Communication science and disorders students address the high stakes of applying to the major

Admission to the major is determined by the cumulative GPA of five pre-admission courses.


Speech-language pathology graduate students use Central Michigan University's clinic to learn more about swallowing.

Saline sophomore Lauren Nyitray, who aspires to be a speech language pathologist, isn't concerned about graduating, being accepted into graduate school or finding a job. 

She's afraid of being rejected from her program.

"You basically have to get an A in all your classes to get accepted into the major," Nyitray said.

Only second to exercise science majors, the communication science and disorders major is one of the most popular among the College of Health Professions. The total number of CSD graduates in 2017 was 83 students, similar to the number of sport management students.

The major is known for being competitive. Admission is determined by the cumulative GPA of the first five pre-admission courses. Even if all the students in these classes receive perfect grades, only about 40 will be accepted each semester. 

"About 19 are denied each cycle although many of them may have met the minimum requirements but were not competitive. The mean GPA of each cohort is about 3.79," said Mark Lehman, chairperson for the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

Lehman said, "if you look at the numbers, we admit 70 percent of our applicants. That doesn’t seem too bad to me. Because we admit the top 70 percent of our applicants, our graduates are quite successful with getting into graduate programs in speech-language pathology and audiology."

The average for the past 12 admission periods has increased to 44 students per semester, according to Lehman. 

"I’m not really sure how we arrived at a target number of 40," he said. "I believe that it was in part due to one of the courses being taught in our instructional lab that has an upper max of 45."  

Students like Nyitray are nervous about being one of the 19 who won't be admitted, even after their first try. 

"I was told that you can only apply to the major two times. If you don't make it on your second try, you aren't allowed to sign the major," Nyitray said. "You have to completely change your major and you're done." 

That fear can be overwhelming at times, causing students who are passionate about the field to re-think their choice. Lehman acknowledges that students often fear rejection, but encourages them to talk to an adviser or their professors. 

Nyitray said she is most concerned about the amount of time and money she will have to spend if she can't secure a place in the program. 

"If I don't get accepted for the fall of next year, I don't have another chance until spring semester of my junior year," she said. "I would be way, way behind on anything. I'd probably have to stay for another two years if I chose something else."

Nyitray isn't alone. Hartland sophomore Amanda Ciuzicki said she thinks about being denied entrance to the program every day.

"I don't know what I'll do if I don't get in. Going here was a lot more expensive than community college," Ciuzicki said. "With the classes I've been taking, there's nothing I can fall back on. These are very major-specific — I can't transfer them to anything else, so I'd have to start over."

Lehman said those who aren't accepted into the major often switch to a CSD minor. Students can now apply for graduate education in audiology by completing the CSD minor.

"In our program review in 2017, we found that two of the most common minors for CSD majors were psychology and child development. Those same programs are the most common majors for CSD minors. So it appears that at least some of the time students are simply flipping the major and minor," he said.

Changes are being made to the CSD program that make it more attractive to students who aren't interested in traditional aspects of audiology. These changes are geared toward students interested in audiology technology.

"This is a relatively new change to the minor and we think it could be an attractive option for students who might be attracted to the technology-driven aspects of that profession," he said.

Lehman said that students would have the ability to major in subjects like biology, physics or other technology-driven programs that prepare them for the use of equipment in the profession. 

"The undergraduate major has a somewhat heavy emphasis on speech-language pathology, and not all of the courses are as necessary as preparation for audiology," Lehman said. 

Yet, that leaves many students wondering what their career will look like after being denied from the program of their choice.

"It's a very anxious topic for me to think about and talk about because as much as I want to do it, there's a strong possibility that I might not be able to," Ciuzicki said.

She said the anxiety catches up with her during tests or while studying with friends. When she's helping other students understand the material, she wonders if their scores will hurt her chances of being admitted.

"In my audiology class I got an 85 percent on an exam. In any other class I would have been like 'okay, cool, an 85' but for this class I'm like, "oh my god, an 85. There are people who got 90s or 100s on this exam," she said.

Nyitray said she finds comfort in the groups she is a part of. She recognizes that everyone is competing with each other but said it's good to have resources available when you need them.

"Usually when you're confused about something, someone else is confused about the same thing. It's nice to know that you aren't alone and the only one who doesn't know what's going on," she said.

Aside from studying, Ciuzicki wants to have a traditional college experience. She said although she wants to become a speech-language pathologist more than anything, she's hesitant to devote all of her undergraduate career to professional preparation. 

"There are a lot of clubs I know I should join but I don't want this to overcome my college career," Ciuzicki said. "I want to look back and think that I enjoyed this time and not spent every second of it trying to do this."

Ciuzicki said that she wishes the college would move from GPA-based admissions to interviewing candidates before admission into the program. 

"You tested well, you studied hard, you did well on your assignments, that's great. But these GPAs don't define how well you're going to perform in the job," she said.