“An advanced degree is the key to many of these positions of power and influence in the United States, yet students of color remain severely underrepresented in graduate studies, relative to their representation in society at large” (Garces, 2015).
Across the nation, many graduate programs struggle to recruit and retain students of color in their universities. There is a need for better college admissions practices for potential applicants, especially for those first in their family to pursue higher education. Recently, higher education institutions have gradually moved away from the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) as it does not accurately predict a student’s academic potential or success. I should know – I scored “below average” on the SAT, ACT, and GRE! Clearly, I am not an amazing test taker in these exams but I have excelled in the low expectations placed on me based on my “poor” exam results.
We are now in November and the deadline for many graduate school applications is approaching – typically starting December 1st. Do not hesitate to apply if you feel you are “too young or inexperienced,” your GRE scores are not as competitive as others, or if you feel nervous about the entire process. Surround yourself with positive people who will support your choices but also empower you when you feel the imposter syndrome/phenomenon.
Several of my friends have refused to look into graduate school because they fear (1) to have a more negative experience as they had in their undergraduate institution, (2) the overwhelming rigor of the application process, (3) they will not be able to afford the cost of attendance (ex: tuition, housing, books, etc.) and/or (4) that they are inadequate to meet the expectations to be a successful graduate student. I am here to tell you that my experience as a graduate student has been tough but extremely rewarding through academic, emotional, and financial means. I have had the privilege to present at several conferences throughout the nation and obtain several employment positions based on the work I have done through my master’s and, now, doctoral program. If you’re thinking “is it worth it putting myself through all of that,” I would respond with this: it is what you make out of it, which falls on you to determine its worth to you. Overall, if you are reading this, then you really are considering a graduate program. I believe in you. I know you can do this. If you don’t know anyone else in the position that you want to be at, then establish it yourself so the next generation can aspire to be someone as hardworking as yourself.
Checklist on Applying to Graduate School
- Make a list of schools/programs you are interested in (Tip: I googled “top graduate education programs”).
- Within the list, make a note for the requirements of each program (ex: application costs, GRE requirement, resume/CV, letters of recommendation).
- Take the GRE (if it is required) → some may say it is optional but still recommended to submit it (even if you have “below average” scores like mine).
- Requests your strong Letters of Recommendation from faculty members and ask them if they have any contacts in the program(s) you seek to apply.
- Outline, write, then revise your Personal Statement and/or Statement of Purpose (see PowerPoint below for more info). Go to the writing center to also get feedback.
- Create a resume and/or CV. Have others provide feedback on structure and content.
- Network with the faculty of your preferred program at recruiting events or email them directly to request a phone conversation.
- Submit your application!
Below is a PowerPoint that my amazing colleague, Antonio Rosales, and I created as we recently presented to potential graduate applicants as a way to motivate them to see it through the end.