202: Back to Basics: Demystifying the Grad App Process and Timeline

202: Back to Basics: Demystifying the Grad App Process and Timeline


In this episode, Dra. Yvette goes over the basics of the grad app process. In an effort to demystify the process for prospective applicants, she goes over the typical application materials required, necessary steps to apply, and offers a suggested timeline for when to complete each step of the process.


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Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 0:02

Welcome back, everyone to another episode of the Grad School Femtoring Podcast. This is your host Doctora Yvette. Today I have another solo episode for you. I had intended to continue with my guests episodes, I have a couple that I recorded a while back that I am still planning to release.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 0:20

But because I like to release them in a way where I can make sure that I take my time to develop promotional materials, send that to them in advance. And I'm still in the middle of a moving process. I just arrived to my new home in Vegas, and we're still getting settled. I thought a self a solo episode would be more appropriate for the timing of where I am with things.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 0:49

Where am I right now? Not just physically, geographically. But in terms of my work with Grad School Femtoring? Well, I have been working with my one on one clients and I have started working with some new clients and new clients are a set of McNair Scholars, they are attending a university in the Midwest. And with each of them, I'm assisting them with the grad school application process. And it has been really rewarding getting to know them thus far and answering the many questions that they have to demystify the process for them.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 1:29

And one of the first thing that I'm going over which with each of them, is the grad school application timeline, and what to expect throughout the process. So I thought that I would talk about that with you too, because as you know, I really really enjoy sharing information freely on my podcast. I don't believe in gatekeeping and hoarding information, I do believe this information should be freely accessible. And even though some entities, some programs, some departments universities are able to pay for my services, to pay for my coaching. There are even individuals who are willing to gift my coaching services to their mentees and femtees. I know this is not the case for everyone. And some of you are also considering applying to grad school are also going through this process right now and could benefit from this information.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 2:24

So let's get to it. Let's talk about the grad school application process. When I'm talking about the application process here, I'm specifically referring to Masters and PhD programs. And within those, you can also include some postbacs, I am not referring to professional programs like JD, MD, those require a different application processes, different testing. And that's outside of the scope of the work that I do. So I support folks with getting into master's programs, PhD programs and other doctoral programs like EdDs and PsyDs as well.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 3:03

And when you apply to those programs, if you've only had an experience of applying to college, you are familiar with applying through one portal. And with one portal you can apply to many schools. Sometimes it's one portal for state schools, one portal for the research based schools. And you may have a couple of questions that they ask you that you're supposed to answer. Let's say it's three to five questions, essay questions that you're answering. When you're applying to grad school, each university, each program, each department has its own application process. And so when the if you were to apply to more than one program at the same university, it might still be the same portal. But you have to find out if you're even allowed to apply apply to more than one program within the same university and in the same portal. But typically, it's one portal per program that you're applying to.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 4:05

You open up these portals, a lot of them ask for the same information. But some things might differ here and there. When I say same information, they're asking for application essays, they're usually called the statement of purpose, the personal statement, sometimes they ask for a diversity statement, sometimes they ask for a personal statement that sounds like a hybrid of a personal and a diversity statement. And in some cases, they might ask, especially for, some master's programs, the more applied master's programs, they might ask you for the five question answers where instead of writing to longer essays, you're writing short answers for a number of different questions. Those are the essays they also ask you for letters of recommendation.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 4:56

And they might ask you for your CV, they might ask you for a writing sample, depending on your discipline, they might ask you for test scores. Typically, it's the Graduate Record Exam, the general test, they might also ask you for the GRE Subject Tests. So there are certain disciplines like psychology, literature, math, physics that have subject GRE tests that you may have to take. All of this is important to find out, they might ask you for official or unofficial transcripts.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 5:32

And if you are a quote unquote low income student, or if you are part of certain designated programs, like the McNair Program, the Mellon Mays program, and others, you might be eligible to apply for a fee waiver. And that can sometimes also be its own application process, they might have their own form. And you might have to meet a specific deadline prior to the hard application deadline. So those are the materials that they're going to be asking for, through these portals. And the portals typically open up in early September. Again, I say typically, because there is no centralized way of applying to grad school. It's not like all of these programs and universities talk to one another and have one like central location where you apply No, everybody kind of does their own thing.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 6:27

The timeline is about the same for a lot of programs, but not exactly. So for instance, the timeline is very, very similar to apply to doctoral programs you're usually applying in December. And when you're applying a master's programs that can range you are typically applying January to April, but again, some programs have rolling deadlines and go on past the April date. So I'm giving you some general information so you can get an idea of what to expect when you're applying.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 6:57

Now when it comes to the timeline, right now, this episode is getting released in August 2023, I'm not sure when exactly you will be listening to it. But if it so happens that you're listening to it right as it comes out. And still in the month of August for you, there are a couple of things that you want to do prior to applying to grad school this fall. Now, the first thing is you have to make the decision to apply. Because I'm working with some students, and they're still not 100% sure, if they're going to apply. And I've told them you need to make a decision, and you need to make a decision by, you know, identify a date that works best for you.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 7:37

And then from there, you need to create and finalize the grad school list. And in my book, Is Grad School For Me, that's coming out next year, I have a whole section and chapter dedicated to the grad school list. And in that we, my co author and I, we write five key strategies for different ways that you can find grad programs that will be great for you. So if you're curious about that, I may record an episode, just to talk about the strategies, I have shared those strategies verbally with the students that I've been working with, so that they have them. But for now, just know that if you're listening to this to this episode later on, and my book comes out in 2024. So if you're listening to it a year later, you can Google isgradschoolforme.com. Find the link to purchase a copy of the book. And you can find that information there, the chapter dedicated to the grad school list.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 8:38

So you want to decide you want to create and finalize your grad school list. And you want to find out if the GRE is required, the general and Subject Test and if so, then you're going to want to start studying for it. Those are some things you can start doing now, in the month of August. And even earlier, if you want to start get a head start early in June, July, you can do these things. Another great thing to get started on in August, going on to September and again the earlier the better you can get started in the summer. If you have the time to do that is to begin drafting your statement of purpose and personal statement. I have podcast episodes on each of them. I have whole chapters dedicated to each of them in my book as well. And I have sample statements in my book. So definitely if you're stuck, if you're not sure, listen to my episodes or the early episodes, I can link them in today's show notes. And check out my book within a week you know if once it's available, so that way you can get more information on you know, a prewriting exercise guiding questions you can answer things to help you get the ball rolling and get started.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 9:59

Then continuing on in August and September, you want to make sure you create if you don't have one, or finalize, if you have one, the CV that you're going to be using for your applications, it usually you can use one CV for all your applications, there's not much tailoring that you have to do. For the essays, you may write one template, but you are going to need to customize some components of it for the different applications in September. And this could be earlier again, depending on your relationship with the faculty members that you've been working with.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 10:36

But August and September, you could start securing your letter writers, typically, it's three. And you want to start working on a recommendation packet for them so that they can write strong letters for you. The packet consists of your sample essays, it can include your CV, it definitely has to include your graduate school list with the deadlines or with your own internal deadlines for when you want them to submit their letters. This is a great strategy to make sure that you're not freaking out at the last minute because your recommenders haven't turned in their letters on time. You can give them a deadline that's a week or two before the hard deadline, just to make sure you have peace of mind as you get closer to the deadline, they've turned in their letters for you.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 11:28

Another thing to do, it's not something that everybody necessarily will be doing. But it's helpful if you have the time motivation to do it. And most of the time, people tell me that they wish that they had done it during their application process is searching for extramural funding. What is extramural funding? This is funding that you get outside of your institution. And hold on a second.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 11:58

I wanted to mention the question of extramural funding, because one of my recent students was telling me that he wasn't sure what the difference was between extramural and intramural and wasn't 100% sure how funding works in grad school, especially for PhD programs. That's what he's applying for. And I was telling him Well, typically for PhD programs, when you apply and you get in, you are offered a funding package. It's not guaranteed that you're going to get a full funding package. But the funding package will detail what you're going to receive from your first year to the last year of your program. So assuming that you are in a five year PhD program, if you get a full funding package, you will get a full funding package for years one through five.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 12:47

Typically, two of those years are fellowship years and for the fellowship years, they have to nominate you, your department nominates you for a university wide fellowship that typically goes through an office like graduate division. And assuming you get it then you get awarded those fellowships, then years two, three, and four. So assuming you get a fellowship your first year, so that way you don't have to work, you can focus on studying and getting used to your coursework, and then you do your fellowship year, your fifth year when you're finishing up your dissertation. So again, you can focus solely on finishing. Years two through four are in the middle. You've got a combination of teaching assistantships and research assistantships and those come from your department not from the institution as a whole.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 13:35

But students themselves can apply for extramural funding, not intramural, extramural. These are from entities outside of your university. This is, one example that I commonly use is when individuals apply for the National Science Foundation GRFP Graduate Research Fellowship Program, which typically funds master's and doctoral students for three years. And you can negotiate for what three years in your program you get to use your NSF funding. So if you apply for the NSF the same year you apply to grad school, and lo and behold, you get it, you can notify the programs you applied to or unless you've already been admitted, you can notify these programs that have admitted you, let them know you have your own funding.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 14:26

And this will give you more leeway to decide which years you have fellowship or you're not needing to work you can focus solely on your research and your studies and which years you're going to be doing TA ships research assistantships, but it typically benefits you and it benefits your department because they're not having to pay for every year in between your fellowship years. And if you don't get full funding, then it can offset the years that they are not able to provide funding for you. I hope this makes sense.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 14:59

That's why extramural funding is great. It makes you more competitive if you get it. It gives you more negotiation power. And in general, it's helpful overall, it again, if you have the time and capacity to do it, it's a great exercise to in learning how to apply for competitive fellowships. So, September, you might want to be looking into them applying for them, especially the NSF, that deadline comes up in October. So you want to get started a little earlier, maybe even as early as July, August, if you know, you're going to be applying for the NSF. But there are other fellowship programs that you can look into as well. That is not the only one.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 15:43

Okay, so then, in September, like I mentioned earlier, when I was talking about what to expect the general application process and materials, you can start logging into your online portals. For college, usually portals open up in August, but for grad school, they open up a little bit later. And then you can start to look into the process of applying for fee waivers. Sometimes it's not clearly indicated on the website. So you can contact them to ask them what their process is that you can start applying and obtaining those early and well in advance.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 16:17

Because again, another thing that I've seen happen time and time again, is students not knowing waiting until the last minute to try to apply, realizing they didn't meet the deadline or realizing that the process of applying takes a couple of days to process. And they don't have enough time to do that, before the deadline, the hard deadline for their program. So then what happens? They don't get the fee waiver, and they have to pay for the application out of pocket. And some of these applications are not cheap. I you know, they can be $120 more or less. And that adds up quick if you're applying to 6, 8, 10, 12 programs.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 16:57

Alright, so then in October, and this is all recommended, right? So every single program is different, you might be applying to masters programs. So you might have a little bit more leeway, more wiggle room more time to do all of these things. But if you're applying for doctoral programs in December, this is the suggested timeline, you can modify it based on how much time you typically need to have before you submit materials. October, you want to finish your your statements, you want to finish your statement of purpose, you want to finish drafting your personal statement.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 17:35

You also want to start refining, editing, revising if you need to, and cleaning up your writing sample, if you need to submit one, you want to give your recommenders that packet of information. And here's the thing, sometimes students wait to the last minute to ask for letters. Why? Because they're afraid of having to give them the packet and they feel like they don't have the materials for the packet ready. So when that happens, I tell students, you know what? Go ahead and ask them. You don't need to have the packet yet.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 18:03

Once they say yes, you thank them so much for their time and their support. And then you notify them you say thank you so much I am in the process of beginning to prepare your application packet, I will send it to you by x date. And that date might be a month and a half, even two months later. And they're okay with it. So long as you give them at least a month in advance a month prior to the deadline that you want them to submit it. They should be good. So don't don't give them the materials last minute. Don't give it to them a week or two before the deadline. Give them at least a month. But again, you don't have to give it to them so many months in advance that you're stressing yourself out because you don't have your essays drafted yet.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 18:47

Okay, October going back to October, you might still be applying for external funding November, you probably will still be updating your writing sample. November is a great time to order your transcripts too because I don't like to have folks ordered and transcripts in December if they have December. deadlines. Why? Because December Well, november two, it starts to get tricky around holiday season. Around holiday season, people take time off. Typically, universities slow down and you cannot rely on folks to necessarily get things back to you on time, especially if you're ordering official transcripts. And if you know you have official transcripts, just get it done in early November with plenty of time in advance, you know from your deadline. That way, you're not waiting until a couple of days before your hard deadline and it's December and people are slowing down. They're getting ready for the holidays and then all of a sudden, your transcript doesn't arrive on time.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 19:53

That's November for you so November order your transcripts. Also if you need to send scores send your GRE scores because the same thing that happens with transcripts happens with GRE scores, there can be delays with sending those scores, sometimes not even delays, they might not even get sent to the right place. And you have to sort that out. So you want to give yourself time to sort out any issues that might come up with sending GRE scores, if you happen to be the unlucky person who adds in the university code to send them the transcripts, and it doesn't go to the department, maybe it goes to grad division, and they don't send it to your department. And you have to just do a little bit of communicating to sort that out.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 20:33

I'm telling you all of these worst case scenarios not to freak you out. But to warn you in advance because this has happened to my students and clients in the past. And the more you know, the more you can prepare yourself. Now, December, that's when you will likely be submitting your applications, especially for PhD programs. This is where you can start sending a week to two weeks in advance prior to the deadline, you send reminders to your letter recommenders to let them know about the looming deadline. This is when you double check to make sure transcripts have been submitted GRE scores have been received, all before the winter holidays.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 21:16

And for those of you applying to Master's programs, the same will continue on from January to April, I'm not going to go into the timeline of what to do after you've submitted your application materials. Today, I just wanted to talk about the timeline of the process of applying to the point where you submit your materials. But just know, there's also a timeline for what to do once they notify you that you've been admitted. And once they give you a hard deadline for when you need to say yes or no to your decision. And that is it. This is the grad school application process. It consists of communicating with a lot of individuals, namely, your letter recommenders.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 22:05

And also I didn't even mention this, contacting faculty and grad students from the programs you're interested. And also, I also didn't mention this earlier, contacting individuals in your ideal career and conducting informational interviews. If you're still unsure about applying to grad school, I don't recommend doing it unless you're certain? And how can you find out by thinking about your long term goals and what you want to get out of this program. Sometimes folks want to apply to grad school because they don't know what else they don't know what else to do. And you want to make sure that you get the most out of this investment, investment of time and energy. It's a lot of money, whether you know you get full funding or not, it's still a lot of money that you're going to invest. And it's a lot of time too. That five years of your life or more is a good amount of time. And so you want to make sure you're certain about it.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 22:59

You want to talk to people who are doing what you want to do you want to find out where they went, how they got their training, what advice they have to offer you. You want to talk to professors in the programs that you are going to dedicate so much time out of your life to because what if you don't like them? What if that's not the right program for you? What if they're not even going to be there by the time you apply and get in? Talk to people, get out of your shell, talk to grad students find out what their experience is, like, get advice. And once you have a solid sense of wow, this feels really good. This discipline sounds like the right one for me. This type of program sounds like it's the right field for me. This professor sounds like the right person for me to work with. Those are all the green flags that you're going to be looking for to make sure you feel confident and empowered in your decision to apply to grad school.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 23:53

Okay, this is supposed to be a short episode. Because, again, I have not had the time to get back to my guest recordings. I have a bunch but I need to go through my processes to make sure I get them out appropriately in the way that I like to get them out with the proper promotional materials and communications with them. I hope you found this helpful. i It's been a while since I did an episode on the grad school admissions process. I know that I've been thinking about it, talking about it a lot behind closed doors. I've been writing about it in my book, Is Grad School For Me. But I haven't been talking about it explicitly as much in my podcast so another episode for you to consider as you're thinking about applying to grad school.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 24:42

If you want more information, check out my early episodes, the very first episodes episodes 1 through 10 all consistent of the application materials. So check them out. And like I said once my book is out in 2024 go ahead and get yourself a copy Is Grad School For Me and reach out to me if you have any other questions I'll talk to you all later.

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