General Grad School Advice · Getting to Know Plattsburgh · Student Perspectives · Tips and Hints for Grad School

A Change of Heart: Pursuing Graduate Study in a New Field

Graduate school can be an opportunity for many to change their lives, reinvent themselves, and discover their true passions. Some graduate programs at SUNY Plattsburgh accept applicants who have an unrelated undergraduate degree, like the Clinical Mental Health Counseling (M.S.), Fitness and Wellness Leadership (M.S.), Master of Science for Teachers (M.S.T.), and Student Affairs & Higher Education (M.S.).

Have you been having a change of heart and thinking about graduate study in a new field? Read below and see how these students changed their lives through graduate study at SUNY Plattsburgh:

Brian Gaida, Student Affairs & Higher Education (M.S.):

“…[I] have been able to use a lot of the material we cover in class in my work as a Residence Director. From the counseling skills to the theories that we have covered, it has helped me to become a better supervisor, friend, and colleague.”

Brian Gaida“I was originally in the Childhood Education and Special Education combined program, which is a 5-year program beginning in undergraduate where you get your bachelor’s and master’s degrees a year faster. During that same time I was working on campus in a residence hall first as a Community Advocate and later as a Resident Assistant. One day when I was meeting with my supervisor, I told her how much I enjoyed working in Residence Life and wished I could do work like that in my Residence Life job as a profession. My supervisor told me there was a way for me to do just that: the first step would be to apply for the Student Affairs and Higher Education Master’s program. During the spring semester of my fifth year I applied and was admitted into the Student Affairs and Higher Education program here at SUNY Plattsburgh.

In addition to the program fitting my goals, another draw for me to the Student Affairs program at Plattsburgh was that I had many friends in the program already. They told me they’d really enjoyed the program and encouraged me to apply. I was also working as a Residence Director on campus at the time; this made me feel comfortable staying in the area for a couple of more years as I finished my degree.
I have enjoyed me experience in the Student Affairs and Higher Education program thus far, and have been able to use a lot of the material we cover in class in my work as a Residence Director. From the counseling skills to the theories that we have covered, it has helped me to become a better supervisor, friend, and colleague. Throughout my whole experience in Plattsburgh I have felt like I “fit” into the culture and that I was at home here. Thankfully, I have been able to find this new program and build a connection with the other members in my cohort.
My advice for anyone who is looking into switching fields would be to research the different requirements that are necessary for admission. For example, when applying for the Student Affairs program, in addition to filling out the application, I had to take either the GRE or MAT exam. In addition, I would encourage people to sit back and reflect on what is making them have a change in heart. For example, if a student feels like a change of major is the route to take, they could talk with their advisor, a professor in their program of interest, or even to the Graduate Admissions Office. I would also encourage anyone who is looking into a graduate program to also research the different assistanceships available on campus. These are not only super helpful financial resources, but they offer hands-on work experience which maximizes your experience in any program that you choose.”

Molly Martindale, Adolescence Education – Grades 7-12 (M.S.T.):

“Since I joined the MST program here at Plattsburgh State, I feel as though a fire has been reignited in my life.”

I graduated from SUNY Oswego with my bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts. I focused oMelllllllln English Literature, Creative Writing, and Psychology. After graduation, I lived in Oswego for a year and tried my hand at Journalism. I ended up feeling very unhappy and I didn’t enjoy the restrictions of the field when it came to my writing. After I left my Journalism position, I ended up moving back home and working a variety of other jobs.

I felt restless at each of these jobs that I held after graduating with my Bachelor’s degree, and I greatly missed the subject of English. In the spring of 2016, I decided it was time to make a change and apply for graduate school at Plattsburgh State. I was drawn to the MST program because of my interest in teaching, and my love of ELA writing and reading. I realized I wanted to be back in the classroom, and I wanted to be an educator, supporter, and advocate for the next generation of students. Through this program, I have been given many opportunities to become involved — academically, socially, and politically — to stand for student rights. I believe that the MST program allows me to combine my passion for the subject I love, and will help me to reach a platform where I can make a difference in, and for, adolescent lives.

For me, the transition from a non-education field as an undergraduate to an education field as a graduate student was difficult. In the beginning, I worried I did not have the foundation and skill in the field of education I needed. However, I soon learned that so long as graduate students enter the MST program with passion, persistence, and openness, they can find their footing. There have been times when I feel lost, but the professors, your classmates, and connections that you will make in this program provide the support required to succeed.

I feel confident in my choice to join the MST program and eventually enter the field of education. I’m currently in my second semester, and I’m starting to create a unit plan, working as a literacy tutor, and completing my practicum in a local school. I couldn’t gain this vital experience in any other setting.

For anyone that is considering the same path that I took, of going from an unrelated degree into an MST program, my short version of advice is this: do it. Since I joined the MST program here at Plattsburgh State, I feel as though a fire has been reignited in my life. Every day, I’m working to combine passion and purpose to my future career as an English teacher. I’m learning about valuable skills such as lesson planning, assessment, and catering to all learning styles, which I was never exposed to in my time as an English major in undergrad. The MST graduate program at Plattsburgh State will prepare you for your future profession as a teacher, give you hands-on experience with students in classroom settings, and allow you to be innovative and creative. At this point, I honestly can’t imagine my life any other way. After a decade of struggling with the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I believe that I’ve finally found my path.

Are you considering a change? The SUNY Plattsburgh Graduate Admissions team is here to assist you in whatever way we can! Email us your questions at


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