Friday, July 19, 2013

[ADMISSIONS EXPERT] Ms. Kimberly Johnson - Choosing Between a Masters or PhD Degree

1. Could you also explain to us what some of the good reasons for going to graduate school might be and also explain the difference between a Master’s Degree and a Ph.D.? 

Good reasons for getting a graduate degree are, getting a bachelor’s degree is much more accessible today so having a masters or Ph.D. degree can provide you with a competitive edge. It can also help advance your opportunities and expand your current training while focusing in a specific field.

Some of the reasons why you may want to pursue a MASTER’S DEGREE are:
  1. Investment will provide you the skills, knowledge, and abilities to further your career 
  2. Solid foundation in a specialized field
  3. More versatile than a PhD
    • variety of courses in shorter time period
    • can give you breadth and not necessarily depth
  4. Coursework required and possibility of thesis or non-thesis
Some of the reasons why you may want to pursue a PH.D. DEGREE are: 
  1. Very focused, specialized experience and research (You will be the expert in that field!) 
  2. Plan to work in highly competitive field and need the highest level of training
  3. Desire intensive research training and completing dissertation in specialized field
Finally, don’t go for a Ph.D. because you think it is prestigious. Remember that based on your field of interest and country of origin a masters may be the farthest you need to go.

2. Can you tell us what the admissions requirements to apply for a graduate program in the U.S. are and how applications are weighed? 

First, you want to start preparing for your application about six months prior to enrollment. Ideally taking about 1-2 years to prepare is recommended.

As for how applications are weighted by the requirements, every program looks at it differently. But if I were to weigh an application starting from the most to least importance:
  1.  Academic foundation has to match the field you plan to pursue 
  2. Grades of courses that match the field you’re applying to
  3. Your overall ending Grade Point Average (GPA)
  4. Research Experience 
  5. Statement of Purpose/Personal Statement
  6. Letters of reference/Recommendation letters
  7. Test Scores

3. What is the difference between a Personal Statement vs. Statement of Purpose? What top personal characteristics or traits do admissions officers look for in applicants?

Terminology is different for each university. Generally, a personal statement explores a variety of components but ultimately shows who you are as a person and student. A statement of purpose is a statement of your research goals and aspirations with this degree.

Some tips for writing your personal statement are, don’t make it chronological. For example, avoid telling your life story with “when I was five years old _____ happened and then when I was 15, and etc..” Instead, choose one major impact in your life and how it relates to who you are today and your goals. Long term extracurricular activities that show leadership and commitment are good examples. The more your statement is related to the field the better. 

The top traits or personal characteristics that most admissions officers will look for in an applicant when they are reviewing applications are whether the student is academically prepared for the program and that the statement of purpose expresses this match. Also, they are looking for students who are academically curious and will bring strength to the program.

4. How is studying in the U.S. different from studying elsewhere?
Studying in the U.S. is different than anywhere else is the world because of the extensive opportunities across fields in the thousands of colleges and universities in the U.S. The U.S. has the largest number of graduate schools in the world and the research and training you receive in the U.S. is cutting edge. The U.S. higher education system is also unique in that it is accessible through various paths and you can enter graduate studies at any point in your life. The government is also heavily invested in providing funding and support.

Another aspect is the true prestige and recognition that comes with a U.S degree. They are often respected worldwide in every sector. More importantly, you are building a global network as you connect with fellow students from all over the world at your institution.


Ms. Kimberly ("Kim") Johnson is the Director of International Admissions in the Graduate School at Oregon State University. She works closely with departments to expand opportunities for international students and partners with OSU INTO on Graduate Pathway and Academic English Programs. She leads international recruitment and retention efforts and helps expand international relationships and partnerships on behalf of the Graduate School.

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