Strong demand for Master’s degrees
The study was in response to the strong demand for the Master’s degree in the United States. The most recent CGS/GRE Survey of Graduate Enrollment and Degrees Report indicated that the Master’s degree comprises 74% of enrolled graduate students and 83% of graduate degrees conferred in the United States. Furthermore, 66% of international graduate applications during the Fall 2017 admission cycle were for Master’s and certificate programs and 77% of first-time international students enrolled in Master’s and certificate programs.
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The authors of the survey pointed out that sustained demand for the Master’s degree over multiple decades, an increasing number of occupations requiring the degree, and the opportunities for career advancement and compensation associated with the degree amplify the urgency for evidence-based guidance.
The survey’s main goal was to see what attributes Master’s programs considered important in determining the various potential for success factors in their admission processes. Master’s program directors were asked to weigh 22 applicant attributes in relation to three domains of applicants’ potential to be successful: potential for program fit, degree completion, and post-graduate success. While there are many attributes that may be weighed in the graduate admissions process, critical and analytical thinking, and, in some fields, written communication skills were of particular importance.
So here are the main findings:
Programs and deans consider the potential to successfully complete coursework as an important criterion for evaluating candidates. The potential to complete coursework was identified by 79% of research-focused Master’s program directors and 84% of professionally-focused Master’s program directors as a very important consideration during the admissions process.
Programs and deans consider critical thinking and analytical thinking the key attributes in weighing applicants’ potential to be successful in Master’s programs. Critical thinking and analytical thinking were consistently identified as very important applicant attributes in weighing their potential for degree completion, program fit, or post-graduate success. Although predicting program fit and post-graduate success were valued, especially by professionally-focused programs, these were weighed as less important than meeting course requirements and completing the degree.
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Letters of recommendation are used in weighing a wide range of cognitive and non-cognitive attributes. These are used in a variety of ways to assess attributes and potential for applicant success in Master’s programs. For example, letters of recommendation were used by 90 to 92% of the graduate program directors as evidence of the applicants’ non-cognitive qualities, such as persistence, dependability, and collegiality/collaboration/cooperation.
Source: Council of Graduate Schools