In Career, School Selection

Accelerated graduate degree programs usually shave a year off the graduate degree completion time. They do this by allowing undergraduate students to begin taking graduate level courses alongside their foundation undergraduate courses. Hence, undergraduate college students may earn a two-year master’s degree in five years through a “4+1” program.

Let’s be clear. This degree option can be a great choice for many students and many reputable schools offer these programs for just this reason. However, just because something, in this case the accelerated graduate degree program, may be great for many students doesn’t necessarily make it right for you.

Even with a year’s saving, it is still a very significant investment of time and money.

You wouldn’t buy something you didn’t need just because it was on sale, right? Examine any accelerated graduate degree options with the same consumer perspective. Are you very confident you will be happy pursuing this graduate degree? What about utilizing its technical knowledge in the workplace over the next however many years?

Have you done a recent search on “average number of careers in a lifetime?” The bottom line: you’re still in undergrad. It’s OK if you don’t yet know what you want to do when you grow up. (If it’s any consolation, many mid and late career adults joke among themselves about not knowing the answer to that question either.)

Would you benefit from exposure to a different school of thought?

This is even more important to consider if you will earn an undergraduate in the same discipline. Attending a different school may very well expose you to professors who approach the subject from a different perspective. This additional perspective may greatly expand your understanding of your subject matter. Furthermore, it will allow you to better apply that knowledge in your post-degree endeavors.

Sometimes, the schools will waive the GRE requirement.

So what? Seriously! Unless you are in the minority of test takers and suffer from an extreme case of test anxiety, the GRE probably isn’t nearly as bad as you’re thinking. You got into college and likely you’ve already done well on standardized tests.

If you didn’t study back in high school, you learned your lesson and, with some prep, you will probably do just fine. Plus, the school is likely waiving the GRE because you have a strong GPA and both they and their accreditors know you would have done just fine on that test.

For a bit of time and money, you may have had your choice from a large number of different graduate school programs. Hence, you would never worry if you allowed yourself to become entrapped.

Calculate the ROI

Do you understand the degree’s value to you? Sometimes it’s personal enrichment and you may have already determined you want the masters before you complete your undergraduate degree. Many times, however, the graduate degree is undertaken with the expectation of enhanced career prospects. Do you understand what employers are seeking? What if they prefer those candidates who already have previous full-time work experience?

Will the degree be an obstacle in the future?

If you earn a master’s in business, you may be precluding yourself from attending a top business school in the future. The MBA is a one-shot deal. So if you opt for a degree from a lower-tier school now and your career later takes off, you won’t be able to attend a top-ranked business school later on.

Perhaps your ultimate goal is a Ph.D. In that case, you may have been able to bypass the masters. Or, if you earned a “terminal master’s degree,” you may find yourself at a disadvantage in the ultra-competitive Ph.D. admissions field.

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