midwest. Student C attends another mid-size private university in the northeast. Each student shared responses to inquiries about his/her experience as a new student in the field. (Please note that these are responses from three students and may not be indicative of the experiences of others. Likewise, the opinions expressed by students interviewed do not necessarily reflect the opinions of SASP Executive Board Members.)

1. What did you enjoy about your first year?

A: Becoming engaged in the material and culture of school psychology; meeting others that share my interests

B: I loved getting to know my cohort, learning more about school [psychology] and gaining some experience working with students and teachers!

C: Having the opportunity to conduct research and attend conferences

2. What was more challenging?

A: Adjusting to the workload

B: Learning how to manage my time efficiently. You don't get a lot of reminders about when things are due and when you need to start working on long-term projects. Planning ahead was essential!

C: Statistics

3. What surprised you?

A: The relaxed pace and environment

B: The amount of reading! Especially first quarter, the readings were difficult to balance when we had so much other work as well.

C: What surprised me the most was the amount of career opportunities available outside of the school setting.

4. Have the reasons for choosing your graduate program changed? If so, what were they when you were applying and what are they now for remaining in the program?

A: I wanted a school in [a particular location] with a good reputation. I still care about a school with a good reputation, but not so much being in [a particular location], due to dearth of paid internship opportunities.

C: [No, my] reasons have stayed the same.

5. What experiences were you able to have in your first year? Were you able to gain any research experience? What practicum experiences did you have?

A: I learned a good amount about research and [conducting literature] reviews working with my advisor/mentor. I enjoyed the content that I was researching, but often found it challenging to know what to focus on in my [literature] reviews.

B: [I] shadowed a practicing school psychologist during Fall quarter; observed several IEP, IAT, MFE meetings as well as assessment administration and an in-service led by my school psychologist for the teachers at his school. [I also] worked with a teacher to develop a behavioral intervention for a student in an urban public middle school. This was a great experience, and definitely helped me develop my skills as a consultant. Fortunately, I was able to gain research experience this year. I began working with my advisor on a research project over the summer and that work continued through this year.

It was challenging at times (I had no idea what was involved in writing up an IRB!) but I am grateful that I had the experience and definitely learned a lot. I would encourage all first years to try to get involved in research if it is something they are interested in!

C: I attended the NASP conference in Philadelphia. I conducted a research study in an area of developmental disabilities, and I am currently conducting an international study for the APA conference. We do not start practicum [until our] 2nd year.

6. Did you receive funding for your first year?

A: Yes

B: I did not receive any funding for my first year.

C: Yes

7. Did you pursue any employment opportunities?

A: Yes, I worked as a [graduate assistant], in addition to a research assistant…

B: I worked a couple of part-time jobs. During the winter, things were pretty hectic with a full course-load and two part-time jobs. However, as the year progressed, I became better at managing my time and balancing all of my responsibilities.

C: Yes

8. How would you describe your relationship with your advisor?

A: Positive; established; we are very communicative about my evolving research interests, and I feel comfortable going to her with any questions.

B: I feel comfortable approaching my advisor with questions and concerns. We have had several discussions already about what

I need to do in order to achieve the career goals that I have set for myself. I would definitely describe her as a mentor – she really has done a great job of helping to guide me through graduate school. I have a lot of respect for her and am thankful for the knowledge and guidance that she has provided to me.

C: Very good

9. Did you have a student mentor? Did you find this relationship helpful? What went well? What would have improved this experience?

A: Yes. I think it helped to just get a grasp of what the program is like. She warned me of milestones. I think there should be a set time to meet with student mentors, as meeting was not required and as a result many did not take advantage of it.

B: Our program set-up a student-mentoring program this year. I found this relationship to be immensely helpful. I have a lot in common with my student mentor, and she was absolutely critical in surviving my first year of graduate school. She was great about sharing resources and pointing me in the direction of things that she thought I might be interested in.

C: We do not have a direct student mentor, however the students in the later years of the program have been extremely helpful in offering advice and assistance so far.

10. What was/were your favorite class(es) in your first year?

A: Experimental Design

B: Cultural Diversity; Social-Emotional Assessment; Counseling Children; School- Based Consultation; Introduction to Exceptional Children

C: Psycho-educational Assessment

11. What was your least favorite class?

A: Evaluation

B: Applied Behavior Analysis

C: Statistics

12. Did you learn anything related to social justice? If so, what? And how did your program expose you to such issues?

A: I was exposed to the issue of lack of minority school psychologists, in addition to the need for bilingual school psychologists or more empathy for the issues minorities face.

B: Yes, our program has a strong emphasis on issues related to social justice. We take a Cultural Diversity class in the first quarter of our first year that introduces many ideas to you. Social justice topics are then interwoven into almost every core school psychology class.

C: No.

13. How do you think your program teaches/incorporates issues related to practice  and research related to working with ethnicminorities?

A: I think they try to incorporate it into all classes. It is at least discussed in every text and it is important to consider it in every aspect of the field.

C: Our Psycho-educational Assessment classes are highly geared towards bilingual assessment in culturally diverse populations.

14. Does your program require you to complete a masters thesis? Have you begun working on this? What has been easier than you expected? More challenging?

A: I will be completing a thesis for my dissertation. I have not begun working on it, but I am not worried about getting into it.

B: We are not required to complete a thesis. We take a comprehensive exam.

C: There is no masters thesis required. However, our program requires completion of comprehensive exams in Assessment, Consultation and Intervention at the end of our 3rd year prior to receiving our masters degree.

15. Have you been able to publish any work you have done? What? How were you able to do this?

A: I will be published after my residency in the fall because my advisor and I are both interested in the topic and she will probably expand on my work. I also assisted her in research and literature reviews, in addition to editing her work.

B: We are working on publishing a manuscript currently. Hopefully this will be ready to go by mid-summer.

C: Yes, our research on developmental disabilities. The project is not yet complete.

16. Were you able to present at any conferences this past year? How were you able to do this?

A: I will in two years after I complete my residency and write a proposal. I am able to do this because my mentor has similar research interests.

B: I presented at our state school psychology association's spring conference and will be presenting at the APA annual convention in August.

17. Did you attend any conferences this past year?

A: Yes, NASP in Philadelphia.

B: I attended NASP and our spring conference of our state school psychology association.

18. Are you a member of any professional organizations (e.g., APA, NASP)? Student organizations? How did you hear about joining? Is this a program requirement?

A: Both APA and NASP. I heard about joining through [my advisor]. It is not a requirement, but I thought it was a good idea to stay informed.

B: Division 16, APAGS, NASP, [state organizations]; SASP – national; SASP- [local] chapter. It is a requirement of our program to join Division 16, NASP, [state organizations] and I believe SASP as well. Students are not required to join the [local] chapter of SASP, but are encouraged to join.

C: I am a member of APA, NASP, ABCT, SASP, APAGS, and I learned about these associations through colleagues. It is not a requirement of my program to be a member.

19. How do you feel about next year? What are you excited about? What are your concerns?

A: I am excited about diving into my residency research. I am concerned about an increased workload. I am confident and ready.

B: I am excited to get in the schools and get some experience working as a school psychologist (practicum). I am nervous about the amount of demands that will be placed on us and being able to maintain a balance between responsibilities.

C: I'm excited to be able to work with clients in practicum. I'm most concerned about whether my supervisor will like/dislike my reports.

20. Do you have a focus or specialty you would like to pursue? Did this change over the course of your first year?

A: I am becoming more interested in Educational Psychology; it changed a bit after getting some research experience from The College Board.

B: I have several areas that I would like to focus on (which is part of the problem!) Throughout my first year, as I was exposed to more and more information, my interests have expanded. I am very interested in issues related to social justice and diversity, mental health, sexual minority youth, and the debate between charters and public schools.

C: Working with children with developmental disabilities.

21. Were you exposed to the internship application process for school psychology graduate students in your first year?

A: Not much.

B: Not formally as a part of the program, but through my own research and work with my student mentor.

C: Yes, but not in great detail.

22. Do you have an interest in getting more involved in professional organizations as a student? Why? Do you have any concerns?

A: I have become involved with The College Board's Research and Development team. I am getting great experience doing research, writing literature reviews, proposals, and studies, in addition to running data analyses. The internship allows me to make money to pay off student loans and get great experience and a jump-start on my career.

B: I am interested in becoming more involved in professional organizations as a student, but also have some concerns. My main concern is time and ensuring that I am not spreading myself too thin. Another concern, especially as a first year, is feeling as though I do not have the experience/credentials to contribute much as a first-year graduate student. I am interested in becoming more involved because of the opportunity to learn, meet new people, and grow professionally.

C: Depends on whether the organization will be helpful to pursuing my educational goals.