The 4+ 1 Program at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Claremont McKenna, 3+2 Engineering Program with Occidental College, Caltech and Columbia University and the Progressive Degree at the University of Southern California.  These are just a few names that refer to the increasingly more popular academic programs that offer undergraduate students the opportunity to earn master’s degrees in a shorter amount of time.  For those of you who have students who are already expressing interest in a master’s program, or entering a field where a master’s degree is necessary to excel, practice or be competitive, you may want to encourage them to explore this option early on in their college careers.

The Perks:

The main draw to these programs is the acceleration of earning an additional degree.  Students will be earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree in a shorter amount of time.  For transfer students who maybe have taken a less traditional route, the ability to earn an advanced degree in a shorter amount of time can be quite appealing as well.  But each program has a unique approach dependent on the industry of the degree and the culture of the institution. For example, for those students who do not enjoy standardized testing and thought that was long behind them, the PDP (Progressive Degree Program) applicants can be exempt from taking the GRE or GMAT.  Programs such as the Robert A. Day 4 +1 BA/MBA program at Claremont McKenna, incorporates two summer internships, not only giving students a liberal arts foundation, but also work experience.

The Requirements:

Each institution that offers this type of program will do so in their own way, but generally, these programs are marketed as honors programs, for advanced students who have demonstrated their preparedness to begin advanced study in their undergraduate major or a similar field.  This is evident in the requirements to be eligible for the program but also in the components of the application.

To demonstrate preparation for the 3+2 program at Occidental,  students must have a GPA of 3.5 to qualify.  USC requires two letters of recommendation, preferably from faculty within the program to which they are applying, speaking to the student’s strength and fit for the program.  Most programs will enforce a minimum and maximum unit range in order to be eligible to apply, allowing for both freshmen and transfer students to apply, typically around their junior year of study.  This is so that the student can build a competitive GPA, have time to explore and deeply consider if the program is right for them, build relationships with their faculty and create a course plan that will allow them to identify how they will complete both programs in the upcoming semesters.  While all of these are requirements to ensure a students is eligible, they do not guarantee that a student will be admitted.

By looking at the items required to participate in this type of program will help guide your students down a successful college path.  In order to apply and ultimately be admitted, students will need to focus on their studies, build relationships with faculty that they will continue to work with as graduate students, practice time management and much more.  Students should spend the freshmen and sophomore year building a strong academic resume, but also reflecting on exactly what program is right for them and the area they want to study at the graduate level.  This can be done through internships, involvement in organizations on campus and volunteer positions.  Participating in those co-curriculars will not only strengthen their resume but help them to identify what the next steps are and if graduate school, or an accelerated master’s degree, is right for them.

Our students have a bright future ahead of them, and it may be closer than they think!

Here are some links to learn more about the programs mentioned in this post:
Cal Poly Blended (4 +1) Programs
The Robert A. Day 4+1 Program
USC Progressive Degree Program
Occidental College 3/2 Engineering Program

By Kendall Williams