Meet Bronte Shay:
Bronte Shay was an undergraduate BASc student at the University of Guelph, who majored in Adult Development and minored in Family & Child Studies. Bronte was accepted into U of G’s MSc – Couple and Family Therapy program, so we caught up with to hear about the process and to share their tips for others applying to grad school! Bronte shares details on extracurricular and volunteer experiences that contributed to success, including volunteer work at Homewood Health Centre and Kids Help Phone, a practicum at Michael House Pregnancy and Parenting Support Services, as well as an Undergraduate Research Assistantship at U of G. Bronte also shares the experience of applying and interviewing for grad school, as well as top tips for others considering applying for grad school.
What work, volunteer, and/or extracurricular experiences do you feel contributed to your success?
“Throughout my undergraduate degree, I actively sought out volunteer/work positions that could assist me in developing transferable skills related to working in the field of human services. Out of all my volunteer/work opportunities, I believe that four were particularly helpful in contributing to my success:
- I volunteered at Homewood Health Centre—a mental health and addictions treatment facility in Guelph—in their Eating Disorders Program and at their Library. Through this volunteer role, I was able to gain experience working as a part of interdisciplinary teams, building rapport with the patients, and practiced setting professional boundaries.
- I completed a practicum placement with Michael House Pregnancy and Parenting Support Services, and later was hired as a Relief Staff in their residential program. In this position, I was able to gain experience supporting pregnant and parenting mothers and their children living on assistance below the poverty line
- I was employed as an Undergraduate Research Assistant (URA) at the University of Guelph where I worked under the direct supervision of Dr. Adam Davies on their research related to both gender studies in early childhood education, and attachment theory in gay men’s romantic relationships. Through this URA position, I also had the opportunity to co-write a manuscript for publication with Dr. Davies regarding the regulation and policing of masculinity within the field of early childhood education in Ontario.
- I volunteer with Kids Help Phone as a Crisis Responder for their texting line. Through volunteering as a Crisis Responder, I have developed crisis intervention skills, become familiar with a five-stage structured conversation design, and was able to practice skills commonly used in therapeutic conversations (e.g. paraphrasing, summarizing, risk assessing, utilizing a strengths-based approach, etc.).”
What was your average at time of application? Are there any specific undergraduate classes you feel will help you in your graduate education?
“At the time of my application, my overall average was 89%. However, when applying, you are asked to provide a self-declared average of your last two years/20 credits. My average for my last two years of study at the time of application was 91%. I believe that Communication and Counselling Skills (FRHD*3400) and Assessment in Gerontology (FRHD*4190) are two courses that will help me in my graduate education. FRHD*3400 allowed me to become familiar with building rapport, various types of therapy, and therapeutic conversation skills. FRHD*4190 allowed me to develop practical skills related to working with older adults that could be applied when working with a variety of populations.”
What did you struggle with when writing your personal statement and CV? How did you overcome those challenges?
“I did struggle when writing my personal statement and CV, as I wanted to write an application that would leave a memorable impression on the readers. I found that I avoided starting the application process due to how intimidating both these documents seemed. Three ways that I was able to overcome these challenges related to my personal statement and CV include:
I arranged meetings with current and graduated Couple and Family Therapy (CFT) students. In these meetings, I prepared a list of questions that I had related to the program, some of which related to their personal statements and CVs. Knowing what successful applicants had focused on in their applications allowed me to have a better idea of what I could focus on when writing my personal statement.
I started writing my personal statement and adjusting my CV in the late summer, that way I was able to focus on my application without the distraction of school courses—I would highly recommend that future applicants write their personal statement and CV prior to the fall semester if possible.
After I completed rough drafts of my personal statement and CV, I had them reviewed by writing services in the library a couple of times, had friends and family read it over, had professors read it over, and brought it to Career Advisor, Jana McDonald at The Experiential Learning Hub.”
How did you prepare for the interview process? What was the process like? How did you feel going into and leaving the interview?
“I was extremely nervous going into the interview—I would be lying if I said otherwise. I remember feeling sick to my stomach the entire week leading up to it. To prepare for the interview, I first met virtually with Jana from The Experiential Learning Hub for a mock interview. Jana prepared multiple thought-provoking questions that were well suited to the CFT program, which allowed me to consider additional topics to focus on when preparing for the interview. Next, I asked my family and friends to conduct mock interviews with me and asked them to provide me with constructive criticism/feedback on my answers. Last, I wrote down possible topics/areas that the interview questions could be based on and made approximately three strong points to speak about for each topic.”
“The interview process went very smoothly, especially considering that the interviews had to be conducted online (due to COVID-19). All of the applicants who were being interviewed on the same day had an online group orientation in the morning, in which we could ask questions and learn more about the program. Next, we all had our individual interviews with a panel of CFT faculty. Last, the applicants came together one last time in the afternoon for a question-and-answer period with some current CFT students.”
“Leaving the interview, I did not feel that great about the answers that I had provided and contemplated whether I had even answered what they were asking in some cases. However, I was reassured by a current CFT student who said that it was normal to feel this way after a competitive interview.”
How did you learn you got accepted? How long did you have to wait?
“I was interviewed on a Friday and learned that I had been recommended for admissions into the program the following Monday (via phone call); however, the other applicants and I were informed that this process could take up to two weeks from the date of the interview. I received my official acceptance letter approximately a month after my interview (via email/Webadvisor).”
Do you have any other pieces of advice for anyone considering applying to grad studies?
“My last pieces of advice for anyone considering applying to grad studies would be:
- Make connections with professors and professionals in the field that you wish to go into. These will be important when you require letters of reference for your applications. (CFT requires two academic references and one professional reference).
- Meet with students who are completing the program and ask them all your questions.
- Volunteer in roles that apply to the area of study that you wish to pursue.
- Become familiar with research: ask your professors if you can assist them with their research labs/projects. Having research experience allows you to stand out.
- Review the program’s website(s) and make a list of the keywords that they use often. Make sure to include this language in writing your personal statement whenever possible.
- Make sure you participate in regular self-care composing your application/going through the interview process. Taking care of yourself will allow you to perform to the best of your abilities.
- Be yourself and don’t underestimate what you are capable of!”