Surviving Graduate School Part Time


Von Pittman

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  • Graduate Survival Skills

    Series Editor

    Bruce A. Thyer, Ph.D.

    Research Professor of Social Work

    University of Georgia

    The volumes in this series attempt to demystify the process of earning a graduate degree. They seek to meet the need among young scholars for insights into the workings of graduate schools, from the application and admissions process through finding an academic job.

    This series is targeted at readers interested in strategies for improving their experience in and with graduate school. The authors of the books come from a variety of academic disciplines, and a variety of career stages.

    We invite ideas for future books in this series. Possible topics include:

    Getting into Graduate School, Financing Your Graduate Education, Completing Your Dissertation or Thesis, Working with Your Major Professor or Advisory Committee, Maintaining a Rewarding Personal Life as a Graduate Student, and Handling Difficult or Sensitive Situations While in Graduate School.

    We encourage authors from all academic disciplines, and at any career stage. Potential authors can submit formal proposals (along with a current c.v.) for individual titles to the Series Editor.


    View Copyright Page

    Series Editor's Introduction

    Thy school-days frightful, desperate, wild and furious

    —Shakespeare, Richard III

    Preparing the preface for a book (or a series of books) is an enjoyable experience for an editor since it signifies that the project is virtually completed. This particular preface has a practical significance as well, in that we hope that the volumes comprising Graduate Survival Skills will help smooth the path of graduate education for those contemplating such a move. Entry into, and successfully completing, graduate school can be an intimidating undertaking. Many, too many, talented individuals do not even begin the journey, and the attrition rate amongst those enrolled is quite high. This represents an enormous waste of one of the world's most precious resources, human intellect.

    Using a variety of disciplinary websites, word-of-mouth, and personal solicitation, a number of talented authors were recruited to prepare the initial titles in the series. After discussion with these various authors and a thorough review of their proposals, a total of six titles have been recruited for the series. In no order of precedence, these are An African American Student's Guide to Graduate School, The Women's Guide to Graduate School, Completing Graduate School Long Distance, Surviving Graduate School Part-time, and Finding Your First Academic Job After Graduate School. In development is The International Student's Guide to Graduate School.

    Obviously, several titles are focused on particular student groups, while others on specialized aspects of the graduate school experience. About half of all graduate students in the United States now attend on a part-time basis. Many commute long distances or attend “class” utilizing various technological aids, such as interactive television, videotaped lectures, or electronic mail. Such pedagogical approaches pose their own strengths and limitations, and it is worthwhile to examine these in some detail. The volume on finding your first academic job is focused on those graduate students seeking careers in the college and university environment, a sizable proportion. There is no course titled “Finding a Job” in most graduate departments and professional schools, and we aim to meet the need for such a resource.

    It has been two decades since I began my own graduate studies here at the University of Georgia, with five intervening years at the University of Michigan (PhD student and then an instructor), three at Florida State University (Assistant then Associate Professor), and ten here back at Georgia, eventually being promoted to Professor. The whole time I have remained in intimate contact with the graduate school experience and now regularly produce my “own” PhDs. These experiences, not unlike those of thousands of my contemporary faculty colleagues, have made me increasingly sensitive to the needs of graduate students, their personal, financial, and academic trials and tribulations. My hope, shared with those of the volume's authors, is to diminish the uncertainty of graduate school a little, to encourage qualified undergraduates and nontraditional students to seriously consider entry into graduate or professional school, and to do well once admitted.

    Depending upon readers’ responses to these initial volumes, additional titles may be added to the series. Suggestions of topics and potential authors are welcome and may be addressed to me.

    BruceA.ThyerThe University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia


    If you are a working adult considering attending graduate school on a part-time basis, you probably want or need an advanced degree as a professional credential. It is far less likely that you want to become a professional academic or researcher. You may need a master's degree in education to maintain your teaching license, pass a salary barrier, or qualify for an administrative position. Perhaps you work for an industrial or commercial firm and have noticed that those of your colleagues who are advancing are the ones who have earned a master's in business administration (MBA) or perhaps a master's degree in engineering, agriculture, or computer science.

    If you are a nurse, social worker, management-level municipal worker, or career military officer, you may have either decided, or been informed, that an advanced degree is a necessity—or at least a highly desirable asset—for advancement to the next career level. Your employer may encourage you to seek an advanced degree or perhaps may require you to do so—at least if you want a promotion.

    If you are like most working adults, it probably seems as if the topic of graduate school could not have come at a worse time. You are probably already working long hours to establish your career. It is likely that you have a young family. You have almost certainly made major financial commitments, such as a home and automobile. And you may still be paying off your undergraduate student loan. In the face of such obstacles, undertaking a long-term commitment that will inevitably require the expenditure of great amounts of time, energy, emotion, and usually money can seem daunting at best, forbidding at worst.

    Whether you are on the cusp of a decision about whether to enter a graduate program or have already decided to do so, this book is intended to provide you with some useful information, some advice, and a few shortcuts. At the very least, you should learn that you are not alone.

    In nearly 20 years of service in the divisions of continuing education of three major state universities, I have enjoyed working with a variety of academic departments, professional schools, and colleges to develop accessible graduate programs for part-time students, mainly working adults. Whether in engineering or education, social work or nursing, I have encountered deans, department chairs, and professors who feel an obligation to advance their disciplines by providing advanced training to working professionals. And virtually all of these faculty members have come to appreciate and enjoy the contact with their “real world” counterparts.

    The adult students I have encountered have also been impressive. Most of them bring not only commitment and a seriousness of purpose to the classroom but expertise and savvy as well. They teach each other and the faculty. Although it is obvious that they have altered the demographics of graduate study, in the areas in which they have entered in great numbers, they have also changed its essential nature—for the better.

    I have tried to write in an informal, conversational style. In addition, I have written frankly and sometimes irreverently about how universities and their graduate programs work. I hope that neither of these choices will offend. Like all institutions devised and run by humans, universities have their share of failings and foibles. And they have resisted change more successfully than most. Overall, however, most do their jobs very well. Actually, I have always enjoyed working for universities and still consider it a privilege.

    This book will begin with some background on the development of graduate school as a part-time phenomenon and the changing nature of graduate degrees, especially at the master's level. It will offer some thoughts on such practical matters as examining your choice of schools and programs, coping with the bureaucracy of universities, and financing your studies. It will also examine the possibilities of extending your access to graduate study through programs offered via several nontraditional formats, generically known as “distance education.”

    Last, this book will offer some highly subjective thoughts on being a working professional and a grad student simultaneously. Remember as you consider a graduate degree, lesser people than you have earned them while working at full-time jobs and—believe it or not—so have busier people. And most of them have survived as reasonable human beings. Advanced study taken while working and maintaining other commitments is never easy, but it is almost always worthwhile.

    Many faculty, administrators, and student colleagues at The University of Iowa and around the country have provided information, perspective, and advice. I sincerely appreciate their help. In particular, Rachel Imes, a graduate assistant from Iowa's College of Education, did outstanding work in improving this manuscript.

    I would like to dedicate this book to my wife, Joyce Zeller Pittman. Her support and interest over the course of this project have made all the difference.

  • Appendix A: Regional and Specialized Accrediting Agencies

    Regional Accrediting Associations

    Middle States Association of College and Schools

    3624 Market Street

    Philadelphia, PA 19104-2680

    Ph: 215-662-5606

    Fax: 215-662-5501

    New England Association of Schools and Colleges

    209 Burlington Road

    Bedford, MA 01730-1433

    Ph: 617-271-0022

    Fax: 617-271-0950

    North Central Association of Colleges and Schools

    159 North Dearborn Street

    Chicago, IL 60601

    Ph: 312-263-0456, 1-800-621-7440

    Fax: 312-263-7462

    Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges

    Boise State University

    1910 University Drive

    Boise, ID 83725

    Ph: 208-334-3226

    Fax: 208-334-3228

    Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

    1866 Southern Lane

    Decatur, GA 30033-4097

    Ph: 404-679-4500, 1-800-248-7701

    Fax: 404-679-4558

    Western Association of Schools and Colleges

    533 Airport Boulevard

    Suite 200

    Burlingame, CA 94010

    Ph: 415-375-7711

    Fax: 415-375-7790

    Selected Specialized Accrediting Agencies and Higher Education

    Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology

    345 East 47th Street

    New York, NY 10017


    Accreditation Bureau of Health Education Schools

    Oak Manor Office

    29089 US-20 West

    Elkhart, IN 46514


    Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications

    Accrediting Committee

    University of Kansas

    School of Journalism

    Lawrence, KS 66045


    American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business

    Accreditation Council

    605 Old Ballas Road, Suite 200

    Saint Louis, MO 63141-7077


    American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education

    One Dupont Circle, NW

    Suite 610

    Washington, DC 20036-2412


    American Library Association

    Committee on Accreditation

    50 Huron Street

    Chicago, IL 60611


    American Society for Engineering Education

    Eleven Dupont Circle, NW

    Suite 200

    Washington, DC 20036


    Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs

    7007 College Boulevard, Suite 420

    Overland Park, Kansas 66211

    Ph: 913-339-9356

    Fax: 913-339-6226

    Association of University Programs in Health Administration

    1911 North Fort Myer Drive

    Suite 503

    Arlington, VA 22209


    Computing Sciences Accreditation Board, Inc. (CSAB)

    Computer Science Accreditation Commission

    Two Landmark Square, Suite 209

    Stamford, CT 06901


    Council on Education for Public Health

    1015 15th Street, NW

    Suite 403

    Washington, DC 20005


    Council on Social Work Education

    1600 Duke Street

    Suite 300

    Alexandria, VA 22314


    National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education

    2010 Massachusetts Avenue NW

    Suite 200

    Washington, DC 20036-1023


    National League for Nursing

    350 Hudson Street

    New York, NY 10014


    Social Science Education Consortium

    3300 Mitchell Lane, Suite 240

    Boulder, CO 80301


    Appendix B: Council of Graduate Schools Guidelines

    Academic Guidelines Policy Statement, Council of Graduate Schools, May 1989. The Council of Graduate Schools recommends the following guidelines for establishing and maintaining effective, high quality, off-campus graduate programs.

    • The offering of off-campus programs should be consistent with the dynamic nature of the institution. This may include meeting the educational needs of the surrounding community, serving a specific professional population, or furthering advanced teaching and research in the most effective location.
    • Graduate degrees should be offered only in areas where academic strengths already exist on campus and where the institution can provide adequate support in cognate areas.
    • Proposals for new or revised off-campus programs should be approved through the institution's existing curriculum or program review process, which should include a thorough evaluation by the graduate dean. Standards for off-campus programs should be commensurate with those of on-campus offerings, with an equally stringent, regular evaluation process.
    • Before deciding to offer an off-campus graduate program, the institution should conduct a thorough assessment including societal need, relevance to the mission of the institution; academic and administrative impact on the main campus; student demand, fiscal viability, geographical competition; faculty interest and availability, and the availability of adequate facilities and educational resources.
    • Admission criteria should be the same as those used by the institution for its on-campus programs. Degree-seeking students should demonstrate high academic attainment at the undergraduate level, knowledge of subject matter prerequisite to their graduate education, and a potential for the successful pursuit of graduate study.
    • Whenever possible, off-campus programs and courses should be taught by regular full-time faculty, preferably as a part of their assigned teaching load. Adjunct faculty should be used only when regular faculty are not available or when they possess particular knowledge or expertise.
    • While sharing the same academic standards as on-campus programs, off-campus programs should be sensitive to the specific characteristics of the target student population, e.g., the need to schedule classes around work assignments, the usefulness of remote telecommunications, and student interest in specific academic topics or practical applications.
    • Off-campus graduate programs require especially careful academic advisement, delivered at sites and times convenient to students. Academic advisors should be assigned to all students at the time of admission and should meet with students regularly. Students with a particular academic interest should be linked with faculty with similar interests. Advisors should also keep close contact with on-campus offices for any changes or clarifications in policy or degree requirements.
    • Special efforts should be made to insure that library, computer, and other academic resources are adequate and easily accessible. This may involve 1) establishing specialized libraries and computer labs at the off-campus site; 2) making formal agreements with nearby public, private, or university libraries or computer facilities for special use by these students; and 3) providing students with on-line access to bibliographical search services and inter-library loan programs, as well as electronic links to campus computer facilities. In most cases, a combination of these approaches is necessary to provide the intellectual resources needed for graduate study.

    Appendix C: GRE and GMAT Preparation Aids

    Selected Gre Preparation Aids

    Brownstein, S. C, Weiner, M., & Green, S. W. (1994). Barron's: How to prepare for the GRE (11th ed.). Hauppauge, NY: Barron's.

    Burgess, P. S., Rozmiarek, E. J., & Weinfeld, M. (1996). Peterson's GRE success. Princeton, NJ: Peterson's.

    Educational Testing Service. (1996). GRE: Practicing to take the general test (9th ed.). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

    Martinson, T. H. (1995). Arco: GRE supercourse. New York: Macmillan.

    Robinson, A., & Katzman, J. (1996). The Princeton review: Cracking the GRE (1997 ed.). New York: Random House.

    Vlk, S. (1996). The GRE for dummies (2nd ed.). Foster City, CA: IDG.

    Ordering Information

    For information about the GRE, write to:

    Graduate Record Examinations

    Educational Testing Service

    P.O. Box 6000

    Princeton, NJ 08541-6000

    Ask for a free copy of the General Test Descriptive Booklet. (This is also usually available through a university's Graduate School and Office of Career Planning and Placement.)

    Selected GMAT Preparation Aids

    Baron, B., & Downey, E., et al. (1996). Kaplan: GMAT all-in-one. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell.

    Behrens, S. J., Gandhi-Schwatlo, N., & Kirle, B., et al. (1996). Peterson's: GMAT success. Princeton, NJ: Peterson's.

    Martz, G., Katzman, J., & Robinson, A. (1996). The Princeton review: Cracking the GMAT. New York: Random House.

    For information about the GMAT, write to:

    GMAT Test Administration Service

    Educational Testing Service, 21V

    Princeton, NJ 08541

    Fax: 609-520-1092

    Appendix D: Financial Aid Sources

    Cassidy, D. J. (1995). Dan Cassidy's worldwide graduate scholarship directory (4th ed.). Franklin Lakes, NJ: Career Press.

    Leider, R. (1985). Lovejoy's guide to financial aid. New York: Monarch.

    McWade, P. (1993). Financing graduate school: How to get the money you need for your graduate school education. Princeton, NJ: Peterson's Guides.

    Peterson's guide for grants for graduate and postdoctoral study. (1995). Princeton, NJ: Peterson's.

    Schlacter, G. A. (1987). How to find out about financial aid: A guide to over 700 directories listing scholarships, fellowships, loans, grants, awards, internships. Los Angeles: Reference Service Press.

    World Wide Web Sites

    Mark Kantrowitz's Comprehensive Financial Aid Information Website. (also call 1-800-4-fed-aid)

    About the Author

    Von Pittman is Director of the Center for Independent Study at the University of Missouri-Columbia, a position he accepted as this book was being published. Previously, he was Associate Dean of Continuing Education at the University of Iowa. He has developed and administered degree programs for working adults and other part-time students, both on and off campus, for nearly two decades, at four major state universities. A member of the graduate faculties in the colleges of education at the Universities of Iowa and Missouri, he regularly teaches courses in the fields of continuing education and distance education. He has published numerous articles and book chapters on the subjects of adult students, teaching at a distance, and the history of continuing education.

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