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Higher Education Master's decision questions-- send help!

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Hi there :) I applied to higher education/student affairs/college student development programs for Fall 2012 and was hoping for some advice/anecdotal information on the programs I applied to. So far, I weigh in as follows:

Accepted: Loyola University Chicago, Northwestern University

Waitlisted: Iowa State University

Rejected: University of Connecticut

Waiting: Columbia University, DePaul University

  1. I want a program that focuses on research, since I want to eventually get my doctorate in Media Studies and Women's Studies. I really like the field of student affairs in general, and I'm hoping that working in this field for awhile will better help inform my future research. I know that getting a doctorate in this isn't practical ATM (I graduated from college in June 2011 and feel like I need more RL experience first), so I figured I'd bulk up my resumé while still staying in the higher ed field :) Hopefully it's not too difficult to transition from higher ed/student affairs into academic research...? :\
  2. I spent a lot of time doing research in undergrad (I was a Gender Studies and Psych major, History minor, so both humanities and soc sci), but I wasn't really thinking about going into higher ed until after I graduated. I have experience in clinical psychology since I did an internship working with clients, if that kind of helps? I was planning on doing a Ph.D/master's in counseling/clinical, but I changed my mind.

    Anyway! tl;dr-- I need more practical experience. Like, period. I think that the universities I've gotten into and am waiting on emphasize practicum in various degrees, but should I try going into a program that really emphasizes practicum to make up for my kind of lackluster background? I was never an RA or did much of anything in student affairs, to be honest :/
  3. I'm more interested in the advising/counseling/etc. side of things, generally. I also have a pretty big background in social justice (dream job = professional activist academic), aside from the Gender Studies major. Working in social justice is pretty important to me, so I like programs (i.e., Loyola) that integrate that. But would it be an easy facet to integrate at any program, anyway...?
  4. If you could elucidate a little on these programs in any way, that would be totally awesome! I'll be attending open houses/information sessions, etc. this month. But as important as sitting in on classes, talking to current students, etc. is, I like to hear what other people think of the programs and what its reputation is and all that jazz, since it's important, too.

I'm not really sure what exactly I'm asking, but mostly some help in unpacking what I want in comparison to the programs I was accepted at/am waiting on...? Thanks again! xo

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I am going to be honest-- from what you wrote, I would suggest not to enter a higher ed master's program especially since it sounds like your real academic interests are in a different field. It is not quite clear to me how pursuing a master's program in higher ed will be helpful to your interest in Media Studies and Women's Studies. You might be able to take a class in women in higher ed (assuming that your program offers it), but that is only one class out of many that you will have to take.

Based on my experiences from people that have master's in higher ed and then tried to switch to other academic fields, they encountered some roadblocks along the way. The ones that were successful were the people that could clearly articulate how the higher ed master's degree was helpful to their new academic field and they also sought research experiences in this new field to strengthen their candidacy. If you are hoping that you will gain enough research exp in a higher ed master's program that usually isn't the case as most higher ed master's programs are not designed for students to gain research exp instead they are designed for students to gain enough practical experience in the field to get jobs in student affairs/higher ed after graduation.

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Initially, I avoided this thread because the OP's interests were all over the place, making the original post very difficult to follow. OP likes advising/counseling students, but later on discusses their passion for new media and women's studies. Although OP seeks practical experience, OP also desires more research experience. I get the sense that the OP could have pursued a master's degree in journalism (new media track), master of liberal arts (gender studies track), or master of social work (very social justice-oriented)! If the OP is not interested in how higher education is structured, governed, financed, and managed, then I don't see how the master's degree in higher education is a good fit for the OP's goals.The OP will gain exposure to the individual, institutional and societal aspects of higher education.

Nevertheless, I knew several social work classmates who earned a graduate certificate in women's and gender studies (I also have a MSW). A graduate certificate is typically 15 credit hours (5 credits on the quarter system). When the MSW students applied, they made a compelling case on how the women's and gender studies certificate would further enhance their social work concentrations. The good news is both Northwestern University and Loyola University Chicago offer graduate certificates in women's and gender studies. The downside is the graduate certificate will use up all of your electives in your master's program. A higher education master's student with a women's and gender studies graduate certificate typically focuses on gender issues in higher education. OP, is this what you want?

Edited by michigan girl
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