Sunday, June 1, 2014

Application process

For those of you preparing to apply to grad school, a little support and guidance...

Some of my "back-up" schools, in other words the schools that I was overqualified for in every way, rejected me flat out. Since I looked outstanding on paper in all the ways I was expected to be outstanding, as did my friend, it must have been due to one or more biases. It could be that I said one thing in my essay that turned one reviewer off. It could be that I came from a university that isn't well-known around the country, and the other applicants came from better known ones. It could be that I was married. It could be anything. There are no safe bets when applying to graduate school.

I remember that one school asked the tricky question of what "kinds" of people we would have trouble helping due to our own biases; now, I couldn't respond with a laissez faire, loving attitude, because it would be very untrue and the school would have known it. We all have biases. My best advice to students is to always have an answer with support and explanation. I responded by saying I would have difficulty helping someone who had a bias against myself, somebody who looked down on me in some way. As a feminist, this is the truth; I feel all people deserve respect, and I have never had an easy time accepting someone who openly feels I do not deserve equal respect, opportunities, and courtesies. Who knows if this was a great answer, but I felt that with this question, they may have been trying to weed out a lot of applicants by asking a tough question and possibly looking for a specific answer (or turning away specific answers). I didn’t get an interview.

Never underestimate the costs of applying to grad school. Yes, the financial burden comes before you even get accepted and hit the front gates. During my first application process, I spent $800. The second year, I spent $1300…on applications alone. This includes application fees (usually at least $50 a pop), sending transcripts (from all undergraduate schools attended, even if only one class was at a different school), sending necessary test scores, giving mailing materials to your recommenders, and snail-mailing application materials to each school. I spent an additional $1000, approximately, preparing and taking my GRE twice. This also does not include over $1000 total I spent on visiting the schools. Some schools offer free stays at current students' homes during the interviews to ease financial burdens. As kind as this is, this does not help all that much. Visiting campuses is not generally required for master's programs, though obviously, it is recommended that you visit the campus and the program before making a choice to dedicate the next few years of your life to it.

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