Application fees and international students

It was recently pointed out to me that while need-based fee waivers can be obtained for some students applying to graduate school, many schools that offer such waivers do not extend them to international applicants. I can certainly see pragmatic reasons for this being the case, but it also doesn’t seem conducive to fully encouraging diversity. Thoughts about this?

5 thoughts on “Application fees and international students

  1. If international students weren’t being ripped off, domestic students would need to pay more. Or universities would need to stop building these fancy glass complexes. God forbid.

  2. I think everyone should be considered for application fee waivers, including international students. Sometimes even application fee reductions could be helpful, if the entire amount cannot be waived. However, I am uncertain as to how departments determine who is eligible for fee waivers (parent income? student income? savings accounts?), and can see the problems that could arise with using income as the determining factor, since what’s high in one country, for example, is very low in another (but still this should not matter if it is clear from the information required that the student cannot afford the fee).

    Departments can also do something which I know at least one philosophy department in the US already does: they can have a window of time (say, the first month of the application submission period) during which any student can apply without having to pay the application fee. This can be a way to encourage both diversity and early application submission, and should be made known as an option to international students, especially if they are among those who are otherwise not considered for waivers.

  3. Thanks Marisola. Yeah, I agree that every one should be considered. As it stands, a number of schools in the US consider someone eligible if they are already receiving need-based financial aid from the US government, which leaves the difficulty of determining who should be able to apply for a waiver up to someone else.

    I think Vanderbilt’s philosophy program doesn’t have application fee–but I’m not sure if this is particular to their department or of their graduate school. I know much of this is up to the discretion of folks outside of the department, but it would be nice if departments could work with their respective administrations to make some accommodations.

    I like the early application idea, and would make it easier for both those at the level of the graduate school and of the department who have to process all of the materials.

  4. I am a Dutch student who just applied to some U.S. schools and I can tell you that the application fee is next to nothing compared to the cost of Toefl, GRE and especially the cost of the official translations of the transcripts of ALL the past secondary studies, around 50 dollar a page (and sending out paper versions, especially if one is late and needs to use a company like FedEx (around 50-190 dollars depending on the hurry) instead of the normal mail system (around 16 dollars if signed upon delivery).)

    Fortunately I have some money in the bank, but I’m sure that poor students are excluded anyway, with or without the application fee. (Of course, if the application fee could be waived, that would be something.)

    One school asked for only UNofficial scans of documents and unofficial translations (diy) to be included in the online application. That is by far the best system: it saves everyone tons of money and time. If the applicant cannot hand over the official documents after being admitted, just notify the next one on the list (which I would think is a very unusual situation because it would mean that someone had to forge the scans knowing that s/he would have to show the official documents sooner or later).

    And as for the GRE test….it tests what one remembers from high school….which isn’t a lot in my case because I am 38 years old (so much for diversity there). It also tests vocabulary in the verbal section: at least 25% of the words asked are words that I have never seen used anywhere, and I have read (watched and listened to) almost exclusively material in English for the last 8 years. That just seems ridiculous. At least it probably does not say anything about whether I will be a good PhD candidate.

    I would for this reason also say that if one passes the GRE without severe trouble, there is no longer a need for Toefl.

    Because I was so frustrated with GRE (wasting time and money to revive my high school memories and skills when I am currently a grad student) I googled some background information about it and found several studies that say that white males score best on GRE, white females second, blacks and latinos below that (international students also score worse, but I don’t think they were a seperate category, I have read that somewhere else). So much for diversity.

    As icing on the cake I had to add a ‘diversity statement’ to one application….well…….nice try, but a joke of course, if the system itself is rotten.

  5. The GRE really is outrageously expensive– and I completely agree with you regarding transcripts. It seems much more fair to me to require unofficial transcripts. I hadn’t thought of mentioning that here, because in the discussions I’ve had about this, several folks have said that application fees can really be significantly more expensive for international students when exchange rates are factored in. Looking at the Big Mac Index, there’s going to be pretty large variations in how much an application fee actually costs depending on where you live, whereas the cost of a transcript might be roughly similar for students across geographic locations (I’m not sure about transcript costs at any place other than my own institutions though, so I can’t really say): http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2012/07/daily-chart-17

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