For the first time, Washington State University is offering outstanding undergraduates incentives to remain at WSU for their graduate degrees via a universitywide program initiated by the Graduate School. The Select Graduate Admission (SGA) Program, recently approved by the Faculty Senate, will help WSU retain its most talented students and achieve strategic goals promoting a quality graduate education.

Fee waivers and the opportunity to complete their studies more quickly are among the benefits for students.

There has been a culture among academics to recommend that students do graduate work at some place other than where they earn their undergraduate degrees, said Graduate School Dean Howard Grimes. But, he said, that approach fails to recognize the individuality and diversity of students.

“Some of them are ready to thrive right here, right now,” he said. “We want to provide that opportunity for them.”

Already a success

A similar opportunity has been provided for more than 10 years to outstanding students majoring in materials science and engineering or mechanical engineering at WSU Pullman and WSU Tri-Cities. The BS-MS Program enables these students to take one or two graduate courses during their senior year. Typically, this shortens their time to complete a master’s degree from four semesters to three.

They also are able to begin work with a faculty member on an MS research project during their senior year.

“This program has been successful in retaining many of our best undergraduates at WSU for at least the first part of their graduate education,” said Grant Norton, professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering.

Students identified as juniors

The first step in the process is for faculty to identify outstanding undergraduates, typically in their junior year, and work with their colleges’ graduate programs to nominate those students to the Graduate School, which will determine student eligibility.

“Students can’t apply for this,” Grimes said. “Faculty have to put them forward.”

It is left to individual graduate programs to decide whether or not to participate in the SGA Program, he said.

Faculty members are encouraged to consider juniors they currently are teaching, Grimes said, as the program is now under way. Nominations should specifically address the expectation that students will be in the top 10 percent of their graduating class as one indicator of their excellence.

Students who are accepted will have the opportunity to apply immediately for graduate study at WSU. Application and transcript fees will be waived. Colleges will be able to extend early offers of financial aid, such as assistantships, fellowships and scholarships.

Accelerating studies

Perhaps most innovative, students will be eligible to reserve courses for graduate credit that they would take during their senior year. This jump-start toward graduate credits could reduce the total time students spend earning their graduate degrees.

“This is an opportunity for our faculty to reach out to the very best students,” Grimes said. “Faculty can start working with them to structure their curriculum to shorten their graduation time.”