Degree Planning and Academic Review

General Tips on Writing the Rationale

To see the complete tip, click on the first sentence to expand the view.

For further information about any of these tips, contact your mentor.

Before you write your rationale, speak to your primary mentor.

Your mentor is not only your primary academic advisor, she or he is also the primary reader for your rationale. Before you write your rationale, you need to speak to your mentor.

Treat the rationale as any writing assignment. Before you being to write, ask your primary mentor for guidance on the essay length and format.

Write your rationale and then put it aside.

After a few days, review your rationale essay to determine if it covers the following areas:

  • Goals
  • Research
  • Overall degree program design
  • Area of study guidelines
  • Concentration
  • General learning
  • Breadth, progression and integration
  • SUNY general education requirements
  • Transcript credits
  • Empire State College credits
  • Advanced standing credits, including any prior learning assessment.

Your final essay should meet college-level writing expectations.

Your final essay should meet college-level writing expectations in terms of substance, presentation and academic integrity.

Make sure you proofread your essay. Often students find it useful to ask another person to proofread it as well.

Anticipate questions your committee might ask.

Your committee will have a good idea of Empire State College’s academic expectations for your degree program.

Make sure your essay clearly explains your degree program and the reasons for your choices.

Mention advanced standing credit only if you have it.

Not all degree programs include transcript credits and/or prior learning credits (PLA).

If yours doesn’t, your rationale does not need to mention them.

Organize your rationale essay.

There is no general template for organizing your rationale. The worksheet and other resources can help you think through what you should address in your essay.

Your mentor can help you with the organization.

Determine the correct essay length for you.

There is no fixed page requirement, although it is very difficult to explain everything in three pages and 20 pages is probably too long.

Your mentor can help you be succinct in your writing and yet make sure you have addressed all the elements of your degree. 

Format makes your essay more readable.

Double-spaced and fonts such as 12 point Times Roman with margins in the 1” to 1.25” range make your essay more readable.

List titles appropriately.

Use the Degree Program Style Guide to make sure that your titles are appropriately listed.

The guide includes how to list titles for studies, courses, source institutions and individualized prior learning assessments.

Capitalization in the Degree Program Plan Rationale Essay

Capitalize the degree title when it refers to the specific degree.

•    Associate in Arts, Associate in Science
•    Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Professional Studies, Bachelor of Science in Nursing
•    I will graduate as a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.

Do not capitalize when the degree is referred to in general.

Capitalization is not necessary when referring to the degree in a general sense, i.e., an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree.

  • I am getting a bachelor’s degree.

Capitalize official job titles, not general types of work.

Capitalize official job titles.

  • My title is Manager of Human Resources.

Do not capitalize general types of work.

  • I would like to become a human resources manager.

Capitalize the registered area of study and specific study titles.

Capitalize the registered area of study and specific study titles.

  • Business, Management, and Economics
  • Historical Studies
  • I am in the Management Principles [specific study title] study group.
  • I am taking History of Science [specific study title] as an independent study.

Capitalize a discipline only if it is a language.

Capitalization is unnecessary when referring to a discipline or subject unless it is a language.

  • I am studying accounting [general subject].
  • But, I am in the Cost Accounting [specific study title] study group.
  • I will study Spanish [general subject] this term.
  • I am taking Spanish II [specific study title] as an independent study.