Rationale Worksheet

This worksheet is adapted from the Genesee Valley Center’s Rationale Worksheet, the Center for Distance Learning’s Web resources and previous versions of the Empire State College Student Degree Planning Guide.

Ra-tion-ale (noun)
1. Fundamental reasons; the basis
2. An exposition of principles or reasons

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. 2003.

  1. Background Information about You and Your Goals
  2. Research
  3. Overall Degree Program Design
  4. Concentration
  5. General Learning
  6. Breadth, Progression and Integration
  7. SUNY and Empire State College Degree Requirements
  8. Advanced Standing Studies
  9. Empire State College Studies
  10. Special Considerations

Using the Worksheet

The following worksheet can help you to understand better what is expected in a rationale essay. It will also help you to incorporate your personal and professional information in a meaningful way. When completed, the worksheet can serve as an outline for your rationale.

However, please be aware that this is a worksheet only; it cannot serve as a substitute for your rationale.

There are a couple of different ways you can use this worksheet:

  • Write brief answers and then expand on these when you actually write your rationale.
  • Use the worksheet as an outline and develop more extensive answers directly in a word processing program. These entries can then serve as a first draft of your rationale.

Do your best to carefully reflect on the questions posed in the worksheet and answer them as best as you can. If you do, you should have the foundation for a very good rationale.

I. Background Information about You and Your Goals

The essay discussion of goals is usually the first portion of the essay, so readers can get a sense of the context in which you're pursuing your degree. Use these questions to help you think and write about goals:

  1. What are your personal, professional, and educational goals?
  2. How might a college degree help you to meet those goals?
    • Why do you want to pursue your degree? Provide enough background so that readers can understand the reasons that led you to pursue a degree and the results you expect to achieve by pursuing your degree. How do you intend to use your degree?
    • What knowledge, qualities, or characteristics do you hope to develop through your studies?
    • What do you want to learn through this degree? How will you combine your previous learning with new learning to develop your academic area and become a more fully-educated person? Based on any self-assessments you have done, and any previous college coursework (at ESC or other colleges), do you need to strengthen certain academic skill areas or develop certain perspectives?
  3. What degree(s) are you seeking at Empire State College?
  4. What information about your employment background and life experience is important to your academic goals and to your degree program?
    • Where would you like to be professionally in five or ten years?
    • How will your degree help you to reach your professional goals?

II. Research

  1. Which Empire State College area of study guidelines are relevant to your concentration? Explain what you learned from reviewing them.
  2. Did you review catalogs or online degree program and/or course descriptions from other colleges and universities? Be specific. Name the institutions and the programs you consulted. What did you learn from these catalogs? What courses are common to each program you reviewed?
  3. Did you consult professionals or academics who are experienced in the area of your degree program concentration? Who were they? What did you learn? Did you incorporate their advice into your degree program by adding specific studies?
  4. Did you consult a graduate program advisor or a graduate catalog if you plan to continue your studies beyond the bachelor’s level? What institution? What did you learn? How did this knowledge affect your choice of studies?
  5. Did you review journal articles, books, or chapters of books? What did you read? What did you learn? How did this knowledge affect your choice of studies?
  6. Did you investigate employment or career opportunities? How? What did you learn? How did this knowledge affect your choice of studies?

III. Overall Degree Program Design

  1. What is the framework or organization of your degree?
  2. Why did you choose this framework or organization? How does it best meet your goals?
  3. What is your area of study? Why did you chose that area? How does it best meet your goals?

IV. Concentration

  1. What is your concentration? Are you using an established concentration with guidelines or have your developed your own? If you have developed your own concentration, how have you organized it?
  2. How does your concentration best meet your goals? How does it represent the learning that you have acquired?
  3. How does your concentration meet the area of study guidelines? If you have developed your own concentration, how have you designed it to meet the area of study guidelines?
  4. Are all the studies listed in the concentration column consistent with the concentration’s title? If so, can you explain why?
  5. How do your concentration studies work together to form a coherent degree program?
  6. How do your advanced standing (transcript and prior learning) courses fit into your concentration?
    • How do they provide a foundation for advanced studies?
    • How do they support a progression of your learning?
    • How do they support an integration of your learning?
    • How do they provide breadth so that your concentration isn’t too narrowly focused on one subject?
    • How do they fulfill academic expectations uncovered during your research?
    • How do they help your degree program meet expectations for advanced-level credits (bachelor’s only)?
  7. How do your Empire State College studies fit into your concentration?
    • How do they provide a foundation for advanced studies?
    • How do they support a progression of your learning?
    • How do they support an integration of your learning?
    • How do they provide breadth so that your concentration isn’t too narrowly focused on one subject?
    • How do they fulfill academic expectations uncovered during your research?
    • How do they help your degree program meet expectations for advanced-level credits (bachelor’s only)?

V. General Learning

  1. How do your advanced standing (transcript and prior learning) courses fit into General Learning?
    • How do they provide a foundation for advanced studies?
    • How do they support a progression of your learning?
    • How do they support an integration of your learning?
    • How do they provide overall breadth to your degree program?
    • How do they help your degree program meet expectations for advanced-level credits (bachelor’s only)?
    • Do any of them fulfill a SUNY General Education requirement? How?
    • How do any of your general learning studies complement your concentration? How?
  2. How do your Empire State College components fit into General Learning?
    • How do they provide a foundation for advanced studies?
    • How do they support a progression of your learning?
    • How do they support an integration of your learning?
    • How do they provide overall breadth to your degree program?
    • How do they help your degree program meet expectations for advanced-level credits (bachelor’s only)?
    • Do any of them fulfill a SUNY General Education requirement? How?
    • How do any of your general learning studies complement your concentration? How?

VI. Breadth, Progression and Integration

Note: You may have already explained breadth, progression and integration of your studies in earlier sections, especially in the sections on your concentration and general learning. If you want to make some additional points on how some of your learning especially provides your degree with breadth, progression and integration, you can elaborate more.

  1. How do your advanced standing and Empire State College studies provide breadth, progression and integration in your degree?

VII. SUNY and Empire State College Degree Requirements

Note: You may have already explained how your studies have met the SUNY and Empire State College requirements in earlier sections. You may, however, want to elaborate more if you have only mentioned the requirements and not explained how you have met them.

  1. How have you met the SUNY general education requirements? In what ways are they meeting these requirements? How have you infused the critical thinking and information management competencies into your degree?
  2. How does your degree program meet the requirements for liberal arts and science credits? How do you define “liberal arts and science” studies? How do your designated studies fit your definition?
  3. Does your bachelor’s degree program include sufficient advanced-level credits overall (45 are required)? Within your concentration (24 are required)? Advanced-level credits can be included in an associate degree, but they aren’t required. How do these studies support the progression of your degree?

VIII. Advanced Standing Studies

Note: You may have already explained why you are using some of your advanced standing studies in earlier sections. You may, however, want to elaborate more if you have only mentioned them and not explained why you have decided to use them in your degree.

Don’t list individual courses, but describe them in general or group them together in ways that you see that they are related and were of greatest interest or importance to you. Give the readers some sense of the learning the you bring to your degree.

  1. Why have you chosen to use the advanced standing studies that you have in your degree?
  2. How have the transcript or prior learning studies augmented your knowledge in your degree?
  3. How have they helped you meet your goals?
  4. How have they shaped what studies you decided to take at Empire State College?

IX. Empire State College Studies

Note: You may have already explained why you have chosen certain Empire State College studies in earlier sections. You may, however, want to elaborate more if you have only mentioned them and not explained why you have decided to use them in your degree.

Don’t list individual courses, but describe them in general or group them together in ways that you see that they are related and were of greatest interest or importance to you. Give the readers some sense of the learning the you bring to your degree.

  1. Why have you chosen the Empire State College studies that you have in your degree?
  2. How do your Empire State College studies build on your prior learning?
  3. How have the Empire State College studies helped you meet your goals?
  4. How have you shaped these studies to complete your knowledge for your degree?
  5. Is the content of your studies reasonably clear from your titles? If not, add an explanation.

X. Special Considerations

Note: You may have already explained any special considerations in earlier sections, but you may want to elaborate on some to make sure that the readers understand why you have made the decisions that you have.

  1. If there are any important points you want to make about your choices in your degree, you should take the time to explain them. Make sure that you have explained why you have made the choices that you have in the design of your degree.
  2. Explain why if you have deviated from any of the academic or professional expectations. If expected learning is missing or not readily apparent on the degree program itself, your rationale should explain its absence.
  3. If your concentration is unique or fairly nontraditional, explain why you chose the studies that make up your concentration and how they work together to form a sound college degree.
  4. If some of your learning may appear to have potential redundancy by their titles, explain the differences in your learning.
  5. If you plan to pursue a career in education or in accounting, you need to address that you recognize that your degree will not meet all of the state licensing requirements and sign a Teacher Certification Disclaimer or Accounting Certification Disclaimer.