Which program is right for me?

Felicia Joy takes a selfie while attending Open House before applying to HGSE.
Felicia Joy takes a selfie while attending an Open House in 2014 before applying to HGSE.

I am a natural born teacher in the sense that I have always loved learning and sharing my newfound knowledge with others.  However, my career before attending HGSE was in the business sector, working on corporate, crisis and marketing communications. Sure, I worked with youth through community-based non-profits and taught university students as an adjunct professor of practice but, in pure formal terms, I arrived here new to the world of education.

While searching for the right graduate studies curriculum, I learned about the Human Development and Psychology program at HGSE. Given my professional background, plus my interest in psychology, adult development, and behavior change in a community and workplace context, I was not sure where I fit in at the Ed school–and whether I would fit in at all.

Perhaps, like me, your background is not squarely education or, if it is, maybe you are not sure exactly which program at HGSE to pursue. Don’t worry.  Lots of people have faced this question. You’re smart to think carefully about fit since you will invest your time, energy, and money if you are accepted and decide to attend.  Luckily, there are specific ways to figure out whether HGSE and programs you are considering are right for you.  I have three tips to get you started:

1. Turn your purpose into a mission sentence.

Stop for a moment and fast forward to the months following graduation. What could you see yourself doing?  Turning this post-graduation purpose into a clear, concise mission sentence is a good way to focus narrowly enough to both articulate your vision as well as gather information about how it could be supported and fulfilled by matriculating at HGSE. For example: To launch a program that helps adults change unhealthy behaviors that negatively impact their children.

2. Gather information from a variety of sources and perspectives.

Armed with your clear mission sentence you can ask lots of questions and get all the information you need from faculty, students, and staff. The school has detailed information about program fit on the  Ed school website. It’s easy to quickly eliminate what is not a good fit when you know exactly what you aim to do upon completing your degree. This may change later–don’t worry about that. Just think about it based on what you know now. You can also talk to the admissions office, get in touch with faculty, or talk to current students during one of the many events. When I was gathering information I attended the open house and virtual sessions and found everyone to be quite helpful.

3. Consider the pedagogical style of HGSE and how that fits with the way you learn.

In addition to making sure the content of your program is a good fit, you want to ensure that the teaching style at HGSE matches your preferences as well. If you are capable of the work but don’t enjoy it much, that will diminish your experience. When I visited the school in person prior to applying, I learned that my program would be heavy on reading, academic research, and analytical writing. Comfort with this pedagogical approach has been important to my success.

What now?

These three steps are not necessarily exhaustive ways to determine fit but they sure cover a lot of ground. If you can clarify your professional mission, gather the right information, and make sure you will be comfortable with both the content and assessment methods of your chosen program, then you are on your way to a great new academic experience!

Felicia Joy is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Human Development and Psychology program.  Prior to HGSE, she served as the chief communicator for the world’s busiest airport; an adjunct professor of practice at Syracuse University; and a marketing consultant for one of the top commercial printers in America.  Upon graduating she will become an entrepreneur, working on changing education and other social systems to more equitably serve all communities.