Applying 411

The cost of applying to graduate school

What do application fees actually pay for?

Most graduate schools require an application fee. The fee goes to pay for everything from the admissions management system (Emory uses CollegeNET) to the salaries of the admissions representatives who spend time reading each application.

At Emory, we are committed the the practice of whole file review–this means that every application is read from cover to cover by an admissions representative. We do not use test scores or any other factor to weed students out of the pool prior to file review. Because of this, reviewing each application takes time and has a real cost. An application fee can help ensure that students are serious about applying while also contributing to the costs of a thorough review.

Is it possible to waive the application fee?

That said, we never want the application fee to be a burden that keeps students from being able to apply. Emory’s Laney Graduate School is proud to offer a fee waiver to applicants who are affiliated with any one of the following programs:

  • McNair Scholars
  • MMUF-Mellon Mays Undergraduate Research Fellowship
  • NIH Graduate Professional School Fair
  • …and several more.

Many other schools take this same approach, offering fee waivers to students who attend specific graduate school preparation programs. Some schools may offer waivers to students who visit or participate in school-specific programs (Emory LGS-SOAR and Learning About Laney participants receive a waiver.)

If you do not qualify for a waiver via one of these programs, you can still request one from many schools on the basis of financial hardship. For Emory, applicants applying under this designation should meet the U.S. Department of Education definition of “low income” (you don’t need to be a U.S. citizen, you just need to provide evidence to show that you meet the definition in these guidelines.) If you qualify, fill out the form at this link and keep in mind that it may take up to ten days to receive a reply. We cannot extend the deadline for students waiting on the fee waiver process.

To find out about fee waivers at other schools, try Google-ing the school name + fee waiver. Some schools do not advertise their fee waivers in an obvious place, but many do offer them. There is also a consortium called the “B1G Academic Alliance” that offers FreeApp. This allows you to apply for free to any PhD or Masters of Fine Arts program at participating universities. The fee waiver is not automatic, but, if received, it cuts down on how many places you have to contact. Emory is not currently a member.

Finally, it’s important to note that some schools do not require an application fee at all or offer fee waivers in specific years to specific programs, such as the year of a university milestone or a year in which a program opens admissions or hires new faculty.

What other costs should I consider?

Beyond the application fee, there can be costs related to the GRE and TOEFL and a fee for a transcript from your undergraduate institution. The Educational Testing Service offers some support for students facing financial hardship related to the GREEmory Chemistry does not require or allow submission of the GRE test, so this is not a consideration for us! (Learn more here.) Emory accepts unofficial transcripts for the application–these are often available free to the student. We do require an official, sealed transcript be submitted directly to the graduate school if a student accepts an offer of admission.

We also require submission of either TOEFL or IELTS scores for international applicants. We will waive this requirement for students who have studied for one or more years at a domestic institution.

Often, students ask to provide additional documents…subject test scores, certificates, etc. The correct (and least expensive) way to incorporate these is in your C.V./resume or personal statement. Please do not provide materials that are not requested.

This Twitter thread by @AmaBemma is fantastic and we have incorporated many of the resources mentioned into this post. (Her Instagram also includes many graduate school resources, although the focus is on English PhD programs.)

We hope that cost will not be a barrier for any applicant. Please contact us if you need assistance.

Next in Applying 411: The costs (and benefits) of attending graduate school