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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the application deadline?
December 1, 2016

When is the application available?
Generally, the application goes “live” on the graduate school Web site in mid-October.

What if I don’t have all my materials (e.g., scores, transcripts, recommendation letters) in by the deadline?
The admissions committee cannot make decisions without a completed file. Be sure to contact the program coordinator if you think your materials may be delayed. Also, you’ll want to have your GRE scores and references in well before the deadline in case of delays.

Did you receive all my materials (e.g., scores, transcripts, and recommendation letters)?
Check with the graduate school first. We do not review the files until after the deadline, so there may be a delay between what the graduate school receives and uploads to our admissions system and what we have.

Is there a specific major or coursework required for admission?
The CSP Program does not require any specific undergraduate major or prerequisite coursework. Students come from a wide range of undergraduate institutions with various majors. The diverse experiences of the students that comprise the CSP program allow for exciting interactions in the classroom.

How and when are decisions about admissions made?
After the December 1 deadline, the admissions committee makes decisions. Students should know their initial status by mid-January.

Who should write my recommendation letters?
Advisors, supervisors, and/or mentors you have worked closely with and who currently work in student affairs are generally best. In most cases, you want to avoid peer recommendations or letters from students unless they are additional to the three you submit. Also, you want to ensure one of your references can speak to your academic ability – a faculty member is highly encouraged and preferred.

What else should I know?
We typically do not provide individual feedback on the admissions process. What we can say is that we do not evaluate based on weaknesses, but on how an applicant may or may not fit with the cohort that year. Each year of applicants is unique. So, what might constitute fit on one year might be a better fit in another. For example, one year we had a large number of applicants interested primarily in housing. During that candidate selection, individuals with interests in other areas received more priority, as we wanted to ensure we had a balanced cohort based on interests.

What makes UT’s CSP program unique?
We have one of the longest running CSP programs in the country (approximately 50 years). We pride ourselves on the intimacy of our program with small classes and accessible faculty. The faculty members at UT are interested in helping students find their niche in higher education and student affairs. They give students the attention they need to achieve their full potential.

What kinds of jobs do CSP graduates obtain after graduation?
UT CSP graduates obtain a variety of jobs in student affairs including residence life and housing, leadership development, academic advising, admissions, international student services, orientation, and student activities.

Can I attend classes part-time?
Yes. While most students in the CSP program attend full-time, some take fewer classes each semester and extend the time it takes them to complete the degree. These students are typically UT employees.

Is there any flexibility in the program? Can I take classes from outside of the program?
The CSP curriculum has a set of required courses that all students must take. Students are welcome to take additional classes from outside of the program; however, these classes will not substitute for required CSP classes.

There are a number of ways to personalize the CSP program. Both CSPA (College Student Personnel Association) and UT provide a number of opportunities for professional development through speakers and seminars that address a variety of topics. Practicum also offer ways to gain experience in specific areas of interest. In addition to practicum required by the program, students are encouraged to volunteer on campus to gain additional experience. Departments value practicum and volunteer students, so finding these opportunities will not be difficult. Students can also focus their research (both for classes and for the thesis or project) on topics of interest.

May a student transfer credits from another program or institution?
There are limited options for transferring into the program. We value the cohort model, one where students enroll and take courses together. The cohort model allows students to have extensive engagement with program faculty. Given this, students who transfer into the program do not fully experience this aspect of the program. If permitted to transfer into the CSP program, a limited number of courses might be approved for transfer after an extensive review and faculty approval. The graduate school allows only a limited number of credit hours to transfer from another institution. Finally, we only admit students once a year with a fall semester enrollment.

How long is the program?
For students who attend classes full-time, the program will take 22 months. Students begin in August and graduate two years later in May.

When are classes offered?
Class times vary. Some classes are offered during the day and others during the evening to accommodate the needs of the functional units on campus.

What is the typical schedule of a full-time CSP student?
The schedules for CSP students vary widely depending on their graduate assistantships, practicums, and course load. Full-time students take 3 classes each semester for four semesters. Most students have a graduate assistantship, which averages 20 hours of work a week. Graduate Assistant’s schedules are determined by the department or office for which they work. Some GAs work regular business hours, while others may be required to work night and weekend hours. Additionally, CSP students complete 2-3 practicums. In order to complete a practicum in a single semester, students must work approximately 12 hours a week. Some students choose to “stretch out” their practicum over two or more semesters.

Who teaches classes?
Classes are taught by program faculty (full-time and affiliated).

Will I have an advisor?
Yes, CSP students have faculty advisors to assist them while enrolled in the program. Students are assigned a faculty advisor prior to the fall semester of enrollment.

What is the difference between the thesis and Capstone Project?
Both the thesis and Capstone Project involve students identifying an issue, problem, or gap in knowledge to be researched. The project is an individual activity that provides CSP students the opportunity to integrate and apply the knowledge that they acquired during their program of study into the development, implementation and analysis of a practical project that has an administrative, learning, or student support focus. The Capstone Project should address a problem of practice, need, and/or issue that offers direct practical value to the target student population, institution, university department, or profession. A thesis involves proposing and conducting the research and reporting the results/findings and implications. Both the Capstone Project and thesis must be defended before a committee of three faculty members. For the thesis option, students must adhere to the guidelines established by the Graduate School.

How many students are in the program?
There are approximately 35 students currently in the CSP program. Between 15 and 18 students are admitted each year.

Where do CSP students come from?
CSP students come from all over the United States. Students enrolled in the CSP program attended small private liberal arts colleges to large research extensive universities. Our students have degrees from varied disciplines and majors.

Will I be in a cohort?

I am an adult student, is this program for me?
Certainly! Adult students, returning students, and full-time student affairs professionals are all welcome in the program. The program can also be completed on a part-time basis.

Are there any students from the program that I could talk to?
Yes! CSP has an organization comprised of CSP members call the College Student Personnel Association (CSPA). They are great resources if you have any questions.

What is CSPA?
The College Student Personnel Association, referred to as CSPA, is a student-led organization for the CSP program. The goal of CSPA is to provide opportunities for professional development and socialization within the program. Member benefits include eligibility for travel funds, a professional mentor, exposure to networking opportunities, and more. CSPA holds regular meetings throughout the year. Additionally, CSPA contributes to planning events such as Recruitment Weekend, the graduate hooding ceremony, CSP alumni homecoming tailgate, and CSP orientation. Examples of past events have also included an etiquette dinner, a meal with faculty, sessions on job search tips, holiday gatherings, and collaborations with the undergraduate Aspiring Student Affairs Professionals (ASAP) organization.

You may contact CSPA at

How much doe the program cost?
The following is a link to graduate tuition and fees:

The majority of students have graduate assistantships, which helps relieve the financial burden of graduate study. Many graduate assistantships waive both in-state and out-of-state tuition (not including fees) and provide students with a stipend. Assistantships in housing also provide room and board.

What financial aid options are available to me?
Graduate assistantships are the most common form of financial aid to CSP students; however, there are some graduate fellowships available to students. Information about the fellowships can be found at Also, student loans are available through the Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships at

What benefits does a graduate assistantship provide?
UT graduate assistants receive a waiver of both in-state and out-of-state tuition (not including fees, which are approximately $1,000 per semester). Also, graduate assistants receive a monthly stipend and health insurance. The amount of this stipend varies by department, but is approximately $10,000 per year.

What assistantships are available?
The available assistantships vary from year-to-year. We typically post a list of open assistantships in mid-December/early January.

How do I get a graduate assistantship?
Once you have applied to the CSP program and are identified as a likely candidate for the program, you will be invited to interview for assistantships during the Recruitment Weekend. You will receive a list of available assistantship positions from which you can indicate your areas of interest. Those departments or offices will then receive your resume. If a department or office is interested in you as a candidate for their assistantship position(s), we will schedule an interview for you with them during the Recruitment Weekend.

Does everyone receive an assistantship?
There is no way for CSP to guarantee everyone an assistantship as there are usually more than enough qualified candidates. However, most CSP students have assistantships.

Do I have to have an assistantship?
Not at all! Assistantships are a great way to work through graduate school while gaining valuable experience. However, they are not a requirement of the program.

What if I already have a full-time job at a college or university?
If you have a full-time job at a university, you would not be able to have an assistantship.

What is a practicum?
A practicum is a practical learning experience under the supervision of a student affairs administrator. The CSP program requires each student to complete at least two practicums in different areas of student affairs. Total practicum hours must total 270 hours.

What are my options for a practicum?
Practicum opportunities are available in a variety of functional areas/units at UT, at area colleges (public and private, large and small), and at institutions around the country and around the world. Students have considerable flexibility in choosing practicum sites, as long as the practicum relates both to the student’s career goals and the program.

How do I find a practicum?
The best way to find a practicum is to explore your career goals and interests and decide what experiences will prepare you for the future. The Program Coordinator is there to help you do this. Once you identify areas and/or institutions in which you wish to complete a practicum, you can contact the program or institution directly to explore the possibilities. The practicum site, supervisor and the objectives of the experience must be approved by the Program Coordinator before you may sign up for the practicum. CSPA hosts a practicum fair each fall where representatives from various UT departments present practicum opportunities. In addition, you may contact the International Education Department about opportunities to complete a practicum abroad.

Can I complete a practicum at a location other than UT?
Definitely! In the past, students have completed practicums in Australia and Wales, as well as at institutions around the country. Some students complete summer practicums at an institution in their hometown or at an institution where they would like to work.

What’s Knoxville like?
It is a mix between a college town and a southern urban environment. Plenty of places exist for culture, music, dining, and anything else you can think of. The University is well received by the community, which makes it a friendly place to attend school. For shoppers, there are two malls in Knoxville along with numerous shopping centers and shops.

What is there to do on campus?
A range of activities and facilities including tennis, movies, cultural events, lecture series, political events, community service, athletic events, indoor hockey, swimming (indoor and outdoor), sand volleyball, religious events, coffee shops, trip planning (STA Travel), and exercise facilities. UT students can obtain tickets to athletic events (including football and basketball games). The campus is also located next to downtown, so the metropolitan environment is a few steps away.

What is there to do in Knoxville?
Pretty much anything you can think to do is in Knoxville: plays, sporting events, Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, cultural festivals and events, concerts, and parks (especially if you enjoy walking/biking). The East Tennessee area has a lot to offer as well. The Smoky Mountains and Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg are less than an hour away.

What are my housing options?
University Housing does not provide housing options for graduate students. However, there are numerous options near campus and throughout Knoxville. During Recruitment Weekend, students share housing information. In addition, the graduate school provides the following website link to look for apartments in Knoxville: