Making the right impression at graduate and professional school fairs.

While the primary purpose of graduate and professional school fairs is to provide information to prospective students, fairs also provide students a wonderful opportunity to leave a lasting, positive, first impression with a school they may eventually attend. Unfortunately, many students fail to take advantage of that opportunity. Remember, graduate and professional school fairs are not simply an opportunity for you to interview potential schools… they are an opportunity for schools to interview you!

Here are some tips to make sure you make the right impression:

  • Find out which colleges/universities will be attending the fair and research the ones you plan to speak with.
  • Dress appropriately! In most cases, this would mean business casual. However, some fairs suggest interview attire. Make sure to check the fair website in advance.
  • Remember, graduate programs are preparing you for life as a professional. So, you want to make sure the interactions you have with admissions representatives are professional! Make an effort to start conversations by introducing yourself and summarizing your academic/career interests.
  • Be prepared to answer questions the admissions representative might ask, for example:
    • Have you thought about which program you are interested in?
    • What are your academic and/or career goals?
    • What experience do you have in your field of interest (this could be academic or professional experience)?
  • If you are returning to school because you wish to change careers, be prepared to explain why.
  • If you have unique experiences (for example, work, internship or research experience) that are relevant to your intended program of study… mention it!
  • Prepare questions to ask the admissions representative. In addition to admissions requirements, you should ask questions about the program. For example, you may wish to inquire about class size, research opportunities, internship opportunities, student services, career services, etc.
  • Consider bringing business cards (there are many online vendors that make business cards) with your email address and area(s) of interest. This will allow admissions representatives to keep in touch with you and share information based on your interests. If you do not have business cards, ask the representative(s) if you can fill out an information request card so you can keep in touch.

Now that you know how to make the most of graduate and professional school fairs, come out to see us on the road! You can find the Rockefeller on the Road schedule at: http://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/ontheroad.shtml.

The Career Advantages of an Internship

An internship is a great way to earn money, try out new professions, but most importantly develop skills that are integral to your career success.  You probably completed an internship during your undergraduate years, whether it was working on a political campaign, at a law office, or in a business setting.  While the average undergraduate student is usually faced with a mountain of paperwork to copy, fax, or file, a graduate level internship is different – it is professional and it will strongly impact your future career.

When advising students on choosing internships, I urge them to look at an internship as more than a paycheck, but as a strategic career move.  After all, over 20% of the Class of 2013 secured a full-time job after completing an internship at that particular site.  An internship can lead to a job offer, either at that same organization, or at another.  A Class of 2014 MPA graduate just scored a full-time research job at The Brookings Institute directly because of the health policy research he conducted at his academic year internship.  Therefore, it’s important to look carefully at all aspects of an internship before accepting an offer.

In the MPA program, I meet with students in their first semester to discuss how they can gain the skills necessary to succeed in their chosen career path, be it through coursework or through internships.  It’s easy to accept an internship in a familiar area of study, lapsing into old habits, but the truly great internships will propel you forward.  For example, if you are interested in nonprofit advocacy, investigate internships at state agencies where you can see policy implementation in action, which will give you insight into how to advocate for new and better policies in the nonprofit setting.  I always recommend finding a “dream job” posting, and comparing it to your current resume – more than likely, you won’t seem qualified.  However, remember that you have 2 years to revamp your resume and obtain the necessary skills and you’ll be surprised at where you end up!  Enlist the help of professors, classmates, family, and of course, your friendly Director of Career Services!

You’re about to be a senior in college! How to use this summer to prepare for graduate school.

It’s your last summer of college! This is the time to make some money, relax by the pool, and hang out with your friends. Right? Well, only partly right.

If you’re planning to apply for graduate school for the Fall 2015 semester, this summer is also the last opportunity to prepare your graduate application before you are burdened with classes, senior thesis, and all of those wonderful internships and extra-curricular activities. Although studying for the GRE and writing personal statements might not be your idea of the perfect way to spend summer vacation, it’s the best way to ensure that you’ll be prepared to submit your graduate applications on time.

My best piece of advice is to set a schedule. If you set aside an hour a day, or a specific block of time each week, that’s dedicated to application prep, you’ll be in great shape. Just like an exercise regimen, it’s good to have a plan. Maybe you take an hour a day, four days per week, to study for the GRE. One of those days could be dedicated to verbal preparation, two days for quantitative practice questions, and the fourth day to do a practice exam. Whatever works for you is fine, but I suggest that you a set a schedule and stick to it!

I hear from lots of applicants that they “get stuck” on their personal statement because they really don’t know where to start. Brainstorming and outlining your personal statement is a great way to spend your summer break. You don’t necessarily have to write a complete statement by the end of August, but narrowing down topics and refining your professional “vision” will make writing the statement so much easier come autumn!

The good news is that most of your application prep can be done poolside or at a vacation location. So throw that GRE prep book into your beach bag, and get started! Trust me; you’ll thank me in November.

That one thing I really wish I had gotten around to studying…

Do you ever want to smack yourself for not taking advantage of a certain course that was offered during graduate school or while completing your undergraduate degree? (For me, it’s grant writing. What was I thinking not taking that class when my graduate assistantship would have covered it?) Does your job demand a certain skill that you could really use a refresher on? Or are you that person who scans course catalogs online and has a list of courses that you’d take if you could just find the time? (It’s Psychological Economics for this girl. That course just sounds fascinating, and I have a dream that I could use it to manipulate retailers while clothes shopping.)

If you answered YES to one or more of the questions above, have you ever considered taking courses as a “non-degree” student? Most universities — UAlbany included — will allow you to apply for non-degree (or non-matriculated) study in order to take a few courses. At Rockefeller College, we allow accepted non-degree students to enroll in up to 12 credits of graduate coursework over two years. That’s three classes, which can be taken all in one semester, or one at a time over the two-year period.

Why not take one night a week and fulfill your burning desire to learn about nonprofit board governance, or contract management? Applying for non-degree study is a simple, relatively inexpensive process and a great opportunity to get back into the academic swing of things. For more information, please visit http://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/admissions_pad_apply_non.shtml.

Certificates: What Are They Good For?

By: Kara Pangburn, Director of Graduate Recruitment and Admissions

For those of you who have ever wondered what is a graduate certificate, or what it can get you: you are not alone! These are some of the most common questions I encounter during any given week in the admissions office. So here’s my “quickstart guide” to graduate certificate programs at Rockefeller College.

First of all, what’s the difference between a Certificate of Graduate Study and a Certificate of Advanced Study?

Certificate of Graduate Study (CGS) = post-bachelor’s, pre-master’s credential

Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS) = post-master’s, pre-doctoral credential

For admissions purposes, certificates are considered to be degree programs because admitted students are matriculated at the University at Albany and may qualify for federal student loans. Certificate students take graduate courses along with master’s and doctoral degree students. At Rockefeller College, we offer four certificate programs that allow students to take coursework in their area of interest. You can find more information about those certificate programs at http://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/certificate_programs.shtml.

There are generally three categories of students who enroll in our certificate programs:

  • Recent graduates who are considering graduate school and want to “get their feet wet” before applying to a master’s or doctoral program;
  • Students who are currently enrolled in a master’s program and are looking to supplement their education with courses in public administration or public policy;
  • Professionals who want to develop a new skill set in order to advance their career (or change careers).

Let me be clear – earning a certificate (specifically a CGS) doesn’t guarantee the same types of job opportunities as a master’s degree. Certificate programs provide a great opportunity to develop and enhance your professional skills. They are not a silver bullet.

If you think a certificate program would be a good option for you, please consider applying! The deadline to apply for the fall 2014 semester is July 15.

Is it too late to apply for fall?

By: Kara Pangburn, Director of Graduate Recruitment and Admissions

There are many good reasons why applicants wait until the last minute to apply, and I’ve heard more than a few of them:

  • You recently moved for personal or professional reasons, and would like to take advantage of having a quality graduate program in your new backyard.
  • You’ve decided to take advantage of your employer’s tuition benefits.
  • You recently graduated with your bachelor’s degree and realized that the job search is not going as well as you would like – and a graduate degree would help.
  • A major life change has recently occurred (you lost your job, your kids graduated, your spouse changed jobs) which allows you to give graduate school a try.

So, is it too late to apply? And will you make a bad impression if you submit your application at the last minute? The answer is almost always NO to both questions, as long as you move quickly and make sure to cover all bases. It’s not a bad thing to be a late applicant, but it is inadvisable to be an unprepared applicant.

The fall 2014 application deadlines at Rockefeller College are July 1 for the MPA, July 15 for all Certificate programs, and August 1 for non-degree study (in Political Science or Public Administration & Policy). It’s important to note that ALL application materials must be submitted by the deadline, including GRE scores (when applicable) and transcripts. So if you’re thinking about applying for fall, there are a few things you should take care of immediately.

First, order your transcripts! Some schools take several weeks to mail official transcripts, and your application won’t be complete with just the unofficial, downloadable versions. So call or email your undergraduate institution to get your transcripts ordered right away.

Second, consider whether you have time to take the GRE (or GMAT). It takes up to three weeks for official GRE scores to be reported to the University, so the clock is ticking. If you haven’t already taken the GRE, you might want to consider starting your graduate career at Rockefeller College as a non-degree or certificate student. Since these options don’t require the GRE, you’ll give yourself more time to study. Also, think about applying for a GRE waiver if you have five or more years of significant professional work experience.

Finally, remember to submit whatever materials you have as early as possible. Even if you’re waiting on one piece of your application (like your GRE scores or a letter of recommendation), you can – and should! – submit your application right away. That way, we’ll know that you’re applying and can offer our assistance if any problems should arise with your application.

Please visit http://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/admissions.shtml for detailed application information, and don’t hesitate to contact me at kpangburn@albany.edu if you have any questions. Happy applying!

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