Deciding on a Department

By: Katie Henaghan – Behavioral Sciences and Health Education

So you’ve made the decision to apply to grad school, which is a big step in and of itself! Now, if you’re anything like me and your interests are all over the place, you’re probably wondering what to do if you’re questioning whether you chose the right department or not?

When I was applying to my graduate programs, I knew I wanted to study maternal and child health and sexual and reproductive health and that I wanted to continue to have opportunities to work in and study global health. In order to decide a track, I headed over to the Rollins website, where you can find a list of each department’s required courses, but the electives offered as well. A small description is provided as well, which can help you determine what types of skills or knowledge you’ll gain from the course. While it is certainly daunting to try and plan out what your two years at Rollins may look like, I found that looking at the course options helped me determine which department was the best fit for me.

As a note, if you were looking forward to attending a mock class, consider contacting a professor and seeing if you can sit in on the virtual class! The perks of Zoom classes mean that you aren’t limited by the number of seats in the room.

In addition to looking at the courses on the website, I found talking to current students and alumni to be very helpful. I connected with a lot of current students at Visit Emory, which I realize will not take place in the usual manner this year. However, I also utilized the Admissions team, who connected me with alumni that either studied the topics I was interested in, worked in positions that I saw myself in post-Emory, or were in locations that I want to consider following graduation. Doing this helped me to again see what types of skills each department would provide me with and how I could combine my interests.

My last piece of advice stems from my own experience. While I initially applied to Rollins on the global health track, after some self-reflection, I ultimately decided to see if I could switch into BSHE. I felt that BSHE would be the best fit for me despite not being globally focused. The ADAPs were extremely helpful and walked me through the process. So if this is something you’re considering, I’d advise asking sooner rather than later! If you don’t ask, you won’t know if your wish can be accommodated. That being said, if you can’t make the switch or decide not to switch, the ADAPs are a good resource in terms of how you can take classes in other departments and what classes will meet your interests. In addition to getting help from the ADAPS, all of my professors have welcomed my pursuing global topics and I have been able to take some global health electives as well. For instance, this spring semester I chose to take GEMMA (Global Elimination of Maternal Mortality from Abortion) to satisfy my life course selective for the Maternal and Child Health Certificate. At the end of the day, graduate school is all about you gaining the skills you need to become an expert in your field and that can start with you pursuing your academic interests with the department that best suits your needs.

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