Frequently Asked Questions - Master of Professional Studies in Game, Entertainment, and Media Analytics (GEM)

Prospective Student Admissions Questions

Is it possible to complete the GEM degree on a part-time basis?
Yes. Some of our students choose to attend part-time, completing one or two courses per semester. These students graduate from the program in three or more years. All students have up to five years to complete the degree. 

This is an online degree, but I live near UMD’s College Park campus. Can I take some courses in person if I want to?
Yes, students who opt to take courses on campus are allowed to enroll in the face-to-face course sections. Note that because this program is available fully online, visas will not be issued for enrollment.

What is the fastest way to complete this degree?
We have streamlined the course material and scheduling to enable students to complete the program in one year. Full-time students would begin courses in the fall and finish the following summer. 

Is it possible to work while completing the program?
Certainly. Many of our students hold part-time and even full-time positions during their studies. While we cannot guarantee which courses will be synchronous or asynchronous, we do our best to schedule classes at times that can accommodate professional students' schedules.

Do you prefer that applicants have work experience somewhere before applying?
While we prefer students to have some professional work experience prior to starting the GEM program, we also welcome applicants who apply directly from their undergraduate programs. Our student body is a mix of folks with different life experiences, contributing to the richness of our course discussions. Some students join us directly from their undergraduate degrees and others apply after working in their field for several years.

How can I find out more about the GEM program? Can I visit campus or sit in on a class?
Prospective students are encouraged to attend one of our periodic virtual information sessions. We hold an annual Open House each fall as well, and we hope to meet you there.

Do I need to take the GRE?
No, the GRE is not required for admission to the GEM Analytics program.

Do I need to take the TOEFL/IELTS/PTE exam?
You will be required to submit TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE scores if you do not hold a degree from a U.S. institution or from one of the English speaking countries (the list of countries can be found here.) If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with international credentials, you will still be required to submit English test scores if you do not hold a degree from one of the countries on this list. Applicants need to meet the requirements for Full Enrollment, as detailed on the link above.

What is the career path for someone pursuing a GEM degree? There is a pervasive demand for information management professionals across all industries and disciplines, especially for skilled in the types of sociotechnical techniques taught at the iSchool. However, given the increasing emergence of Over-the-Top (OTT) streaming services, video games, smartphone game apps, etc., there is an acute need for skilled data scientists and data analysts to support organizations in the entertainment and game industry. The GEM Analytics MPS program focuses on knowledge and skills in reporting, advanced analytics, and data science that are coveted by companies in the media, game, and entertainment arenas. Graduates will be positioned for roles as data scientists and analysts for game, sports, and other companies in the entertainment industries. At the same time, the transferable skills we teach for customer segmentation, recommendation and prediction modeling, can be applied in many other industries.

Where do students from this program get internships and jobs? The GEM program is actively engaging professionals in the game and entertainment industries to develop a network of advisors who have expressed interest and willingness to provide internship, capstone project, and career opportunities.

How much does it cost to get a master's degree?
UMD’s Student Financial Services and Cashiering’s website posts the latest tuition and fees. Please note that there are different costs for students classified as Maryland residents and students from out of state or other countries. You can learn more about the cost of courses in the iSchool here.

Do you provide scholarships or assistantships for incoming GEM students?
As is true with most professional master's programs in the United States, students in our program are self-funded. While we have many highly qualified applicants, unfortunately, we do not have the institutional resources to offer scholarships or grants to our students. Current students fund the costs of the program through a combination of savings, loans, and employment.

Assistantships are posted on ejobs.umd.edu. Students may work in GA/TA/RA positions anywhere on campus (provided that the employing office allows online students to work remotely); students are not restricted to employment within the iSchool. 

What resources are available to help me learn about funding?
The GEM Program team is focused on providing the best possible educational experience for students who enroll. Please note that we aren't able to serve as a centralized source for funding and hiring information for current or prospective students. However, we are happy to point you to these campus resources:

Tuition and fees - https://ischool.umd.edu/academics/tuition-fees-graduate
U.S students - https://financialaid.umd.edu/resources-policies/graduate-student-faqs
International students - https://financialaid.umd.edu/resources-policies/international-students

Is the GRE required?
No, the GRE is not required for admission to the GEM Analytics program

Is the TOEFL/IELTS/PTE required?
You will be required to submit TOEFL, IELTS or PTE scores if you do not hold a degree from a U.S. institution or from one of the English speaking countries (the list of countries can be found here.) If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with international credentials, you will still be required to submit English test scores if you do not hold a degree from one of the countries on this list. Applicants need to meet the requirements for Full Enrollment, as detailed on the link above.

What kind of GPA/test scores are you looking for?
The Graduate School requires that applicants must have earned a minimum 3.0 average GPA (on a 4.0 scale) in all prior coursework. The application review committee considers applications holistically, weighing all of the application materials carefully. In short, GPA matters, but it is only one part of your application. If you have a GPA below a 3.0/4.0 and you’re interested in applying, we’re happy to have a conversation with you prior to applying to address any concerns.

What are you looking for in the supplemental application?
We want to give you a chance to tell us more about yourself. This is an opportunity to concisely share with us information that we won’t necessarily know from the rest of your application materials. 

Can someone from the GEM program review my materials before submission? I would like to know my chances for admission before I apply.
We do not offer pre-reads of applications nor can we estimate anyone’s likelihood of acceptance. We review applications holistically and the applicant pool varies annually. Use your best judgement based on the criteria we’ve outlined to provide what you feel are your strongest application materials.

Do you offer rolling admission?
We review all applications after the deadline. We do not offer rolling admission. 

Does the program have a maximum number of seats available?
No, we do not have a minimum or maximum number of seats available; we will accept all qualified applicants from any given year. Our admissions process is holistic. As long as you are admissible to the Graduate School for full enrollment, we will read your full application before making a decision as a committee.

I missed the application deadline. Can I apply for the Spring semester instead?
At this time, we only offer Fall admission. We appreciate your interest, and hope you’ll apply for the next cycle. Our application is usually made available each summer (you could find the new application in Summer 2020 for Fall 2021 enrollment, for example). Please check back with us, and feel free to continue asking questions during the year so you’re ready for the next round of admissions

Can I upload an encrypted transcript?
Please do not upload an encrypted transcript to the application. It will upload as a blank document and the program will not be able to use it for our evaluation. If you only have access to an encrypted transcript, please print the document, scan it, then upload a scanned version.

What if my transcripts are in a language other than English?
The University of Maryland’s Graduate School provides information for international students on submitting transcripts. Please submit a single combined PDF, including English and native languages together. If your institution does not issue records in English, official English translations must be provided/uploaded, and the original language records must be submitted/uploaded, as well. Only translations issued by the institution or a professional translating service will be accepted. Translations must be literal.

How can I confirm my recommendations have been submitted?
The online application will indicate when each of your recommenders has submitted their recommendation. As it is the student’s responsibility to ensure that recommendations have been completed, please log into the application portal to confirm that each of your recommendations has been received.

New Student Questions

I was recommended for admission to the program, but I haven’t received an official acceptance letter yet. What does this mean?
The GEM program can only recommend applicants for admission. Final admissions decisions are made by the University of Maryland Graduate School. You will receive official notification of your admissions decision from the Graduate School.
 
What is the Graduate School looking at when they review applicants who have been recommended for admission by the program?
While the GEM review process involves assessing whether applicants will be a good fit for the program and have the qualities and skills necessary to be successful in the program, the Graduate School is mainly checking to confirm that the information submitted by applicants is correct and that it meets the Graduate School’s requirements (i.e., a GPA of 3.0 or higher, a degree from an accredited institution, etc.).
 
How do I respond to my offer of admission?
Your official acceptance letter from the Graduate School should contain information about how to respond to your offer of admission. Please follow the link in your acceptance letter to accept or decline your offer of admission.
 
Can I defer enrollment to the GEM program?
Admitted students may defer enrollment for up to one year. Students may defer for any reason, at any time before the start of the fall semester. To defer, you must first formally accept your offer of admission by following the instructions in your acceptance letter. 

Where can I find my University ID (UID) number?
Your UID number is listed at the bottom of your initial acceptance letter from the Graduate School. If you’ve misplaced your letter and have not yet set-up your UMD email account, you can email iSchoolAdmission@umd.edu.

What books/software/programming languages should I be familiar with before attending?
The GEM program does not have prerequisite coursework, and there is no required reading ahead of the start of the semester. As noted in our supplemental application for admission, many of our classes expect students to have a background in programming, statistics, and databases. If you need a refresher on any of these, we suggest you do so before your first semester. Some resources that you may find useful are:

How do I know what courses to register for?
The GEM Curriculum page provides guidance about how students typically complete their degree. Here you will also find the suggested academic plan. Current students have an academic advisor and access to a student portal with additional academic advising information. 

How do I register for courses?
Students register for courses via Testudo. For detailed information about registering, please consult the university's registration guide

Can I transfer credits from another university and apply them toward my degree at UMD?
Students may transfer up to six credits earned prior to enrollment from an institution other than the University of Maryland, College Park. To be eligible for transfer, courses must have a grade of B or better, be graduate-level, and cannot have been applied to a previous degree. They must be less than five years old at the time of the request. 

For more information about taking courses outside of the iSchool and on transferring credits, please visit the Academic Handbooks and Policies page.

How many courses should I take at a time?
Most full-time students take three courses each fall and spring semester. Because this program is accelerated and designed to be completed in one year, courses are structured to be completed in winter and summer terms as well. We strongly recommend that students do not register for more than three classes per semester, as three 3-credit courses per semester are considered a full course load for graduate students.

How much time should I plan on spending on coursework outside of class?
This will vary greatly from student to student, but a best practice for estimating workload for a graduate class is two to three hours per week, per credit hour. A three-credit course would require an estimated six to nine hours per week outside of class.

How do I know what textbooks are required for my course?
For every class you take, you should check the course listing in Testudo to determine if textbooks are required for the course. 

  1. Go to Testudo
  2. Find the listing for your individual course
  3. Select the section for which you are signed up
  4. Click the stacked book icon to the right of your section number.  This will inform you of any required textbooks.

Keep in mind, not all instructors list their required materials on Testudo. If you still have questions about required readings for your courses, feel free to contact your course instructor to verify.

The iSchool requires that students participating in any of its programs have regular, consistent, and daily access to a computer with the following minimum specifications:

  • 13 Inch Display or above
  • 3.0GHz CPU (Intel i5 or equivalent)
  • 8Gb RAM 
  • 256 HDD (solid-state recommended but not necessary)
  • Integrated webcam and microphone

Warranty and accidental damage coverage is strongly recommended.

Please note that this is a minimum specification and that specific programs and fields of study may require a computer with capabilities beyond this minimum. If you have questions about the computing requirements for your program, please contact your academic advisor. It is strongly recommended that students purchase personal laptops to ensure that they have regular access to computing required to complete coursework in a timely manner. Students may purchase laptops from anywhere that computers are available. The UMD Division of IT operates the Terrapin Technology Store from which computers can be purchased by students at discounted prices.  

Do I have to attend orientation?
The iSchool Orientation is mandatory for all new students, except in extenuating circumstances. GEM students are also required to participate in virtual orientation activities over the summer prior to starting the program. Although we do not require students to attend the Graduate School orientation, you are encouraged to do so.

Will I get to work closely with faculty?
Yes. Many students work on faculty research projects, through independent studies, or as graduate assistants, or volunteers.

I’m interested in studying with a particular faculty member. Will I get to do research with faculty?
If there are particular faculty you’re interested in working with, you are welcome to contact them directly. If you do so, please be respectful and take the time to inform yourself about their work in advance. While most faculty are happy to hear from prospective students, keep in mind that they are not admissions advisors and will likely not be able to answer questions about program requirements. Please keep in mind that the faculty member you’re hoping to work with may not be available. Faculty may be on sabbatical, or may not be teaching in a given semester.

 

How can I be involved in the GEM program?
We’re so glad you asked! There are a number of opportunities to be involved with GEM, including giving a guest lecture, developing a new course, teaching within the program, and more. Contact Michelle Simon (mfsimon@umd.edu) for more information. 

I have a job/internship opening that aligns well with GEM. How can I advertise this to your students and graduates?
Job and internship postings for GEM students can be sent to the program (gem-mps@umd.edu). If they are a good fit, they will be shared with our students. Employers interested in exhibiting at our Career and Internship Fairs can also contact us for more information.

 

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