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Dartmouth MALS

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I looked into this program (and currently live in NH.) It doesn't have a BAD reputation... a fair number of people from good undergrad colleges undertake this program. But, it is not on par with a traditional program. One issue is that it is essentially open-enrollment. Yes, you do have to apply, but the application process is not competitive. There is also no funding for it and it is expensive. There's also less of a sense of comraderie/community to the program - a significant number of people are undertaking it part-time... especially teachers who work on the degree during summers. And it's more student-driven than a traditional program.

I thought pretty seriously about it because I liked the fact that I could design my own program, I can't currently move, and Dartmouth is a better school than UNH, but in the end decided that if I wanted to go that route, I would do the program at the Harvard Extension School. Harvard is significantly less expensive. I used to work there and have taken a bunch of prereqs through HES, and I find that the teaching is high-quality in most classes. (I already have one masters from a top Canadian university, and an undergraduate degree from a top liberal arts college in the US, so I think I have a good basis for evaluation.)

What are your goals? The people I know who did the Dartmouth MALS program were those who wanted academic masters degrees to enhance their existing careers... private school teachers and others in higher education who wanted a "subject" masters, often in addition to their professional masters degrees. I wouldn't shell out the Dartmouth tuition thinking it would get me a job out of thin air, unless I had money to burn. If I wanted to beef up my chances for a PhD program later on, I'd probably do the Harvard program.

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A few years ago this program was not good. I mean, it wasn't BAD. Did you look into the program awhile back, OTgirl? Now, they are recruiting recent grads pretty hard and it is moving toward a traditional MA. I know a few people who are funded. Is that your situation, NW? If that is the case I would go for it.

Not so sure about the HES comparison... MALS is in the Dartmouth GSAS and HES is completely separate from Harvard GSAS. At HES, you have to apply for special status to take Harvard College courses. Dartmouth requires half your courses to be chosen from the college offerings or Tuck, etc. and half grad seminars. There is no online "distance" option at Dartmouth either--maybe there was 10 years ago?

Don't know the reputation with adcoms but Dartmouth has a relatively weak grad program. If you are unfunded that is another story.

Edited by phoenix12
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I looked into it maybe two years ago. It's not exactly the same as HES - true. But many of the HES courses are taught by actual Harvard profs, and a lot of the students there (especially for grad school/med school prereqs and the ALM program) are graduates of top colleges and universities (surprisingly so, actually, and that leads to a pretty good experience.) And yes, there is a distance option (meaning online), although I never considered that (and I'm not sure if it's possible to do 100% distance.) Depending on what you're studying at HES, distance may not be possible at all - many science classes, for example, are on-campus only. And, while as far as I know there is no true "distance option" (again, meaning online) for Dartmouth MALS, it's not usually a full-time residency program, either. Lots of people do the program at a slow pace and do not live in or near Hanover.

Reputation-wise, they seem about the same, despite HES being a separate school within Harvard. I think that fact rests on the fact that neither have very competitive admissions. (HES courses are completely open-enrollment, but to be admitted to a degree program, you must complete a prescribed group of 3 courses with a B or better, so you do have to prove yourself to some degree.) Petersons.com says MALS accepts 67% of applicants, which seems pretty high for a "Dartmouth" graduate program, although the MPH program accepts 83% of applicants! Crazy. I'm rethinking my view of someone I met recently who did the MPH program there.

But MALS/ALM is basically the "back door" way into a lot of schools. They're usually money-making programs, although the better schools do have performance standards and will kick you out if you don't meet certain standards (in contrast to for-profit schools which just take your money no matter how ill-suited you are to the program.)

EDIT: I was just looking at the MALS program, and it looks like the majority of the courses for any track are "MALS courses" which is different from "Dartmouth College" courses. You are required to take a certain number of electives and subject courses, but they may all be "MALS courses" if you so choose. MALS courses are developed just for the MALS program and I don't see any requirement to complete a certain number of Dartmouth College courses. I don't see any information about funding but it is interesting that some students do get funding. I suppose the topic they intend to study matters quite a bit for that. I had originally been looking at this program because I already have one masters degree and have been working as a professional and was interesting in moving to a dramatically different area of study (and wasn't sure how competitive I would be in traditional admissions.)

Edited by OTgirl
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Wow, thanks for the in-depth replies! I have not received funding info yet, but the acceptance email informed that it would come next week in a packet. I am definitely expecting funding and I will keep you posted. From my experience with the department and interviews, MALS seems to have a similar academic structure to a traditional masters program. I was just curious how it measured up reputation wise. I am a little disappointed to hear that the program has such high admit rates, but I don't think the extension school comparison is entirely correct. 2/3 admission vs. 100% is a pretty big difference!

My potential track within MALS would require me to take more than half my classes in relevant departments of the college, like phoenix said. There may be a general track that doesn't have that requirement. I am a little hesitant now that I hear the reputation of the program is not so good (no offense to extension schools!). After I showed initial interest in MALS, I was recruited pretty heavily by the program and I have the impression that D is looking for students who want to publish. Maybe the program is getting stronger... I guess I will just see how funding and my other offers go and make a decision from there. Thanks again for your help everybody!

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  • 2 months later...

Hi, I too am looking at applying for this program. I would like to know how hhard it is to gain admission as I am hearing various stories ranging from acceptance rates to as high as 80% to as low as 10% and that the average GPA of an admitted student is at least 3.5 minimum?

I'm really keen on applying for this program and would appreciate any advice anyone could give on making a strong application to the MALS program at Dartmouth to give me the best possible chance of admission. I really like the look of the course and the environment at Dartmouth and would be thrilled with the chance to study there. Any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you.

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  • 2 months later...

This is a really thoughtful thread regarding the posted question of what is the reputation of the Dartmouth MALS program. Well the following comes from first hand experience - it is only my experience, so I don't speak for everyone.

I completed the program, received scholarship grants but no funding, I have never heard of anyone receiving funding for this program.

The reputation has vastly improved. Grad programs at Dartmouth (aside from Business and Engineering) are all a little marginalized. MALS has gained some credibility, especially from it's early days I've been told, but remains the 'soft' program or weak link in the grad school, depending on your point of view.

To say the MALS program is primarily a waste of time and money would be a criticism perhaps a bit harsh, but not without merit. If you want to relive your undergrad years on a beautiful campus in a beautiful, albeit, saccharin town then this is your vehicle. If time and money are no object this can be a good place to hide out for a while.

The MALS program is definitely what you make it, but there is a lack of community and shared purpose. Particularly the shared purpose part, it's hard to have colleagues who all are independent of each other in focus, ability and future plans. Many fellow students went on to PhD programs, others went to work PT for a book store, and others launched or relaunched careers. I guess it comes with the territory.

My advice is to be very focused and take as many non-MALS courses as possible. There were some great MALS courses, but unfortunately I found a majority of the MALS courses I took ranged from hokey to undiscilined to just plain old waste of time, kind of a 'hobby' or 'extra money' for the instructors. Courses I took outside of MALS, even audited, reminded me why Dartmouth is a top school.

One of the best resources of the program is actually being at Dartmouth - so I would advise to use it as often, in as many ways, as much as possible.

I did learn a lot, and I appreciated the academic atmosphere, and I guess it wasn't a BAD experience, they have a great health plan if you need it. Only I left with a serious case of buyers remorse, and unfortunately, not much to show for it other than more student debt. Would I do it again? Hard to say, it has become part of my journey.
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I was recently accepted into the MALS program and want to make a clear distinction between Harvard Extension (or any other 'Extension School') and that of the MALS program.

First off: MALS is a recognized department within the Dartmouth Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the degree is heralded as fully a Dartmouth Masters Degree, rather than the distinction made by Harvard that the degrees are 'Extension School Masters degrees' separate from Harvard College degrees.

Second: MALS offers the grad student to collaborate with professors from all over the college in multiple areas as deemed fit by the chosen MALS course of study. There is no restriction placed on work or research other than the stipulations of various courses for reasons of degree choice sought. Harvard Extension requires that all HES courses be done ONLY at the HES and not that of Harvard College itself, thereby limiting the educational aspects of HES to be quite different and separate from that of Harvard's graduate school. MALS is not separate from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. One can see clearly in this link that MALS is listed with all the other Masters degrees offered and is on par with them as far as the College is concerned. http://graduate.dartmouth.edu/programs/index.html

Third: MALS offers funding (scholarships etc) for qualified applicants as it does for all Masters programs. Students are provided housing as well as full access to all facilities and benefits of the Graduate School.

MALS students are offered summer programs at Oxford University... need I say more...

After looking around at both domestic and and foreign universities in the UK, It appears that the MALS program attempts to model itself much after the European model of research masters degrees. The European model is more student directed and research based, fostering more of an independent and interdisciplinary yet focused approach to studies. MALS gives the USA student an opportunity (at an Ivy League) to do so in a similar manner while still having the taught elements to satisfy a domestic Masters Degree.

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