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Budgeting for Graduate Applications

Elisa Kronish

June 04, 2008

Budgeting for Graduate Applications

If you're considering graduate school, then you're probably considering the cost of graduate school as well. But what many students overlook is the cost of applying to grad school. Depending on the type of program, you could be looking at up to $1,000 in expenses — even before you're admitted.

Here are some typical costs to keep in mind when planning your graduate application budget:

Application fee—Every school is different, from the rare no-fee application to the pricey $175 or more for the most selective schools. Most application fees fall into the $50 to $85 range.

Test fees—Many graduate schools require scores from a standardized test. Taking the exam is one expense; sending your scores to schools may be another. (When test prices include scores sent to a number of schools, it usually requires you to select these schools the day of the exam.) Some of the most common tests include:

* Graduate Records Examination (GRE): $130 for computer-based, includes scores sent to four schools; $15 for each additional set of scores.

* Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT): $250; includes scores sent to five schools; $28 for each additional set of scores.

* Law School Admission Test (LSAT): $118; includes no scores; $12 for each set of scores sent.

* Medical College Admission Test (MCAT): $210; includes scores sent to all AMCAS-registered schools, plus six non-registered medical schools of your choice.

* Dental Admission Test (DAT): $170, includes scores sent to five schools; $15 for each additional set of scores.

These fees tend to increase every year. If the cost is prohibitive, consider requesting a fee waiver. They are available on a limited basis to students meeting strict requirements.

Helpful literature—Graduate school directories can cost anywhere from $15 to $75 or more. Check online for price breaks. Preparing for graduate school exams adds another expense; on average, $20 to $30 for practice test manuals.

Samples of work—If you're applying to a creative or academic graduate program, the admissions staff usually evaluates you by your previous work and the cost of presenting your work could get steep. For example, if you're a music student, admissions will want to hear you perform — but they're not going to pay for you to get yourself to them. They might allow you to send a tape, but you'll have to pay for time in a recording studio. Or maybe you're an anthropology student; you'll probably have to send your thesis, which means paying to have it neatly copied and bound.

Shipping—Besides the cost of putting your application together, there's the cost of mailing it. Each regular 9" x 12" envelope full of documents will cost about $4 (if sent via certified mail), but if you wait until the last minute to send them, make sure you factor in overnight shipping charges. As described above, some programs require work samples, and mailing them in a safe, secure (and insured) way will add to your expenses as well.

Visiting schools—Checking out your choices in person can be expensive. To minimize costs, try hitting a few schools in one trip, and call discount airfare companies for inexpensive flights. Check to see if the schools you are applying to offer to cover travel costs or assist in finding on-campus accommodations during your visit.

With all these expenses, the cost of applying really adds up! But do some planning, and you might be able to minimize your outlay — or at least spread it out over several months. So think ahead, set your budget and good luck with those applications!

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