I just spent $1,000 applying for graduate school.
I applied to nine schools, and the cost of each application ranged between $50 and $105 with only one university’s application process costing nothing (I was so confused that the one application didn’t ask me for my credit card information that I contacted several people at the university to verify this, and they confirmed that, yes, their application actually is one of the few free ones). Along with the application fees, it cost $200 to take the GRE, $27 per school to send your GRE scores to institutions, and my undergraduate university charged me each time I needed it to send my transcript because they won’t send it electronically. I was lucky; medical and law school applications and tests can cost even more than the $1,000 I just spent, especially if applicants have to travel for interviews.
Not only did I just spend $1,000 on all these applications and fees, but everything was due right before Christmas, so my bank account was extra drained this month (if anyone wants to give me a Christmas present, money is the top thing on my Christmas list).
That $1,000 killed my soul as I watched the amount in my bank account decrease, and instead of celebrating submitting all the applications after all the work I put into them, I felt miserable about all that money flying out the window. But unlike a lot of people in the same position, I could actually afford these applications and nonsense fees (as long as I did a lot of couponing).
Even though I’m a stereotypical broke Millennial with more student loan debt than I make in a year, I do have a steady income. Many Millennials are still struggling to find a good job or even a job at all with their bachelor’s degree, so some are seeking out a higher degree to be a more competitive candidate in the ever-worsening job market for recent college graduates. But if you don’t have a good income (or any income) to begin with, how can you afford all the application fees, much less the tuition if you’re going to medical or law school? (Especially if you’re applying to a more prestigious university).
What if you come from a background of poverty and need to help support your family instead of paying for applications? What if you’re married with kids and want a better degree and job to support your family, but the application fees cost as much as your monthly rent or mortgage payment? What if you’ve always dreamed of being a doctor and helping to save lives, but you don’t have nearly enough money to make it happen? Undergraduate universities already treat people from low income homes unfairly, and graduate programs may make the problem even worse. Yes, there are grants, but you have to jump through hoops when applying and there’s no guarantee that you could get one, especially if you come from a financially stable background but you yourself cannot get a job. It also isn’t easy to find information on application grants or waivers if you need it.
So what can actually be done to fix this problem? I doubt the job market could be easily fixed (but people could stop requiring 5-10 years of experience for an “entry level” job to get more recent college graduates employed), so it may be up to the universities to at least make the situation somewhat better.
Yes, they have to pay people to sort through these applications, so I can understand at least a small application fee. I don’t believe in just giving Millennials whatever they complain about (this is what produces “snowflakes“), but there are several ways universities could help applicants. I’ve already written about the unnecessary extravagances these universities waste money on, so maybe more money could be allocated towards applications instead of redoing fountains and adding copper domes to buildings. More universities could move towards electronic transcripts instead of paper ones (don’t liberal institutions want to help save the environment anyway?), or at least lower the price of sending a transcript because there’s no way that two pieces of paper, some ink, an envelope, and a stamp cost $10. Schools could stop requiring the GRE for many of their programs since every single professor I spoke to said they don’t even really care about the GRE scores anyway, and the GRE could lower the price of sending out scores—$27 per school is even more outrageous than the $10 per school for transcripts.
I doubt many of these things will change, but if even one of them would, it might help many prospective students. Universities say they want the best of the best among applicants to attend their schools, but they may not realize that the best of the best can’t even afford to apply.
Image: Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University – By Mathew Ingram [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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