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I was wondering if anyone might have some insight...

Last December I applied to a multitude of Student Affairs / HESA / College Student Development Masters Programs (Penn State, Michigan State, VATech, Syracuse, UConn) and was only accepted at three - and I was only accepted to those off the wait-list once they had given all the assistantships away so I was unable to accept their offers (Northeastern, FIU, UMiami).

Come to find out - I thought I had done my research, but guess not - that I applied to top tier programs that get about 300 applications for 10 spots - and I'm honest enough with myself to know that I am not a top tier candidate.

I did mediocre at best on the GRE Math/Verbal - but got a 5.0 on the writing. I Have a 2.99 (undergrad BFA Art- grading is subjective - I don't want to get into it). I also have TONS of experience with Undergraduate/Post-Graduate work in Student Affairs, even within several different aspect of the field (Programming, Multi-Cultural, Service, Greek, Counseling).

I'm hoping that anyone might have some suggestions (or tips of the trade) for me re. my second round of applications to schools that have great/interesting programs that are flying under the radar. I'm not bound geographically to any specific region - I'm just seeking a great opportunity within a great community (with a cohort and opportunity for Assistantships for experience and to help set off the cost of tuition at least a fraction!).

Not that these aren't top tier programs- but, I am now considering (haven't made final decisions - still investigating) the following schools for my next round of applications : North Carolina State U, U of Florida, U of Tennessee, Ohio University, University of Arizona, University of Southern California - I'm open to any and all suggestions, tips, advice, etc.

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I am sorry to hear that you weren't successful in this round of applications.

Based on your school selection, you are applying to a broad range of programs. What do you want to learn about in your program? As higher ed and student affairs programs can be very different from each other, it is helpful to get a general sense of your overarching interests. Do you want to learn about: Student development and counseling? Administration and leadership? Education policy and research?

How are you selecting the schools that you are interested in? I agree that you should look at cost and availability of assistantships, but you also need to evaluate programs by their fit. Some programs are very practitioner's focused, some are very research focused, and the rest are a blend of those two. Do you plan to pursue a PhD in the field? If you do, you might want to evaluate programs differently depending on whether this master's is a terminal degree for you or not. Looking at your school choices, you seem all over the map in terms of program fit.

Once you know what type of program that you are interested in, you can draw up a list and start contacting current students and faculty. They can give you a better sense of what weights they put on the individual pieces of your application. When you said you did mediocre on your GREs, I am not quite sure what score that translates into. Some programs might have minimums for their GREs and undergraduate GPAs. You need to make sure that you meet those otherwise I would advise you to take the GRE again.

I also have TONS of experience with Undergraduate/Post-Graduate work in Student Affairs, even within several different aspect of the field (Programming, Multi-Cultural, Service, Greek, Counseling).

This is good that you have experience. How are you talking about this in your SOP? How are you highlighting this on your resume (assuming the program requires one when you apply)? When you say "TONS," do you mean several years -or- are you talking about while as an undergraduate student? Which is fine (by the way), but you should know that you will be in an application pool with master's applicants that have 1 - 5 years of professional experience.

Not that these aren't top tier programs- but, I am now considering (haven't made final decisions - still investigating) the following schools for my next round of applications : North Carolina State U, U of Florida, U of Tennessee, Ohio University, University of Arizona, University of Southern California -

These programs are all well known to pretty well known for the field of higher ed/student affairs. You might be in fierce competition again. How did you pick them? Are there professors you want to work with there?

I'm open to any and all suggestions, tips, advice, etc.

It seems like I may be a bringer of bad tidings- but I think the take away from my post would be to narrow your focus and decide what type of program that you would like to pursue. I also would talk to student affairs professionals on your undergraduate campus. They may have some great recommendations.

One creative solution I have seen when the applicant didn't have stellar academic credentials is that person took several classes as a non-degree seeking student in the program and did well in the courses. He was able to get to know the faculty and establish himself as a known entity. This was very helpful when he applied and helped mitigate academic concerns. Of course this requires you to be in commuting distance of a program that you are interested in which might not be possible.

I am sorry that I don't have any program recommendations. The programs that I know that are not competitive are not academically rigorous so I would not want to recommend them. (In the long run) the better advice would be to tell you to retool your SOP and resume and talk to the current students and faculty than to look for programs that are not competitive.

Edited by ZeChocMoose
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I greatly appreciate the time that you took to respond to my posting. Honesty is never considered bad-tidings in my book – if I was applying to Law School I would have a plethora of people to help and get advice from, but when it comes to getting a Masters in Student Affairs I have very limited resources – so I appreciate anything, good or bad.

I definitely want to focus more on the College Student Development / Student Affairs side and less on Education Policy & Research (not that it isn’t interesting – it’s just not something I would like to focus on…) Previously, I had chosen schools that had a cohort, seemed interesting Geographically – and because I went to a small/medium sized undergraduate university I was seeking a degree at a Larger school.

I thought I was choosing more practitioner focused programs. One of the weaknesses that I felt in undergrad was the lack of real world application / availability of internships – so to attend a program where I can have an assistantship or practicum and then be able to apply those experiences in my classes is at the top of my “wish list”. Also, after speaking to Student Affairs professions in my life (previous GA’s / Advisers) I really want to comradery and community that a cohort involves.

At this moment in time, I really don’t see myself perusing a PhD – maybe after years of experience – but I’m seeking this Masters to really get my career started – so I don’t know that I would pursue a PhD – it’s somewhat of a non-issue now. I would guess that I’m all over the map because I got blindsided by my last round of applications and I guess I’m grabbing at straws (which I know isn’t good) – but how many times can I apply and be rejected from the same programs? I am re-taking my GRE’s in October and am in the process of a SOP revamp.

My experience is 4 years of undergrad and then 2 years of professional work experience within a well-respected university. So I have confidence in their ability to see through my resume that I am passionate about the work. I have a 3.0 from undergrad – do you think they look at my gpa as low and think that because of my resume that I stretch myself to thin? Could that ever be perceived as a negative?

It’s not that I’m seeking a non-competitive program – if I was, I would just enroll online at Kaplan. I definitely want to get an education, not just a piece of paper. I’m hoping to gain an experience along with that education, including one that will broaden my horizons and really give me experience to help me land a job when I graduate. Again, I picked the programs I listed because they seem to have an interesting program that sounded appealing to me; I looked at acceptance rate and job placement rate, assistantships and cohort models – also geographic location.

Anyway – I guess all I can do is keep trying – and I greatly appreciate the advice.

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