Are you thinking about applying to Graduate School but are not sure where to start? Hit the button below for our recent presentation. Feel free to scroll below for helpful information and resources. When you are ready to talk to us about specific programs, check out the Staff Page and reach out!
(originally presented at California Forum for Diversity in Graduate Education, June 2020)
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Frequently Asked Questions
Can I get an estimate on graduate student financial aid packages?
Definitely! Most schools will be willing to give you a range of the graduate student fellowship packages. Most grad students in given program do not have identical support packages, but you should be able to get a good idea from the Program Coordinator or the Faculty Admissions Advisor (check out our presentation for more info on these contacts).
When is the best time to contact professors?
In order to give the professors enough time to respond to your request for a recommendation, you want to give them at least three months. So, three months from the program's application deadline would be a good barometer as a starting point. If you are contacting professors that you want to do graduate work with at your target institutions, then start contacting them in the Spring and Summer before applications are due. Many graduate applications are due in early fall, around Thanksgiving, so if you start contacting your target mentors in spring and summer it will help you decide where to apply.
Can the TOEFL exam be waived if the student completed the bachelor’s degree at a U.S. institution?
Yes, this is true for many universities. You should ask each school to which you are applying. It is great to have one less entrance test to take if it is possible!
Are graduate school applications similar in other countries?
Yes; however, in my experience, universities outside the United States expect more writing samples and sometimes more research experience. Some foreign schools do not require the GRE and other entrance tests.
When should we request recommendation letters if we plan to take a gap year?
It is a good idea to let your recommenders know that you are planning to apply in the future (and when). However, since most graduate schools require online letter submission by the professor, you cannot have them submit early. There are some schools that use the Common App or other clearinghouse programs and some of these allow early submission of letters of recommendation. If you end up having to wait to get the letter until you are actually applying, it is good to stay in touch with those faculty over the time when you are out of school so that you retain your relationship with them.
Can I ask the same professor for letters of recommendation for multiple programs/schools?
Yes, you can give them a list of the schools/programs you are applying to so they know where the requests will be coming from.
How long should I wait to ask a professor for a letter of recommendation?
You want your recommendation to be from someone who truly knows your abilities. If you've only known a professor for a short time, but have completed an intense project with them and feel they would be a good resource, there you can ask them to be a recommender.
How many graduate schools applications is too many?
Application fees add up and can get very expensive. It is better to be more targeted in the applications you submit. Applying for grad school is more personalized and takes more time than the undergrad process. Definitely try to pay attention to fee waivers, as these will help reduce your costs.
Is GRE still required in wake of COVID-19?
It depends on the school/program you are applying to. Be sure to check with the admissions coordinator for the programs you are interested in for the most up-to-date information.
Will the recording of your presentation be available?
No, we decided not to record to respect everyone's privacy. However, we are going to upload the presentation slides, links, and questions (which you are reading now). Click here for the rest of our presentation.
If my GRE test was cancelled, when can I reschedule the test?
You can take the test through the GRE at Home exam, check the ETS website for more information.
Should we describe our activities in a CV the way we describe them in a resume?
The CV is more of a chronological listing than the resume. Check out our presentation for resources on writing a CV.
How should I approach diversity statements?
This will depend on how the prompt is written. It will tell you clearly whether or not it is looking for personal diversity stories. The prompt should also explain whether it would be reasonable to branch out into your personal views. It also depends on if you can tie those views into the program itself.
How much personal information should I share with potential major professors?
Keep it professional. Focus on the project you want to do, but feel free to include anything personal that relates to your work (how you became interested in the field, etc). If you can tie things together, demonstrating how your personal and professional goals will help you answer that burning research question, you're set!
I am a STEM major and plan to apply to a STEM graduate programs. Can I submit a letter of recommendation from a humanities professor?
Absolutely! Ask any professor you feel knows you well. Make sure you let them know what program you are applying for and what kind of information you hope that the recommendation will contain, such as your communication and analytical skills. It would also help to temper it with a strong letter from within the STEM department to talk about your research history and experience.
Is experience required for summer research programs?
Typically not. The purpose of summer research programs is to get that experience.
How can I remain in contact with major professors if I am taking a gap year?
You can keep in touch via email, asking them questions about their research/work. Some professors have a social media platform that you can also utilize. If you are staying in the area, you can always visit to keep your face in their memory.
How important is undergraduate research when applying to graduate programs?
Undergraduate research experience will definitely give you a competitive advantage when applying to graduate programs. Additionally, it is a great way to learn different techniques and build rapport with faculty. Students can pursue research experience by volunteering in local labs or participating in research-based programs (such as MARC U STAR, RISE, etc). You should try to gain experience specific to the program you are applying to. Many schools offer summer programs that may cater to upperclassmen. Other programs serve to prepare you for more rigorous research programs. Some even offer financial compensation (stipends/grants).
How can I get networking experience during quarantine?
A good way to network during these days is to follow the social media pages of the programs you are interested in and try to connect with faculty, staff, and students. You can also connect with faculty and students via platforms such as ResearchGate and LinkedIn. While many recruitment events are cancelled or digitized, this creates an opportunity to develop new programs that are not limited by physical boundaries. Make sure that you participate in as many recruitment events as you possibly can to maximize your chances of networking with faculty and students.
Will a BA (rather than a BS) weaken my PhD application?
Not necessarily. Many of our current PhD students came straight from their bachelor's to the doctoral program. It depends on the program you are applying to and your educational background. If you have a good foundation and are prepared for the doctoral program you will be fine.
How many strong recommendations will my application require?
Each program has different requirements on how many letters they require, but the average is 3-5. Most committees will look at the recommendations as a whole, rather than judge each individual letter.
I missed out on research experience because of quarantine. Will this impact my application to graduate programs?
Everyone is in the same situation! The entire globe is going through the same difficulties, so you will not be at a disadvantage. Highlight what you learned during the campus shut-down and what skills you utilized (staying motivated, managing stress, working remotely, etc). A good graduate student is adaptable and can manage their time well. I imagine you have had to do a lot of that recently!
I've already graduated and have no research experience. Can I still apply to a PhD program??
Research is not always required and depends on the programs you are applying for. Check the admissions requirements and speak with the admissions representative for specifics. If you are looking at doctoral programs that require research experience you can do the master's degree first and then apply for a doctoral program. Be sure the master's program has the experiences you are looking for (research, field work, etc.)
In choosing a school/program, how do I find a balance between personal needs and prestige?
Honestly, it depends on what your personal goals are and what your needs are. Think about what is most important to you. Would you rather attend a school that feels comfortable and supportive or attend a school that carries a big reputation? What career are you looking for and how competitive is the field? Talk about these questions with your advisors and mentors to help you decide what is best for you.
My research program was cancelled and I was not rejected. Should I mention this when I apply for PhD programs?
You can mention you applied for research programs but were not able to participate due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
Can I take a gap year after undergrad and still apply?
It is definitely not too late to apply to graduate school if you take a break! Each person's educational journey is unique, and yours is no exception. Be sure to discuss what you did during the time off between undergraduate and graduate school (work, volunteering, etc). Connect your experiences to your future goals.