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So you’re entering the final year of your master’s program, huh? Congratulations! I’d say it’s all downhill from here but… it’s not. It’s actually more akin to putting on a backpack filled with rocks and running up a hill on zero percent. But you can’t quit now! There’s too much at stake. I’m assuming you may have a little difficulty choosing your final project, your magnum opus, the deciding factor on whether you graduate or not. Never fear, I’ll break it down for you. 

Not all of these options are allowed in every college or degree plan. Not all of them will serve you well. Choose wisely. You can’t flip back as if this were a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book.

Thesis

  • Great for people who have strong writing and research skills
  • Choose a thesis chair/advisor, someone you have research interests in common with and a friendly relationship. You will also need two other committee members
  • Highly recommended for those pursuing a career in academia immediately upon degree completion or within a few years after
  • Good choice if you want to be a college professor
  • If you want to make an impact in your field and pick up some citation clout, having a published work in journals or databases is a huge plus
  • Signing up for a thesis means you’re required to sign up for less hours during your final semester so you can have more time for research

Comprehensive Exam

  • The best choice for people on the go, swamped by a busy life and career
  • Choose a committee chair/advisor, then two more. One will usually be in your college while the other will be from your concentration
  • You will spend class time during your final semester studying for the exam. You don’t know what your questions will be, anything from any of your prior classes is on the table. Luckily, your committee will usually give you a pretty good hint. Narrow down your studies, write practice answers (usually around 10 pages each) and ask your committee to review your practice
  • Best choice if you’re a good test-taker and have saved everything ever posted on blackboard
  • Protip; if possible, take a week off work to complete this exam. It’s no joke

Applied Project

  • A new and innovative option
  • Gives you a real-world project to add to your portfolio 
  • You must find a company/business/non-profit willing to let you implement a project of your own design to improve an aspect of their model using the skills you’ve picked up during graduate school. After you’ve locked down an establishment willing to host you, you must find a project supervisor and a committee
  • You will be graded based on how successful your methods are in the real-life business
  • Good choice if you’re already a working professional. See if your employer will let you do your project on them. Not only do you walk away with a great project in your portfolio, but (if/when successful) you also look great for the boss, positioning yourself for a raise or promotion
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