Monday, January 10, 2011

Grad School Applications - Cash Grab Costs Yet Valuable Benefits

Please give me a moment. I'm sitting in a corner drowning my sorrows in a bowl of ice cream. It may be the last one I'll be having for awhile. Horrified, I've created a list of all the things I'll have to give up this month. The harsh reality of potentially giving up my daily Starbucks intake is sinking in. Tragedy, oh the tragedy.

Why am I painting a picture so an bleak existence that even Starbucks isn't in it? It's January. And as a result, we're right in the middle of grad school and law school application season. And while we're all eager to write our personal statements raving about how we can save the world, something less exciting happens when we click Submit. We have to pay.

I've calculated that I'll be spending about $850 on law school applications this month. This includes the application fees, transcript fees to have my transcript printed with the university seals at both the University of Toronto and at Queen's, postage (especially for my international parcels), and other miscellaneous yet related expenses. This is, of course, on top of how much money has been spent on my law school endeavours this past year. The LSAT fees, the LSDAS application fees, grad school application fees last year, LSAT preparation fees, material fees. The list could go on. Law school and graduate school application fees have cost us so much money. And this is, of course, on top of the tuition we will be paying if we are accepted.

Dear University, I'm just a lowly Masters student. I'm not made of money, nor do I make much. I'd just like to be at peace with my daily London Fog, with food to eat, a good book to read, and the peace of mind knowing that I'll be attending law school in September. Is that really too much to ask?

Crawling to our parents to foot the bill can be one option when the going gets tough. But saddling the cost on people we're dependent on still leaves me unsettled. In principle, and in the name of independence, I'd really like to know why this entire process is so costly? Why do I need to pay almost $100 per law school I apply to? You read that correctly, that's per school. That's a month's worth of groceries for me. Clearly, I will be living off yogurt this month.

Why is it so expensive? Please. I sincerely want to know where my money is going.

Yet despite my complaints, I'd like to consider our dilemmas from another point of view.

Despite the bleak picture I've just painted for all of you (yes, again, that's almost $100 per law school), you can call me naive when I say that I'll accept this bleak reality with a hope and appreciation of what's to come. While many friends have dismissed grad school applications as an "ultimate cash grab" (and I don't deny that it is or might be), I'll choose to see it differently. In a more optimistic fashion.

I may be eating yogurt for the next month, but in the greater scheme of things, these hundreds of dollars invested are spent for good reason. Hundreds of dollars invested towards our futures, invested into applying for programs that can lead us to careers we'll enjoy and love. And at the end of the day, aren't these careers the reason we're applying in the first place?

I'm not saying that these costs are excusable or acceptable, but complaints aside (and I've complained a lot), we will be paying for these applications. Whether we like it or not. So let's make like optimistic pragmatists and turn our attentions away from the bleak realities of forking over the dinero. Let's realize that all this money will be worth it in the long run. Let's keep in mind that there are promising benefits to these costs.

It can be hard, but let's stay positive, my friends! Really, it'll do our heads and hearts more good to look at the more desirable, more satisfying aspects of our situation. Happy Applying!

"It's a funny thing about life. If you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it."
- W. Somerset Maugham


  1. I stupidly added it up and it's $1354 for me... this includes postage, sending GRE scores, applying to schools, transcripts... This is the cost of applying to 9 schools and 4 scholarships...
    Doesn't include writing the GRE or any prep stuff... WOW
    I feel your pain!

  2. Ah, I know! That's an insane amount of money. Put together, the cost of our applications combined could purchase a CAR or something or equally significant value. So crazy!