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How much will my current degree hurt me?


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I have a rather unique situation (to me anyway). I went to a big out of state school. Double Science degree (180 credit hours), worked throughout undergrad, did clubs, volunteered and did an internship. I graduated with a horrible gpa. Many factors went into it. Family, Financial, and every other type of problem all at once. I graduated into the economic decline, and of course couldnt find a job because I had "too much hands on experience for an entry level job". I spent a few years making my job hunt my job. I only managed to get jobs not related to my fields. So I went back to school. I decided to go into health care. I did my research and spoke with family in the medical field and decided that x-ray was for me. The only rad tech program near me was a 2 year Associates degree program. I began last Fall.

I have realized that to move up within the hierarchy of a radiology department and hospital that I will need a Master's degree. I have maintained a 4.0 in my xray program. I currently have a combined GPA from both BS and AS degree programs of 2.75 (which sucks I know...). I'm class president, SGA president, have a statewide internship, have gotten the last year and a half of school paid for through merit/academic scholarships, and I was chosen to get a trip to Las Vegas for a national conference completely paid for (with a living stipend). I have lead/orgnized multiple philanthropy events for my program. We have done supply drives for domestic abuse shelters to food drives to breast cancer walks. I have spent well over 1000 hours working in urban hospitals which include a Level 1 trauma hospital. I have had exceptional reviews from the hospitals. I took my GRE and got a servicable score. It was higher than both programs that I am applying to require. I have been chosen to be on an advisory panel which meeting each semester with represnetatives from our clinical sites. I was also chosen to meet with SACS representatives when they came for a site visit as part of my college's accreditation renewal process. I have been asked by the head of an EXTREMELEY revered University about an hour and a half away to come talk to their students about all of the awards and accolades that I have received over the last year and a half to encourage them to apply themselves to their field of study outside of the classroom.

Is it possible that my work over the past 2 years, although at a 2 year institution, will help make up for my past at a 4 year college? I won many of my awards and positions over students at big name 4 year schools that have great academic reputations. In my SOP I made sure to highlight my national and state recognition in my current field. It at least shows an upward trend, but I'm scared that ad comms will take one look at the school that I have attended over the last 2 years and scoff at me. I am applying for MPH programs with hospital/healtcare management concentration options. I have already submitted one application that is due May 1 2013. My thought being that getting it in 6 months early will make my application stand out (in a good way). I will be submitting the second application in the next couple of weeks.

So let me have it. Have I done enough to redeem myself? Or do i have some solid rejections in my future?

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Well, first of all, I think you should aim to make your GRE score more than merely "serviceable," especially your quant score. You don't want anything else on your app to be detrimental.

A skillfully written SOP and glowing LORs will go a very long way in a situation like yours. Emphasize that you're currently in a field that you love and that the opportunity for an MPH would mean so much for you personally and professionally. Definitely talk up your research work, experience, and philanthropy! Your SOP should be about your strengths and assets and no more than a quick explanation about your past issues. (I think any mentions of awards are more appropriate for your CV.)

Honestly you sound like a good candidate, possibly even a great one. Experience, passion, and initiative go a long way in public health. Just strengthen what you can and present yourself in the best possible light.

Don't dwell on the past. Focus on the future.

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My GRE is 320. The minimum for one is 290 and the other is 310. I was aiming for 330. I don't know if I want to spend another $200.

Luckily, I have a close friend who was an English major and another that works as an editor for a newspaper. I made them edit my SOPs.

I tried to highlight the good in my SOP. I even mentioned possible research interest. I really want to study nosocomial infection sources within radiology departments. Trust me. You don't want to know where some of the X-ray cassettes have been.

Thanks for the positive thoughts. I'm gonna be worrying until May or later.

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It sounds like you're doing all that you can do, so try not to stress too much.

Are you applying to some competitive and less competitive schools?

As an aside, I used to work for the American College of Radiology (just as a paper-pusher, nothing important). Radiology is a fascinating field.

Edited by midnight streetlight
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If you are just now in a radiology program, and haven't even graduated yet and worked as a radiology tech, why don't you work for a few years first? You are right in assuming that you will need a master's to advance in the hospital's hierarchy, but you will also need work experience. And a lot of MPH programs (especially in healthcare administration) require or recommend work experience. And you certainly won't get a job as a mid-level administrator without experience. If you have solid years of work experience and a solid GPA in your radiology tech program, that should overshadow a low GPA in an unrelated bachelor's.

I really, really encourage you to work for at least two years before pursuing a master's. Public health is my field, btw. But as far as getting in, it's true that MPH programs are as concerned about work/internship experiences and passion for the field as they are about grades. It's a professional degree; they don't just want people who can get As but people who want to change the world and advance public health. Your statement of purpose is going to be important in conveying your passion and your resume of experiences in your AS program are important, too. But you only have one year of those, at the moment, which is why I urge you to consider working for 2-3 years before returning for another degree. You'll be more hireable, then.

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