Working smarter is always better than working harder. Just ask MBA candidate Lacy Laster, one of approximately 120 students enrolled in the Joint Undergraduate Master's Program (JUMP) at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).
"Instead of being in college for another two to three years trying to get a master's degree, I will have completed it within a year after graduating as an undergraduate," she says, "and can enter the workforce at a higher pay much sooner."
That's because JUMP allows students to take undergraduate classes at the graduate level during their senior year, thereby doubling the credit they receive and reducing the amount of time needed to earn a graduate degree.
"It's like being in the advanced classes in high school," explains David Berkowitz, dean of Graduate Studies. "The classes that you take count as undergraduate credit toward your undergraduate degree and also as graduate credit toward your graduate degree."
But getting a head start on your master's degree isn't the only benefit the program offers. JUMP students also pay less for their education - classes taken at the undergraduate level not only cost less than at the graduate level, but they also count for twice the credit.
In Laster's case, the Bentonville, Ark. native says that made JUMP an opportunity she couldn't afford to miss. "I started college when I was 24 and I knew I wouldn't go back to school to get a higher education if I didn't take the next step directly after graduating my with undergraduate degree."
It also saved her the hassle and expense of taking a graduate entrance exam like the GREs or the GMATs; unlike traditional graduate programs, regular unconditional admission to JUMP is based on GPA and the completion of any applicable pre-requisites to the 300- and 400-level courses needed.
There isn't even an application fee, adds Berkowitz. "There really are very few downsides - for those who want to pursue graduate education, it's a really positive deal," he says. So why aren't more eligible candidates signing up?
"The biggest impediment is that students just aren't aware that they can take advantage of this program," he says. But that will likely change in the coming months, thanks to an awareness campaign that Berkowitz hopes will increase JUMP's visibility and encourage earlier adoption.
"We want to put that enticement in front of them, even students entering as freshman," he says. "We're looking to do that more and more up front in the student's process so that they can get on it - or even think about it - earlier."
In the meantime, a little word of mouth from those who are already benefiting from the program goes a long way. Laster says she has "recommended JUMP to many students already, especially those who are unsure of what they want to do with their career after graduation."
And it's just as applicable to those who do know what they want to do. So next semester, make a choice to work smarter and not harder - and get a JUMP on your education.
UAH's Joint Undergraduate Master's Program (JUMP) enables undergraduate seniors to take up to 12 hours per semester of common courses at the undergraduate and graduate level, thereby reducing the time needed to earn a graduate degree. For requirements, benefits, and a downloadable application, visit the JUMP website.