Is the GRE required for admission?
No. GRE scores are not required.
How many credits can I transfer to the program?
Students may transfer in up to 36 credit hours of graduate-level electives completed elsewhere and/or for other graduate credentials. The university sets the maximum at 45 credit hours, so students could potentially transfer in course credit following admission as well, thus allowing for the possibility of students taking doctoral-level courses at other universities that the supervisory committee approves. Such situations are uncommon but include, for example, the possibility of external fellowship opportunities that offer academic credit or taking specialized research methods courses that are not offered in EDAD or at UNL.
The admitting faculty advisor and the student’s supervisory committee have discretion, within university and department requirements, regarding what courses transfer and what courses must be completed. Talk with faculty members who you would like to work with regarding your particular situation. A student must pass all courses in their program of studies, including transfer courses, with at least B- grade (or equivalent) to count toward graduation.
Can I start with a few classes and apply later to the program?
We welcome non-degree seeking students to enroll in our courses, subject to space, except a select few courses that are restricted to matriculated students. Those already in a program have priority enrollment, but many courses have space available. Individuals should apply to UNL Graduate Studies to be a non-degree seeking student first: Graduate/Professional Admissions page.
There is a minimum number of credit hours allowed to count toward graduation once a student is formally admitted to a program. So if one plans to take classes first and apply later to the program, it is advisable to keep those exploratory courses to a minimum, perhaps 1 to 2 courses, and to begin applying to the doctoral program simultaneously to allow for the time needed to apply and matriculate if accepted. Our admissions process is competitive, so taking classes as a non-degree seeking student does not guarantee admission.
Should I seek out an advisor before the application process? During? Or is it dependent on acceptance to the program?
In the Ed.D. program, all faculty members review applications and consult with each other on admissions decisions. At the end of that process, individual faculty members make admission recommendations to work with specific applicants. New students are assigned an academic advisor from the very beginning of their studies. Additionally, all doctoral students establish a supervisory committee, chaired by your advisor, during the first year of your program, who continues on as your dissertation committee. Thus, instead of the common dilemma that doctoral students face in many programs to “shop around” for or recruit a dissertation advisor during their coursework, students in our program have structured and meaningful support from beginning to end. Nonetheless, a student can readily change advisors, and/or members of the supervisory committee, at any point based on circumstances that warrant a change.
Given this approach to admissions and advising, applicants, therefore, are encouraged to inquire with individual faculty members about expected openings for new advisees and regarding common interests. During the application process, the system prompts you to review current faculty and their research areas. The system requires you to select faculty members whom you would request to be your advisor or whose interests you believe the best match your own. One result of this selection is to help inform which faculty members review your application during the admissions process.
What differences and connections are there between the Personal Statement and the Essay in the application materials?
Yes. Virtually all of our students are full-time educators with myriad personal and professional responsibilities. Our program offers many sources of support, including an online Student Success Center, the EDAD Graduate Student Alliance, relationships with other students, etc.
The program is designed for those who work full time and study part-time. It is expected that students take 2 courses per term, including over the summer, for a total of 6 courses per year. Full-time students take 3 courses per semester and 2 over the summer. To ensure that students make timely academic progress, with few exceptions we don't accept students who can only complete 1 course at a time. Students can take a temporary formal leave of absence, as needed, to attend to life and career circumstances. That being said, the doctoral study requires focus, passion, self-discipline, and drive—the same qualities that make for successful school leaders.
What should I submit as a writing sample?
No matter the subject matter, we are looking for evidence of your ability to communicate with multiple stakeholder audiences. Of the two writing samples, at least one should demonstrate academic writing, including your understanding of how to make claims, justify those claims with evidence, and interpret the implications of those arguments in relation to broader scholarly and professional discussions.
Who should I ask for letters of recommendation?
We are interested in recommendations that speak to your leadership capabilities and potential, an independent initiative in problem-solving, and professional competencies. Additionally, it is desirable to have at least one recommender who can attest to your writing and research abilities, your ability to formulate insightful questions that need answering, and work ethic to find answers independently.
I applied for your program, but I was not offered admission. Why not? What can I do to strengthen my candidacy for reapplication in the future?
Each case is different, naturally, and so too are the deliberations that go into decisions. That said, in our particular field and department, decisions to not offer admission tend to stem from a few situations and characteristics of the application process.
For otherwise qualified applicants, the first and most prominent limiting factor is timing. And unfortunately, this is a situation mostly out of an applicant’s control. Admissions are in large part a function of current students completing and graduating. Each faculty member has an advising capacity limit which typically involves a predictable number of new openings. Complicating this however is when faculty members’ job duties changes or they leave the department, for example through job changes or retirement. When this happens, admission spots may be reduced and/or existing students must be re-assigned to new advisors. This occurs only sporadically. But it can have consequences for admission decisions for a number of years. Lastly, in any given year, faculty members are working toward certain research projects and engagement activities that require particular expertise, the kind of expertise we look for in doctoral students as collaborators. Admissions, then, are partly a function of faculty members seeing how they can support an applicants’ research interests and career goals in a way that meshes with the research projects and interests of a faculty member. As you can see, in all these situations, it is not necessarily a matter of something lacking in an application or something the applicant could have done better or different.
We regret turning down many very qualified applicants each year. For many, were they to apply again in future cycles, they can benefit from an opportunity to re-cast their application if warranted or simply try again. When that occurs, their case naturally receives renewed attention due to faculty members already being familiar with their goals, interests, and qualifications.
Balancing goals of career advancement, credential attainment, and scholarly inquiry
A common situation that can tend toward a decision to not offer admission is the inability of faculty members to ascertain what, exactly, are the goals of the person seeking a doctoral degree and how they see our particular program helping them to achieve those goals. All educational scholars and practitioners have multiple goals in seeking a doctoral degree, naturally, and it is important to find a balance and articulate how they work together. We admit applicants who are pursuing many life goals and in many professional circumstances.
In some cases, an application does not fully demonstrate an understanding of what doctoral study and inquiry in practice is about and for. Relatedly, some applicants in their statements speak to advancing their career in their current academic discipline or professional role, for example, and cast their desire for a doctoral degree as a way to move up the administrative ranks occupied now by their superiors or in parallel institutions. While this is a valid and common career outcome that many of our students seek and achieve, it is only a part of what doctoral study in educational leadership and administration entails. When an applicants’ career goals and problems of practice are centered on a discipline-specific academic or professional field that is outside or adjacent to education and not in terms of issues of administration, leadership, and social contexts of educational equity, access, and success, it can be challenging to see how the applicants’ goals align with our overall purposes and vision.
For many full-time working educators, it is true that attaining a doctoral credential can play a part in advancing one’s career. But the latter is not always necessary or sufficient to achieve the former. Sometimes other forms of professional development are more appropriate and more readily available to those seeking these opportunities.
A doctoral degree is a costly, time-consuming, and often exhausting credential to attain that pays dividends in advancing a professional career to the extent the actual expertise gained and nature of inquiry accomplished through the program are valued and incentivized in the person’s selected career goals. Furthermore, no matter a person’s goals and the alignment between a person’s interests and our program’s activities, on a certain level, an abiding curiosity and innate drive for inquiry in the field of educational administration and leadership is fundamental to being successful in doctoral study. Hard work, time management, self-efficacy, and writing skills, to name a few attributes, are also fundamental. However, in an Ed.D. program—as opposed to undergraduate and most masters’ level study—the task is no longer to learn about important things and demonstrate that learning. Rather, the job is to learn how to use inquiry to identify areas for improvement, lead change, and demonstrate improved outcomes.
What to do
In regards to all these areas, applicants are encouraged to examine the faculty members’ research, engagement, and creative activities (both the topics and methods) and consider the extent to which that work aligns with their own interests and experiences. It is important for applicants to articulate a research interest or problem or dilemma they are interested in addressing as a student/scholar. These often take the form of something applicants to see in their daily practice that needs to be addressed but also drawing connections to how those problems of practice inform or are related to issues and enduring/emerging challenges in education broadly speaking. For those who do not have an academic background in education (and we regularly admit people from all sorts of academic backgrounds), it is important to gain some familiarity with the scholarly debates and current issues in the field or subfield of interest. Scholarly publishing presses, university presses, scholarly professional organizations (especially their conference schedules), and quality news sources such as the Chronicle of Higher Education, Education Week, Inside Higher Ed, and others are good sources to become familiar with issues, thought leaders, and current debates.