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Easy or Hard Major for Grad School Applications?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

Long time reader, first time poster. Would appreciate the critique and knowledge of the professionals on this board.

 

Cliff notes:

 

-24yo, going back to finish BA/BS.

-Healthcare work background

-Plan to attend grad school directly after completion. Master in Public Health, concentration in Health Policy/Admin

-Career ambition: public health sector administration (VA, military, etc)

 

 

Q: I keep hearing that the GRE and GPA is all that matters for grad school applications, plus relevant work experience that I do have. But should I want to have an "applicable" but harder degree, or go with an easy major to score a higher GPA? I am thinking of Political Science (easy) vs Economics (relatively harder). I am so-so in math but both majors interest me and apply to my chosen career. For grad school application purposes, will a 3.8 in polysci > 3.5 in econ? Go for the higher GPA or a lower GPA but reputable major? This assumes I won't reach as high GPA in econ as I would for polysci, which I feel comfortable stating.

 

Q: I was also admitted to a cheap in-state school (East Carolina U) and an out of state online school (Penn State). Penn State is tier 1 while ECU is a very low tier according to USN&R. Should I go to the cheaper instate school or a public-ivy school? Does undergraduate name matter for grad school applications? East Carolina (in-state) vs. Penn State (public ivy). I should finish my degree in 1-1.5yrs since I have a lot of transfer credits. So I won't necessarily need a lot of tuition to finish my degree, but obviously an in-state school will still be cheaper regardless.

 

I am looking at the top Public Health programs, and assuming I have the stats, would like to attend one of the following: Columbia, UPenn, Brown, Dartmouth, Hopkins, UNC. Dream schools: Harvard,Yale

 

 

Thank you for any insight.


Edited by Rubicon89 - 6/11/13 at 10:21am
post #2 of 14

I'm not sure what the entrance criteria for MA in Public Health is, and I'd imagine that neither do most of the people here. I'd suggest asking your school advisor and emailing the school that you're interested in getting your MA from.


As a general piece of advice, I'd recommend majoring in something that you're interested in AND that will relate to your career. Lots of people do just fine with the first part, but they end up with a degree that's essentially just extra words on their resumes. You're paying a shxtload of money to go to school. Get something out of it now instead of taking the easy major in hopes that you may possibly go to grad. school one day.

post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by VinnyMac View Post

I'm not sure what the entrance criteria for MA in Public Health is, and I'd imagine that neither do most of the people here. I'd suggest asking your school advisor and emailing the school that you're interested in getting your MA from.


As a general piece of advice, I'd recommend majoring in something that you're interested in AND that will relate to your career. Lots of people do just fine with the first part, but they end up with a degree that's essentially just extra words on their resumes. You're paying a shxtload of money to go to school. Get something out of it now instead of taking the easy major in hopes that you may possibly go to grad. school one day.

 

Thank you for your advise. As far as prerequisites, there are none for the MPH but I was a pre-health major before I left school and did well enough in the sciences, just that I no longer wish to be a clinician and finish a science major. For reference, the Boston University's MPH program states that a specific major or coursework is not required to apply.

 

I consider my interests in poly sci and econ the same, but know that poly sci is easier as a major, though econ is more desirable. Should I approach the application like a JD, in that a high GPA reigns, and choose the easier poly sci? Or through real world application, where econ would be the choice.

 

Lastly, any thoughts on in-state vs a public ivy (more $$)?

post #4 of 14
From what I heard from grad school hopeful/bound friends, your GPA/GRE/strength of recommendation/sample work will factor in long before your undergrad.
post #5 of 14
I'm also in NC. ECU is a good school regional wise. I'm sure you can get at least into UNC, considering everything else the same. I'd go for the cheaper public school and political science degree. Aim for a high GPA and GRE and rest of solid app.
post #6 of 14

Most MA programs don't require a specific major. There may be a few additional classes that you have to take to gain the baseline level of knowledge, but there's no specific major required. I've got no clue what your actual career aspirations are, but IMO, Political Science is a waste of time for most people. It's interesting, but unless you go into it with a clear picture of how it will fit into your career, you're probably not going to gain any real skills. It's just an easy, interesting major.

 

Economics has more practical applications, IMO. Of course, if you pick and choose the easy classes, then you won't get much out of that degree either.

post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thank you all for your comments.

Quote:
Originally Posted by VinnyMac View Post

Most MA programs don't require a specific major. There may be a few additional classes that you have to take to gain the baseline level of knowledge, but there's no specific major required. I've got no clue what your actual career aspirations are, but IMO, Political Science is a waste of time for most people. It's interesting, but unless you go into it with a clear picture of how it will fit into your career, you're probably not going to gain any real skills. It's just an easy, interesting major.

 

Economics has more practical applications, IMO. Of course, if you pick and choose the easy classes, then you won't get much out of that degree either.

 

I hope to go into the public sector and work for a govt agency like the VA or go into the military, which is why I am considering PolSci as an undergraduate background. But I do agree with you it is a waste of time, and would use it solely for the potential of a high GPA. Also agree that Econ is interesting and has practical applications for any career, but I feel like I'd get a lower GPA. So looking at the two from an AdCom perspective, the higher 3.8 polsci beats out the 3.5 econ, no? (If not then I can reconsider, thus the point of this thread.) Mind you, I'd specialize my career with a public health degree, thus my undergrad will not be my terminal degree and simply serves as a path to graduate school.

 

And to further pick your brain, do you think I should go to the cheaper in-state or a top tier public school, from an AdCom perspective? Thank you.

post #8 of 14
Since you know where you want to go career wise, I would focus on getting top grades in a major you are most interested in. IF that's Poli Sci go for it. Focus on building the best application for graduate school. If you get a top GPA (regardless of the major) and a top GRE, you'll get plenty of offers (and hopefully scholarships) for graduate school.

When comparing schools, consider where you want to land a job. Do you want to stay in NC? If so, ECU isn't a bad idea - keep you loans down, keep your grades up and you'll be okay for graduate school. I personally hold little regard for online educations and I believe schools use them to milk people desperate for a little cachet on their resumes.
post #9 of 14

3.5 GPA's not bad. If it was 3.8 vs. 3.0, then you'd have something to think about, but that's not a huge difference. Hoenstly, I don't think that it will make a difference one way or the other. The entry exams, application materials and (to a lesser degree) work experience will probably make a bigger difference. I'd choose a major that you'll actually get something out of. 2 years from now, you may decide not to go to grad. school. If you pick some cotton candy major just to get a high GPA, you'll be screwed because you won't have any job-relevant skills. Get the most out of school now. Focus on graduate school when you're done.

post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joffrey View Post

Since you know where you want to go career wise, I would focus on getting top grades in a major you are most interested in. IF that's Poli Sci go for it. Focus on building the best application for graduate school. If you get a top GPA (regardless of the major) and a top GRE, you'll get plenty of offers (and hopefully scholarships) for graduate school.

When comparing schools, consider where you want to land a job. Do you want to stay in NC? If so, ECU isn't a bad idea - keep you loans down, keep your grades up and you'll be okay for graduate school. I personally hold little regard for online educations and I believe schools use them to milk people desperate for a little cachet on their resumes.

 

I am leaning PolySci at this moment but Economics does hold genuine interest for me. Will make that decision shortly. As far as career wise, I am unsure if I want to stay in NC. I definitely want to stay East Coast and have thought of the DC or NE area, depending on govt position availability. Therefore I feel Penn State holds the advantage in terms of recognition.

 

The beauty of Penn State (and even ECU's distance education program) is that the degree won't say it was completed online. The employers and AdCom just see the name, which is from a well known established school. So it isn't some Univ of Phoenix or DeVry diploma mill variety, which I agree is ridiculous to pay good money for.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by VinnyMac View Post

3.5 GPA's not bad. If it was 3.8 vs. 3.0, then you'd have something to think about, but that's not a huge difference. Hoenstly, I don't think that it will make a difference one way or the other. The entry exams, application materials and (to a lesser degree) work experience will probably make a bigger difference. I'd choose a major that you'll actually get something out of. 2 years from now, you may decide not to go to grad. school. If you pick some cotton candy major just to get a high GPA, you'll be screwed because you won't have any job-relevant skills. Get the most out of school now. Focus on graduate school when you're done.

 

You're definitely pushing me in the right direction towards Econ. I do have lots of work experience and am certain I can get good LORs. But I am deadset on grad school for my career focus and know that the BS is just a stepping stone to my terminal degree(s), hence my thought process on the GPA.

post #11 of 14
If you have above a 3.5 GPA you will be a competitive candidate for MPH programs. They care much more about your specific grades in relevant courses then your overall GPA.
post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Teger View Post

If you have above a 3.5 GPA you will be a competitive candidate for MPH programs. They care much more about your specific grades in relevant courses then your overall GPA.

 

Thanks for the info. So I suppose they'll want to see a good science GPA even if I major in a liberal arts degree? I was pre-health before I left college and did decently well in the bio/chem/math subjects, mostly As and Bs.

post #13 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rubicon89 View Post

Thanks for the info. So I suppose they'll want to see a good science GPA even if I major in a liberal arts degree? I was pre-health before I left college and did decently well in the bio/chem/math subjects, mostly As and Bs.

Yes, what's called your BCPM (biology, chemistry, physics and math) GPA. That being said, MPH programs are not as selective or as demanding requirement-wise as medical programs, although you should always check if the specific programs are looking for anything in particular. What they are looking for is health care experience as well as knowledge of the industry and a set career path you'd like to pursue.

One note of caution: some medical schools use MPH programs as a way to raise money and will take anyone who can pay. Make a list of 10 schools you're interested in (and in areas you wouldn't mind living) and call them and ask about where their graduates have ended up, and what the makeup of their classes are (students straight out of undergrad? nurses and doctors completing an MPH on the side?). Also look for schools which are located in good health care areas for the state -- ie: close to the state health department.
post #14 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Teger View Post


Yes, what's called your BCPM (biology, chemistry, physics and math) GPA. That being said, MPH programs are not as selective or as demanding requirement-wise as medical programs, although you should always check if the specific programs are looking for anything in particular. What they are looking for is health care experience as well as knowledge of the industry and a set career path you'd like to pursue.

One note of caution: some medical schools use MPH programs as a way to raise money and will take anyone who can pay. Make a list of 10 schools you're interested in (and in areas you wouldn't mind living) and call them and ask about where their graduates have ended up, and what the makeup of their classes are (students straight out of undergrad? nurses and doctors completing an MPH on the side?). Also look for schools which are located in good health care areas for the state -- ie: close to the state health department.

 

Gotcha, thanks I'm pretty sure I have a competitive BCPM then. I've been looking at the stats of some of the top MPH programs and youre right, they're not as selective as med, which I wouldn't expect them to be. There also doesn't seem to be any preference on major as long as you have a good GPA (subject of ITT). I plan on school touring my top schools sometime before I start applying to at least get my name in the door and ask those questions. Good advice.

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