Update - post #10
I am a current SAHM of a 6yo and 8yo who are in school 9-3. I graduated with a BA in Psych 14 years ago with decent but not great marks, like 79% average in last 2 yrs, and then worked for several years before staying home after DS was born 6yrs ago. I have looked into multiple programs at different universities and have set my sights on applying for a Masters in Public Health for Sept 2014 at three universities that offer mostly online courses with a few mandatory on campus courses. I feel this would work best for our family, as DH works long hours and I am responsible for the household and all things kid related. My kids have multiple food allergies and at risk for anaphylaxis, so it's extra work dealing with the school, bday parties, making food from scratch, etc.
All the programs require 2 or 3 references, preferably at least 1 or 2 academic and others professional. I spoke to a former prof from 1997 who said he is willing to write one, but thinks it wouldn't be ideal as the course was so long ago so suggested taking another course to get a reference. I do have some volunteer experience in the field, and while non of it is very formal, I think I could get two professional references based on this work.
I am going to take a course in January, but not sure which one yet, and am contemplating daytime, evening and online courses at my former university and other colleges around town. I don't really know what to expect from online courses, other than it would give me freedom to look after kids who are home sick and attend field trips. I can get child care if I attend a class at night, and would try to schedule daytime classes for during the time the kids are at school.
I have registered for a 2nd yr health/culture Anthro course at my former university in the evening. The other options are 1st yr courses in Leisure/Health, Women's Health or Health/Nutrition, or various Psych courses that I haven't already taken.
Based on how the MPH programs calculate GPA, any new class you take will bump the earliest third yr class off your transcript for the marks they look at. The first one to be bumped off is an 86% in a 3rd yr psych course.
1. Would you risk bumping off an 86% mark? One option for the Anthro course is to take it as normal, but request the grade show up as pass/fail on my transcript. The prof wouldn't know so could still write a reference letter, and then it doesn't bump off the 86%
2. Would you try getting a reference from a prof for an online course? I know it's not ideal, but I feel like I would come across better in online discussions over in class discussions (I don't 'think on my feet' very well in fast paced live discussions).
3. Do think taking a 3rd yr level course in say Psych would look better to the admissions committee than a 1st yr course in a more relevant Health Sciences area for reference letter purposes?
Any other advice is welcome! My DH is sick of hearing me talk about all this and over-analyze, but I'm a planner/researcher and like to research everything in advance! Thanks for reading this very long post : )
I'd strongly recommend taking a course in research methods or stats. This way, you can produce a writing sample, if needed for application and the prof gets a very nice sample of what you're capable of (important in writing the letters). I teach online and have written some recommendation letters but I most always feel as though they are a bit weak. All the students have been accepted into their desired programs, however. In general, when I've been on the committees for student selection, the letters are merely a way of saying "I know this person, and she's not a complete whackjob". You would not believe what some people write in the letters!!
So, if you take the research methods class, surely you'll be able to re-use the information so it won't be completely wasted tuition and will be a nice refresher since you'll most likely have some of those courses in the grad program too.
Hope that helps-
Another thought here--I'm not sure if the rules are different in Canada, but in the US I took some independent-study topics with various professors as an undergrad and master's student. They were awesome for writing letters. Many schools (the one I teach at as well) offer some type of independent work with a professor at the undergraduate level. This would be a great way to take a topic you are very interested in, craft a "class" with an interested professor, and learn something new.
Some unis offer the potential to take master's level courses as an "unclassified student" in the US as well. I did this too--and took 9 hours of grad work before I did applications to my master's program. Again, not sure if this is possible up nort' but it might be worth a question or two at your school.
At my college you can take a certain number of graduate level classes without being accepted into a program or the graduate school. They have a specific term for these students and a specific application. If you call the graduate admissions office they can you usually tell you what they call this and how to access the application. At my school you could take a maximum of 9 credits this way.
I'd look at the school you are most interested in and see if you can take one of the classes for your degree program on special student status. This way you are showing that you are capable of exactly the type of courses you will be taking, you show an interest in the program, and you end up with a reference whose an insider at that school.
And yet another idea bounced into my head about this. A few years ago I thought it would be cool to grab an RN. When I looked into doing a "quick" extra bachelor's program, the admissions folks said that my science courses were too "old" (i.e. >10 years), so I would have to retake all my undergrad math and sciences. I was like "but, PhD? doesn't help at all?" and she said, "well, no actually". So, even though I'd been writing code in statistics programs with high-end calculus, I still needed to re-do college algebra...so that was a turnoff...
I'm hoping you do not bump into the same time constraints on counting your previous work as the prereq's for grad school. (at least, I hope they don't ask you to redo any of them!!)
Thanks for the advice and info, everyone. Just thought I'd provide an update. I went ahead and applied to 4 schools with online (or mostly online) MPH programs back in January. For references, I used a former employer, and two more recent connections familiar with my volunteer work related to the field. At the same time, I enrolled in a foundations of health science class (on campus) with quizzes, project, paper, and three exams where I got to know the instructor in the hopes of using her as a reference if I needed to apply again for Sept 2014. I ended up getting into 2 of the 4 programs, one of which needed the stats course within the last 10 years, so I took a stats class online this summer. I ended up choosing the other MPH program, but the stats gave me a good background as well as an introduction to taking online courses. Killed two birds with one stone! Thanks everyone!!
I didn't see your original post, but am/was in a very similar situation. (Even down to the living in BC, allergic kid, out of school for >10 years and applying to low-residency MPH programs!). I'm guessing from the "choosing not to use the program that asks for stats in the past 10 years" that we chose different programs for the fall :)
I hadn't taken stats as an undergrad, so did it by distance through my local community college. I took it before doing my applications, but opted not to ask the instructor to be a reference since there was very little participation in the class. While she could say something about my high grade in the course, I felt that the transcript probably spoke for itself.
For references I ended up using an instructor from my specialty nursing program done 12 years ago who despite a more vocational/less academic program could still speak to my academic essay writing, class participation and potential as a student. The other two are current work references. I'm lucky to work in an academic environment, so despite not speaking to me as a student they had the "weight" of their academic credentials.
Good luck with your program this fall!
"Guess what? It's a magical world. And when I sing, my songs are in it."
Madly in love with my 7 and 4 year old daughters