Considering Extending to a Master's Degree

General Discussion for SMART Scholarship Recipients
codeToad
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Joined: Tue Feb 05, 2019 3:28 pm
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Considering Extending to a Master's Degree

Post by codeToad »

I am finishing up my internship and I am thinking about extending my award to include a Master's degree. I will begin my senior year shortly, and my current commitment is 2 years. I was able to find multiple groups within my SF that would offer good employment, and I believe I have made good impressions (I will get some feedback Tuesday to confirm/disprove this). When asking about Master's degrees from current employees, I was told that it would be a worthwhile use of my time if I could get SMART to support it.

So that brings me to my question: provided I made a good impression, would it be worth asking to extend my scholarship to include a Master's degree? I have heard plenty of Ph.D. horror stories here, but many of them seem to come from the fact that SMART is merciless to those who don't graduate on time. Furthermore, what does this process look like, and are there any pitfalls I should avoid? I would be glad to clarify anything if needed. I appreciate any advice you can give me.

ColoSMART

Re: Considering Extending to a Master's Degree

Post by ColoSMART »

I was in the exact same situation as you in 2018 so I will walk through my thought process. First, I originally tried to apply for a "follow on award" to get my Masters degree funded through SMART. I originally only asked for 1 extra year, but SMART said their minimum award length is 1.5 years. At this point I did not want to extend my service commitment from 2 to 3.5 years. In order to make it all work out, I took a 7 month leave of absence from SMART from June to December, getting a private sector internship, and crammed a non-thesis MS into 1 extra semester. It took some planning on the front end to take online summer classes on my own dime during my internship, and take as many graduate classes as I could during my senior year while SMART was paying. My SF was on board, and the one extra semester ended up paying for itself since I could start as a GS-9 instead of a GS-7. Plus I got the private sector internship for additional experience if you can negotiate salary, and as a network connection for when you leave your SF.

petzold
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Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2020 11:20 pm
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Re: Considering Extending to a Master's Degree

Post by petzold »

Some other scholars at my SF have added a MS by SAAR...didn’t have to reapply. I think this is newer policy to prevent the situation the previous poster was in. May want to check?

ColoSMART

Re: Considering Extending to a Master's Degree

Post by ColoSMART »

I did a SAAR, but I had to check the box for Phase 2 Deferral instead of Award Length Change, Award Type, etc. This is effectively a Leave of Absence after you graduate with your BS to give you time to do an MS, and you will not receive stipends, tuition or other SMART benefits.

petzold
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Re: Considering Extending to a Master's Degree

Post by petzold »

Sorry...What I meant to say that I think they fixed things so that the issue you had doesn’t happen anymore. At least based on the more recent experience of some other scholars at my SF. They were able to add a MS and received usual funding without reapplying/deferments/etc.

codeToad
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Joined: Tue Feb 05, 2019 3:28 pm
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Re: Considering Extending to a Master's Degree

Post by codeToad »

Okay, I just wanted to post here so people know what ended up happening. I have decided to get my Master's with SMART. The first thing is that I was presented with two options. I could either reapply for the follow-on award (1.5 years or greater), or I could complete both the degree and award length increase SAARs (for just one year, and at my current school). Once I verified that I could use the accelerated Master's program in my department to meet the one-year deadline, I chose to use the SAARs. I am currently applying for graduate school now and will be able to complete the SAARs once my application has been accepted. While the non-thesis option was already unlikely because of the accelerated Master's, avoiding a thesis should reduce the risk of needing more than one extra year.

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