By Annie Rose Stathes
With graduate school application fees ranging from $40-$150 apiece, applying for graduate school can be expensive. Therefore, it is important to keep several things in mind when applying for graduate school.
First, carefully consider your options and apply to schools as sparingly as possible. Apply to schools you genuinely want to attend and that you believe might accept you based on the competitiveness of your application. This might seem like a given, but students often times apply for their fourth, fifth, and sixth choice programs when they can likely be accepted into their first, second, or third choices. They also often apply for four or five “dream” programs knowing that they likely won’t be accepted into them. To gage your excitement for a program and the genuine chance of you being accepted, talk to admissions counselors and directors of several programs. Then apply to the programs that genuinely seem like the best fit for you.
Second, remember that you are investing in your future. Consider that application fees are one of the many costs involved in enhancing your career. Remember that down the road, after you’ve spent potentially as much as tens of thousands of dollars on a degree and earned potentially more in your new career, the several hundred dollars you spent on application fees will seem like a small and insignificant amount. However, when applying for programs as an investment in your future career, consider your career goals, the program’s reputation, and the likelihood of you pursuing a career that may return on your investment.
Third, if you’re short on money and plan on using student loans to attend graduate school, consider paying the application fees upfront and borrowing a few extra hundred dollars in student loans. This obviously means that with interest you’ll pay more for the fees over time, but, in a crunch, doing so might help you apply to the schools you genuinely want to attend. Use this option only when all else has failed.
Fourth, contact the schools and programs to which you want to apply and ask about application fee waivers. Many schools and graduate programs may offer application fee waivers to students in a certain income bracket or who are members of a particular demographic. While some advertise the opportunity to use a waiver on their websites, others do not. If you don’t see mention of one on a school’s website, call the admission’s office or someone in the graduate school’s program and ask if they offer one. Be persistent and talk to multiple people if you need to—the answer might vary by person or office.
Fifth, if you are a minority or otherwise underrepresented group, talk to a school or program about application fee waivers. Many schools and programs may offer money, fee waivers, and other incentives to minorities and other underrepresented groups. People of color, women, people with certain disabilities, and naturalized people from other countries, are just some of the groups that may be eligible for application fee waivers. If you’re not sure whether or not you would qualify, simply ask.
Sixth, consider saving money over time to pay for application fees. Save $50/month for several months or apply for graduate schools overtime. Your ability to do this of course depends upon your current financial situation, how much time you have to apply for graduate school, and how big of a rush you are in to get started; but if you have some time and can start saving now, do so.
Finally, as you’re preparing to apply for graduate school, keep track of your financial aid, income, and minority status. For many application fee waivers, you may be required to provide documentation proving you are in need of or eligible for the waiver. As you’re gathering these documents, keep in mind that doing so takes times and that you’ll need to leave plenty of time to submit the waiver before the application’s deadline.
About the Author: Annie Rose Stathes holds a B.A. in International Affairs and an M.A. in Political Science, from the University of Colorado, Denver. She is currently an instructor of writing at Fort Lewis College in Durango Colorado.