Accelerate Your Degree: Undergraduates Can Get Early Entry to Claremont Graduate University

October 15, 2020
Taylor Gonzales
Taylor Gonzales '19 is one of three Soka alumni in the accelerated program at Claremont Graduate University..

Undergraduates seeking a head start to a master’s degree can take advantage of a joint venture between Claremont Graduate University and SUA. The program allows students to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace, start their career sooner, and save on tuition by having to complete fewer graduate school courses.

The Claremont Graduate Scholars Program, which began in March 2019, offers SUA students preferred access to accelerated degrees in four tracks: education (with an MA or MA + teaching credential), management (with an MBA from the CGU Drucker School of Management), and international studies (with an MA in international studies).

Soka students can apply during their junior year; CGU waives the GRE requirement and application fees. Admitted students take one to three SUA courses that will transfer to their CGU MA degree (depending on the degree program). They are also eligible to take CGU courses during their senior year. In addition, CGU provides $10,000 fellowships to SUA students, and SUA offers up to five $10,000 scholarships based on merit.

Taylor Gonzales ’19 is one of three Soka alumni currently in CGU’s accelerated program. Though it was announced only months before her graduation, she has still capitalized on the program’s benefits. Gonzales’ expectations were low when she applied as she thought she might be too late, and she was excited to be accepted. She is now pursuing a master’s in education with a concentration in student affairs and educational justice. Her goal? To become a director of student affairs at a liberal arts college.

The CGU program is designed for students who also work full-time, which allows Gonzales to hold an internship with CGU’s Office of Admissions. While working there she learned that CGU would retroactively accept eight credits from her Soka coursework, allowing her to graduate a semester early in December. We talked to Gonzales about her experience in the program.

What made you want to study education at CGU?

Throughout high school and even college, I had a hard time choosing exactly what career I would pursue. I went from wanting to be a marine biologist to a teacher to even wanting to work in astronomy. Once I got to Soka, I was introduced to career service counselor Robyn Dizes.

After talking with her a couple of times, I started to realize that I might like to do the same thing as she did. I wanted to guide students who were a little lost and needed some kind of direction in choosing their next step, whether it will be attending grad school or getting an internship or job. College students are especially interesting to me because they have a lot of passion and a sense of self.

What do you like about CGU?

What I really love is that—similar to Soka—this institution is very small so you get that one-to-one with professors, faculty, etc. My largest class so far has had 12 students.

I also really like that this program offers the chance for me to get real work experience while I’m still in school. It’s great to actually be able to practice using what I learn in class. For my practicum, I have been working at Harvey Mudd College for the ResLife division as well as in the Office of Health and Wellness. Because I’m working remotely, I’m able to do both, and it’s made me realize that I’m actually really interested in health and wellness. There’s a lot I don’t know that I want to learn more about.

Another thing about CGU is that if you want to get your PhD here after getting your master’s, you’re able to transfer either half or all of your master’s credits toward it. That cuts the time you spend in school and keeps the cost down. If I ever decide to get a PhD, I think I would come back to CGU.

How was the transition between Soka and CGU?

It was seamless. I made about half of my current friends just on the first day of orientation, and I’ve gotten the chance to take a class with every single one of them.

It’s great having that support system. We’re all here for the same reasons: we want a good education, and we like getting that personalized attention from professors. All the students being in the same mindset is really helpful. In this sense, it’s very similar to Soka, so I really like that.

Any advice to students who are thinking about attending CGU?

I wish I had gone to more school events while I was still on campus. Don’t be afraid to go to those events, because you’ll never know who you’re going to connect with and who might have an opening for you in the future. Be open to any and all possibilities. At CGU, you’ll be able to meet a lot of people and network fairly easily, but you do have to put yourself out there a little bit and then things will come to you.

—Nagisa Smalheiser ’21