Should You Complete an Accelerated Undergraduate/Graduate Degree Program?
What Are Accelerated/Undergraduate Programs?
Student interest in accelerated programs which offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees has increased exponentially in recent years. Spurred on by rising tuitions and pressures to establish academic specialties right off the bat, these programs often reduce the degree completion period by a year. At Drexel University in Philadelphia, a BS or BA/JD law degree, a BS/MS degree in bio-medical engineering, or a BS/MS degree in communication with normal course loads can take five years instead of six. Accelerated degree programs are proliferating around the country. Such institutions as the University of Michigan, George Mason University in Virginia, Colorado State College, and Western New England College in Massachusetts have them. The programs can sometimes require a stronger high school academic record than normal ones. A few guidelines to consider prior to entering these programs follow.
Ask if You Are Ready for the Rigor and Focus
While the monetary advantages of accelerated degree programs are clear, they can be highly demanding risking early burnout. A healthy mix of academic and extra-curricular activities often makes for satisfying and successful undergraduate experiences. Moreover, undergraduates often change their majors. Accelerated programs don’t preclude this, but make the logistics of doing so more challenging.
Verify the Academic Quality of the School Sponsoring the Program
Academically weak and “for profit” schools have joined strong institutions in launching accelerated programs. Your academic experience will be better and your prospects for landing a post-graduation job much greater if you use academic criteria in choosing your school. As delineated in US News and World Report’s annual “Best Colleges” issue, explore academic reputation, admissions standards, student retention, and class size at the institution.
Examine the Program Itself
The quality of programs can vary within institutions. Find out about the strength of the program and its graduate division through comparative ratings from US News and World Report and elsewhere. Make an inquiry into the percentage of full-time tenured and tenure track faculty teaching in the program, and post-graduation job placement. Since you are putting all of your academic eggs into this basket, consider contacting places of future employment (business, law, or medical, for instance) to discover how they regard the program.
Accelerated academic programs are not for the faint of heart. However, if you are ready and they meet high academic and placement standards, go for it!
David Dickson is a writer for Top Test Prep. He’s on the college admissions counseling team and helps with Top Test Prep’s academic advising. For more information on Top Test Prep’s programs, simply call (800) 501-Prep.