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Ari127

Post-Bac vs. Master's Program?

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Hey everyone!  Looking for some advice.

I'm an out-of-field applicant who hasn't completed any prerequisites.  I've been accepted to the University of Washington's Post-Bac Program and the University of Iowa's 3-Year Master's Program (3 years for out-of-field applicants).  These were the only 2 programs I applied to this year, due to getting a late start on applications (had a natural disaster in my hometown and it completely through me off for a month).

Initially I was set on UI, but I realized that I still wouldn't qualify for in-state tuition after living there for a few years.  So, the cost will be much higher than I'd initially hoped.  Also, I will be in a long-distance relationship with someone in California, and obviously it would be much easier to travel from Seattle.  And, to be frank, I'd really like to live in Seattle.  Even with the higher cost of living, if I did get into the UofW Master's Program, the overall costs would be about equal to UI.  However, I'm worried that if I choose the Post-Bac Program, I may have trouble getting into Master's Programs next year.  It's possible I was just lucky getting in this year, and I certainly don't want to jeopardize my chances for the future by declining an offer for a Master's Program now.  

If you were in this situation, what would you choose?  Has anyone else made a similar decision?

As for my background:  BA in Psychology, 3.79.  GRE: Verbal 166/ Quant 153 / Writing 4.0. 3 Years Experience at Special Ed School working with SLP's daily, 1 Year teaching English abroad.

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I had the same dilemma as I am also an out of field applicant! I got wait listed to my top choice, and  I am not sure that if after I finish my first leveling year in a 3-year program, I could try again and transfer into my top choice's 2-year program. If transferring is not possible, I thought about doing a post-bac and then trying again. I discussed this with multiple people and they all recommended that I accept an offer to a 3-year program no matter what, since it is true that schools that already accepted me could reject me the second time around. 

I only applied to 3-year programs this cycle because I felt more secure knowing that I can finish my entire degree at one school. Your case is a bit different as you have very good stats and only applied to 2 schools, so I feel like you have better prospects of getting into more schools after a post-bac. It is true that you will be in a different pool of applicants once you finish your prereqs, and it might be a tad more competitive. This is something to consider. 

Have you thought about doing a post-bac and then applying to more schools, in areas that are closer to California, or do you only want to apply to UofW's 2-year program afterwards? 

Congratulations on your two acceptances and best of luck to you! :) 

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No, I'd be willing to consider Master's programs as well!  I'd prefer not to move again, and I am particularly interested in UofW's masters program, but I'm open to transferring to another school after completing the Post-Bac.  Mainly I'd just be interested in programs that are (1) Close to California and (2) offer in-state tuition to California residents (UofW's CORE-SLP offers in-state tuition for California residents) and (3) are considered to be a very good program.  UI seems like an amazing program, I just wish it were a bit closer and less expensive (If I get an assistantship I'll get in-state tuition, but there are no guarantees about that).

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Hi @Ari127! I was in a similar position last year (down to the long-distance relationship between Washington and California!) so I thought I'd share my experience. 

In last year's application cycle, I applied and was admitted to only two programs, the University of Washington postbacc and a not-as-fabulous 3-year master's program at a California state school. I was torn between just putting my head down and getting the 3-year degree or using the postbacc as a jumping-off point to get into higher-ranked programs in locations I'd love. Although I could have attended the CSU for a cheaper cost, I wanted to live in Seattle and explore the opportunities that the city could offer me. I knew that I would be kicking myself every day if I didn't take the chance to live in Seattle, so I ultimately ended up flying up north to join the UW postbacc cohort and I haven't regretted it a single day. Since coming to Seattle, I have retaken the GRE, joined a lot of fun clubs, and participated in every single volunteer opportunity I could get my hands on. I also joined a fantastic research lab, which is something that I could not have done if I had chosen the CSU because similar lab positions were not offered there (Iowa, I'm sure, has a ton of amazing labs so this may not apply to you). After a lot of hard work, I was admitted to the UW CoreSLP program, as well as several other competitive schools.

Completing the postbacc and upping my scores made me a much more competitive applicant and provided me with the opportunity to transition to a range of high-ranked programs. Granted, I was not choosing between a postbacc and the University of Iowa, which is a fantastic program, but I'm still very confident that I made the right decision, and it has opened the door to being able to complete the equally amazing Core-SLP program (which also happens to offer me in-state tuition prices)! I realize that a CSU 3-year program doesn't really compare to the University of Iowa's 3-year program, but I noticed that you and I share very similar stats and work experience and I just wanted you to know that you WILL have options if you do decide to complete a postbacc before you reapply. I'm not at all suggesting that you choose the postbacc over Iowa (in fact I would be equally as torn), but just know that you will likely still have plenty of options if you do choose to pursue the postbacc over the 3-year program.

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5 hours ago, Ari127 said:

No, I'd be willing to consider Master's programs as well!  I'd prefer not to move again, and I am particularly interested in UofW's masters program, but I'm open to transferring to another school after completing the Post-Bac.  Mainly I'd just be interested in programs that are (1) Close to California and (2) offer in-state tuition to California residents (UofW's CORE-SLP offers in-state tuition for California residents) and (3) are considered to be a very good program.  UI seems like an amazing program, I just wish it were a bit closer and less expensive (If I get an assistantship I'll get in-state tuition, but there are no guarantees about that).

Although completing a post-bac with UofW doesn't guarantee that they would accept you into their full program afterwards, I definitely think they would look at you favorably. I think that you will have many options if you complete a post-bac and apply to more schools. I completely agree with you about the location as it is a great idea to study close to where you would like to end up. Best of luck to you! 

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As a fellow out-of-field applicant, the post-bac program I did was my application's saving grace. I would highly recommend it if it matches your bigger picture grad school, career, and life goals. If your goal is to get into school now and move along your education and debt doesn't bother you too much, do the 3 year program. If your goal is to reapply to schools and open up more opportunities (either in more desirable locations, from "ranked" programs, or with funding), then do the post-bac. My goals were to pad up my pretty weak CSD resume, get into solid programs, and receive some funding opportunities. I was able to do just that, while working full-time and enjoying the perks of a work/life balance.

Ultimately, a post-bac's strength is that it provides you time... time to develop your resume, time to live life, time to learn about your interests in the field. However, this strength is also a post-bac's weakness... for every year you are spending away from grad school, you are one year further from working as an SLP. There isn't going to be a perfect situation, so you have to pick what's best for you. Below is my personal list of pros and cons from my experience working full-time for 2.5 years while taking post-bac classes part-time for 1.5 years (5 semesters).

Pros of doing my post-bac:
-- learned fundamental CSD material (i.e., it wasn't just a means to get me into school, but it also built up my academic foundation)
-- demonstrated my ability to do well in CSD classes (post-bac GPA 4.0)
-- improved my undergraduate GPA (3.38) to a more competitive overall GPA (3.48)
-- allowed me to work full-time as an RA in an aphasia lab, which not only gave me a salary with insurance and vacation benefits, but it also provided me hundreds of hours of hands-on patient testing experience plus solid LORs that could speak to very specific skills and achievements
-- I took $0 out of savings; I used my company's tuition benefit to pay for the program and some pocket money to pay for books
-- I did an online program, which meant I could do classes on my own time
-- I have life experience between undergrad and grad school... work/life balance is important, and these past 2.5 years being a city yuppie has been the perfect break between my Bachelor's and Master's to refine my life and career goals. I know I will cherish these post-college, city-yuppie years.
-- significantly improved my grad school application results... top programs, funding opportunities, and 7/8 acceptances. I have choices and I will probably graduate with no debt.

Cons:
-- added 3 years before I can actually be an SLP
-- added 3 years before I can make a more comfortable income; I managed to get by just fine with my RA salary, but not having to budget down to pennies will be nice in my future :)
-- it's a hustle; don't let the pro list fool you, if you're going to maximize the potential pros of a post-bac, you are going to have to work hard and use your time wisely. I was the only person in my friend group who was taking classes outside of work, so I had to be organized in planning my study schedule and also disciplined to decline certain social opportunities for the sake of getting As.  My friends understood and would even join me in coffeeshops and read beside me, but it also sucked to have to turn down certain things and stick my nose in a textbook for a Saturday afternoon. There were times when I would be tired from work and the last thing I wanted to do was write a homework assignment.
-- not quite sure if this is a con or not, but I will be one of the older people in my upcoming grad school cohort. I went to an interview day and felt very "old" compared to the other interviewees I met. In the big picture, I'm not that old, but I have aged away from college life. I will graduate at 28 years old as opposed to 25 years old.

Personal advice: 1) not getting in elsewhere... I think a post-bac will only help you; you were able to get into your two programs with your current resume so I don't think a post-bac will hurt your future applications; 2) your love life... If I were you and very seriously wanted to make your bf/gf a life partner, I would forgo or try to minimize the long-distance dating. Why don't you find a job, live by your partner, do an online post-bac program, then reapply to schools and open up your options to more than just these two? I met, dated, and will be marrying my fiance during these post-bac years. I would've rolled my eyes at these words a few years ago, but post-college life has taught me that companionship and love with the right person are valuable and worth it in good balance. In her book "Lean In," Sheryl Sandburg said her partnership with her husband has been a key factor in her successful career and her ability to balance work and family life. If you want to be with the person in CA, then make it happen. Practically, my husband will be able to pay for living expenses while I am in school, and once I graduate we are going to throw my first year's salary at his college debt. Partnership! He doesn't limit my career opportunities; he only supports them. If your love is a true life partner, then I would only recommend holding onto him/her. If not, there are other potential romances in this world, and I wouldn't build your career steps off of this person's location. Best of luck!

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On 3/25/2018 at 10:27 AM, Ari127 said:

Hey everyone!  Looking for some advice.

I'm an out-of-field applicant who hasn't completed any prerequisites.  I've been accepted to the University of Washington's Post-Bac Program and the University of Iowa's 3-Year Master's Program (3 years for out-of-field applicants).  These were the only 2 programs I applied to this year, due to getting a late start on applications (had a natural disaster in my hometown and it completely through me off for a month).

Initially I was set on UI, but I realized that I still wouldn't qualify for in-state tuition after living there for a few years.  So, the cost will be much higher than I'd initially hoped.  Also, I will be in a long-distance relationship with someone in California, and obviously it would be much easier to travel from Seattle.  And, to be frank, I'd really like to live in Seattle.  Even with the higher cost of living, if I did get into the UofW Master's Program, the overall costs would be about equal to UI.  However, I'm worried that if I choose the Post-Bac Program, I may have trouble getting into Master's Programs next year.  It's possible I was just lucky getting in this year, and I certainly don't want to jeopardize my chances for the future by declining an offer for a Master's Program now.  

If you were in this situation, what would you choose?  Has anyone else made a similar decision?

As for my background:  BA in Psychology, 3.79.  GRE: Verbal 166/ Quant 153 / Writing 4.0. 3 Years Experience at Special Ed School working with SLP's daily, 1 Year teaching English abroad.

I'm probably going to overlap with some of the good advice that others have already given, but here are my two cents. I also came to SLP Land from outside the field, so I had to decide between doing a postbac and applying for 3 year masters programs. Initially, 3 year masters programs were the obvious choice, because they come with a guarantee of a masters degree. Very shortly after I started researching those programs, though, I fell in love with a guy who was geographically bound to Seattle. It seemed against "the rules of feminism" (thanks, Gretchen Wieners) to make such an important life choice for a man, no matter how strongly I felt about him. Also, I was 30, divorced, and had been around the block enough to know that not every relationship works out. I felt really torn. It eventually occurred to me that a postbac year would buy me time to see how things unfolded in my personal life, while also allowing me to gain research and volunteer experience (being a total newbie to the field). I reasoned that I'd only have MORE options with a CSD degree under my belt -- the postbac could improve my odds for the UW grad program (in order to stay in Seattle) OR I could apply anywhere else I wanted (including the 2 year versions of the 3 year programs I'd been considering). It seemed like the postbac was a low risk, potentially high reward option... so I chose it.

That said, I'm more than halfway through the postbac, and I can admit that there have been pros and cons. Here are a few I can think of right now:

PROS

1) I formed solid relationships with the faculty. Since I'd been out of school for 7 years and was coming from a totally different field, I wouldn't have had strong LORs without that component.

2) I got research experience that is only available to current students.

3) There were student loans available for at least part of the tuition expenses, vs. presumably paying out of pocket for online courses.

4) I got a solid foundation in CSD. Since I will have clinic clients in my very first semester of grad school this fall, I am super grateful for that. I probably wouldn't have felt prepared for the clinic without the coursework I've taken over the past year.

CONS

1) There is no guarantee of UW grad admission. They definitely give you more consideration as a postbac, but some members of my cohort were waitlisted or straight up not accepted, and that sucks. You only get 2 quarters (~6 months) before your grad application is due, so I felt like I had to be PERFECT the entire time. If you're Type A, it's a relatively competitive, high pressure situation. After I applied, I was stressed out of my mind waiting for my admissions decision. 

2) You'll end up paying for a lot of classes that most schools don't require, especially on the audiology/hearing side of things. Since postbacs pay per credit, it can be very frustrating to consider that you're stuck paying $1700 for a class that isn't required anywhere else, but is required for your degree.

3) It's expensive to be in school full time, and student loans will only cover $12,500 of the tuition cost. If I had known that before I enrolled, I may have decided to keep working and go the online postbac/prereq route. Then again, I would have had to pay everything out of pocket, so... Who knows. I guess my point is, a 3 year grad program may give you more funding options than the postbac does.

 

Regardless of the drawbacks, I'm really glad I did the postbac. I was accepted to the Core program, which means I can keep living with my incredible boyfriend (still head over heels!) here in the Emerald City. It also means in-state tuition, ongoing research opportunities, continued relationships with faculty members, and hopefully the opportunity to make connections that will lead to a future job in the city I intend to continue calling home. It's perfectly acceptable to consider your whole life when you're making a choice like this, and that includes your relationship. (I love love love that 'Lean In' tidbit that @schwastressed shared. I would have lost my mind without my boyfriend's support.)

TL;DR: Personally, I think the postbac is low risk. It will probably only make your application stronger, and it may give you time to see how your long distance relationship unfolds. BUT if the idea of applying for grad schools again next year is going to stress you out, or if you will be haunted by letting go of a sure thing now.... go with the sure thing. 

Edited by SopranoSLP

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Who would have thought that the "Post-Bac vs. Master's Program?" thread would turn into one of the most romantic threads on the SLP forum?

I was in this position, as well, and quickly realized that the 3-year master's program was the best choice for me. SopranoSLP above has already identified the reason why: For post-bac programs, federal student loans are limited, and I would have had to take out private loans to cover the remainder of the cost. The reason this wouldn't have worked for me is because I have decided to repay my loans via the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and only federal loans can be discharged at the end of the service period. Of course, everyone's situation is unique: Another person might use their savings to pay for their post-bac program, or have family to help support them during the program, so loans might be a non-issue for them.

But what I find most touching about all of these responses is the question of how much opportunity to sacrifice for love, or the possibility of love. I'm in my 30s, and agree wholeheartedly with schwastressed:

11 hours ago, schwastressed said:

I would've rolled my eyes at these words a few years ago, but post-college life has taught me that companionship and love with the right person are valuable and worth it in good balance.

I laughed at SopranoSLP's "rules of feminism" comment -- and, granted, the gender dynamics are not quite as loaded in my situation, since I'm gay -- but I have often felt determination, as a woman, to prioritize my education and career, rather than automatically falling into patterns of self-sacrifice. Having said that, if I had a partner right now, or even a new romantic prospect that I had a good feeling about, she would weigh heavily in my decision-making. Obviously, I wouldn't want to turn down a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I'm sure that a truly supportive significant other wouldn't want that for me, either: As schwastressed wisely points out, the right partner ultimately makes it easier, not harder, for us to pursue our goals and become the people we want to be. But if I had two excellent choices in front of me, and one of them gave me room to explore/invest in what might become a lifelong love -- well, I want that for myself someday at least as much as I want a fulfilling professional life. Perhaps more.

In conclusion, congratulations on your acceptance to two outstanding programs! (I hope you've given yourself at least a few days to just bask in the glory of having to decide between the UW post-bac and the Iowa master's.) I don't think you should assume you were just getting lucky this year; I think that you are going to be successful no matter which path you take.

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On March 26, 2018 at 9:42 PM, SLPFall2018 said:

I laughed at SopranoSLP's "rules of feminism" comment -- and, granted, the gender dynamics are not quite as loaded in my situation, since I'm gay -- but I have often felt determination, as a woman, to prioritize my education and career, rather than automatically falling into patterns of self-sacrifice. Having said that, if I had a partner right now, or even a new romantic prospect that I had a good feeling about, she would weigh heavily in my decision-making. Obviously, I wouldn't want to turn down a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I'm sure that a truly supportive significant other wouldn't want that for me, either: As schwastressed wisely points out, the right partner ultimately makes it easier, not harder, for us to pursue our goals and become the people we want to be. But if I had two excellent choices in front of me, and one of them gave me room to explore/invest in what might become a lifelong love -- well, I want that for myself someday at least as much as I want a fulfilling professional life. Perhaps more.

Hahaha I know, I felt the same way too.  We did long-distance once before while I lived abroad in Japan for year, and when the opportunity came for me to potentially re-contract for another year or decide to move back home, I had to seek guidance from my mom about what I should do. I intended to move back because, although I'd had a wonderful time, the distance (and time difference!) was really too much.  But I felt like deciding to move back based almost entirely upon a relationship wasn't the "feminist thing to do".  She was a firm feminist (albeit certainly of a different generation), so I'd assumed she would advise me to prioritize my career and passion for living abroad over my relationship.  But she really surprised me, and said, "You know, popular culture would have you believe that love is something common.  And some people do certainly fall in love more easily than others.  But I've only really loved a few people in my life.   In my experience, love is really quite rare, and valuable."  It made me realize that it's ok sometimes to make decisions based on a relationship, as long as you make sure to also value other aspects of your life.  So I'm trying to balance both - make a good decision about my education, but also try to make a long-distance as easy as possible, because ultimately I'm going to be happier that way!  

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