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Navigating the Maze:
What to know before you start applying for graduate school Applying to graduate school can be challenging. To get into a good program, you need more than just good grades and a lot of ambition. Letters of recommendation, good scores on standardized entrance exams and a strong personal statement all play important roles. Just as important, however, are the choices made about which schools or programs to apply to. Students in some disciplines will find hundreds, or even thousands, of schools offering programs that lead to a
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master’s or doctorate. How should you go about making the choices? Think of what comes after the degree The purpose of graduate school is to help students become experts in a particular area of study; however, individuals who hold the same advanced degree will differ in terms of the nature of their acquired expertise. After you have your doctorate, you will find the degree is not what actually determines the jobs for which you are qualified. Instead, the specific areas in which you have gained expertise best determine your qualifications. Different programs offering the same degree can be quite different in terms of the types of training they offer and the types of specialists they can help create. You want a doctorate in psychology? In order to decide what schools to which you should apply, you first need to decide what area of psychology in which you want to specialize. Before you can choose a graduate program,
you need to decide what tives. Don’t underestimate kind of career you want. the importance of this match. You can’t achieve the It is one of the primary consame types of expertise siderations of admissions in all procommittees. grams. For Potential DID YOU KNOW ... example, students Educational attainment one graduwho fail to has been on the upswing ate program make sure in the U.S. for several years. in economthe match In 2013, more than 65 ics might ofis right are million adults (ages 25 fer expertise likely to be and older) had bachelor’s in econorejected, no degrees or higher, up from metrics, mimatter how 50 million in 2003. The croeconomstrong their numbers represent a 4.5 ics, macroacademic percent increase. economics, credentials, economic test scores Source: February 2014 Census Bureau report, “Beyond a Bachelor’s Degree: Big developand letters Gains for Graduate School Attainment.” ment and of recomplanning, mendation. and financial and monetary The best way to learn economics, while another about career options is from program might focus more faculty members or career on labor economics, en- counselors at your school. vironmental and natural Make an appointment to resources economics, public visit with one or more of your economics and industrial professors to find out what organization. A doctoral graduate school in your field student usually specializes involves and what kinds of in just one of these areas. career options are available. Your success in getting Here, there or everywhere? into graduate school depends Many students tend to largely on whether you pick base their decisions about the right programs based on where to apply on lessyour particular career objec- relevant factors, such as
geographical location or the general reputation of a university. If you must live in a particular city, then you may be limited in the universities you can choose from. These universities may have programs offering the degree you want, but there might not be one that offers the specialization you are looking for. Many students apply to what they believe are the best programs or schools, without realizing that in most disciplines there is no best program or school. What is best for a particular student depends entirely on his or her specific goals. The strengths of any program depend on the areas of expertise represented by its faculty members. It is a common misconception that a doctorate from a high-profile university provides a significant advantage in the job market. In reality, however, it seldom actually works that way. Having a doctorate from a high-profile school might give you certain bragging rights, but don’t expect the benefits to go far
beyond that. Savvy employers won’t be convinced to hire you just because you have a doctorate from a distinguished university, and when it comes to translating your credentials into an occupation and a career, those potential employers are the only people whose impressions matter. They care only about what you know and what you can do, not where you got your degree. There is no doubt some programs are more competitive than others, but don’t assume you will receive an inferior education in a lower-profile, less-competitive graduate program. Some programs attract huge numbers of highly qualified applicants each year, while others attract fewer students or students with less-compelling credentials. Why are some programs much more competitive than others? Contrary to what most people assume, the most competitive programs do not always provide better training than less-competitive programs. Compiled from GraduateGuide.com
Mastering the art of earning more money with advanced degree
Pursuing a master’s degree requires a major commitment of time and money, so it’s important to know how that investment will pay off in salary potential. As part of its College Salary Report 2016-2017, PayScale.com, a compensation information and research company, ranked the highest-paying master’s degrees by salary potential. Using its database of 54 million salary profiles, the company established rankings based on median midcareer salaries and found that the highest-paying master’s degree recipients overall were those who studied STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects — computer science and various types of engineering. Master’s degrees in business administration were not included on the list.
HIGHEST-PAYING MBA FIELDS BY SALARY POTENTIAL Top 10 MBA study areas plus projected early-career (0-5 years) annual pay & mid-career (10-plus years) Strategy
General & Strategic Management
Finance & Economics
Business & Marketing
Marketing & Management
Source: 2016-2017 PayScale College Salary Report, PayScale.com, www.payscale.com/college-salary-report/majors-that-payyou-back/mba?page=3
Topping the list is a master’s degree in nurse anesthesia, which according to
PayScale.com carries an early career annual income of $140,000. Individuals
with 10 or more years of experience in this field earn a mid-career annual income of about $156,000. The No. 2 area on the list is computer science and engineering. Individuals with up to five years of experience in this field have an average annual income of about $95,900, while mid-career professions earn about $134,000 per year. The third entry on the list is operations research, which includes jobs such as general operations managers, operations research analysts and operations research service managers, can expect early career salaries of about $80,800 per year, according to PayScale.com. Mid-career salaries average about $130,000 per year. Rounding out the top areas of graduate study are electrical and electronics engineering; taxation; technology management; chemical engineering; computer engineering; computer science; biomedical engineering; applied mathematics; finance; and nuclear engineering, according to the website. Early-career salaries for individuals with these degrees average from $61,000 to $86,700, with mid-career pay stretching from $121,000 to $129,000. Overall, graduate degrees in STEM-related fields command the highest salaries, according to a Fortune magazine article, “Best and Worst Graduate Degrees for Jobs in 2016,” published in March. According to a list compiled in July by The Balance, a website dedicated to
information about personal finance, careers, investing and small business, the top 10 master’s degrees for finding employment, taking into account the projected rate of employment growth between 2010 and 2020, are: • Computer science • Electrical engineering • Physics • Information systems • Finance • Physician assistant • Economics • Civil engineer • Healthcare administration • Occupational therapy Each study area shows projected employment growth of between 12-24 percent, with the exception of physician assistant (30 percent) and occupational therapy (33 percent), according to the Balance website, www.thebalance. com/best-and-worst-master-s-degrees-for-finding-ajob-2061698. Higher salaries are undoubtedly among the goals of many students who, upon graduation with a bachelor’s degree, opt to pursue a master’s or doctorate. According to the Fortune article, 26 percent of new or recent college graduates chose to pursue postgraduate studies in 2015. However, not all students who attain a master’s degree or better will see a generous financial return on their investment. Falling at the bottom of the PayScale.com list of 189 areas of study are the master’s degrees that have limited earning potential. The bottom areas of study include elementary education, teaching English as a second language, counselor education and counseling psychology, studio art, professional counseling, reading and literacy, divinity, mental health counseling, community counseling, early childhood education and human services. Early-career annual salaries in these areas range from $38,000 to $44,500, while mid-career annual salaries run from $48,200 to $60,000, according to the report. To review the complete PayScale.com list, as well as a breakdown of salaries by job, years of experience, skill/specialty, location, gender, etc., visit www. payscale.com/college-salary-report/majors-that-payyou-back/masters.
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Rice professional programs focus on experience, collaboration Rice University in Houston offers professional master’s degree programs that allow students to merge science and engineering backgrounds with management, leadership and communication. Five science and 10 engineering disciplines are offered. Engineering Professional Master’s Program Programs offer non-thesis master’s degrees designed for those who seek to round out their engineering education with advanced analytical and technical expertise to be better prepared for leadership roles in engineering management. Degrees include bioscience and health policy, environmental analysis and decision making, nanoscale science, space studies and subsurface geoscience. Programs consist of two to three semesters of engineering coursework with electives in management, business and communica-
SPONSORED CONTENT tion. Professional development seminars provide additional career preparation. For additional information, visit www.epmp.rice.edu. Professional Science Master’s Program These 21-month Rice science degrees combine an interdisciplinary curriculum consisting of advanced science coursework with business, management, entrepreneurship and communication training, and hands-on experience enabling graduates to acquire a “tool-set” for success in a business environment. Networking opportunities, individualized communication coaching and soft skill training are provided. For more detailed information, visit www.profms. rice.edu. The coordinated MBA/ PSM or EPMP are offered in collaboration with the Rice Business School.
Things to know about resources available to pay for graduate school Are you headed for graduate or professional school and wondering how to pay for your education? Federal Student Aid, a part of the U.S. Department of Education, is the largest provider of student financial aid in the nation. It offers more than $150 billion each year to help students pay for higher education. Myths and Facts Myth: Parents’ personal and financial information must be reported on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Fact: In almost all cases, graduate and professional degree students are considered independent students and are not required to supply parent information on the FAFSA. Myth: It takes hours to complete the FAFSA and it’s expensive. Fact: Completing the FAFSA online is easy and free. Recent statistics show that it takes an average of 17 minutes for independent students to complete it. You can complete the FAFSA at www.fafsa.gov. Myth: Private loans from my bank or credit union are as desirable as federal student loans. Fact: There are key differences between federal loans and private loans. Federal student loans offer several repayment plans, including an option to tie your monthly payment to your income. Learn more about the differences between federal and private student loans at StudentAid.gov/ federal-vs-private. Which types of federal student aid can I receive? Graduate and professional degree students may be eligible to receive aid from the following federal student aid programs: The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program — This is the largest federal student loan program. Under this program, the Department of Education is your lender rather than a bank or other financial institution. There are two types of Direct Loans graduate and professional degree students may receive: • Direct Unsubsidized Loans — Eligible students may borrow up to $20,500 per school year. Graduate and professional students enrolled in certain health profession programs may receive additional Direct Unsubsidized Loan amounts each academic year. Contact your school’s
USEFUL CONTACTS: www.StudentAid.gov — Contains detailed information about the federal student aid and FAFSA application process. Also includes publications and tools for managing Direct Loans. www.StudentLoans. gov — Site features information about completing a Master Promissory Note, Direct PLUS Loan request and entrance counseling. www.NSLDS.ed.gov — Site for the National Student Loan Data System contains information about all of your federal student loans and federal grants. The NSLDS does not include information about any private loans you may receive. On Social Media: /FederalStudentAid /FAFSA /FederalStudentAid
financial aid office for details. • Direct PLUS Loans— Eligible graduate and professional degree students who need to borrow more than the maximum unsubsidized loan amounts to meet their education costs may apply for a PLUS loan. A credit check will be performed during the application process. Federal Perkins Loan (Perkins Loan) Program — This is a school-based loan program for eligible students with exceptional financial need. You may qualify for a Perkins Loan of up to $8,000 each year depending on your financial need, the amount of other aid you receive and the availability of funds at your school. Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant — The TEACH Grant Program provides grants of up to $4,000 a year to students who are completing or plan to complete course work needed to begin a career in teaching. The TEACH Grant is different from other federal student grants in that it requires you to take certain kinds of classes to get the grant, and then to do a certain kind of job to keep the grant from turning into a loan. Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program — The Federal Work-Study Program provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need. This program allows you to earn money to SEE FUNDING, PAGE 5
The professional master’s programs at Rice University are designed for students who want to focus on practical experience rather than research. Both the Engineering Professional Master’s Program and the Professional Science Master’s Program enable students to develop new skill sets to achieve success in their business environments.
Let’s talk money: Grad school an option but not always best fit when job hunt hits dead end By Taylor Kovar Courtesy The Associated Press
I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology almost two years ago but am having trouble finding a good job in the field. I am taking unrelated, part-time jobs to pay the bills (including my student loans). At this point, I am considering moving back home and attending graduate school for a master’s degree to give myself more direction. Any advice on the financial aspects of this idea? — Jackson in Nacogdoches
First off, you are not alone in feeling like your undergraduate degree is not getting utilized as much as you had hoped, which can be especially frustrating when making those monthly student loan payments. However, a master’s degree is a big commitment of time and money and is a decision where you need to weigh the pros and cons carefully. I suggest finding several mentors and advisers to get multiple opinions on your realistic options. These should be people you con-
sider role models who are in a place you’d like to be — not your parents or friends in their early careers or people following unrelated career paths. Do not rely just on Google, online forums or advice from advisers of schools you are considering. They will be a little biased and focused on finding the right program for you versus helping you weigh if grad school is a good decision or not. Do make sure you have exhausted your undergraduate school’s career center
and resources first. Many have strong alumni networks you can tap into and other career services they usually provide for free to you as an alum. You also should have your target positions and companies identified, and the logical career progression to get to that point. Does it truly require a graduate degree to get started? Use these position titles and companies to search for second- and third-level connections on LinkedIn to invite to grab coffee. SEE ADVICE, PAGE 6
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Life, loans and the pursuit of knowledge
Many factors to consider when deciding which graduate program to select, where to study I wish I could say applying to graduate school is the same thing as applying to your first college, but it’s not. It’s sticky notes of where to send your transcripts and fretting over a personal statement. It’s asking what a CV is and if a residency program would work with an already-hectic schedule. I can’t tell you how many colleges I’ve looked at and how many times I asked myself if the application process is worth the stress. It’s easy to get lost in all of the application requirements, but at the end of the day, it’s all possible. You know deep down you can do it.
Emma Seidensticker is a creative writing and technical communications major from Burnet, Texas.
I started getting interested in grad school soon after I fell in love with my major. I wanted to know more about writing, editing and publishing, and I would do anything to get my hands on the information I need to make a career out of it. For me, I chose to get a master ’s because I’m curious and want to learn more about my field. Sure, it comes with possible pay raises and more job oppor-
tunities, but overall I just want to know how good a writer I can be. Choosing a college at which to further my education was more difficult than I thought. I knew I wanted to attend a university outside of Texas, but I am heavily rooted in Lubbock. I started looking at residency programs that would allow me to do classes online and attend class once or twice a year for about a week for each visit. I also took into consideration the program’s highlights at each location and what kind of classes I would be taking. In my case, I wanted more developmental classes to hone my writing.
BAD REASONS TO CHOOSE GRAD SCHOOL While there are many good reasons to go to graduate school, there are also plenty of bad reasons to choose continuing your education. • Avoiding personal/family/financial obligations — Grad school is more likely to exacerbate already existing problems rather than solve them. • Your parents want you to go — If you feel forced into attending graduate school, chances are you’ll be miserable and it may impact your performance in the classroom. • Avoiding or postponing your job hunt — That job hunt will still loom post-graduation. • Dissatisfaction with current employment — This might actually be a valid reason to choose grad school as long as you’re prepared for the costs, workload and stress that come with it.
• Not knowing what to do with your life — For you to get the most out of grad school, you’ll need to know what you want to do before you go. • Curiosity about a subject — There are many ways to delve into a subject without committing the time and money required for graduate school. • Desire to live in a new place — Again, there are many ways to explore this desire. Choosing a graduate school just to move to a new location may mean taking on more stress and debt than is necessary. • To impress people — You’ll be just as impressive, if not more impressive, to prospective employers if you know yourself and your skill set and can convey how that can benefit the employer.
Sources: www.idealist.org/info/GradEducation/BadReasons; www.huffingtonpost.com/liz-ryan/the-five-worst-reasons-to_b_1660844. html; college.usatoday.com/2014/07/07/good-bad-and-crazy-reasons-to-go-to-grad-school/
What’s the difference? Entrance exams
Whether you’re considering pursing a master’s degree, possibly followed by a doctorate, or you’re thinking about law school or medical school, chances are there will be an entrance exam in your future. There are numerous study guides, review programs and classes available to help with the preparation, but before then, here’s a quick glimpse at the differences between the tests.
• The Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, was developed and is administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges. • The MCAT is a “standardized, multiple-choice examination created to help medical school admissions offices assess … problem-solving, critical thinking and knowledge of natural, behavioral and social science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine,” according to the AAMC website. • For more information about the MCAT and applying to medical school, visit https://studentsresidents.aamc.org/applyingmedical-school/taking-mcatexam.
• The Law School Admission Test, or LSAT, is administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) and consists of several sections of multiple-choice questions and a writing sample. • The LSAT measures “skills that are considered essential for success in law school: the reading and comprehension of complex texts with accuracy and insight; the organization and management of information and the ability to draw reasonable inferences from it; the ability to think critically; and the analysis and evaluation of the reasoning and arguments of others,” according to the LSAC website. • For more information about the LSAT, visit www.lsac.org/ index.
• The Graduate Record Examination, or GRE, was developed and is administered and scored by Educational Testing Services (ETS), a private nonprofit organization. Many graduate and business schools use the GRE to assess applicants to their programs. • The GRE measures “verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing skills — skills that have been developed over a long period of time and are not related to a specific field of study … ,” according to the ETS website. • For details about the test, visit www.ets.org/gre.
• The Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT, was created by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), a global nonprofit council of business schools. • The GMAT measures verbal reasoning, analytical writing, quantitative reasoning and integrated reasoning and is “a valid and reliable predictor of … academic performance in today’s graduate management programs,” according to the GMAC website. • Find more information about the GMAT at www.mba.com/us.
Cost was also a factor. In fact, I fell in love with a graduate program in Nevada only to find out three months later that its tuition costs were far higher than what I had budgeted. It was a major letdown and I beat myself up thinking about how I forgot to check the cost of tuition of all things. No one told me the process would be overwhelming. Suddenly I had to schedule time to take the GRE, but then the schools I wanted didn’t actually require GRE scores. Then there was the personal statement or statement of intent. This requirement
sounds easy, but it’s the most difficult paper anyone ever will write in college. We’ve all had to write about ourselves for a class, but never in a way that positions us for possible candidacy in graduate programs. It’s terrifying, but it also makes you realize how far you’ve come in your undergrad and that you’ve actually put those learned skills into practice. Juggling my last semester and a job on top of applying for graduate school was tough, but I can say that I made it on top and was accepted into two programs. Now I get to make another hard decision: where to go. It makes
all of the emails to graduate advisers, requests for professor recommendations and late-night phone calls to my parents seem worth it. I get to expand on my undergraduate degree and that is phenomenal. I’m beyond excited that I get to continue to go to school, even though I should feel ready to be done with it all. My only important piece of advice is you should give grad school a chance. You don’t have to do it now or even this year, but if you really love the field you’re studying, I highly recommend jumping through all of the hoops and hurdles to get your master’s.
Key to successful personal statement is finding way to relate to audience
Writing a personal statement can be a daunting task. Below are a few nuggets of advice provided by the Online Writing Lab, or OWL, at Purdue University. The OWL website, owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/642/01, also offers examples of personal statements, advice from admissions officials and the Top 10 Rules and Pitfalls of personal statement writing, as well as numerous other resources that might be helpful.
Questions to ask yourself before you write
What is special, unique, distinctive and/or impressive about your life story? What details (personal or family problems, history, people or events that have shaped you or influenced your goals) help set you apart from other applicants? When did you become interested in this field and what have you learned about it that has reinforced your conviction that you are well suited to this field? How have you learned about this field — through classes, readings, seminars, work or other experiences, or conversations with people already in the field?
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If you have worked a lot during your college years, what have you learned (leadership or managerial skills, for example) and how has that work contributed to your growth? Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain (great grades but mediocre LSAT or GRE scores, for example, or a distinct upward pattern to your GPA if it was only average in the beginning)? Have you had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships (for example, economic, familial or physical)? What personal characteristics (for exam-
ple, integrity, compassion and/or persistence) do you possess that would improve your prospects for success in the field or profession? Is there a way to demonstrate or document that you have these characteristics? What skills (for example, leadership, communicative, analytical) do you possess? Why might you be a stronger candidate for graduate school — and more successful and effective in the profession or field than other applicants? What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the admissions committee to be interested in you?
General advice for constructing your personal statement Answer the questions that are asked — If you are applying to several schools, you may find questions in each application that are somewhat similar. Don’t be tempted to use the same statement for all applications. It is important to answer each question being asked, and if slightly different answers are needed, you should write separate statements. In every case, be sure your answer fits the question being asked. Tell a story — Think in terms of showing or demonstrating through concrete experience. One of the worst things you can do is to bore the admissions committee. If your statement is fresh, lively and different, you’ll be putting yourself ahead of the pack. If you distinguish yourself through your story, you will make yourself memorable. Be specific — Don’t, for example, state that you would make an excellent doctor unless you can back it up with specific reasons. Your desire to become a lawyer, engineer, or whatever should be logical, the result of specific experience that is described in your statement. Your application should emerge as the logical conclusion to your story. Find an angle — If you’re like most people, your life story lacks drama, so figuring out a way to make it
interesting becomes the big challenge. Finding an angle is vital. Concentrate on your opening paragraph — The lead or opening paragraph is generally the most important. It is here that you grab the reader’s attention or lose it. This paragraph becomes the framework for the rest of the statement. Tell what you know — The middle section of your essay might detail your interest and experience in your particular field, as well as some of your knowledge of the field. Too many people graduate with little or no knowledge of the nuts and bolts of the profession or field they hope to enter. Be as specific as you can in relating what you know about the field and use the language professionals use in conveying this information. Refer to experiences (work, research, etc.), classes, conversations with people in the field, books you’ve read, seminars you’ve attended or any other source of specific information about the career you want and why you’re suited to it. Since you will have to select what you include in your statement, the choices you make are often an indication of your judgment. Don’t include some subjects — There are certain things best left out of per-
sonal statements. For example, references to experiences or accomplishments in high school or earlier are generally not a good idea. Don’t mention potentially controversial subjects (for example, controversial religious or political issues). Do some research, if needed — If a school wants to know why you’re applying to it rather than another school, do some research to find out what sets your choice apart from other universities or programs. If the school setting would provide an important geographical or cultural change for you, this might be a factor to mention. Write well and correctly — Be meticulous. Type and proofread your essay very carefully. Many admissions officers say good written skills and command of language are important to them as they read these statements. Express yourself clearly and concisely. Adhere to stated word limits. Avoid clichés — A medical school applicant who writes that he is good at science and wants to help other people is not exactly expressing an original thought. Stay away from often-repeated or tired statements. Source: Purdue Online Writing Lab, Writing the Personal Statement, owl.english.purdue. edu/owl/resource/642/01.
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ABCs of grad school: Deciphering key terminology
Thinking about continuing your education but feeling intimidated by the language in your cursory research? Never fear. Here’s a quick lesson on grad school lingo: A.B.D. This is an acronym for “All But Dissertation.” These will be the initials behind your name if you’ve completed all your doctoral coursework in graduate school, but not your thesis. Academic graduate education This is a graduate education that emphasizes performing and evaluating research in a specific field, such as literature or biochemistry. Academic master’s degrees These are the broad Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.) degrees, usually awarded in the traditional arts, sciences and humanities disciplines. M.S. degrees also are awarded in technical fields, such as engineering and agriculture. These degrees may lead to your entrance into a doctoral program. Assistantship Assistantships are available at many grad schools with graduate programs and can be teaching or research centered. In exchange for completing some
work or research for the graduate program, you’re offered free or reduced tuition, as well as other possible benefits, such as health insurance and a monthly stipend. Committee Faculty members, in addition to a research adviser, who help guide coursework and research. These members also will serve as your final examiners during your defense. Defense Generally an oral presentation to a committee of people where you provide a summary of your thesis and the research results you obtained. An examining committee then presents you with questions and you must respond and defend your work. There’s usually a time limit. Dissertation The D word is a fancy synonym for thesis (see below). Exams Every program has an exam of some sort, and these go by many names such as cumulative exams (cumes), comprehensive exams (comps), preliminary exams (pre-
lims), general exams (generals/GEs) and qualifying exams (quals). These exams, which can be written and/or oral, are given by most graduate programs with the general purpose of making sure the student understands his or her discipline well enough to conduct independent research in their field. The specifics of these exams are dependent on each program, but they can range from focusing only on the students research topic to expecting the student to understand a wider range of topics. Fellowship Fellowships are essentially scholarships or grants awarded to doctoral students in grad schools. Awards vary but could include enough money to cover the cost of everything, including tuition, housing and food. Sometimes they have strings attached, such as working on a specific type of research or publishing a set number of articles in a specific field. Internship Work experience as part of a field of study, which usually takes place over several months. It may be full-time, may require you to move and you may be paid. An internship may be required for graduation from
a graduate program, but may be waived under certain circumstances. Letter of recommendation These are letters written by past or current professors, employers, coworkers or peers that provide solid examples of your work habits. They typically are submitted with your application package. Non-thesis option Some master’s degree programs do not require students to complete a thesis or research project in order to graduate. These are called non-thesis options. Orals These are essentially final exams for graduate school, which are common for doctoral degrees and sometimes required for master’s-level programs. These comprehensive exams are presented verbally and are usually graded by a small committee of professors who will require you to demonstrate your mastery of the concepts you’ve covered in your studies. Personal statement A personal statement gives you the chance to explain to an admissions committee why you would be the perfect fit for their program. It is the only chance you have to sell yourself to the ad-
missions committee, so you’ll want to make sure it’s good. Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) This is an advanced degree, beyond the master’s level, which requires further courses, as well as several years of original research culminating in a dissertation. Practicum A work experience or hands-on portion of a class offered in graduate schools. For instance, clinical psychology students may spend eight hours a week seeing clients to fulfill requirements for some classes. A practicum is smaller in scope than an internship and usually only lasts as long as the length of the course which requires it. Professional graduate education This is a graduate education that emphasizes learning the skills and knowledge necessary to practice a profession, such as attending medical school or studying social work. Research adviser A faculty member who advises the student with his or her research. Residency requirement Residency requirements describe the amount of time an online graduate student will spend on
campus. Many online programs can be completed 100 percent from home, but there are some that require students to complete courses at the grad school’s physical location. Terminal master’s degree These are also referred to as professional master’s degrees and include degrees with descriptive titles, such as Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.), Master of Social Work (M.S.W.), Master of Education (M.Ed.) or Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.). These are degrees that prepare you for a particular profession. Any further education at the doctoral level isn’t considered necessary to enter your career field. Other “terminal” degrees may include journalism, international relations, architecture, public administration and urban planning. Thesis In a nutshell, a thesis is one huge gigantic research paper. A thesis is almost always required if you’re pursuing a doctorate degree, but some master’s programs require them as well. Your thesis is an original and significant contribution to research in your field and your shining academic achievement.
FUNDING, FROM PAGE 3 help pay education expenses. The program encourages community service work and work related to your course of study. Federal Pell Grant — A Federal Pell Grant, unlike a loan, does not have to be repaid. You may be eligible to receive a Federal Pell Grant if you are enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program. Amounts can change yearly. Not all schools participate in the federal student aid programs or offer all the types of aid described above. To learn more about the federal student aid programs, contact your school’s financial aid office or visit StudentAid.gov/types. What are the eligibility requirements? To qualify for federal student aid (grants, loans and work-study funds), you must meet certain requirements. Some general eligibility requirements are that you must demonstrate financial need (for most programs), be a U.S. citi-
zen or eligible noncitizen, be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program, and more. Make sure you’re familiar with our basic eligibility criteria, and, if you have any questions about whether or not you qualify, contact your school’s financial aid office. Learn more about the basic eligibility requirements for federal student aid at StudentAid. gov/eligibility. How do I apply for aid? To apply for federal student aid, you first need to complete the FAFSA. Many states and colleges use your FAFSA data to determine your eligibility for state and school aid, and some private financial aid providers may use your FAFSA information to determine whether you qualify for their aid. Don’t pay to complete your FAFSA. The FAFSA is a free application. Fill it out at www. fafsa.gov. Other sites may charge you.
What other types of financial aid can I receive? Aid from other federal agencies To find out about funding from agencies other than the Department of Education, visit StudentAid.gov/types. State aid Many states offer assistance for graduate or professional school. Find state grant agency contact information at www. ed.gov/sgt. School aid Statistics show that schools may provide nearly as much student aid as the federal government does. To find out what aid your school offers, contact the financial aid office as well as a faculty member in your area of study. Where else should I look for funding? Check out the following sources for additional funding: • The Internet (there is a free scholarship search from the U.S. Department of Labor at www.careerinfonet. org /scholarshipsearch)
• The reference section of your school or public library • Foundations, organizations (e.g., religious, community, professional, ethnicity-based), local businesses and civic groups • Your employer • Your state vocational rehabilitation agency, if appropriate (a list of state agencies is at www.ed.gov/ svr and at www.disability. gov). Key points to consider when taking out a student loan • Finance your education with free money first (scholarships and grants), then earned money (workstudy) and, finally, borrowed money (federal student loans). You don’t have to repay scholarships, grants or work-study funds. When accepting the aid offered by your school, keep in mind that you don’t have to accept the full loan amount offered. You may request and borrow a lower amount. (Don’t forget to research potential tax benefits of
higher education at the Internal Revenue Service’s website at www.irs.gov.) • What is the source of the loan? Is it a federal loan or a private student loan? Student loans can come from the federal government or from private sources such as a bank or financial institution. Learn more about the differences between federal and private student loans at StudentAid.gov /federalvs-private. • What are the terms and conditions of the loan? It’s important to understand what you’re signing up for. Understand the terms of your loan and keep copies of your loan documents. The Master Promissory Note (MPN) is the legal document you must sign to receive a federal student loan. When you sign your promissory note, you are agreeing to repay the loan according to the terms of the note even if you don’t complete your education, can’t get a job after you complete the program, or
you don’t like the education you received. • How will the amount you borrow in student loans affect your future finances, and how much can you afford to repay? Your student loan payments should be only a small percentage of your salary after you graduate, so it’s important not to borrow more than you need for your school-related expenses. Plan and budget for now and for the future. And learn about IncomeBased Repayment and other student loan repayment plans at StudentAid.gov/ repay-loans /understand/ plans. Use the financial aid awareness-counseling tool at StudentLoans.gov. • Have you heard about Public Service Loan Forgiveness? Under PSLF, you may be eligible to have some portion of your loans forgiven if you work in public service. Learn about our loan forgiveness programs at StudentAid.gov/publicservice.
Sources: www.petersons.com, www. campusexplorer.com and www.caffeinatedconfidence.wordpress.com.
Reprinted courtesy of the U.S. Department of Education
Texas State University, to the extent not in conflict with federal or state law, prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, sex, religion, disability, veterans’ status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
Designated a Doctoral University of Higher Research Activity by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Texas State’s 90 master’s and 12 doctoral programs afford students of exceptional academic ability many opportunities to continue their intellectual growth and achieve higher career goals through groundbreaking research and faculty support.
Our main campus in San Marcos is situated along the booming I-35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio in the Texas Hill Country. This location — with easy access to both urban and natural environments — provides nearly 40,000 students with a setting unique among Texas universities. The beauty of the crystal-clear San Marcos River and the campus’ stately cypress and oak trees not only add to the charm of the university’s picturesque setting,
but also provide a natural lab for biological and aquatic studies. We have established a second campus in Round Rock to provide the same world-class education at a location more convenient for those in the Austin Metropolitan Area.
In addition to a robust course schedule for full-time graduate students, Texas State also caters to part-time students by offering many online degrees, hybrid (online and face-to-face) courses, and evening classes.
To further support our students, we offer scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, and many professional development opportunities. Our distinguished faculty, nationally and internationally recognized programs, and commitment to excellence in teaching and scholarship create a nurturing and engaging environment for graduate study. We are proud of our diversity and the resulting vibrancy and innovation in our research and scholarship. gradcollege.txstate.edu
G RADUATE S CHOOL G UIDE
Facilities, industry partners set Plant & Soil Science program apart SPONSORED CONTENT The Department of Plant & Soil Science is a student-focused, researchintense, multidisciplinary department. Its comprehensive academic department offers coursework and academic programs in a broad array of the plant and soil sciences. Plant & Soil Science faculty conduct research from the cellular level through whole plants to large-scale ecosystems and post-production, valueadded processes. The department offers several graduate programs: • Master of science in plant and soil science (available as an on-campus or online degree) • Master of science in horticultural science (available as an on-campus or online degree) • Graduate certificates in fibers and biopolymers, horticultural landscape management, soil management and crop protection (available as on-campus or online programs) ADVICE, FROM PAGE 3 In today’s world, we are “blessed” with so many options that it can get very overwhelming. Make sure you’re not using higher education as a way to find a safety net in this decision paralysis. Even grad school may not clarify the answers to the uncertainty you have now and is not a guaranteed path to a job. If you were to obtain that master’s degree tomorrow, do you have a plan in place for what comes after? Do not take on more debt without a solid plan for how the degree will increase your earning potential. My advice is to not give up on the job search yet. Volunteer in your field or
The Bayer Plant Science building features research, teaching and office space for the students, faculty and staff of the Texas Tech Department of Plant & Soil Science. Students also have access to a broad range of research, internship and networking opportunities thanks to the many collaborations between the department and industry leaders such as Bayer CropScience, Monsanto and Netafim.
• Ph.D. in plant and soil science, with specializations in crop protection, crop science, fibers and
DID YOU KNOW ... Going to school for additional education beyond a bachelor’s degree has become a more prevalent practice. The number of adults who completed some graduate school work increased 24 percent between 2008 and 2013. Source: February 2014 Census Bureau report, “Beyond a Bachelor’s Degree: Big Gains for Graduate School Attainment.”
get some related work experience (even if it’s in a bottom-level position at a good company) while bringing in an income to pay down those existing students loans while the inter-
biopolymers, horticulture and soil science. The department offers many opportunities for est is accruing the fastest. With the related work experience, you may find a company that will assist in paying for that graduate degree if you still want to pursue it. Good luck. Information presented in this column is for educational purposes only and is not an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. Investments involve risk and, unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed. Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial, legal, and/ or tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed herein. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.
students to be involved in research projects and endeavors, with threeyear research expenditures
exceeding $4.1 million. In the fall of 2015, the department opened a new research, office and teaching
lab space to include 21,122 square feet for faculty and students. Industry partners frequently collaborate on research and student advising with department faculty. These industries include Bayer CropScience, Monsanto, Chromatin, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension, Netafim and many more. These partnerships allow students to participate in research trials, internships, projects and conversations with top industry professionals. Graduate student research projects in the Department of Plant & Soil Science include cotton fiber properties, molecular genetics, plant stress responses, soil physics and chemistry, viticulture, soil fertilization, entomology, native landscape plants, ecological modeling, plant cell wall biology, rare plant conservation, forage and pasture crops, and turf management and quality. For more information, visit www.pssc.ttu.edu.
Texas Tech online programs recognized for affordability Texas Tech was listed as one of the 50 Most Affordable Online Graduate Schools for 2016-2017 in a compilation published in August by collegechoice.net. Criteria used for selection to the list included total cost (tuition and all associated fees) and the number of online degrees offered, according to the website. Data utilized in the compilation was pulled from university websites, U.S. News and World Report, the National Center for Educational Statistics and similar publications. Only schools with regional accreditation were considered for inclusion on the
list, according to the report. Tech, listed as “one of the best online universities in the south,” came in a No. 45 on the list. Other Texas universities listed included Stephen F. Austin State University, No. 14, and Lamar University, No. 49. College Choice is an independent online publication created to assist students in finding the right college or university. To view the complete list of colleges and universities, visit www.collegechoice.net/rankings/most-affordableonline-colleges-for-a-masters-degree.
For links to additional graduate school resources, visit www.dailytoreador.com /special_projects/
We’ve got a good thing growin’
Grow your skills personally and professionally with a degree from the Department of Plant and Soil Science. Degrees are designed to cover all areas of plant and soil science, providing students hands-on experience.
Graduate degrees include:
• Master of Science in plant and soil science* • Master of Science in horticulture science* • Graduate certificates* in horticulture, crop science, soil science, and fibers and biopolymers. • Ph.D. in plant and soil science
Scholarships and Financial Aid Available!
*indicates degree can be completed on-campus or 100% online
Inquire and apply now for the next semester!
www.pssc.ttu.edu | (806) 742-2838 | email@example.com