By: Kristen Willmott, PhD
As a former Admissions and Financial Aid Officer for the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, I was there when Harvard Integrated Life Sciences (HILS at GSAS) was developed. At the time, the program was in process, but it was known that it would be a merging of many STEM departments. As I was responsible for graduate admissions and financial aid for 17 GSAS natural science departments, I had an up-close view of the steps GSAS took in launching the new HILS program, from website development to hiring, to marketing the program to prospective students. What I observed was a complex process where department heads were a bit unsure, students were all TBD, and success of what is now a cross-disciplinary academic and research collaboration of 14 life sciences PhD programs was completely unknown. HILS crosses over into four separate schools at Harvard, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, the Harvard Medical School, and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. To say systems and processes for the new program were complex and uncertain in its launching is an understatement.
I believe that students applying to HILS in that first year had a bit of an admissions advantage. The program was new and while the departments had been in existence for decades, some were being restructured. Bottom line: it was a good time to apply from an admissions odds perspective as the number of targeted admits was just a touch in flux, and marketing/websites/PR/staffing for the new HILS had not fully launched. It was still Harvard and incredibly difficult to get into these fully funded PhD programs, but I raise this point to let today’s graduate school applicants know that applying to brand new programs can have advantages. The program’s direction is still being decided, faculty may be new and more eager to take on advisees, and thousands of possible peer applicants might not even be aware the program exists.
For graduate school applicants in the 2016-2017 year, exploring Master’s degrees at top programs that have launched new departments and/or new Master’s programs can be a terrific path to a top graduate school.
Top 10 NEW Master’s programs you’ve never heard of:
1.) Georgetown University Master of Science in Systems Medicine: This fast 30-credit, one year program can be completed in two or three semesters, and it merges the study of computational science with biomedicine. The application JUST opened in fall 2016. Applicants this fall are aiming to be part of their first cohort ever, which will start in fall 2017.
2.) Johns Hopkins University Master of Applied Science in Spatial Analysis for Public Health: This is a unique fully online public health program offered by the reputable Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins. The program is 9 academic terms – two academic years (Sept-May), plus an additional 8-week term. Course content has a strong focus on epidemiology, statistics, and modern public health.
3.) Penn State Master of Professional Studies in Management and Organizational Leadership: This is an accelerated master’s program for recently graduated baccalaureate students from technical, non-business backgrounds. It offers the same renowned faculty and course content as that of the Penn State Smeal MBA program. It’s 32 credits, one year long and the application just went live this fall. Admits will be part of the first class ever in the program.
4.) Penn State Master of Professional Studies in Nutritional Science: Penn State has been busy, as this is another brand new Master’s program they’ve launched this fall. The first cohort in this online program applies now (there is a super late admissions deadline, April 15, 2017) and will start May 2017, the beginning of Penn State’s summer semester. The program’s course content explores clinical nutrition, diagnosis and counseling.
5.) Stanford University’s Master of Science in Community Health and Prevention Research (CHPR): After initially opening to coterminal applicants last spring, the degree is now open to all coterminal and other graduate school applicants for the 2016-2017 school year. It’s brand new! Students already pursuing M.D. or M.B.A. degrees at Stanford have the opportunity to pursue a dual degree with this new masters program. An internship, faculty research and thesis are all woven into the program and it’s aimed at students seeking health-related careers centered in disease prevention, healthcare, health and wellness promotion, and health equity. So, moderately important areas given healthcare in the U.S., I’d dare say.
6.) Texas A&M Master of Science in Management: The program is designed for those with a non-business undergraduate degree and little or no professional work experience. This is the first year of the program and you can see they are really trying to make it easy for the first batch of applicants since they have 5 rounds of admission, including Priority 1 and Priority 2 deadlines. You can make their round 2 deadline if you apply by Dec. 1. It’s a fast program aimed at teaching core business concepts to non-business majors seeking a management degree.
7.) University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Master of Science in Information Management: This program is unique as there are only 3 required courses! Master’s students get to essentially create their own programs and these kinds of exploratory graduate degree programs are rare. The program is 12-18 months long and pushes students to pick electives that will shape their own individual careers in one of four areas: data science and analytics; privacy, trust, security and ethics; information architecture and design; and knowledge management and information consulting. The program launched last year and there are only 43 students in the program right now. They’re likely looking to grow and will admit more in their second year, 2016-2017.
8.) University of Washington Master of Science in Data Science: This 45-credit program can be done part time or full time on the UW Seattle campus. Classes are in the evenings to accommodate working professionals. It is an interdisciplinary program that merges six UW departments in the name of teaching statistical modeling, software engineering, data management and visualization and user interface design. If you apply in fall 2016 (the deadline is January 20, 2017) you’ll be applying to be in the first cohort ever of the program.
9.) Vanderbilt Master of Marketing Program: This 10-month program is super quick. It’s offered through Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management and the first classes began in July 2016 with only 14 students in the program. It’s safe to assume they’re looking to grow a fair amount as 14 students are barely enough to fill one classroom, not to mention a program. Modern marketing skills including social media marketing and real-life industry work are part of the program’s focus.
10.) Yale University School of Management Master of Management Studies (MMS) in Systemic Risk: This one-year program is brand new. Students applying in fall 2016 still start in August 2017 and they will be the first ever students in the program. The program is aimed at finance professionals seeking to explore and better understand financial crises and risk. There is a strong emphasis on the global financial crisis, regulatory agencies, and banking. Take the online Coursera course called The Global Financial Crisis taught by the program’s faculty starting in November 2016 to see if you like the program’s curriculum. Why? Because Yale is crystal clear in noting that students need to plan on a $91,400 budget should they be admitted to this program AND they must first be nominated by their central bank of regulatory agency of employment.
So, are you passionate about marketing, nutrition sciences, organizational leadership, or public health? Then there is a Master’s degree program for you. Consider the faculty, the course content, the online offerings, the course schedule and the cost, but understand that if you can catch a program when it first launches, your acceptance odds are likely to be slightly higher.
Seize the opportunity if you can find a program that aligns with your graduate degree program goals, as there’s something to be said for catching a department in its launch stages.