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Adjust expectations or what? Higher Education Admin programs


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Hi guys, I was hoping you could all give me some feedback and honest opinions on my chances of getting accepted into higher education administration Master's programs. 

I feel pretty behind on applications and such because I was convinced that I couldn't get in anywhere with my stats, but I figured I would give it a shot.


Current stats:

Senior at WashU.

Major in Human and Organizational Development--Ed. Policy & English

GPA: 3.3-3.4

Summary of Purpose:

Focusing in programs with Student Affairs, specifically admissions and enrollment. I would love to work with low-income communities. 

Relvant Experience:

Worked 2 years at the Undergraduate Admissions Office,

interned at a KIPP charter school working with development and underserved students,

Worked 1 year at the University Disability Services office

Volunteered in low-income communities


Quant: 153

Verbal: 160

Writing: 1st attempt--4; 2nd attempt--possible 5?


Programs of Interest:


Michigan Ann Arbor

Michigan State

Boston College

University of Georgia

U of Pennsylvania


Teachers College

U of Virginia

U of South Carolina

Boston University

University of Washington

Ohio State

William and Mary

U of Mass Amherst


I'm well aware that my scores are just average for many of the indicated programs. I would really love to pursue graduate study right after graduation; however, I'm trying to be realistic and see whether my time would be better spent looking for jobs, at least for the first year.


Please give any advice you have--I would love to hear your honest and informed thoughts! Also, if there additional programs that could be applicable, feel free to suggest them. 


 For those of you who took the GRE again today like I did, Congrats--it's finally over! :) 


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Hi Grace,


I wouldn't worry about your GRE scores and GPA, they are decently sufficient enough to survive the first cut-off to remain in their pool of applicants where they will look at the rest of your application more carefully. That being said, your essay is key, I cannot stress this enough. You need to make sure you make an extremely compelling reason why you're interested in higher education administration, and why you need the degree AND the institution to help achieve your said goals.

I just have one question for you, what exactly is your interest? You say you love working with low-income communities, yet you want to work in higher education administration. Are you trying to increase access and opportunities for low-income students into higher education? If so, are you looking to help those who have already made it into college, or those K-12 students who are trying to apply to college? These are two very different sectors with different approaches to a common goal. So you want to be very specific in your essay what your goals are, and show that you've done your basic research. Your background is also a little scattered in education, which makes it a little difficult to pinpoint where you want to go with this degree (half are K-12/low-income, half are higher ed admin).

Nevertheless, I highly recommend you apply, the worst case scenario would be they'd say "no" and you'd try again another year. There's a lot to learn from the application process/experience on its own. Hopefully the information I provided was a little helpful. If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to ask me! :)

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Hi Hitomimay,


Thanks for the response! I can totally see where your questions are coming from, so I'll try to clarify. Since I would want to work in a university setting, my interest would largely lie in helping low-income, minority students who are already attending college. Various studies show that being accepted into college for students, especially low-income, minority ones, is only part of the climb, and that various supplemental programs and support need to be available to help students actually graduate. Whether my interest lies in admissions or enrollment, I don't necessarily know for sure. Still, Student Affairs should be a large enough scope to cover it? I think my relevant background shows the realizations I made from my transitions and experiences from K-12 to college populations. 


I'll make sure I put a lot of work into the essays! Any advice or tips on tools to use? I recently bought a guide to writing grad school statements book, so hopefully that'll help. 



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Thank you for the clarification. :)

My recommendation for the Statement of Purpose is to free-write. Don't try to force it or structure it just yet, there's always time for it later.

I currently work in Admissions, and it is usually fairly apparent when an essay is "forced", meaning you're trying to make it sound a certain way, rather than a genuine SOP.

Free-writing will give you the ability to write from your heart. I'd try to answer the following questions during this process:

1. What is it about education that frustrates you, and why do you want to impact/change it?

2. What from my personal experiences in education (whether your work/volunteer experiences, or your own education experiences growing up as a student) can you use as examples that demonstrate this frustration?

For instance, when I was teaching in inner-city Detroit, I wrote about how my students didn't identify themselves in careers of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics) because there was no one in their immediate environment that acted as a model/idol for them, and how it became my personal mission to understand HOW students identify with role models so that I can improve upon education programs later. And that's why I wanted to be in such and such program because I wanted to make this impact. Make sense?

I'd also recommend vivid details, a quote that someone said that left a pronounced mark in your mind, things that bring your story/experience to life for the reader.

Let me know if you need anything else. :)


Good luck with the application process,

Best, Jenny

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I would narrow your list down to maybe 5 schools as applying to 15 schools is a bit much this late in the game.  Are you sure you haven't missed any deadlines yet?


In order to narrow - I would look at the required curriculum at each of these schools and make sure that they offer at least one course on college access or equity issues since that is what you are most interested in.  Ideally, I would also look to see whether they offer assistantships/internships in offices that serve low-income students.  Sometimes you can figure this out by looking at where the current students are placed or even better - some programs will post a list of placements for next year but it might be a bit early for this.  I would also think about where you want to live after you graduate at most higher ed programs have better placements in their region (East, Midwest, West, etc) than outside of their region.


As for whether you'll be competitive - hard to say.  Part of that depends upon how competitive the applicant pool is for this upcoming cycle and how popular your interests are compared to everyone else's.  No program wants a cohort of people who all want to work in the same subarea because it is extremely difficult to find advisors or internship/assistantship opportunities for all of those people.  I would spend a good chunk of your time securing great letters of recommendation and writing a stellar SOP.


The good news is since you are interested in admissions - it is relatively easier to find an entry level job working in undergraduate admissions as these positions have a fair amount of turn over.  Right after you finish your applications, I would also start looking for entry level admissions jobs to cover all of your bases.  


Personally, I think you get more out of a higher ed master's program if you have some full-time professional experience under your belt.  You'll get to add more to discussions in class and generally have a more naunced perspective of the field than the people who come straight from undergrad.  You also get to apply to non-entry level jobs when you finish because you'll have experience plus the master's degree.

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Personally, I think you get more out of a higher ed master's program if you have some full-time professional experience under your belt.  You'll get to add more to discussions in class and generally have a more naunced perspective of the field than the people who come straight from undergrad.  You also get to apply to non-entry level jobs when you finish because you'll have experience plus the master's degree.


I concur.  I think delaying grad school for a year or two makes sense for anyone considering a career in higher ed, but especially so in your case given your numbers and your interest in some very competitive programs.


These are practical degree programs; you'll get a lot more out of them if you've actually had full time, post-UG experience.  Plus it will make you much more marketable post-Master's.

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Pursuing jobs post graduation was definitely one of my initial goals. I was looking into careers as an entry-level education consultant or admissions counselor, but proving the benefits of delaying grad school to my parents has been extremely difficult. They think school is always the best option and want me to at least apply to schools..so I'm obliging. I would love to get in, no doubt, but I'm much more realistic and looking to apply to jobs on the side. 

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One school that might be of interest to you is University of Southern California. They have a whole social justice component to their Student Affairs program. When you mentioned an interest in working with low-income individuals, their program came to mind.

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Hi Grace,

Personally, I would suggest that you take the leap and apply if you know the course of study you hope to pursue.

It's always helpful to have previous experience but since graduate assistantships are almost always required in most of the programs you're pursuing, I think it wouldn't do you harm to enter straight in. 


Like what ZeChocMoose said, I would definitely narrow your list a little bit. I started out with 7 schools and ended up narrowing my list down to 3 after really considering the factors of relocation and finances. I tried picturing myself in some of the other areas and couldn't find myself doing it so I only applied to the schools I would really attend if I got accepted.


I wouldn't lose hope over your scores! Remember that a lot of schools are holistic in their approach and they look beyond the numbers on your transcripts and score reports. I would definitely spend a lot of time brainstorming for your personal statement. 

Good luck!

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