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MA in Psychology and Education at Columbia or MA in Psychological Research at a State University


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Hey everyone!


I am having a difficult time deciding which MA program is best for me to become a competitive applicant for a PhD program. I had already accepted an offer at a state university in Texas to pursue a MA in psychological research. However, Columbia sent me an email at the end of June with my acceptance into the MA in Psychology and Education Program (Clinical Psychology). Now I am rethinking everything. In the past two years, I have applied to PhD programs but have been rejected and have been told competition is high for the top Clinical Psychology programs in the US. However, having a masters may help me. I graduated with a BA in Psychology and I am part of the McNair Scholar Program. I also have extensive research experience, along with a substantial amount of clinical experience.  Based on what I have read on each program these are my pros and cons for each school:


The state university's psychological research program is brand new and I would be part of the first cohort. I have been hesitant about this but the program seems to be in order and it is based off an old program just with a new name and four new core statistic classes.  I was not given much financial aid (loans :/) but I was given a graduate instructor assistantship to defer some of the tuition/living costs. It is also substantially less expensive than Columbia. I already have a professor with who I will be researching with. She has a grant with the NIMH for the next two years. However, her research interests do not exactly align with mine but she was the closest and she said she can guide me on my own research experiment. Also, the program solely concentrates on its master students since it does not have a PhD program. It is a terminal degree and students are required to write a thesis (which I feel will be beneficial for applying to a PhD program). This program also has four statistic classes that students are required to take and learn different statistic databases. Students can concentrate in a certain subject such as health psychology or industrial social psychology. I am choosing the health psychology track but it was my second choice.


From what I have read about Columbia's program, the master students take classes with the PhD students. This makes me assume that the PhD students will be first priority. Also, I was given all loans for tuition and living expenses. Considering this is a private university and I already have a substantial amount of debt from my BA, this is a huge factor I have to consider. However, I feel that Columbia will have better networking opportunities (especially for PhD programs), along with learning from experts in the field of psychology. Also, having Columbia's name on your CV may be a plus.This program has been around for a long time (unlike the other) as well and seems to be successful in getting students admitted into PhD programs. Columbia also has exactly what I want to study which is a concentration in Child and Family Studies and could enhance my application into clinical psychology programs. On the other hand, research methodology is not built into the curriculum like the state university. I feel like this would be a disadvantage for me when applying for a PhD program. Also, students are required to do a "special project" which could be a lit review, an experiment and etc. I have already done this for the McNair program at my school and have been published. I feel like this would be repetitive. Also students have to find their own fieldwork. I feel like this could go either good or bad considering I will be new to New York. Additionally, this is a 36 credit degree unlike the other which is a 38 credit degree. I have read that you can finish this degree within a year. However, it is not recommended which means I would have to pull out more loans if I stay another year. I am not sure if it is worth the investment but it has always been my dream to attend Columbia and they have exactly what I want to study.


I have a lot more pros and cons but I feel like these are my top. I plan on visiting Columbia to get more information regarding the program and to visit the campus/professors. If anyone has personally been in the program at Columbia, I would greatly appreciate some feedback! Or if you have been in a similar situation, what was your decision and why? Or if you have any feedback that I may be missing that would be great too!


Thank you!


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Other than the money, Columbia seems like a clear winner. And the money from the state university doesn't sound great, just less of a challenge.

You mention that it has always been your dream to attend Columbia and they have exactly what you want to study. I think you know where you want to go and you should go for it.

It's only money, pick Columbia. :)

Fwiw, I'm about to start an expensive second masters when I could have picked a less expensive option. I chose the program that never has funding because it was the one that lined up more closely with my interests and gets me closer to my goals, even through it's going to cost more. While financial stability is important to me, I would prefer to spend more in the short run to get me where I want to be for the future.

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