How Much Does It Cost To Apply To Grad School? One Girls's Guesstimate

by 1:01 AM 3 comments
This is the special time of the year where all of my grad school apps have been confirmed as received, decisions aren't due for another month, and I have nothing to do except sit around and try not to think about it. For a while, I was really not thinking about it. Now, I'm thinking about how much freaking money I spent on this process.

I applied to eight schools, which is pretty average, or even a little low compared to what other people on the internet seem to be doing. One of these schools doesn't have an application fee (thanks Eastern New Mexico University!), but the other seven do. These fees are around $60 average, and added up to $410. 

The next obvious and direct expense is transcripts. I've taken classes at five different colleges, but most people probably average about three. The cost for a single transcript seems to range from $5-$7.50, so let's say it's $6 per transcript. I had to send two sets to a few colleges, but other colleges were accepting them from a centralized application processing center (CSDCAS), so I ended up ordering nine transcripts, 9x$6x3=$162. This doesn't include the fact that I had to send an additional set to Idaho State because apparently they don't take transcripts originally released to the student. This was kind of my fault, because this rule was written all over the application and I didn't pay attention/believe it would be enforced. It was enforced!

I had to send official GRE score reports to five schools, one school accepted unofficial ones. It's $25 a GRE score report, so that was $125. Also, $190 to take the GRE. I'm not even going to talk about the books, the coffee drinks, and all of the other expenses surrounding that test. Plus one California school made me take the CBEST which cost $100. $100+$125+$190=$415.

If your letter of recommendation writers live out of town, you'll have to mail them stamped and addressed envelopes. I had some last minute confusion from an overworked professor, so I had to express this, which cost $47.25. I spent another $75.95 at the post office for mailing all of the apps, so about $120 for mailing expenses. 

As I mentioned earlier, there's a centralized application portal that half of the colleges I applied to use. They require a separate set of recommendations, transcripts, and of course, fees. I spent $290 on the additional application fees for those four schools. 

I'm not going to go into printing costs, gas to attend informational meetings, the cost of an undergraduate education to even qualify for grad school, etc. But application fees, tests, mailing, and transcripts add up to $1107. 

That's a lot! That's about a month of working 30 hours per week at a preschool, minus tax! That's almost rent! 

What I don't understand: WHY do you have to send "official" transcripts and "official" score reports and hand-signed letters of recommendation? Why not just tell students 'you can submit unofficial transcripts, but IF ACCEPTED, you'll have to provide official ones, and if they don't match we'll automatically deny you.' This would save the poor students of the world thousands of dollars. 

Also, by making applications so expensive (not to mention time-intensive, which is a whole different story) many applicants are automatically disqualified by the fees alone. They might be great students who could find a grant to pay tuition if accepted, but if they can't afford to apply in the first place it's just a hypothetical situation.

The argument, I'm sure, is that the money shows you are sincerely interested in the school. I would counter that anyone in their right mind would not put in the hours required to apply in the first place if they weren't interested. It's just not a fun use of time. 

I also want to point out that it's typical in speech language pathology to apply a few years in a row before being accepted to a program. So multiply the expenses (minus the GRE fees) by two or three to get a real feel for the costs.  

Luckily for me, I'm very rich! So it's not an issue for me, I'm just making these arguments on behalf of the common people. And now I will retire to the leisure room for cigars and brandy while a lady plays the piano-forte. What a life! 

Marina Gafni

Marina Gafni is a 28-year-old speech pathology student. She lives with her husband in San Jose, CA.


  1. It's sad for the common folk. I think that the hig costs result from: 1) it's their world, and your just a squirrel trying to get a nut; 2) a surprising number of liars, cheaters, and obfuscators apply to attend grad school; and 3) each cost results from a distinct process, which means that no one is in charge overall.

    I hope you enjoyed your cigar.

    1. While re-reading my previous comment, please replace the initial instance of the word 'your' with the contraction 'you're'.

  2. Ok, but I'm not going to fix your use of the word "hig." Also, University of South Carolina and University of Northern Colorado granted me admission contingent upon another set of transcripts, so I know it's possible to change the system. CHANGE THE SYSTEM!