Graduate School

Overview of Graduate Programs

Academic Programs

Academic programs prepare you for teaching and research. Degrees in these programs are Masters of Arts & Sciences (M.A.'s & M.S.'s) and Doctorates of Philosophy (Ph.D's). These cover a variety of disciplines including social sciences, physical sciences, natural sciences, language and literature, etc.

Professional Programs

Professional programs prepare you for a career in a professional field such as medicine, law or business. These Degrees include both doctorates like M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) & J.D. (Doctor of Law) as well as masters degrees such as M.B.A. (Masters in Business Administration).

Choosing a Program

You can start by checking out the degrees and schools attended by your professors in Latina/Latino Studies. On the Faculty Page, each instructor's bio identifies the program or programs where they received their graduate degrees.

  1. Look for a mentor; someone who you can relate to and who does the kind of work that you would eventually like to do. Talk with that person about how they achieved their position and ask them for advice.
  2. Choose a field you'd like to pursue. Take classes in that field and begin tailoring your class papers and course projects to your chosen field. If you have a Senior Project requirement for graduation such as a research paper or culminating project, gear your work toward a finished product that you could submit as a writing sample in your graduate school application. Make sure that your writing sample has been proof-read and edited at least three times.
  3. Develop language skills in a second language. Bilingual applicants have a great advantage. If you are a "casual" Spanish speaker, do what you have to do to include a "bilingual in Spanish and English" qualification on your application.
  4. Prepare for and take the GRE (Graduate Record Exam). The best preparation is to become very familiar with the format of the questions on the exam so that you won't end up using precious exam time to understand what the questions are asking. You can also take a prep course (i.e.. Kaplan).
  5. Research graduate programs and potential mentors. Find the top 5-10 programs that match your goals and objectives and research faculty members in those Departments. Use the application to 1) demonstrate that you are a qualified and capable applicant for the program, 2) express your interest and enthusiasm for that particular program, and 3) show how your research interests make a PERFECT match with at least one of the faculty members in the Department. Show how you are perfect for the Department and the Department is perfect for you. This is an important point to make in your application.
  6. Know that Academia needs YOU. More and more Latinas/Latinos are attending colleges and universities yet the number of Latina/Latino Ph.D.s remains dismally low. We have a right to more faculty positions and an obligation to become professors, mentors, and role models to the next generations. All you need is the drive and determination to put yourself on the right track and the rest is do-able.

Preparing for a Graduate Degree

Graduate Examinations

Most graduate and professional schools require that you take a standardized examination to be admitted into their advanced degree programs. The GRE is the standardized exam of choice for most academic programs resulting in a Masters or Ph.D. To learn which exam is required, please contact the school directly. For information on the following standardized examinations, please visit their web sites.

Academic Program Exams

GRE = Graduate Record Examination

also, check GRE subject exams

Professional Program Exams

GMAT = Graduate Management Admissions Test

LSAT = Law School Admission Test

MCAT = Medical College Admission Test

  1. Do not take the test without sufficient preparation or as a "practice run."
  2. Check out test preparation courses.
  3. Scholarships and discounts may be available.
  4. Take advantage of a simulated test to determine your performance level.
  5. Remember to meet the deadline date for regular registration to avoid late fees. in addition, you may want to take the exam well before the deadline as there is usually a "crunch" in November and December as most applicants try to schedule their tests right before the deadline.
  6. Follow the directions outlined in the registration bulletin completely.
  7. Clearly understand the cancellation and refund policies.
  8. Remember to be relaxed and give yourself adequate time to prepare for the exam. If you are not taking a test prep course, you should allow yourself at least a month (if not two) of 1.5 to 2 hours per day of preparation.
  9. Understand the scoring method. These vary from exam to exam and also change over time.
  10. Take the test seriously, don't use it as a "practice exam."

Personal Statement

A personal statement is an extremely important document and is likely to be your first impression on the graduate admissions officer. Well-developed writing skills are becoming increasingly imperative and the personal statement reflects your writing ability.

Useful Tips for Preparing Your Personal Statement

Follow the Instructions: This is extremely important. Most applications will have particular questions they want applicants to respond to in writing. Check out the following examples from different grad programs:

Masters degree example; CSU General Grad Application:

"Write a brief statement describing reason(s) for pursuing graduate or post baccalaureate study. Include any additional information concerning your preparation that is pertinent to the objective specified. You may also send a resume and/or letters of reference if required by department."

Professional degree examples; UC Berkeley; Boalt Hall School of Law Application:

"Please provide more information about yourself in a written personal statement. The subject matter of the essay is up to you, but keep in mind that the reader will be seeing a sense of you as a person and a potential graduate of Boalt Hall. Boalt Hall seeks to enroll a class with varied backgrounds and interests. If you wish, you may separately discuss how your interests, background, life experiences and perspectives would contribute to the diversity of the entering class. If applicable, you may also describe any disadvantages that may have adversely affected your past performance or that you have successfully overcome, including linguistic barriers or a personal or family history of cultural, educational or socioeconomic disadvantage. Your personal statement should be limited to four double-spaced pages. please include your social security number and signature on each page of the statement."

  1. Note the difference in Personal Statement requirements in each example. They are related enough that you can prepare a template Personal Statement, but it is extremely important that you follow the instructions outlined in the application and tailor your personal statement to the particular program or institution. The personal statement should be precise and coherent, do not meander or logically deviate from your main points. Most admission officers are looking for your personality to be reflected in a personal statement. (Your essay must be grammatically correct, including spelling and punctuation; neat; and intellectually honest). Don't forget to keep a copy for yourself!
  2. Distinguish the Prospective Program or Department: Include your specific reasons for applying to the graduate or professional school and your interest in a particular program. Explain why you wanted to pursue the chosen educational direction.
  3. Highlight Academic Background: Provide a brief description of your academic accomplishments, including related work and leadership or research experience. Summer internships should also be included. Do this even though the college will already be receiving your transcripts. The point is to draw attention to your overall record or, perhaps, specific courses that are related to your anticipated graduate studies.
  4. Highlight Career Goals: Describe your specific career goals and explain how this degree will help you to accomplish them.
  5. Investigate faculty research interests: Mention your knowledge of any research being conducted by faculty in the department in which you have indicated an interest.
  6. Don't be modest: This is a time to promote yourself, not underplay your experiences. if need be, pretend you are a publicist for a new client: you. How would you write about this person to emphasize the positive and downplay the negative? Most students never reach this point, but your reviewer (see # 7 below) will let you know if you've gone too far.
  7. Resources for Writing your Statement: You might find it helpful to use published materials related to the Graduate Application process and in particular the graduate school personal statement. Usually these books offer examples of successful Personal Statements for a variety of academic and professional programs. The SFSU Library has a number of titles.
  8. Proofreading and Review: Once you have completed a draft of your personal statement, please submit it to a faculty member or an advisor for review. Remember to edit your personal statement for errors and have at least two other persons to check it as well. Please do not prematurely submit your statement before you have had an opportunity to review it for corrections.

Letters of Recommendation

Generally, most graduate schools require two or three letters of recommendation from professors under which you have studied. If an employer would like to give you a letter of recommendation, it should be in addition to that of your professors.

Tips for Requesting a Letter of Recommendation

  1. Make a Timely Request: provide your professors and/or employers with a timely request. Ideally you should give them at least a month. Keep in mind, that they have many responsibilities and very demanding schedules. You are more likely to receive a thoughtful, well-written recommendation by keeping these time considerations in mind.
  2. Use A Resume or Bio Sheet: provide your professors and/or employers with an updated resume that outlines your academic accomplishments and work/research experience. If possible, share a copy of your personal statement with them so that they will have a better understanding of your future academic goals. In lieu of a resume you can prepare a biography sheet, that describes you and specific accomplishments you want the recommender to include. Be sure to include your community service learning hours, site and specific CSL project on either the bio or resume. Work hours, family obligations, special achievements can also be incorporated in the letter.
  3. Supply Info Regarding the Prospective Grad Program: share specific information about the advanced degree program and the school(s) that you have chosen for your advanced study. Include a URL to the school's website or, if you have additional copies of the program's application packet, provide that as well. The more your recommender understands about the program you are applying to the more likely you will get a letter tailored to the features of that program.
  4. Also, don't forget to include a copy of the actual request for a letter of recommendation. Often, there are specific instructions for the recommender to follow in preparing the letter.
  5. Specify the Recipient: specify to whom the letter should be addressed, as well as that person’s title and current mailing address (if it is not submitted electronically). It may be that the letter should be addressed to a committee. Again, include a copy of the actual request for a letter of recommendation as this information is usually included.
  6. Deadline: inform the professor or the employer of the date that the letter is needed. Don't give the actual Grad Application deadline. Instead give the professor (or employer) a deadline at least two weeks before the actual grad application deadline. In addition, you might want to check in before the deadline to remind your recommender. Don't consider this as pestering; it is very helpful to the recommender.

Financial Resources

Sources of Aid

Scholarships, fellowships, and grants are financial awards which do not require repayment (these awards also include minority fellowships and scholarships).
Loans require payment either monetarily or through service.
Scholarship loans are scholarships that become loans if the recipient does not comply with the terms and conditions of the award.
Graduate, teaching, or research assistantships require part-time work, provide monetary compensation (stipend), and generally cover tuition and related fees.

Financial Aid Package

A typical financial aid package will include a tuition/fee wavier and a stipend ranging from $1,000 to $7,000 and upwards for an academic year. Generally, you will be paid each semester, quarterly or monthly. With fellowships, you are not required to work, but with assistantships you will usually be working 20 hours per week. In most cases, you will have to pay for books, food, and other living costs that are generally associated with graduate or professional study.

Federal Assistance Fellowship & Scholarship Links

To begin the financial aid process, you must file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). FAFSA is a need-analysis to determine your ability to pay for your college education. An expected family contribution is determined by a uniform federal formula. Need is determined by the cost of attendance at a specific school and subtracting the calculated family contribution.
Federal assistance cannot exceed the cost of attendance at the specified school. However, you can appeal to have the cost increased for child care while attending graduate or professional school and for commuting costs. Also, it may be increased to purchase a computer.
Graduate students are classified as independent students.
Graduate students who receive a graduate, teaching or research assistantship are generally assessed at the in-state level.

Federal Stafford/ Ford Direct Loans

This is the United States Department of Education's major form of self-help aid for students. There are two types of Federal Direct Loans: subsidized loans (awarded on the basis of financial need) and unsubsidized loans (which are not based on financial need). If you are a graduate student, you can borrow up to $18,500 per academic year (only $8,500 of this amount may be in subsidized Direct loans). The total debt you can have outstanding from all Direct Loans combined is $138,500 as a graduate or professional student (no more than $65,500 of this amount may be in subsidized loans). Please note that the graduate debt limit includes any direct loans received for undergraduate study. There are specific requirements for you to receive federal assistance, please check with your institution for the guidelines. Subsidized and unsubsidized loans are both subject to the cost of attendance at a specific school and the expected family contribution.

Federal Perkins Loan

A low interest loan for students with exceptional financial need. A graduate or professional student may borrow up to $5000 for each year of graduate or professional study. The total amount that you can borrow as a graduate or professional student is $30,000 (this includes any Federal Perkins Loans borrowed as an undergraduate student).

Federal Work-Study Program (FWS)

Provides jobs for graduate students with financial need. Your salary will be at least the current federal minimum wage, but it may be higher depending on the type of work you do and the skills required. Your total award depends on when you apply, your level of need, and the funding level of your school. As a graduate student, you may be paid by the hour or you may receive a salary. No FWS student may be paid a commission or fee. Your school must pay you directly at least once a month.

More Links

Makes a claim to be the most comprehensive online source of graduate school information. is a service of Educational Directories Unlimited, Inc., an online service provider. This site is composed of post-baccalaureate educational information, including a directory with comprehensive program listings categorized by curriculum and subdivided by geography. Users select their desired curriculum and receive pages of thorough information through their browser software.