Applying to Teaching Certification Programs

Applying For Admission To Mat, Msed, And Certificate Programs

Since different programs have different requirements, it is important for you to begin any application process by consulting the websites or contacting the advisors of programs that interest you.

Deadlines, Timing, and Taking a Year Off

At present, most degree and certificate programs request or require that applications be submitted in the late autumn or the winter.  Many schools have deadlines in early December.  However, since individual schools may set different deadlines and since deadlines for each admissions season may change, it is important to investigate the application deadlines for departments to which you might apply as early as possible.  Remember also to allow time for writing and polishing your application, and give your faculty recommenders plenty of time to write their recommendations.  You need to start preparing your application well in advance of the deadline.

Students often wonder whether taking time away from school before beginning post-baccalaureate studies is a good idea.  There is no hard and fast answer to this question. Time off after graduation can give you a mental break, a chance to gain field experience and to earn money, or time to work and travel abroad.  On the other hand, going straight into a graduate program also has advantages.  Your knowledge is fresh; your good study habits are well-oiled; and your recommenders can write about work you’ve done recently.

If you decide to wait a year or more before applying to graduate programs, be sure to contact the teachers from whom you hope to get recommendations and let them know your plans.  Also, use your time off wisely:  try to keep abreast of what is happening in your field of interest.

Standardized Tests

GREs:  The programs you plan to which you plan to apply may require GRE Scores.  The GREs are a standardized test (plural because of its component parts) administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) in many test centers throughout the United States and Canada as well as internationally.  The GRE General Test is a standardized test consisting of 3 sections:  Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytic Writing. Students release GRE scores to institutions where they are applying by notifying ETS, and ETS sends the GRE scores to the institutions desired.  

Praxis:  The Praxis is a standardized test designed especially for prospective teachers and is administered by Educational Testing Services.

Transcripts and Grade Point Averages

Most programs will request an official transcript from the school that granted (or will soon grant) your undergraduate degree and from any other schools you have attended.  Official transcripts are available from the Registrar’s office (in G-3 Thackeray, for Pitt).  Currently, there are no fees for Pitt’s transcript service unless you need the Registrar to send the transcript by overnight delivery. 

Consult the application guidelines about whether you should send a transcript after your next semester’s grades have been submitted or whether you should send a transcript earlier and report subsequent grades when they have been assigned.

Most applications instruct applicants to submit transcripts from all colleges and universities attended (or attended for a minimum period, such as a year), even if an applicant’s earlier coursework did not contribute to the undergraduate degree earned.  Remember that you may comment in your personal statement on features of your application that may benefit from explanation. If you had poor grades early in your college career but have an excellent subsequent track record, you might wish to explain what happened.  If your overall GPA has been brought down by a particular course or area of coursework that deserves special explanation, you might wish to comment.  Don’t use up too much of your personal statement discussing your GPA, but be aware that you (or your recommenders) could comment on special features of your academic records or history.

Statement of Purpose

A Statement of Purpose, sometimes called a Personal Statement or Statement of Intent or Statement of Goals is a document in which applicants are asked to describe their interests, plans and academic strengths, including their rationale for applying to a particular program.  Remember that a Personal Statement—like any writing that is submitted with an application—should be carefully composed, proofread and revised.  Working with fellow students, the Writing Center, and—most importantly—a faculty member will allow you to revise your statement to make it as effective as possible.  A faculty member whose advice you trust might be especially helpful in guiding you through the proofreading and revision processes.

Letters of Recommendation

Along with your application, you will be asked to submit Recommendations from faculty members, usually three.  Choose faculty members whom you think will write a strongly positive recommendation for you. It may helpful if a recommender is an authority in your field of interest.  When asking for recommendations, it’s a good idea to ask faculty members directly whether they can write a very positive recommendation for you.  Also, be courteous in dealing with your recommenders and give them all the information they need to write an informative letter.  Give them ample time, a month or so, to write and submit the letter.   Offer them copies of papers you have written for their courses (or other courses, if relevant) as well as a copy of your personal statement.  The more your faculty recommenders know about you and your plans, the more specific and helpful their letters can be.

You must also decide whether or not you will waive your right to read the recommendation.  For obvious reasons, readers give more weight to recommendations that are confidential. If you choose your recommenders carefully, you should not be concerned about waiving your right to read their letters. The Career Services Center in the William Pitt Union will establish a file for your confidential documents and send them to programs you designate.  Contact the Career Services center about developing an Interfolio service.

Fees and Expenses

Along with the fees you pay to take the GREs ($130 as of 2007), there are also fees for applying to your chose programs.  These fees can run from $25 to $100.

Undergraduate Preparation

Preparation Through Coursework: Any Pitt English major will have fulfilled the state’s requirements for primary and secondary school subject requirements for English. In addition, students are required to take three credits in college composition and six credits in college-level math or statistics.  In addition to the pre-admissions advising discussed in the previous section, a good resource you might consult is the comprehensive course selection document for undergraduate students interested in education available at the Department of Instruction and Learning in Posvar Hall (412-624-7254).

Classroom ExperienceSchools of Education require or strongly recommend that applicants have some practical teaching experience before they apply for any graduate program. At Pitt, students can apply to work as tutors in the Writing Center or as assistants in a literature or composition class.  In addition, students can volunteer for programs run by the YMCA, the United Way, the Pittsburgh Children’s Center, and the Pittsburgh Regional Internship Center.

For more information about classroom teaching and tutoring opportunities at Pitt, contact the Future Educators of America  (412-648-7362). The Office of Experiential Learning, the Women’s Studies Program, and the Honors College also sponsor teaching internships for undergraduates who arrange to work as a UTA for a course they have already taken. Information about these options can be found at:

       Office of Experiential Learning website;

       Women’s Studies Program website; and

              Honors College website.