Many colleges offer accelerated combined degree programs, sometimes referred to as “4+1 programs.” These programs allow a student to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in five years rather than six.
However, gaining admission to a particular college does not automatically guarantee your admission to its 4+1 programs. In other words, you often must apply to them separately.
While students typically start preparing for the 4+1 admissions process during their junior year of college, high schoolers who already have their hearts set on a 4+1 program would be wise to begin much earlier – during their junior and senior years of high school.
Here are three suggestions for high school students who are interested in applying to 4+1 programs.
Find Out Whether a 4+1 Program Is Necessary
It’s important to note that not all careers require a master’s degree. You may not need an MBA to enter the business world or a graduate degree to become a translator, for instance. Your first line of business, then, is to confirm that a master’s degree is critical to your future line of work.
One of the best ways to gauge the necessity of a graduate degree is to speak with individuals who already work in your intended field. You may be surprised to discover that some hold only a bachelor’s degree and that others earned their master’s degrees much later and/or with employer assistance.
Investigate Practical Matters
If you determine that a 4+1 program would be advantageous to your future career, there are other factors to be aware of and consider.
First, while many institutions of higher education offer 4+1 programs, they may not have programs available in every discipline. Avoid making assumptions about any school’s program availability. Instead, conduct research as soon as possible to determine which institutions offer the programs that align with your interests.
But beware: Choosing a school solely for one of its 4+1 programs is rarely recommended, as it assumes that you will stay true to your intended career path until graduation. Approximately 80% of college students end up switching majors at least once, according to some research.
For practical reasons, then, it is better to consider multiple fields and programs you are interested in and select a school that would give you various appealing options. That way, you won’t have to worry about the hassle of transferring to another college if you decide against a particular 4+1 program later.
Financial matters must also be considered, as you may have to pay graduate-tier tuition during your fifth year of study at the school. Find out whether you would pay the same amount per term from the program’s start to end, or if at some point you will need to pay more per credit.
Finally, if you plan to apply for undergraduate financial aid, ask whether that aid may be applied to your final year of a 4+1 program.
Cultivate a Record of Interests
Since admission to 4+1 programs is not guaranteed, you must continuously strive to make your future application more attractive. View your time in high school as an early opportunity to pursue classes and extracurriculars that will display your commitment to your prospective field.
For example, if you aspire to earn a master’s degree in a natural science, take an Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or honors-level course in that subject. If you wish to pursue linguistics as a graduate student, consider participating in a summer student exchange initiative.
In short, demonstrate that your application to the 4+1 program is not a rash decision but one you have contemplated and prepared for well in advance.
As a final tip, schedule an appointment with your high school counselor to bounce ideas off one another. He or she may have professional connections or know of resources that can aid you in your research.
Thinking proactively about 4+1 programs is not a step that every high schooler will be willing to take or see the benefits of. Still, for students who have their minds made up about a career path, it is never too soon to start preparing for the 4+1 admissions process.