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unused credits after master's degree- do you decide which ones?


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I have a quick question regarding general policies for unused credits in master's program. If you enter a program requiring a certain number of credits for a degree and you go over the amount, do you decide credits you wish to apply to the degree requirements (assuming requirements are met) and which ones become unused credits that you are able to later transfer into a different program?

For example, if I enter a program requiring 30 credits and go over by six credit hours, is it the general rule for all universities that excess credits are transferable? And does the student decide what credits will apply and which ones will be excess credits? (again, as long as all the degree requirements are followed)

In my case, I may pursue a second master's at a different university after the first one. However, I will be able to earn some additional credits at the first university. All the courses I take will qualify for the degree requirements but I will likely have extra ones that I wish to use for a second degree elsewhere.

Before you ask, I am sending out applications at this stage and would like to find out the general rule. I assume that if you have a program requiring 30 hours and you earn 36 or 40 that universities will allow you to decide which ones are excess (assuming all requirements are met) and the additional ones will separate from the degree requirements on your transcript but wanted to make sure.

Thanks

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I don't think there is a "general rule" that applies to all universities in all cases. My best guess is that if you have more credits than necessary, you may be able to choose which credits *among the relevant ones* to use towards the degree, assuming that there may also be some additional requirements beyond just ABC total credits, like X credits in foundational courses, Y credits in seminars, etc. (But no promises). I think you might also want to examine your assumption that another program will agree to accept transfer credits. This may be true or may not (e.g. in my PhD program, it was not, but I know other programs where that might be possible), and it may additionally depend on the nature of the courses. For example, some programs may require that you take the intro courses, or the methods courses, or the professionalization seminar, there, regardless of whether you've taken something similar elsewhere.

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Fuzzylogician,

Thanks for the quick response. Having another institution accept transfer credit is not the issue.

I'm only trying to find out if universities list graduate courses beyond the degree requirements separately on transcripts (indicating they were not applied toward the degree) and whether students decide what credits will be marked as excess on the transcript- if it does not matter in terms of the requirements.

** Perhaps someone who has completed a master's degree recently with more courses than required could let me know if excess courses are listed separately on the transcript as not having been applied to the degree.

Thanks again!

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11 minutes ago, PaulRR said:

** Perhaps someone who has completed a master's degree recently with more courses than required could let me know if excess courses are listed separately on the transcript as not having been applied to the degree.

Suppose someone has had this experience and could tell you how this worked at their school. How would this possibly help you, since you in all likelihood will attend a different school in a different field? The best anyone can tell you when you ask such general questions is that it depends, and likely this or that might happen. If it were me, I would stop worrying about what-ifs because there are no guarantees anyone can give you now, and I'd ask explicit questions of actual people when you have some concrete offers. Again, guessing here, even if courses aren't listed in your transcript as you need them (which I would bet they might not be), it shouldn't be hard to get a letter from your DGS/program administrator/registrar stating that courses X, Y and Z counted toward your degree, while courses A and B did not. You'd then take that to your (as of yet non-existent) PhD institution, and they will decide what to do with that information. 

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4 minutes ago, PaulRR said:

I'm only trying to find out if universities list graduate courses beyond the degree requirements separately on transcripts (indicating they were not applied toward the degree) and whether students decide what credits will be marked as excess on the transcript- if it does not matter in terms of the requirements.

No, as far as I know, this is not how degree requirements nor transcripts work. This is a better question for your registrar. However, they aren't usually in the business of caring about exactly which courses count towards what requirement, just that they are all met.

When entering direct-entry PhD programs with a Masters degree, some schools allowed me to count my Masters credits towards my PhD. They didn't care which ones I used towards my degree requirements, the big picture is that I have X credits from this program, which reduced my elective requirement in my PhD by Y credits. In a sense, you are just going to be transferring "general" credits.

So, if you start your new Masters program, and you have completed 36 credits in your last program (30 required), what's likely to happen is that you'll just have 6 elective credits reduced in your new program requirement. ((Note: This is assuming that the new school is happy to take credits from the old school, since you said that wasn't an issue)). 

In cases like this (and in my Masters case above), whether the specific credits count depends on the new school. Sometimes, they will see that I took "Intro to X" grad course so that in my new program, they replace the "Intro to X" requirement with the "Intermediate X" requirement since there's no point with me taking the same course twice. In other cases, they say that the two courses are too dissimilar, so I have to retake "Intro to X" again at the new school. It will all happen on a case-by-case basis.

P.S. Again, assuming you already checked this out with the new school, but just a heads-up. Many universities do not want to admit you into a graduate program where you already have a similar graduate degree (e.g. a second masters in the same field). So, assuming you are changing fields, then the specific courses you took won't really matter as much, hopefully!

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TakeruK,

You get the award for the best answer! Thanks so much for the response. I'm just applying at this point so there is no specific school (otherwise I would call instead of posting) and it would be in a different field but the credits would still apply. So there's no issue with transferring or applying for a second degree elsewhere, but I just want to find whether credits beyond the master's requirements are listed separately on a transcript- and you indicate they are NOT listed separately on transcripts. So if I earn 40 credits for a program requiring 30, there's no way for anyone to tell which ones went toward the degree and which ones are not applied.

If anyone else has a different experience, please post.

Thanks again, TakeruK.

 

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3 minutes ago, PaulRR said:

I'm just applying at this point so there is no specific school (otherwise I would call instead of posting) and it would be in a different field but the credits would still apply. So there's no issue with transferring or applying for a second degree elsewhere, but I just want to find whether credits beyond the master's requirements are listed separately on a transcript- and you indicate they are NOT listed separately on transcripts. So if I earn 40 credits for a program requiring 30, there's no way for anyone to tell which ones went toward the degree and which ones are not applied.

Maybe there is something special about your field, but I'm a little confused by how you can be so confident that the credits will apply yet you don't know the schools you're applying to yet. (For example, if you are applying to the school I'm currently at, your credits will certainly not apply because our school has a general rule to not accept any transfer credits. The cases above were from PhD schools that considered my Masters credits were schools that I ended up not attending). However, if this is because of some special situation, no need to explain here. Just doing due diligence to qualify my answer.

And in the same idea of "due diligence", my experience shows me that transcripts do not indicate which credits are "excess" but this doesn't mean that your specific school won't do this. Perhaps calling the registrar of your current school (the one that will issue your transcript) can settle what your transcript will show though (or just ordering a transcript and opening it).

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Sorry I wasn't clear. I'm not in a program yet and am applying to my initial program. Thanks again. I really appreciate the time you took to answer and you have many good points.

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I agree with most of the responses here. How your credits appear on your transcripts are highly dependent on the school you're attending and if excess units will apply to a new degree is highly dependent on that school and program. I finished undergrad with excess units and will also finish my M.A. with excess units, but I have no expectation that my school will separate the credits that don't apply to my degree nor do I expect a school to accept them toward my new degree (if I get into a new program). I happened to go to the same school for undergrad and grad (though with a 3 year break in between) and my excess undergrad units didn't apply to my M.A.

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