Equal Opportunity Astronomy: General and Financial Resources for Applying to Graduate school
For many students from traditionally underrepresented groups, just the process of applying to graduate schools can be a significant barrier resulting from a lack of knowledge of the system and resources to navigate it-- especially financial resources. While there is a great deal of information on graduate school applications both in astrobetter and astrobites posts and other topics on this wiki (helpfully compiled here
), this page is specifically dedicated to compiling resources for overcoming barriers in the application process faced by underrepresented students and undocumented students
Typical graduate application fees for an institution range from $60 to $100. The GRE Physics subject test has a fee of $150, and the general GRE has a fee of $195. Many students who want to maximize their chances will take these exams multiple times. If a student applied to a dozen schools (average fee taken to be $75) and took each GRE exam twice, they would spend over $2000, including the costs of sending their GRE scores ($27 for each school beyond the first four).
Fee Waiver Programs
This program, from the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), a consortium of primarily Big Ten schools, offers a unified fee waiver request process to its graduate programs for students from underrepresented groups. The application requires that you must be a US Citizen and have at least a 3.0 GPA. The deadline to request fee waivers is November 15.
Students can contact academic counselors through a phone number (1-800 327-4893) and request access to their website, which contains a list of 80 participating schools, and an application through which students can apply to up to 7 of these schools (most of which will waive the application fee). This program specifically targets Hispanic/Latino, Native American, and African American students applying to graduate school in STEM fields. Note: deadlines to apply through this program are typically a month in advance of the school's normal application deadline.
Although this program is sometimes called a "fee waiver", in reality it will only subsidize half of the first test (though it looks like it can be used for both a General and a Subject test)-- so retaking an exam must still be done at full cost.
Additional limitations: These waivers are available strictly on a first-come-first-serve basis for students with (extreme) demonstrated financial need (e.g., a financial aid report showing a parental contribution of not more than $1,500 for the senior year)
Undergraduate scholarships and programs through which participants have additional access to GRE/Application fee waivers:
This is a Federal program funded at ~200 schools across the US for first-generation college students and students from traditionally underrepresented groups who desire to pursue graduate school. Programs are individually operated by each school, but typically provide research opportunities, mentoring, and other support.
A competitive fellowship for graduate school which can be used at any GEM Member University, providing the first year's stipend. Students are accepted to the program as early as senior year of undergraduate. Many GEM member schools will waive application fees.
A number of schools (e.g., Johns Hopkins, UC-Riverside, UC-Santa Cruz, Michigan, Penn, etc.) will waive application fees for alumni of these programs
GRE Fee Reduction Certificates/Vouchers are also made available to the following programs: Gates Millennium Scholars Program, GEM: National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science Program, PREP: Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program, Project 1000 Program, Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program (The McNair Scholars Program)
Additional Assistance with fees & GRE expenses
Resources for additional assistance with application fees, preparing for and taking GRE exams and reporting scores to schools (Unfortunately, there are currently few examples of such programs in astronomy and STEM!)
George Mason Institute for Humane Studies
offers grants of up to $300 to offset applications costs so students can apply to more programs (and increase their chances of success). Program is for undergraduates and recent graduates with "demonstrated interest in individual and economic freedom"
, with strong preference given to students in the humanities and social sciences.
Some schools and programs also offer reimbursement or savings on official GRE preparation courses, or free preparatory seminars:
General Resources for Underrepresented Students
Resources for Undocumented students
Graduate Students Reaching a Dream Deferred (GRADD) is an organization founded by undocumented graduate students to aid other immigrants pursuing a graduate education
email for questions specifically regarding next steps for undocumented college students-ie, grad school