Graduate School Preparation

Researching Graduate Schools

Graduate School Information Sheet – This information sheet is a “form” that will allow you to fill in the various fields on your computer when downloaded and opened in Microsoft Word. You might find it useful to use “save as” and name the form according to the universities you’re researching.

Some colleges and universities that offer graduate school fee waivers for McNair Scholars. If you are applying through a central system, you will need to coordinate with the school on how to get around paying the fee. If a college or university is not listed here, it is still possible that you may get a fee waiver by submitting a request, if the information is true, with a letter from Financial Aid that states something to the effect of: “This student is a fully funded student at our institution and qualifies for full Pell Grant funding. It would be a financial hardship for this student to have to pay a fee waiver for applying to your institution.”

Graduate School Ratings

Graduate school ratings help you to determine the tier” in which the school you are considering may be. This is important in the process of deciding where to apply as you need to understand how competitive the program is, what their requirements for admissions may be, and approximately how many applications they receive a year. The higher rated a program, the more competitive their application process.

Institutional Research Level – Carnegie Rating – This is a useful rating to know to help determine how much research is happening at the university of interest. Generally, not always, when it comes to a PhD, you want to attend an R1 or R2 school, particularly if you would like to later teach or research at an R1 or R2 school.


You should never have to pay for a PhD. Therefore, whether you go to school “in state” or “out of state”, “public” or “private”, your cost of attendance should be the same: zero. Applying early to a program will help you with this, as it often puts you in the running for university or department sponsored funding (fellowships or assistantships). Sometimes, however, you need to apply directly to the school, to various departments, through Human Resources, through the graduate school, or other venues to be considered for an assistantship (which is a means of funding). If it is not crystal clear in the application, ask the graduate school at the college or university how students apply for funding.

So that you do not rely solely on school funding, you can apply for external funding for graduate school. Students who come with their own funding can almost choose what college they want to attend. Funding for master’s level programs is often harder to obtain.

McNair Scholars and other associated funding options
Cornell University Fellowship Search/Database
Possible STEM funding

GRE Test Prep

Your performance on the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) will not make or break your chances of graduate school acceptance. However, it can change it considerably depending upon where you are applying, your field of interest, and your overall GPA. To do well on the actual test, you need to be prepared and know what is often asked, how it is asked, and how to answer the questions in a way that will get you a higher score. In addition to studying, taking practice tests are important in helping you achieve a higher score. You should only take the GRE once, unless you are certain you will perform significantly higher on the subsequent test.