Collection: Writing your Rationale Essay

Rationale Essay Overview

by Ed Planning
Tags: rationale essay

What is a Rationale Essay?

Rationale refers to reasons why. And that’s the purpose of the rationale essay, to explain the reasons why you've chosen the courses that are listed in your degree plan. You’ll need to provide different types of reasons--personal, academic, professional--in order to explain your choices for and structure of your degree.  Academic and professional "reasons why"  are supported by researched evidence that your courses meet the expectations of the college, the field of study, and the larger professional contexts in which you intend to use your degree. Think of the rationale essay, then, as a logical argument for the design of your degree. 


Why do I need to write it?

Two reasons:

  1. College Policy - A degree plan and its accompanying rationale essay are two products required of all ESC students, as part of the 4 credits of educational planning that ESC requires.
  2. College Practice - A college assessment committee, which approves degrees, needs to understand the reasoning behind your choices for your degree.  Your rationale essay provides your reasons and research, proving that you have a personally-useful and educationally-valid degree.

Who's going to read it?

Your degree plan and rationale essay will be reviewed by an assessment committee, made up of ESC faculty and professionals.  In order to approve your degree, they need to understand the context in which you're pursuing your degree (your background, goals, and plans), how you're addressing the ESC Area of Study Guidelines and SUNY General Education requirements, what relevant research you've done into academic and professional expectations for your degree, and how the components of your degree all fit together. 


Amanda's Interview

What goes into it?

ESC Policy states the following:

The rationale essay is the student’s explanation of the purposes, design and significance of her/his individual degree plan. It is likely that most students will develop their rationale early in their degree studies. Therefore, the rationale should be perceived as a planning (or prospective) document. In the rationale, each student:

  • outlines her/his own educational and professional experience, goals, and learning needs,
  • discusses how the proposed degree plan reflects her/his own background and purposes,
  • discusses how the degree plan reflects the educational expectations of the college (i.e., SUNY general education requirements, level and breadth of learning, and integration and progression of learning),
  • discusses how the student's learning reflects, or may depart from, the Empire State College Area of Study and concentration guidelines for the degree, and
  • reflects the student's awareness of external professional expectations, where applicable.