Master's Program Frequently Asked Questions

Program Information and Requirements

  • What are HED courses like and when are they held?
    Courses meet for a three-hour time block once per week. Most classes start at 4 p.m., although some take place during the day. Typically students will read assigned books, chapters, and articles for the class. Courses are not characterized by lecture: instructor-led discussions, peer-facilitated discussions, group projects and activities, and individual and group presentations are commonplace. Course assignments usually consist of a mixture of weekly readings, written responses to readings, class facilitation of readings, journals, group presentations, individual presentations, group projects and papers, service-learning activities, and individual research papers.

  • What are the ways that the school supports the building of community within the cohort?
    New students receive a peer mentor and have the option to participate in monthly mentor/mentee programming. Over the past couple of years we have held a student-led speak, listen and reflect retreat for both cohorts, in which we discussed identity and privilege as a way to strengthen conversations in class and to enhance the ways in which we are able to talk about diveristy with the students we serve. We also host a welcome barbeque at the beginning of the semester.

  • Why does Syracuse University call the program “Higher Education” (HED) and not Student Affairs or Counseling in Student Personnel?Syracuse University’s HED program goes beyond learning about and development of professional skills/competencies in student affairs to include broader policies and understandings of institutions of postsecondary education. We expect our students to learn about higher education systems, professional organizations and associations, faculty culture, campus partnerships, and fostering student learning and development. SU HED prepares administrators who can advocate for all students and produce positive change within higher education, with an emphasis on promoting more equitable systems of access and support for our diverse communities.

  • Does the HED department work collaboratively with the Division of Student Affairs and if so, how?
    Yes! Any quality graduate program in student affairs is characterized by strong partnerships with its campus division of student affairs. Professionals in the Division of Student Affairs have continuously mentored and supported our program and its students. They provide graduate assistantship sites, serve as practica/ internship supervisors, and offer other volunteer opportunities to learn more about the integral roles they play in supporting and shaping students’ college experiences at Syracuse University.
    We also take pride in the strong, sustained partnerships we have established with student affairs colleagues at nearby institutions (e.g., LeMoyne College, SUNY Environmental Sciences and Forestry, SUNY-Upstate Medical, St. Joseph’s School of Nursing, Onondaga Community College, Cayuga Community College, Cortland State University, Colgate University, Hamilton College). As a result of these relationships, many former students are currently working at the university (and surrounding institutions) which adds more connectivity between working professionals and students.

  • In what ways does the department foster an understanding and appreciation of diversity in the program and advocacy for more just, equitable access, and success in college?
    The School of Education has a commitment for hiring and retaining ethnically/racially diverse faculty (approximately 30% faculty of color). Further, the program itself is committed to enrolling graduate students from diverse educational and life backgrounds. Our curriculum emphasizes fostering intercultural competencies with specific focus on research concerning college access and success, as well as practical applications in our practica and GA sites.

  • Can I do the program part-time?
    Yes, a student can do the program part-time in about three years (as opposed to two if you were a full-time student). Usually around a third of our students work full-time and do the program part-time. The part-time option works well, provided that a student can attend a few classes that meet during the day, attend the required 2-week Maymester course, and complete a 150 hour practicum. Students can complete the practicum across two semesters, but some hours will overlap with business hours. Students must take at least three courses per year, but ideally four, and complete the degree within 3-4 years. These requirements are outlined in a Letter of Understanding that students sign and return with their intent to join the program.

  • What are the required practica/internships like? How do I find one?
    We use the terms practicum and internship synonymously. Full-time students complete two practica. Part-time students who are working full time in Student Affairs or student learning related areas (e.g. academic advising) are only required to do one practicum. Each practicum consists of 150 hours for 3 credits during a semester of supervised practice in a student/academic affairs office. The practicum provides a breadth of experience in offices and institution types where you have not had previous work experience. We have many practicum locations, including on campus at Syracuse University, SUNY-College of Environmental Science and Forestry, SUNY-Upstate Medical, St. Joseph’s School of Nursing, Onondaga Community College, and Le Moyne College. Students may work in areas such as academic advising, admissions, multicultural affairs, career services, athletics, disability support services, residential life, LGBT resource center, and other offices on campus. Students may also consider applying to the internship programs offered by the Association of College and University Housing Officers – International (ACUHO-I) or the National Orientation Directors Association (NODA). During the practicum, students have a supervisor at the site and attend practicum seminars facilitated by one of our faculty members. Mandatory practicum workshops are offered to walk students through the practicum process before the experience starts.

  • Do alumni find jobs? Where are they working now?
    Yes, our alumni find jobs throughout the country shortly after graduation if not before. Our placement rates range in the 90-100% per graduating class. Some of our recent alumni work in residence life, LGBTQ resource centers, student activities, alumni programs, academic advising, and student support services. The institutions where students secure positions vary from small, private liberal arts schools to larger, public institutions.

  • When do I find out who my faculty advisor is and when should I meet with him/her?
    You will find out who your faculty advisor is during orientation events held usually on the first day of classes. Until the faculty match you with an advisor, you are welcome to contact current HED graduate students with any questions. Contact Lisa Battalino to put you in touch with a student advisor.

  • How do I find a place to live?
    Syracuse University’s Office of Off-Campus and Commuter Housing can serve as a wonderful resource for your transition to Syracuse University. We also encourage you to talk with current students and utilize their knowledge of the community.

  • What is a graduate assistantship (GA) and how do I apply?
    A graduate assistantship is similar to a job, and helps fund your graduate education and gives you work experience. You do not need a GA-ship to be in this program. Typically, you will work in an office such as residence life, office of multicultural affairs, or judicial affairs for about 20 hours per week. In return, you will receive a stipend (approximately $11,500) and tuition credits (usually 24 credits over 12 months, which equals a full-time student load of 9 credits per semester and 6 in the summer). Because the Division of Student Affairs offers a limited number of GAs on campus, they remain competitive. We encourage you to apply to all the GA positions available and get your materials in early.
    Beginning in mid-January, the Division of Student Affairs (DSA) will post the GA on the SU Human Resources job website. Choose Search Jobs (second option on left hand side) and then choose student employment under job category on the first column of the middle portion of the page. (It will be the eighth option in the drop down box when you click on job category box.) You will need to search through the student employment for the graduate assistantships. We encourage you to apply for all the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management openings, ideally before February 8. The GA application process is separate from the HED admissions process, so we encourage you to apply as soon as possible--you do not need to wait for your application decision. All communication about GA interviews will come from the Executive Assistant of the Division of Student Affairs, not from the HED office.
    Typically, decisions about who to interview are made around the last week in February or early March. In mid-March, the Executive Assistant in the Division of Student Affairs will contact individuals who have been invited to participate in one or more on-campus interview(s) during our Open House. As recommended above, we suggest you apply for all the graduate assistantships and do so no later than mid-February so that your credentials can be reviewed in time to be invited for an interview during our Open House.
    Each GA supervisor decides on the number and who to interview for their available graduate assistantship position(s). However, if you are planning to attend our Open House and applied for one or more GA positions in the Division of Students Affairs, we will assure that you are granted at least one interview, one that is most aligned with your past or current related professional experiences.
    If you have any questions, we recommend you start with the Higher Education Department directly. Do not call the director of the offices offering GA’s. We also offer cover letter and resume assistance to those who are applying for graduate assistantships.

Admissions Process

  • What qualities do you look for in an applicant?
    The faculty take a holistic approach to making a decision for our master's students. Thus, we consider your undergraduate GPA, your recommendations, your personal statement, and your resume. However, a sound academic background, particularly the last two years in college, and evidence of strong writing are weighed strongly

  • Who should write my recommendation letters?
    We require three letters of recommendation. At least one letter must come from a professor who has had you in class and can speak to your academic work (reading and writing ability, speaking ability, critical thinking, preparation for rigorous graduate school work). The other two letters can be written by individuals who were your supervisor, club organization advisor, or a mentor from your involvement on campus or in the community. The recommendations should speak to qualities such as your ability to work with students, staff, faculty, leadership, dedication, reliability, quality of work, communication skills, ability to balance multiple responsibilities, etc. Family members and friends should not write recommendation letters on your behalf.

  • Should I waive my rights to look at the letters of recommendation?
    The cover sheet for the recommendations asks whether you would like to waive your rights to see the letter. While you are certainly free to waive your rights or not, generally the admissions committee places more weight on letters that you have waived your rights because it may free the recommenders to write a more candid letter.

  • I’ve been accepted!
    Congratulations! We hope you'll choose to join us at Syracuse University.

    • You will receive two letters—one from the HED Department and one from the SU Graduate School. For HED, you simply have to sign and return the enclosed “Letter of Understanding” and send us an email letting us know you are coming. For the Graduate School, you must return the enclosed “Intent to Register” form and pay the deposit. These two items trigger your registration permission within the system. If you experience financial hardship or have a graduate assistantship, let us know and we can provide advice about how to request the deposit be waived.

    • We have an Open House mid to late March for all accepted students. We encourage students to attend in order to meet the faculty, meet other students who are considering going, and hear about the program. Another benefit of being on campus is to be available for GA interviews, when staff in the Division of Student Affairs interview prospective higher education students who have applied to the various posted graduate assistantship positions. In addition, nearby institutions who also have part-time positions in the student affairs often work with us to set up interviews for interested HED master’s students.

    • If you cannot attend, please call the HED office, and we can arrange for you to talk with current students, so you still get a flavor of the visit. If you cannot attend Open House and a hiring supervisor would like to interview you, the Administrative Assistant in the Division of Student Affairs can arrange for a Skype or a phone interview. This interview must take place before the HED Open House.

    • If you do decide to go somewhere else, please send us an email letting us know your decision. We look forward to our paths crossing as colleagues in the future and wish you the very best.

  • I did not get accepted to the program. Can I reapply?
    No, you cannot reapply. However, we can provide you with information about other options to consider, short and long term.