Written by Abigail Epplett, M.A. student in Museum Education
Hello, readers! My name is Abigail Epplett, and I’m a master’s candidate at Tufts University in the Museum Studies program with a concentration in Education. I also love American History, so I’ve taken classes about that as well. I actually entered the Museum Studies program through the certificate track, but I moved to the master’s track over the summer.
Today, I’m going to talk about two important parts of my experience: why did I choose Tufts over other programs, and how do you transfer from the certificate to master’s track?
Part One: Why Tufts?
I was specifically looking for a museum studies program within commuting distance of my home and my current job. Tufts is about 60 to 75 minutes by highway from my house, depending on traffic and weather conditions, and I anticipate the traffic being much lighter in the coming semester because of COVID‑19. I enjoy taking on-campus classes, because it gives me the chance to talk with other people in my field before and after classes. Additionally, all the on-campus courses I have taken have been scheduled for a three-hour session once a week. This is super convenient for someone with a fairly long commute. Of course, I have to mention that the center of Tufts campus is so pretty, regardless of the season! I love the statue of Jumbo the Elephant in front of the Barnum Building, where I took my first on-campus class.
I also appreciated that Tufts had online learning options even before the pandemic. My first semester, I took an online class about Digital Technology & Museums, which was taught online using Canvas. I had experience taking online classes in middle school and high school, so this was easy for me to learn. Plus, the topic lent itself really well to being taught online. One tip to succeeding with online learning is to go into the course module as soon as it opens and look everything over. Every professor organizes the module in a different way, so knowing how to navigate the virtual space beforehand is super important.
The third reason I chose Tufts was because of the Practicum, which is required of both certificate and master’s track students. This is an opportunity for Museum Studies students to work with a museum or non-profit organization and hone the skills they have learned in class, along with making connections with other people in the field. I took my practicum over the summer with Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc., a non-profit organization that works in collaboration with the National Park Service to preserve the history and environment of my area. It was a great way to see how non-profits and public agencies can work together to support local communities.
Part Two: How do I move from a Certificate to a Master’s program?
Because of COVID-19, museums are currently laying off workers, rather than hiring them, so I decided that entering the job market was not a good idea. Once the market improves, a master’s degree will be considered more valuable to employers than a certificate. I had also made a lot of new friends and connections while in the program. Another important factor was that I was not going into serious debt to earn the degree, so the investment was financially feasible.
Moving from the certificate to the master’s programs is advertised on the Tufts Museum Studies website, but the actual process is individualized and takes some pre-planning and organization. I imagine that the process is similar for other departments. Here are some things to keep in mind during the process.
Start by talking to your advisor and/or the head of the department. These people are professionals and have helped many other students transfer between tracks. They can often connect you with whoever you might need to talk to in Graduate Admissions or Financial Services.
Make sure you know what tests you need to take. Some departments require GRE or GMAT scores to be submitted with the move to a new degree program. Because COVID-19 has stopped much of this testing, this requirement was waived for me. Your application also requires a final transcript, which you already submitted when applying to the certificate program. Email Graduate Admissions to make sure this document is transferred between applications.
Once your transfer is successful within Graduate Admissions, you still need to manually transfer your credits in SIS, the online database that controls all of Tufts billing, financial, class schedule, course selection, and feeding times for Jumbo. (Okay, I made that last part up…) This is also called “petitioning to the head of the department,” and it can be somewhat confusing. For example, Museum Studies operates within the spheres of Education, History and Art History, so I had to petition to the Chair of the Education Department even though I had taken all Museum Studies classes, some cross-listed in different departments. Just remember to transfer your credits, or they will look like they have disappeared from your account, not to mention that your billing will not be correct.
In the Museum Studies program, certificate classes were paid per credit at a discounted rate. Master’s classes are paid in bulk in the first two semesters of the program, while only fees are paid for the second (or third) year, although the amount of fees might surprise you. If you feel as though you cannot afford to pay for the entire program up front but find payments over four semesters more feasible, start with the certificate program and then move to the master’s program.
Another layer gets added if you are eligible for scholarships and federal work-study. When moving to the master’s program, be sure to ask your advisor if there are scholarships available. This can take a lot of money off your bill. Make sure you fill out your FAFSA ahead of time, even if you aren’t sure if you will receive aid, because this information is often required to receive scholarships. You also have a chance to receive Federal-Work Study hours. Once you receive your bill, make sure to look at it right away – if you are not understanding what you see, contact Financial Services. They are really good at explaining each item on the bill and explaining future billing. For me, my second semester bill will be pro-rated to account for the classes I took while in the certificate program. Please note that there is currently a three-day waiting list for Financial Services emails on account of COVID-19, so be patient and kind while emailing them! They will certainly return the favor.
I hope that answers the questions you may have about why I chose Tufts for my master’s alma mater, and how to move from a certificate track to a master’s track. If you have any more questions about my experience or the process of moving to a certificate to a master’s program, feel free to reply in the comments, and I’ll try to answer you in a timely manner. Enjoy your time at Tufts!