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Five Years, Two Degrees...Is It the Right Path for You?

by Angela Andaloro

As college students, we make tons of important decisions every day. Our futures are constantly at the forefront of our minds and for some students, continuing their schooling after completing their undergraduate degree is a very serious option. Luckily, many schools recognize this and offer five-year programs that allow students to begin graduate work as an undergrad and have their credits apply to both degrees. So how can you tell if such a program is right for a student like you? Here are some things to consider:

  • Are you positive you want to pursue a graduate degree? If so, then these programs can be great for you! You can finish both degrees in less time than it would take to pursue them separately. Financially speaking, this is also a good move because you'll be spending less money on school.
  • Are you looking for a challenge? By senior year of college, some students start to question how much they’ve learned and how challenging their course loads are. If you feel like you need more of a challenge, beginning graduate classes as a senior could provide you with just that. You’ll also have the opportunity to warm up to a graduate course load.
  • How much of a difference does it make? In some instances, a master’s degree does not make much of a difference in the type of job you get or how much you will ultimately make after college. It IS very important and almost necessary in some fields – yours just may not be one of them. It’s best to do research on your intended field and see what the pros and cons of getting a master’s degree are for what you want to do when you have your diploma in hand.

I hope these tips help you out but the truth is no one can decide for you whether or not a five-year combined undergrad and grad program is the right fit – it takes your willingness to research, consult with people in the right departments and get all the facts straight before making your final decision.

Angela Andaloro is a junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.


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Meet Scholarships.com Virtual Interns: Cameron Pybus

by Cameron Pybus

My name is Cameron Pybus and I’m privileged to be one of Scholarship.com’s newest virtual interns. I’ve just finished my junior year at Texas A&M and have also just returned from my study abroad semester in Italy. I am majoring in environmental design or architecture and plan to attend graduate school in the fall of 2012.

Architecture and Texas A&M go hand in hand for me because they are both goals I have imagined achieving for some time now. My two sisters and I value our dad’s artistic traits that he passed down to us; this is a big reason why I pursued architecture, as creativity has fueled much of my life. Through high school, I enjoyed various art studios and competitions that really opened my eyes to creative thinking. Being able to harness this creativity and design environments that invoke different visual responses is thrilling and I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to apply this creativity. Texas A&M has been a tradition in my family and I’m proud to attend the same school that my great-grandfather, grandfathers and parents all did. Being a part of this legacy made A&M so much more special to me and an easy choice when selecting what school to attend.

I’m excited to be a virtual intern for Scholarships.com. I was also attracted to this internship because it’s a great way for future and current college students to gain different perspectives. Each virtual intern has a unique story and experience, allowing each reader to see these different possibilities in a college or university setting is important. It’s a unique opportunity to express things I’ve learned through my college years and hopefully you can find some of them useful. College is what you make it - learn from others and keep an open mind!


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Meet Scholarships.com's Virtual Interns: Casandra Pagni

by Casandra Pagn

At 18, I was going to be a lawyer. I had the next four years of my life planned out well. I was to attend the University of Michigan, double major in political science and economics, take the LSAT, attend law school, pass the bar and go from there. I even got into arguments with my older brothers when they told me to be open-minded as I left for school. But life took a few turns — some of them sharp — between then and now.

I chose Michigan for its large campus, student diversity, and rigor in academic disciplines. Okay...I confess. At 18, I chose Michigan because of the Big Ten sports. I was ready to see national championships first hand. But as my sports expectations came crashing down, the other things that Michigan offered began to shine. I joined a sorority. I played intramural sports. I went to concerts, saw the Dalai Lama and wrote for the campus newspaper. I followed the hockey team to the Frozen Four. Oh yeah, and I studied, too! I took and enjoyed classes with incredibly passionate professors.

I can't pinpoint the exact moment I knew I was going to become a teacher, but the person I became at Michigan is a more relaxed and open-minded version of the 18-year old aspiring lawyer I once was. I am now the ecstatic recipient of a degree in English and a high school teaching certificate. I am also committed to writing whenever and wherever I can and to making real changes in the way writing is taught today.

As a recent college graduate smack-dab in the middle of a job search, I plan to combine my passion for writing with my absolute love for the college years to bring you weekly posts with tried and true advice, honest perspective and a little bit of humor along the way. As a Scholarships.com virtual intern, I'll be looking back while looking ahead.


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The Many Meanings of Graduation

by Darci Miller

Graduation.

Depending on where in your academic career you are, the word has varying connotations. To high schoolers, graduation is IT. The ultimate goal. The sum total of four awkward, drama-filled years. The day that begins a new, much more fun and independent chapter in your life.

In college, graduation is a much more complex idea. You might be excited to get out there and start your new job and your new life in a new city or state. On the other hand, what if there’s no job? What if the thought of leaving your beloved alma mater is akin to the thought of a root canal?

After high school, you may be parting ways with your closest friends, but you have the safety net of knowing that almost everyone comes home for the holidays. After college, this isn’t the case. If you attend school in Chicago and have a friend that’s from Texas that’s graduating and going to grad school in Seattle, will you ever see him again? Will he be back to visit?

Of course, this could be me being a little selfish and a lot sad that I’ll be losing so many friends and coworkers to the real world next year. But nonetheless, from graduates and non-graduates alike, the impending ceremony is receiving mixed reactions. Honestly though, I think this is part of the beauty of college. For the first time, you get to choose where you live, learn and make friends. Being sad to leave is a weird sort of pat on the back – “Good job! You made some awesome decisions!”

To all soon-to-be graduates, congratulations! Future college freshmen, you’ve got some great stuff headed your way, so get excited! Future college graduates, I wish you true sadness upon leaving college (hey, I said it was weird!) and all the success in the world in your future endeavors.

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


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by Emily

Thinking about graduate school? You now have more options than ever, including several varieties of specialized master's degrees for growing industries.

The New York Times recently profiled ten of these new programs, giving a run down on who offers them and what graduates can do with them. If you're thinking of pursuing an advanced degree and want to consider something a little outside the box, you might want to check out the "Ten Master's of the New Universe." Ranging from programs that fill a current demand for workers to programs aimed more at enhancing participants' current jobs or anticipating future needs, the degrees profiled provide an interesting cross-section of new graduate programs.

If you're looking for a graduate degree that will make you more immediately marketable to a growing industry, you may want to consider homeland security, cybersecurity, or education leadership. Programs in these areas have largely been created to meet new demands: keeping the country safe, keeping information on the Web private, and running innovative new schools. These degrees can help you get hired in growth industries, or help you move up within them. However, there are many other valid paths to careers in these fields, so while specialized degree programs can give you an advantage over other candidates, a degree alone may not be enough to get you hired.

Many new master's programs are also focusing on more specialized areas of long-standing fields, or on intersections of different disciplines. For example, Columbia University offers a Master of Science in narrative medicine, which promotes a better understanding of patients as people through a better understanding of literature involving illness. Master's degrees in sustainable cultures and urban environment also blend ideas from multiple fields to address more specific problems in their own. While none of these degrees translate into a direct career demand, they allow professionals and students to gain new perspectives on their disciplines and the problems that interest them.

Finally, there are master's programs that you may have never imagined could exist or have a market. From degree programs in construction management to social networking, highly specialized master's degrees are giving candidates an edge in the business world by providing in-depth training that puts job candidates on the cutting edge of developments in their field. Specialized MBA programs are part of this trend. If you know exactly what you want to do in the business world, you may want to skip the generalized degree and go straight for a graduate education tailored for your job, such as the MBA in pharmaceutical management at Rutgers University.

As a warning, master's programs in general, but especially somewhat esoteric ones, are unlikely to come with large financial aid awards. If you're interesting in pursuing a master's degree in one of the fields above, be prepared to shell out a significant amount of cash or throw some serious effort into your scholarship search.


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by Emily

If you’re applying to graduate school or law school for 2010-2011, it looks like you’re going to have some competition. While the recession had little impact on graduate and professional school applications last year, early reports indicate that this year will be a different story.

As of October, the number of people taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) was up 20 percent from the same month in 2008, reaching a record high of 60,746 test-takers. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) also saw a substantial increase in test-takers, with 670,000 people taking the test in 2009, a 13 percent increase from 2008.

Application rates have shot even higher at some law schools. According to an article in the New York Times, several law schools have seen applications increase by 30 percent or more. Cornell University has seen law school applications rise 44 percent between 2008 and 2009, despite making no substantial changes in recruiting practices.

Part of the overall rise in test-takers and applicants could very well be due to increased promotion of these programs. You’ve probably seen at least one advertisement encouraging you to take the GRE in the past few months. Many colleges are also promoting their graduate options as a way to make up for budget cuts and endowment losses: generally, graduate students (especially in master’s and professional programs, where tuition waivers are less common) pay higher tuition and receive fewer tuition discounts than in-state undergraduates. A number of schools are expanding seats in graduate programs to meet rising demand and generate revenue, and it's possible to see some offering more assistantships to shift a greater percentage of teaching duties onto graduate students, as well.

Whether or not they received substantial graduate scholarships, students who are currently finishing PhD and JD programs may find their job prospects aren’t much better than those of students who don’t have an advanced degree. Job openings at universities are down across the humanities and social sciences, by close to 50 percent in some cases. Law students also are facing bleak hiring pictures, as they compete for fewer jobs against more laid-off lawyers who have substantially more job experience. The uncertain job prospects awaiting many students at the end of years-long graduate programs have prompted some in academia to question the wisdom of pursuing an advanced degree right now.

Graduate school can still be a good choice and a good investment, though. If you love your subject, excel in it, and cannot imagine yourself doing anything else, a doctorate or a law degree may be the right choice for you, especially if you can get a substantial scholarship or fellowship to assist with costs. There are also a number of master’s degree programs that can prepare you for professional work, help you gain a promotion in your current industry, or otherwise pay off in terms of earning potential and personal enrichment. The best bet for finding the right graduate program is to do a thorough college search, paying particular attention to where graduates of your prospective programs ultimately wind up working. If most graduates wind up with good jobs in their field, the degree may very well be worth your while.


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by Emily

Photography is a fun hobby, but can be a difficult profession to break into. Whether you're going for studio photography or professional photojournalism, much of your success depends on building a portfolio and gaining exposure for your work.

Amateur photographers who are interested in receiving not only a college scholarship, but also industry recognition and professional internship experience, should be sure to check out this week's Scholarship of the Week, the College Photographer of the Year contest.

In addition to scholarship money, the student with the best portfolio will also receive the opportunity to intern with National Geographic, a potentially career-launching award. Winners in individual categories are also awarded equipment and educational opportunities from Nikon, the Poynter Institute, and the Missouri Photo Workshop. With sponsors including National Geographic, Nikon, and the National Press Photographers Foundation, entering the College Photographer of the Year competition will help you gain exposure in the photography and photojournalism industries, and you may get some cash out of the deal, as well.

Prize: First prize: $1,000; Second prize: $500

Eligibility: Undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in any college or university worldwide are eligible. Entrants may not have worked as professional photographers or paid interns for longer than two years prior to entering the contest.

Deadline: September 27, 2009

Required Material: A scholarship application, available on the College Photographer of the Year website, and a portfolio of photos taken between September 1, 2009 and August 30, 2009. Complete application instructions will be available Sunday, August 30.

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.


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by Emily

We're almost a full week into November, which for many students means the end of the semester is nigh. It's likely time to start working on those final papers, or at least generating some paper topic ideas. It's better to start sooner than later to avoid pulling all-nighters or finding out too late that the jerk in your English class who's writing a similar paper has checked out all the relevant books in the library before you get your chance.

But finding something new to say can be challenging, even for graduate students and undergraduate students in upper-division college courses. If the usual strategies aren't working, we've come across a couple of links that can help humanities students generate ideas for academic prose, or at least provide some much-needed levity while you're agonizing over your coursework. Note: you may not want to actually use these to write your papers, since your professor or TA is likely to see some of his or her own writing reflected in them.

The University of Chicago writing program has a tool to help both students and career academics craft a sophisticated argument without backbreaking labor: Make Your Own Academic Sentence. By simply selecting from drop-down menus of current buzzwords in literary theory, you can stumble upon a unique academic argument, and possibly lay the groundwork for a final paper! If you're not sure of just what concepts to piece together, some samples are provided by the website's Virtual Academic and his counterpart the Virtual Critic.

If you've got a great academic sentence, but no research area to apply it to, a recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education can help with that. James Lambert's article "Heteronormity is Hot Right Now" provides some helpful (and hopefully humorous) guidelines for humanities grad students on declaring their research interests (and possibly finding topics for their first seminar papers). Both of the above are also great for answering that question about your academic interests in your grad school application essays.

As a bonus for grad school applicants, the above links are likely to teach you some new (and obscure) vocabulary, so that's even more of a time-saver for studying for the GRE. However, if nerd humor is not your taste, but you are concerned about getting papers started early and beating the finals week frenzy, you may want to check out our college resources on study skills.


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by Emily

Want a shot at a top fellowship, like the Rhodes scholarship? There may soon be someone on your campus to point you in the right direction. Just like college advisors and career counseling services can help you apply to graduate school or find a job, many schools are hiring fellowship advisors to help students land these competitive awards for graduate study.

Fellowship advising, once found almost exclusively at Ivy League schools, has become a growing trend at unviersities nationwide, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Fellowship advisors get in touch talented and ambitious students on their campuses and help motivate them to seek out and apply for prestigious fellowships, such as the Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, and Fulbright scholarships. Since the common understanding of these programs is that they are exclusively for the best of the best, usually exceptional students at top-ranked universities, many students who could qualify and potentially win don't even think about applying.

Fellowship advisors typically look for students engaged in challenging coursework, research, and extracurricular activities, and encourage them to consider graduate study and fellowship funding. For many, the goal isn't so much to have students at their schools win these prizes, but to help outstanding students define their goals, push themselves, and get the most out of their educations. The process of preparing and competing for a prestigious fellowship can be a huge help to a student, even if he or she doesn't win the award.

High school students who are committed to seeking out all possible academic and scholarship opportunities may want to see if any of their prospective colleges have fellowship advising offices. Current college students, especially freshmen and sophomores, may also want to look into this, as many fellowship programs look at students' entire college careers, not just their last year or two.

Even if your school doesn't offer fellowship advising, you can still compete for, and potentially win, prestigious graduate student scholarships. As with your college scholarship search, seek out opportunities early, and know what's required to apply. Cultivate good relationships with your professors to land excellent letters of recommendation and seize every chance to participate in research projects and extracurricular activities. Even if you don't win the award you want, these activities can help you stand out in the job search and the graduate school application process.


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by Emily

While April may be the cruelest month, March can be especially rough for students bound for college or graduate school.  Late March and early April are when admissions decisions and financial aid letters roll out for those not immediately accepted or rejected by their dream schools, and around now, things are getting pretty agonizing.  While a large part of March is consumed by waiting, even those who have already received good news may be consumed by the crushing dread of all the work to be done before September.  After all, if you get into a college or graduate school, you still have to figure out how to pay for it, what classes to take, what forms to complete, what to do with your life between now and then, and for many students, how to graduate on time, as well.  So, while you may still be waiting for a decision, there are things you can do in March to make April through August easier.

First, budget your time.  Figure out the things you'll need to do, and make a plan to get them done.  While you can't yet pick your classes or contact an unassigned roommate to figure out who is bringing the fridge or the TV, you can take care of other things.

If you haven't done so yet, complete the FAFSA.  If you did a FAFSA with your 2007 tax information, do your 2008 taxes and submit a correction.  Check your student aid report to see if you were chosen for verification, a process roughly equivalent to an audit of your FAFSA that is conducted by your college.  Colleges receive a glut of verification forms towards the start of the school year, and a delay in completing it can result in a delay in financial aid.  If you're not sure you've done everything you need to receive aid on time, contact the college to make sure.  It's better to find out now than to find out on the first day of classes when you need to buy books and find that you can't.

Keep searching for scholarships and submitting scholarship applications.  Deadlines are approaching rapidly, and available scholarships for the 2009-2010 academic year will only get more sparse as you approach the start of the fall semester.  This doesn't just go for high schoolers--if you're a soon-to-be graduate student with an acceptance letter in hand, but no assistantship or fellowship, don't count on funding emerging later. This can and does happen, but many schools make these awards with their admission decisions.

If you've received your financial aid award letter at your college of choice and it's come up drastically short, look into options for appealing it, especially if your financial circumstances have changed or if you've gotten a better offer from a different school.  You may also want to start shopping around for student loans. You might not be able to apply until summer (and you might not want to if you're currently applying for scholarships), but knowing what's out there now can help later.

If you take these steps now, then it will be easier to direct your spring and summer towards enjoying (or enduring) school, preparing to graduate, and figuring out your summer plans.  You'll also be less rushed and less likely to forget to do important things, like signing up to register for classes or mailing in a deposit on time.


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