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The First Steps to Getting Your Graduate Degree: Everything You Need to Know From Deciding to Go to Getting In

College, General By January 9, 2020 No Comments

The graduate school application process can be complicated. From deciding whether to go to grad school, to figuring out where to apply and how to prepare a competitive application – it’s a lot to sort out. This handy guide will help you figure it out. From the beginning stages all the way to getting accepted, follow these steps to graduate school. 

Please note that there are several types of advanced education that are not typically referred to as “graduate school.” Graduate programs in law or business are often referred to as “professional programs.” These programs confer different degrees (e.g. JD or MBA) and have different admissions requirements than graduate schools. Likewise, medical schools award different degrees (e.g. MD or DO) and have different admissions and a very different program structure. This guide has helpful advice for anyone thinking about pursuing an advanced degree, but it is most relevant to those considering graduate school to obtain a Master’s degree or Ph.D. For more specific information about the other options I mentioned, see this guide for applying to business school, this one for law school, or this one for medical school. In addition, most of the advice provided here is helpful for applying to any graduate program. However, most of the information in this article pertains to schools in the United States – specifics such as dates and funding arrangements may differ outside of the US. For details on how to apply to European graduate schools as an American, see this handy article; for Australian schools, the information here should be helpful. Lastly, it is important to note, that while many graduate programs operate similarly, each may have their own deadlines and unique application process. Be certain to research the requirements of each school you are interested in applying to. 

If you are considering graduate school, you might feel overwhelmed by all of the decisions you need to make. Don’t fret – it’s not so intimidating when you break it down into manageable steps. If you have started thinking about graduate school early on, you are ahead of the game. The next section will steer you toward becoming a competitive graduate school candidate. 

Early Preparation

If you are considering graduate school as an option, there are some things you can do early on to prepare yourself. 

Build Positive Relationships 

First of all, starting as early in your college career as possible, strive to build positive relationships with your professors. You can do this by being well-prepared for class – do the reading, ask relevant questions, and attend class regularly. Visit office hours to ask any questions you didn’t have the opportunity to ask in class. In addition to helping you establish a relationship with your professor, these tactics will help you earn good grades. You will need a strong GPA to qualify for most graduate programs. 

Be Involved 

Second, get involved in your department. If you are a biology major, join the biology club. If you qualify, join the biology honors society, Beta Beta Beta. Take advantage of opportunities to attend guest lectures and departmental events. These activities will help you learn more about your field, and they will help the professors in your department know you better. They will also see that you are taking your education seriously.

Experience Matters 

Finally, get a job working in the field you are considering pursuing in graduate school. If you plan to attend graduate school for ecology, see if there are opportunities to conduct research with an ecology professor. If no paid assistantships are available, volunteer. While it may seem counterintuitive to work for free, it will be an investment in your future. Working in your field will help to build your CV (an academic version of a resumé), and you will strengthen your relationship with a professor who might be willing to write a recommendation letter for you later on. 

More importantly, working in your field is the best way to know whether you actually enjoy it. You are much better off learning that you hate ecology during a semester-long volunteer research experience than after you have enrolled in a years-long Ph.D. program. 


You can prepare for graduate school years before you submit your application. To best prepare, we recommend that you gain experience, expand your curiosity, build relationships, and get involved.

Develop Your Curiosity

As an added bonus, while working on research, you can keep track of any unanswered research questions that you might like to address in graduate school. Having a clear vision of what you want to do and what you want to learn will make you a stronger applicant. If you are unable to find research opportunities during the regular academic year, seek out summer programs. Your university might not have opportunities available in your chosen field. If that is the case, speak with a professor about whether they are aware of relevant research positions for which you might be eligible. You could also check relevant professional organizations’ websites for job postings targeted at undergraduates, like this job board for undergraduates interested in personality and social psychology. If your research results in a presentation at a conference or, better yet, a publication, this will give you a leg up on the competition when applying to graduate school.

Even if you are not a hundred percent sure you want to attend graduate school, it is a good idea to try these tips. Forging positive relationships with your professors, earning good grades,  acquiring work experience, and developing your curiosity are all worthwhile endeavors that will benefit you even if you forego graduate school. The next section provides pointers to help you decide whether or not graduate school is for you.

Should You Go to Graduate School?

Graduate school is not for everyone, and that’s OK. 

Let’s talk about the five reasons why earning a graduate degree would be beneficial for you. 

A graduate degree is necessary for your professional field. 

Before deciding whether to go, think about your career plans. Is an advanced degree necessary for your field and what you want to achieve professionally? For example, if you aspire to be a professor, graduate school is necessary. Maybe you are certain about working in a certain field, but you are not exactly sure what you want your role to be. In that case, it is probably not a good idea to attend graduate school right away – working in the field for some time will help you gain a better idea of the role you want to have in the long-term. Understanding your personal goal and niche within a field will also inform whether graduate school is the right path to achieve your goals.

If you are having trouble figuring out whether a graduate degree is something you need to have in order to succeed in your field, ask around. Your professors are excellent resources, and you may have to look no further to get your questions answered. You could also reach out to people whose careers you would like to emulate. In sharing their stories, they will be able to tell you whether a graduate degree is necessary for their line of work. Of course, keep in mind, each person’s journey has nuances that may be different from yours.  Consider asking about future trends as well. For example, you might ask, “Do you need to have a graduate degree to succeed in your position?” or “Do you think your profession is moving in a direction where it will be necessary to have a graduate degree to succeed in this position in the next 20 years?” It’s also important to clarify the kinds of degrees they believe will be most helpful for a career in that field in the future. 

A graduate degree will result in a raise. 

Another great benefit of earning a graduate degree is that many companies will increase your salary once you complete your degree. Often this goes hand in hand with a promotion, but not always. If you are looking for higher-paying jobs, having a graduate degree increases your chances of landing a well-paying job. 

A graduate degree will result in a promotion. 

Similar to the graduate degree potentially increasing your salary, it is also likely that you would receive a promotion once you have your diploma. While the promotion might not always come with a raise, moving forward in your career is satisfying and, if you are like most people, you desire a new challenge every once in a while. Having the knowledge and experience that comes with a graduate degree will set you up for success in your promotion. 

The degree satisfies a personal curiosity. 

Education fuels us and informs the way we live, think, work, and play. If you have a personal curiosity within or even outside of your professional field, completing a graduate degree in that area can help fulfill an area of interest for you. Even if it doesn’t make complete sense for your professional trajectory at the moment, your education can help you fulfill life-long dreams, goals, or connect with others or the planet in a way that is meaningful to you. 

Graduate programs expand your critical thinking ability. 

Graduate programs often approach education differently than undergraduate programs. They commonly emphasize critical thinking and expanding approaching rather than rote memorization. The work you conduct in your graduate program will cultivate a deeper practice of critical thinking that will translate to your work and life in a way that your undergraduate program might not have tapped. 

Continuing the conversation about the benefits, it is also important to consider how graduate school will suit you personally.

 Graduate school typically requires a lot of self-directed work. It is usually necessary to be a self-starter who is self-motivated. If you struggled in undergrad and you generally procrastinate and turn out low-quality work at the last minute, graduate school might not be a great fit for you, at least right now, unless you are ready for greater responsibility. However, if you thrived in undergrad, went above and beyond on your schoolwork, and you managed your time well, graduate school is probably a good fit for you. 

Consider the conditions you want for your graduate school experience. Is this something you’re set on, no matter the cost? Or will you go only if you can do so without incurring a mountain of student debt? Some programs will waive tuition for graduate students who work as teaching or research assistants. Select programs even offer a modest stipend (often somewhere between $10,000 and $22,000 per academic year) in exchange for those services. You can actually get paid to go to graduate school. Programs that offer stipends and full tuition remission are typically the most competitive. It is important to note that many schools that offer stipends and tuition remission have policies that state you cannot hold another job outside of the program while you are attending school. While you may be able to work in the summer, you will be committing to making a pretty meager living for several years. Most Ph.D. programs take at least five years, and some take up to eight years or even longer if you experience setbacks. Master’s programs are shorter – usually limited to just two years. It is less likely that Master’s programs will offer tuition remission or research stipends. Knowing all of these details can help you to realistically weigh your options.

should you go to graduate school decision graphic

Still deciding if graduate school is right for you? Use this infographic to help you decide.

Once you have decided that you want to attend graduate school, you need to decide where you want to go. Again, this is a daunting prospect, but it is possible if you break it down into manageable pieces.

Where Should You Apply?

Applying to undergraduate institutions is completely different from applying to graduate schools. When applying to undergrad, you may have looked at schools’ rankings compared to other schools on statistics like freshman retention rates or average class size. Maybe you looked for schools based on location like schools along the beach or spent some time scanning the Princeton Review’s list of top party schools

For graduate school, we suggest you take a different approach. The school overall is still important, however, you want to take a closer look at the specific program to which you are applying. For instance, for a graduate degree in English with a focus on African-American Literature, Columbia University, Harvard, and the University of California – Berkeley have a three-way tie for the top school. If you want to know more about the best schools for your particular focus, US News maintains up-to-date rankings.

An important note: attending a school in your state of residence may have been a priority when you attended undergrad so that you could take advantage of less expensive in-state tuition. This is typically not as relevant for graduate programs, especially when tuition remission is granted. However, if you are entering a field with licensing requirements (like clinical psychology or marriage and family therapy), it can be easier to get your license to practice in the state where you earned your degree, as the state licensing requirements are often built into the program. Transferring your license out of state can be easy in some cases and hassle-some in others. If your degree program involves licensing, talk to an expert in your field or the school itself before you commit to an out-of-state school. 

While a strong program is important, arguably more important is a match between the applicant and their potential advisor. Some programs accept students into a general pool of incoming graduate students in a department. However, many programs (especially Ph.D. programs) have students enroll to work with a particular advisor. In those cases, it is critical to be sure that you are a good match with your advisor. This process begins early on when deciding where to apply. 


Choose a graduate school that will lead you to the opportunities you desire.

So, how do you even begin to find a good program with a strong potential advisor? Well, you actually start with yourself and your interests. Theoretically, you have already decided on the area of study you want to pursue, but you may not have identified your specialized niche yet. If you haven’t, think carefully about what you want to do. If you are interested in being a researcher, think about the types of questions you want to answer. For instance, if you are planning on going into criminal justice, that’s a very broad field. Narrowing down specific questions (e.g. how do recidivism rates differ for different types of crimes? or is socioeconomic status correlated with the likelihood of serving prison time?) will help you to focus your search for programs and advisors. Once you have identified some questions, a Google search should help you find researchers working on these topics. If you have trouble thinking of interesting questions or finding people currently working in your field, try looking for recent publications in Google Scholar. This can be a good jumping-off point. Once you find a good article addressing a question that interests you, read through the literature review and check out the citations. The related research was authored by people who might be good potential advisors. More recent articles will provide better options because there is a greater likelihood that the authors will currently be actively engaged in research rather than retired.

If you’re lucky, you may find a subject-specific Wiki that has listings of programs and advisors currently accepting students, like this one for psychology Ph.D. programs. If you are unable to find a resource like this specific to your area of study, or if someone you are really interested in working with is not listed, send an email. 

Here is a sample draft of an email you could send:

Dear Professor [Last Name Here],

I am interested in your research on [briefly summarize, in your own words, the research in which you are interested]. My research interests align with yours, as I would like to explore [briefly describe your research idea and how it intersects with their area of interest]. Are you accepting graduate students for the upcoming academic year? 

Thank you,

[your full name]

P.S. I have attached my CV for your reference.

Be sure to use your best email etiquette – email from your academic email address or an email address with a professional name (e.g. your firstnamelastname@gmail.com), not a personal email address like hotstuff@outlook.com. Make sure that you have attached your CV, preferably as a PDF to ensure that your formatting will be maintained. Double-check your CV’s file name. The file name should be straightforward and descriptive (e.g. LastnameCV.pdf). As always, proofread for typos, and ensure that you characterize their research in your own words. Do not plagiarize from their article or a secondary source as this will be an automatic red flag to them. If they send you a reply, be prompt with your response. As a general rule, you should try to reply within 48 hours. 

Professors are busy, so don’t be alarmed if you do not get a response right away. However, if a couple of weeks go by without an email, it is OK to send a follow-up, with your original email pasted below your new email. It can be tricky to ask for something again without sounding pesky, so here’s an example of a courteous follow-up:

Dear Professor [Last Name Here],

I am following up on an email I sent on [date of original email]. As I mentioned, I am interested in your research on [broad area of interest]. My research interests align with yours, as I would like to explore [very brief description of your research interest]. Are you accepting graduate students for the upcoming academic year? 

Thank you,

[your full name]

P.S. I have attached my CV for your reference.

If you do not receive a response to your second email, you must decide whether it is worthwhile to submit your application anyway or simply to move on to other possibilities. Given the time required for preparing each application, as well as the application fee, I recommend not applying to a school where you have not received a positive response unless you are particularly well-suited for the program or it is your top choice. Otherwise, your time and efforts are likely better spent on other schools.

At this stage, it can be helpful to maintain a spreadsheet to keep track of the schools you are interested in and the potential advisors you have emailed. Your spreadsheet should have columns for the school’s name, the program name, the advisor you are interested in working with, the advisor’s research specialty, the date you first contacted them, the date you followed up (if necessary), the due date for the graduate school application, and another column where you can add extra notes about the program (e.g. “offers health insurance with stipend” or “no tuition remission”). You should denote programs that you have decided to apply to, either by moving them to the top of the spreadsheet or highlighting them. This will help you keep your due dates organized.

The process of identifying places to apply should begin in the fall, the year before you plan to attend graduate school. Graduate school application deadlines start as early as December 1st, and it’s best to know where you want to apply at least a month in advance of your first deadlines. This will give you time to prepare your application materials and ask for letters of recommendation. Keep in mind each school and program may have its own unique deadline. 

How Do You Prepare a Competitive Application?

There are several aspects to every graduate school application. In addition to an application form, the majority of schools will require standardized test scores, a CV, a personal statement, letters of recommendation, and an application fee. This section breaks down how to prepare each of these things.


While the application process for each school and program is unique, don’t overthink it.

Application Form

The application form is typically filled out online, and the specific information required will vary by school. The form may be a bit of an annoyance because it often requires you to submit information that you have already addressed on your CV, which will be uploaded along with your application. Although the form may seem tedious, fill it out with meticulous attention to detail, as it is an important part of your application.

Standardized Tests

Most schools require standardized test scores (the GRE for most graduate programs, the MCAT for medical school, the GMAT for business school, or the LSAT for law school). Since this guide focuses mainly on graduate school, the advice here is most relevant for taking the GRE (also known as the Graduate Record Examinations or the GRE General Test). Some schools may also require the GRE Subject (e.g. the GRE Biology or the GRE Mathematics), but others may list the GRE Subject as optional. If the GRE Subject test is optional, it is typically not recommended. Taking the exam is time-consuming and expensive, and the admissions committees I have talked to do not generally consider GRE Subject scores as a key part of their admissions decisions. 

The current cost to register for the GRE General in the USA is $205. The cost of registering for the test is higher in some other countries. A pricing summary can be found HERE

If you are an international student, you may also need to provide TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System) scores as evidence of English proficiency. If you need to take an English proficiency exam, there are resources here and here to help you get started.

Preparing for grad school exams takes time. First of all, make sure to register for the exam early enough that your scores will be able to be submitted with your applications. It’s a good idea to give yourself a buffer of a few months so you can register to take the exam again if you are unhappy with your score the first time. You can take the GRE up to five times per 12-month period, but you must take at least three weeks between each attempt. Most people score more highly when taking the exam a second time, and under new GRE guidelines, you can choose which scores to send in as part of your application. This means that the schools you are applying to never have to know about your lower score if you don’t want them to. Leaving time for retakes means that it is probably best to take the exam in the early fall. However, if you have extra free time to study in the summer, it can be a good strategy to take the exam at the end of the summer while the information you studied is still fresh in your mind. Note that GRE scores are good for five years. If you decide to push back your application or attend a little later than originally planned, your results are valid for a fair amount of time. 

In order to figure out exactly how much you need to prepare, take a look at the score requirements for the programs you have identified as places you would like to apply. Many schools will list a minimum requirement. You can also Google search to see if you can find the average scores of accepted candidates. The admissions office might also have this information. Knowing the average scores of accepted candidates will help you identify a goal – you definitely need to score at least at the minimum. 

Standardized test scores are often used as a way to screen applications so that any applicant that has not met the minimum requirement will get weeded out early in the process. This could mean that your application will never be seen by your potential advisor, even if you had communicated with that person in advance. Ideally, your score will be at average or higher than the average of accepted candidates. After you have identified your goal, it is a good idea to take a practice test (like the free one offered here) to see where you currently stand. If you are already at or well above your goal, you may not need to invest much time studying– take a few more practice tests spaced out over a few weeks to be sure you didn’t just get lucky. If, on the other hand, your practice test scores are consistently below your goal score, you need to hatch a plan. 

First of all, purchase some test prep materials (or see if you can get up-to-date ones from the library). Test prep materials are regularly updated based on recent trends in the content that the tests cover, so it’s best to stick with newer materials. For the GRE, Kaplan makes quality resources like this bundle of prep books and workbooks. I also found these flashcards helpful as a way to change up my study routine. Two of the flashcards I reviewed in the parking lot before the test actually ended up being on the test! 

In addition to prep materials, you could also join or start a GRE study group with other students applying to graduate school. The social aspect can be helpful for sticking to your study plan, and it is useful to have other people available, as you may be able to help each other out in your weaker areas. Alternatively (or in addition), you could take a GRE prep class. There are both in-person and online options. This website will help you find a good option for you. Finally, many people find it challenging to study enough for the GRE. It can be useful to block off study time in your schedule and stick to it.

Curriculum Vitae (CV)

As part of your application, you will need to submit a curriculum vitae (CV), which, simply put, is a resumé focusing mostly on your academic achievements. For the content, you should include your undergraduate degree, your major and GPA, as well as any extracurriculars like clubs or sports. Highlight your scholarships and any awards you’ve won. If you have any publications, this is a major asset for you, and you should put these at the top of your application, right underneath your education information. Also, include any professional presentations at conferences or research symposiums. Your CV should focus primarily on your college accomplishments and not the things you did in high school. However, if you accomplished something particularly noteworthy in high school (e.g. you were valedictorian or an Eagle Scout), you can include that. Let your achievements speak for themselves by keeping the formatting simple. Use a standard black font in 11- or 12-point font. In academic contexts, flowery, overly stylized CVs are generally frowned upon. Check out this good, straightforward example.

Personal Statement

In addition to your CV, most schools require a personal statement. This is typically a brief (approximately one page) narrative about you and your professional history and goals. The personal statement is your opportunity to introduce yourself to the people reviewing your application. Due to the open-ended nature of the statement, this is where many students go awry. When preparing your statement, keep the following advice in mind:

  • Keep it professional. This is absolutely critical. Don’t try to be cutesy or funny or quirky. Use a professional tone, and stick to professional topics, such as what inspired you to go into this field, research you hope to conduct in graduate school, or plans for your career.
  • Be personable, but don’t get overly personal. People are often tempted to talk about their relationships or their mental health challenges. It’s true that these things may impact your day-to-day life greatly, but they are not the topics that you would generally bring up in a job interview. Your personal statement is very similar to a job interview, so treat it the same way.
  • Use a narrative structure. Just because your statement is about professional aspects of your life does not mean that it has to be dry and boring. Try to tell a story.
  • Avoid clichés when talking about your career goals. If you are planning to go into a field like sociology or psychology and you say “I have always wanted to help people,” this will already be understood. Standard writing advice applies here – it is always better to show than to tell. So rather than saying “I love the field of psychology,” give an example that demonstrates your love of psychology. Talk about how you were the psychology club president, or how you volunteered at a center for adults with developmental disabilities. These examples get across the same point – that you love psychology – but in a more captivating and concrete way.
  • Make a specific (NOT generic) connection to the program to which you are applying. For instance, your potential advisor might be conducting research that you would like to get involved in. If you can make a direct connection between the program and your goals, it makes it apparent that you could be a good fit in the program.
  • Have someone else, preferably a professor or professional in your field, look over your statement and give you feedback. Editing is a critical part of the writing process, so carefully consider any suggestions you are given, and use them to improve your statement.
  • As with your CV, keep the formatting straightforward and use the same font that you used on your other application materials.
  • Check out this example of a strong personal statement.

When you think your personal statement and CV are ready, read them over one more time to check for typos or oversights. Then send it off to someone you trust to look it over. This is a critical step. At this point, you have been working with your application materials for a long time. Being so familiar with the material that it will be harder for you to pick up on any mistakes. Someone else’s fresh eyes could help you avoid any embarrassing mistakes. You want to project an impression of a detail-oriented, well-prepared candidate. Typos and sentence fragments could really undermine that intention, but a quick read-through by a friend can help prevent submitting such errors.

Letters of Recommendation

In addition to your application form, test scores, CV, and personal statement, you will need to submit letters of recommendation. The exact requirements vary by school – many schools require two, but I have heard of schools requiring up to four letters. 

For your letters, it is most common to ask professors. Ideally, your letter writers will be professors who know you well – maybe you have collaborated with them on their research or worked in their labs in addition to taking classes with them. If you have worked in a job related to your field (e.g. in a mental health facility if you are applying to psychology programs), it may be appropriate to ask your supervisor for a letter. Writing letters of recommendation is a time-consuming task for professors, so here are some general rules for soliciting letters from your professors:

  • Email to request your letter(s) with plenty of advance notice. Generally, two weeks is considered the minimum amount of time necessary for writing a letter from scratch. More time is optimal.
  • Be organized. Schools vary in how they want their letters to be submitted. Most schools will have you submit your letter writers’ names and contact information, and then they will send them a link where they can upload the letter. Other schools still want a physical copy of the letter mailed to a specific address. Do not make your letter writers search out this information – provide it for them, along with the letter’s due date, especially if you would like them to write your recommendation letter for multiple schools. If a physical letter must be mailed, provide an addressed, stamped envelope for your professor.
  • Send your application materials to your letter writers – especially your CV and personal statement. Having this information in front of them will help them to remember things you have done that they wish to highlight in their letter. In addition, they may have some advice on refining these documents.
  • Sometimes you can see the status of your letters as part of your online application. If you see that a letter writer has not submitted their letter a day or two before the due date, send a polite reminder.
  • Once your letter writers have submitted all of your graduate school application letters, send them a heartfelt thank you to let them know how much you appreciate their help. An email is good, but a handwritten card is even nicer.
  • Your letter writers have invested a lot of time in you, so make sure to update them once you make a decision about graduate school. They will be delighted to hear if you have accepted an offer to a program, but even if you are not yet accepted to graduate school, they will want to know.

Application Fees

Before you submit your application, be forewarned that many applications require an application fee. Most schools’ fees are between $40 and $80, but these fees can be as high as $180. As you are likely applying to at least a few schools, application fees can add up. Be aware that you can request a waiver for your application fee. Many schools will grant waivers with no questions asked, but some schools may ask you to submit supporting documentation, such as tax forms or FAFSA documents to show financial hardship. The fee waiver request can typically be submitted through the same system as the application.

Application Submission

Finally, plan to submit your application a few days before the deadline. This gives you some wiggle room in case you have trouble with the online submission system, shoddy Internet access, or any other unexpected hardships. It also allows for mistakes in translating the deadline into your local time. Once you have committed to applying to a school, it is a good idea to add their deadline to your personal calendar so it doesn’t sneak up on you.

Once your application is submitted, it can be difficult to wait patiently for a decision. As time drags on, you may begin to wonder whether other applicants to that school have heard back about their applications. The Grad Café hosts a database of admissions decisions, where students can submit updates about the status of their applications (e.g. they were rejected, waitlisted, invited for a phone or campus interview, accepted, etc.). The database includes the name of the school and department and the date on which the update occurred. Don’t lose heart if someone heard back from a program you applied to. It is likely that not all of the candidates accepted in the first round will choose to go to that school. When applicants decline their offers, programs often extend a second round of offers, so you still have a shot. Just be aware that it can be a little addicting to keep checking back to see if others have heard about their applications!

How Do You Prepare for an Interview?

Some schools will fly potential graduate students to campus for face-to-face interviews, while other schools will do phone or Skype interviews. It is a great sign if you are invited to interview! This means you are near the top of the acceptance list. In many cases, all you have to do to get in is to avoid raising any red flags during the interview process. Comport yourself professionally, wear nice, clean, business clothes, and try not to do anything weird. Your interviewers will inevitably ask you if you have questions, so prepare a few genuine questions to demonstrate your professionalism and express your interest in the program. To help you with your question preparation, think of things you definitely want to know about, such as:

1) How long does the average graduate student take to finish their degree in this program?

2) Are graduate students guaranteed a certain number of years of funding? What happens if they have not finished their degree within that time period?

3) What work are some recent graduates of this program doing? 

4) What do graduate students in this program do in the summers? Do they conduct research, continue taking classes, go off on their own, or something else?

5) What proportion of students who start this program drop out before earning their degree?

6) What are the characteristics of students who are successful in this program? 


Most graduate schools want to know that you’ll be successful in the program. Many use interviews to confirm that you’ll thrive and enjoy the work.

The general interview rules apply. If your interview is over dinner, do not order messy food and use your good manners. Also, academic circles are often very tight. People working in overlapping research areas often know one another, even if they work at schools far away from each other. So, it is best to avoid speaking negatively about others, such as your undergraduate advisor. Try to be positive or at least neutral. 

Don’t assume that any part of your visit is “off the record.” You will likely spend some time with other graduate students. That time is typically more laidback than your meetings with professors, but the graduate students may report to the professors to relay any good or bad impressions they had of the prospective students. So, while you can relax a bit with the grad students, you still want to make a positive impression. Sometimes the grad students will host a party for the prospective students or take them out to a bar. Relax and make friends, but be sure not to drink too much and do not speak unkindly about anyone you met on your visit. Keep it positive and put your best self forward. 

How Do You Decide Where to Go?

If you’re lucky, you will get into one of the programs to which you applied. If you’re very lucky, you will be accepted into multiple programs. In that case, you will have a decision to make. The decision may be easy – perhaps you loved one program much more than the others, or maybe only one of the programs includes funding for an assistantship (which makes the school a more appealing option). It is possible that you will have multiple offers that are roughly comparable to one another. If so, it’s okay to let the programs know that you are considering other offers. If you are a very desirable candidate, it’s possible that they might try to sweeten the deal with a little more money or some other incentive. 

When weighing your options, consider the program and what you liked and disliked about it, whether you liked the city where the school is located, how much your assistantship would pay and for how many years you are guaranteed funding, the cost of living near the school and whether your assistantship would provide a livable wage in that context, as well as any additional perks. For instance, my graduate program paid for health insurance, which substantially cut down on my out-of-pocket living expenses. Take the time you need to consider your options, but try to inform all the places you have been accepted once you have made your decision. The official decision date for schools in the US is April 15. However, it is best if you can inform everyone of your decision well in advance of this date and check-in with each school when they specifically need to know your decision. Doing this gives the schools that you turn downtime to extend their offer to another applicant. Once you have informed the schools of your decision, you can move on to the fun part – telling your friends and family about your plans!

What Happens If You Don’t Get In?

After you have done the hard work of applying to graduate schools, it can be pretty crushing to get rejected. Keep in mind that graduate school rejections are common, and they are often more about the match between prospective applicants and their potential program or advisor than they are about the quality of the overall application. If graduate school is part of your dream or an important component of your career plan, don’t give up. Try again. 

In most cases, graduate schools only start new students in the fall semester, so you will have to wait a year before trying again. The good news is that you can spend that year making yourself an irresistible candidate. Try to identify the weakest part of your application. If you have no idea what that is, ask the school for feedback or ask a professor or someone in your field to look over your application materials. 


If graduate school is part of your journey and one of your goals, don’t give up if you are not accepted the first time. Keep trying!

Once you have identified the weak spots, set about strengthening them. If your GRE scores were low, register to take the GRE again, and study harder this time. If you were lacking relevant experience in your field, quickly work to gain the experience you need. For instance, if you are about to graduate college and you applied to biology graduate programs but were not accepted, apply for jobs as a research assistant or a laboratory assistant. If you struggle to find a paying job in your field, email professors about volunteering to work on their research in your free time. Do whatever you can to build up your skills and qualifications in the relevant areas. I was rejected on my first round of graduate school applications. Thankfully, after scoring much higher on the GRE and spending another year gaining relevant research experience, I was a much more competitive applicant. My next round of applications yielded several fully funded offers, so I got to choose the best one. Do not give up if you know graduate school is the path to your dreams.

Finally, remember that this is a general overall guide to getting into graduate school. It provides guidelines that should be helpful to most students, but the specifics may work a little bit differently in your specific field or school. If you have doubts or concerns about how to proceed, it is always a good idea to talk to a trusted professional in your field or the school itself.

Best of luck with your graduate school journey!!

This article was written by BookScouter contributor Crystal Koenig.

Crystal Koenig BookScouter Contributor

Crystal Koenig is a freelance writer and adjunct college instructor based in Southern Utah. She holds a PhD from Washington University in St. Louis.


BookScouter Announcing the Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program

College, General, News By January 3, 2020 No Comments
We are thrilled to announce that BookScouter is now offering an entrepreneurship accelerator program!

What is the entrepreneurship accelerator program?

Glad you asked!

This is a project-based learning program where we bring in people to pitch and ultimately implement their growth ideas specific for BookScouter.  

That simple!

Are you interested in participating in an entrepreneurship accelerator program with BookScouter?

Virtually raise your hand by submitting THIS QUICK SURVEY if you are interested in this accelerator opportunity!

Once the current round has ended, we will reach out with information regarding how you can share your pitch with us and win!

What’s in it for you?

The winner(s) will have the opportunity to implement their idea with a budget at BookScouter. Of course, the winner(s) will also receive an hourly financial compensation for their time implementing their concept with us!

How cool is that?!

We cannot wait to hear all your ideas!

Sign up to learn more information HERE!


How to Resell Unwanted Holiday Gifts

General By December 25, 2019 No Comments

Gift-giving is such a fun and exciting part of the holiday season! But every year you likely find yourself burdened with some gifts that you really don’t want. Never fear – many gifts can be sold with minimal effort, and you can use your profits to buy something you actually want…like groceries or that trip to Iceland!


Gift giving is a meaningful exchange. When you do not need or want the gift, though, you can be left wondering what to do.

Jewelry is a common gift, but it’s difficult to buy jewelry for other people.

If you receive jewelry that just doesn’t quite suit your taste, don’t worry – you don’t have to wear it. Jewelry is one of the easiest items to resell. Pawnshops will often buy jewelry that’s in good condition, even if it’s costume jewelry. However, you can make more money off of genuine silver and gold.

It doesn’t matter if your boyfriend bought you a truly hideous necklace – as long as it’s real silver or gold, or contains authentic precious gemstones like diamonds or sapphires, you can sell it to a pawn shop. Even if they don’t think the entire item could be easily resold, they can weigh it and quote you a price based on the current price of gold, silver, etc. A pawn shop can also help you out if you aren’t quite sure if your jewelry is authentic. Pawnshop employees are usually jewelry experts and can tell you if your gems are real diamonds or cheap cubic zirconia. 


Jewelry is a common gift. Sometimes the gift doesn’t always match your style.

If you’ve never sold anything to a pawn shop, be prepared and take along your driver’s license. In many states, the state law requires that you provide your driver’s license before selling to a pawn shop. This serves as a safeguard to ensure that stolen goods can be tracked down. If you don’t have a local pawn shop, you could list your unwanted bling on eBay or Poshmark instead. Be as descriptive as possible in your listing.

The holidays are a common time to gift electronics.

If you receive electronics (like a new cell phone, tablet, fitness tracker, or video game console) that you don’t want or need, do your best to keep it in the original package. An unopened electronic will yield a much higher resale price than one that has been opened, even if the product is unused. As with most of the other items on this list, eBay is a good place to list electronics for sale, but you could also try Amazon Trade-In for up-to-date electronics.

Speaking of electronics, electronic accessories are also often in demand on resale sites like eBay.


If you already have that awesome electronic accessory or do not need it, keep it in the packaging and resell it ASAP!

If a well-meaning relative gets you the wrong accessory, like a PlayStation 4 controller for your Xbox One X, go ahead and sell it. The same goes for hideous phone and tablet cases that just don’t fit your style (like this awful example). While these things may not fetch huge amounts of money, getting even a modest amount of money is better than having these unwanted things cluttering up your home.

Gift cards are an excellent gift, but sometimes you receive a gift card to a place you don’t really like.

If that happens to you, don’t fall into the trap of forcing yourself to find something to buy just to use up the gift card. 

Remember that some gift cards have expiration dates – you wouldn’t want a valuable gift card to get buried in your wallet only to resurface as an expired, worthless piece of plastic. Instead, you can usually sell the gift card itself, often for a high percentage of the original value. Then you can use the cold, hard cash to buy things you actually want or need. The great thing about selling gift cards is that the physical cards are inexpensive to ship, and egift cards can be emailed to the buyer for no cost. Check out sites like Raise or CardCash to list your gift cards for sale.

If your loved ones are fun gift givers, you may have received some unusual vintage items like an antique toy or a quirky vintage dress.

These collectible items can fetch high prices on eBay or Facebook Marketplace. 

Tools are a popular gift around the holidays, particularly for homeowners. The great thing about tools is that they have a high resale value.

Because tools can be bulky and heavy to ship, itis often better to sell them locally, through a platform like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. This helps you avoid hefty shipping costs. Brand new tools might sell at a higher price, but used tools in good condition still have good resale value. So if you’re gifted a new tool that’s a duplicate of one you already have, you could keep the higher quality one for yourself and sell the cheaper version. If you are the type of homeowner who is helpless at-home repairs and calls a repair-person every time something breaks, save yourself the storage space and sell any tool you don’t know how to use.

What about strange unwanted gifts? 

What do you do with that weird sweater your Aunt Muriel bought you? Well, first, check online to see if it came from Walmart, Kohl’s, Macy’s, or Land’s End. All of these stores will allow you to return anything from their stores without a receipt as long as the item still has the original tags or is in the original packaging. Your refund will typically be issued in the form of a gift card or store credit, which you can use in-store or online to buy pretty much anything you want. 

Just be forewarned that your refund may not be as much as you expect if you looked the item up online. If the item was on sale at any point in the recent past, you will be refunded the sale price. Also, note that the specifics of return policies vary by state. For instance, Walmart requires that you show your driver’s license so they can record the number of returns you make with no receipt. In most states, the store will not allow you to make more than three receipt-less returns per year. 

Designer clothes and handbags are great sellers on sites like Tradesy, Poshmark, and of course, eBay.

If you’ve received a gift of designer clothes or a high-end purse that you just don’t like, your best bet is to try to sell it right away. The items that fetch the highest prices are those that are recent (not from several seasons ago) and ideally, still have the tags on. If you have trouble selling your clothes or bags yourself, or you just don’t want to deal with managing the sale listings, you could request a cleanout kit from ThredUp. This will allow you to send your items in all at once – you can even include other clothes you want to get rid of, as long as they’re in good condition. ThredUp will handle the listings and shipping, and you will get paid!


Books are a common gift. If you already have the book, are not enjoying the read, or loved the read and are ready to let go of it, try reselling!

If you’re an avid reader, it is common for people to gift you with books.

If you don’t like the books they chose for you or if you simply don’t want them to be part of your permanent library, use the BookScouter app to fetch the highest possible resale price for the book!

Whether you’re returning a gift or reselling it for cash, remember to be tactful. Someone purchased the gift with you in mind, and it might hurt their feelings to know you’re getting rid of it. I find it easiest to just get rid of the gift and be honest if ever asked about it, saying something like, “It was so kind of you to get me that necklace! The chain was a little short so I returned it to get something that suited me better.” you don’t have to be obvious about getting rid of your gift. Say a heartfelt thank you, and when listing your item for sale, make sure the gift-giver can’t see it out of respect for them. For example, if you list it in a Buy-Sell-Trade group on Facebook, ensure that the person who gave you the gift isn’t a member of the group. 

Happy reselling, returning, regifting, and of course, happy holidays!

This article was written by BookScouter contributor Crystal Koenig.

Crystal Koenig BookScouter Contributor

Crystal Koenig is a freelance writer and adjunct college instructor based in Southern Utah. She holds a PhD from Washington University in St. Louis.

Maintaining Focus Through Finals for College Students BookScouter Blog

Maintaining Focus Through Finals

General By December 5, 2019 No Comments

It’s the most worrying time of the year!

Before we can get to the wonderful part, finals loom as the one ultimate obstacle to hurdle before a relaxing holiday break awaits. You might already feel that you’ve been preparing for finals the whole semester or alternatively, maybe you feel that you haven’t prepared enough and are currently in the midst of a peppermint mocha-fueled meltdown. Whether you feel prepared or not, there are several methods to help you stay focused during finals season while remaining collected and enjoying the other fun parts of the holidays. Sound too good to be true? Well, keep reading and see if any of our hacks could transform your hectic finals routine.

Tips for the lead up to finals week:

Balance holiday obligations with studying time

The last thing any of us need is the pressure of buying gifts, finalizing travel plans, and baking cookies for a holiday party further stressing us out. Luckily, most finals weeks are early in December, so you’ll have plenty of time after finals are over to find gifts for your family and friends back home. However, for college friends who you need to find a gift for before departing for break, plan a study break to liven up the monotony of a studying marathon to go shopping. So you don’t waste valuable study time right before finals, the earlier the better (if you didn’t already find a great deal on Black Friday). As college students, no one expects us to pull out all the stops and come up with the perfect holiday present, so don’t become stressed when perusing the aisles for potential gifts. Devote the immediate days before finals to focus on school obligations and keep in mind you’ll have time afterward to attend to other seasonal duties.

Studying helps you succeed during your final exam week

Scheduling time to study for final exams will help you remain focused at the end of the semester.

Beware of the “I’ll do it in the morning” temptation 

The thought to put off a task until the next morning is a common and universal temptation that can result in disaster. We’ve all been there. You’re in the middle of a late-night working on a project and eventually your eyes can barely focus on the screen and stay open. You convince yourself that you will have plenty of time tomorrow morning to finish up loose ends. However, the “I’ll have time to do this in the morning” approach rarely ends in success. Mornings can be hectic anyway and trying to squeeze in last-minute writing before class is not conducive to a better grade in the long haul. Often, it ends in sloppy and incomplete work being submitted. Waking up early is something we convince ourselves we can do, but hitting snooze for another hour is often irresistible. The only thing that should be reserved for morning is a quick glance at your notes before an exam to ensure certain material is fresh in your mind.

However, do not take this tip as a proponent for pulling all-nighters consistently leading up to and during finals week. Not only does staying up until the wee hours of the morning have detrimental effects on your overall well-being, but it has also been proven that studying until that late at night does not help retain more information. At a certain point, your brain cannot successfully remember any more material and when sleep-deprived, your long-term memory functions so poorly that no amount of coffee can counteract the effects. Thus, attempt to budget time so you neither need to wake up early to complete a task nor to stay up all night trying to cram for an exam. Both options are not favorable for a finals week’s triumph.

Practice specificity in scheduling 

The first step in maintaining focus and staying on schedule leading up to finals week is to budget certain blocks of time devoted to individual study time alone. Whether going over a semester’s worth of PowerPoints and notes or buckling down to write a final paper, quiet, solitary time spent doing these things is a necessity. While studying with friends is much more fun, the amount of progress plummets when social distractions run amuck. However, scheduling a 5-hour block on a Sunday just for general ‘studying time’ is not enough.

Take a couple minutes to assess your overall finals workload: papers, exams, lingering assignments, etc. Then, see what obligation requires the most time and/or urgency and create a tentative itinerary for your studying blocks. Explicitly planning your studying time will help combat the aimlessness we often feel sitting in front of a computer not sure where to even start. By specifically knowing what will be worked on and when your focus and motivation will skyrocket and your studying time will be maximized to the fullest effectiveness. While of course, you do not need to be a strict adherent to the timelines of your schedule (when the words are flowing for an essay, ride that wave for as long as you can!), having it planned out will assist tremendously in ensuring productivity.

Avoid the grade calculation pitfall

Depending on how your university calculates final grades, it is common to spend time calculating just how high of a mark you’ll need on the final exam to bump that B to an A or that A- to an A+. While this process can be useful in some cases to help set a benchmark, try to not let it take too much time away from actually studying. Computing your target grade might seem like you’re being responsible and productive, but it truthfully takes away time from studying for the exam itself, which you will score higher on the more you focus on the material rather than the grade. Also, try to not let your goal grade stress you out during the exam itself. Don’t let the mindset of only missing a certain number of questions distract you from staying focused and maintaining a clear mind. Ridding yourself of potential grade implications and solely doing the best on the final as you possibly can will result in much greater success.

Create an environment conducive to concentration

It can be advantageous to invest in some noise-canceling headphones if ambient noise easily derails your concentration. Technology ranks among the other peskiest distractions, so putting your cell phone out of reach and on do not disturb is extremely beneficial. Having a separate window open on your laptop is also helpful when studying and can prevent mindless clicking on other opened tabs that will waste time.

Use Noise Cancelling Headphones to Study

Using technology like noise-canceling headphones while studying can help you focus.

Strategies for staying focused during the finals themselves:

Block out distracting noise

If allowed by the professor, bringing earplugs can help prevent distraction from various sniffling and paper shuffling by classmates during the exam. Something as minute as an ill-timed coughing fit should not derail months of preparation and hard work. Additionally, actions such as chewing gum or deep breathing to center your focus can help clear your mind and minimize disruptive thoughts during an exam.

Take time to relax beforehand

Right before the exam, it can be helpful to employ relaxation techniques such as listening to classical music or taking a few moments to meditate to ready yourself for the test. Reduce potential stress-inducing situations such as arriving late to an exam due to traffic or parking by leaving your place with plenty of time to spare. I often found it helpful to arrive at the building where the exam would be an hour beforehand and finding a spot in that building to look over my notes one last time. Then, you can arrive at the exam room in plenty of time in order to get settled before it begins.

Don’t think ahead

I have often let my mind wander halfway through an exam to thoughts of the next impending test or assignment. This is the ultimate interruption of staying focused in the moment and facing each final one by one. Try to not think of anything that will happen after the exam you’re currently working on in order to circumvent compounding future stress on the current stress you’re already facing.

Celebrate after finals

After you complete all your final exams and submit all your work this semester, take time to celebrate your hard work and accomplishments.

Overall, all of the hype around the infamous finals week can often contribute to even more stress and worry. Remember that this one exam or paper is not going to dictate the remainder of your life. If a particular test is inducing an insurmountable amount of anxiety, reach out to the professor to express your concerns. Talking with a classmate can also help. Your college may also provide additional services like stress relief with puppies or special study sessions. Take advantage of those services that are designed to help you remain relaxed and grounded during finals week. 

During finals week and the preceding days, it is also crucial to maintain a semblance of your former routine by making an effort to eat healthily, sleep for a decent amount of time every night, and take breaks to exercise or go outside (even though it may be freezing). Having tunnel vision for an exam while ignoring normalcy and happiness altogether can be especially harmful in the short and long run.

Therefore, schedule your specific study outline now, start preparing for the most time-consuming exams and papers, and take a deep breath while looking forward to a much-deserved holiday break that awaits you after conquering yet another finals week.

This article was written by BookScouter contributor Parker Stubhar.

Parker Strubhar - BookScouter Blog Contributor

Parker Strubhar is a recent graduate of the University of Oklahoma and currently resides and works in Washington D.C. He is also a freelance writer. Business inquiries can be directed to parkerstrubhar20@gmail.com.

how can i make money studying art

15 Side Hustle Ideas for Humanities Students

College, General By December 2, 2019 No Comments

The Humanities are a large field, including subjects as widespread as theater, visual arts, film, music, English language and literature, history, and foreign languages. If you’re studying the Humanities, you have probably had someone ask you how you plan to make money with that degree. Someone inconsiderate may have even mocked your degree because it doesn’t necessarily include “transferable skills” like some others (e.g. math or biology). But what they don’t realize (and what you may not even realize yourself) is that you have developed plenty of really useful skills – skills that can score you some cash and an incredibly fulling career.

Hopefully, you have some long-term plans for what to do with your degree, but if you’re in need of some money in the short-term, here are some side hustles for which those in the Humanities are particularly well-suited.

1 Birthday Party Performer

For all of you theater folk, have you considered working for children’s birthday parties? You might roll your eyes at being a clown, but birthday party performers have come a long way since the days of terrifying clowns! Many parents like to hire their child’s favorite princess or superhero to hang out, stay in character, and take pictures with party guests for a few hours. All you need is a convincing costume, some acting chops, and a high tolerance for sticky hands and high-pitched squealing. 


Use your talent to make children happy! You can also make lots of side-cash with birthday party gigs.

2 Musician

If you’re a music major or you are proficient with a musical instrument, you may be able to set up some side gigs as a musician. You could advertise your services online with platforms like GigSalad and note your availability to play at special events like weddings, bar mitzvahs, and other parties. Or you could try to set up a regular gig playing at a local bar. While some gigs could be done solo, it might be worthwhile to team up with other musicians to offer a well-rounded ensemble.

3 Freelance Composer

Music majors are typically required to take music theory and music composition classes. If you discovered a knack for composing music, you could try your hand at freelance composing. Businesses, television shows, and plenty of other groups are often in need of original music and will pay good money for it. This website provides some basic information about getting started as a composer.

4 Freelance Translator 

Humanities students often take language courses. If you have become fluent in another language, you might be able to work as a freelance translator. Find out more here. Depending on the language you speak and where you are located, this could be a particularly lucrative side gig!

5 Tutor 

Check to see if your school has a Tutoring Center. If so, they are often hiring tutors to assist students struggling in certain classes. If you’ve previously succeeded in one of those courses, you might be able to make some extra cash working as a tutor – as a perk, reviewing material that you previously learned in class can help you to really master it.


Make a difference and make some money tutoring.

6 Campus Tour Guide 

Your Humanities degree may have required theater classes. If you enjoyed being the center of attention in your theater class, you might consider applying to be a campus tour guide. Being a guide is excellent for those who are comfortable in front of a crowd. The schedule is often flexible, allowing you to squeeze this in as a side hustle.

7 Community Theater Actor 

If you’re an arts or theater person, check to see if your local community theater has any part-time gigs. While performers in community theater productions are not typically compensated, sometimes community theater does have a budget to pay other staff, like set designers or ticket sales managers. If you’re interested in pursuing something related to your career, this can be a good way to make a little money while earning some lines for your resumé.

8 Artist 

Have you thrived in art classes? Do you enjoy making art on your own? Consider opening an Etsy shop to sell your artwork. This is great because it allows you to earn some money while also refining your skills as an artist or craftsperson. If Etsy isn’t your thing, you could consider setting up at local events, like craft shows or farmer’s markets, which often reserve spots for arts and crafts vendors. Some events may also offer vendor discounts to college students. 


Use your talent and passion as an artist and admirer of the humanities to make extra money.

9 Living History Interpreter 

History buffs, take note! You can turn your encyclopedic knowledge of George Washington into an income-generating side hustle. History museums, special events like pioneer day festivals, and even nerdy birthday parties sometimes enlist the services of living history interpreters. This job basically entails role-playing a certain historical figure. Remember that episode of The Office when they hire a Benjamin Franklin role player for Phyliss’s bridal shower? It’s pretty much the same idea! Your historical knowledge will be handy, you’ll make money, and you’ll have some fun too!

10 Caricature Artist 

Are you working on your art skills? Consider working as a caricature artist. You might be able to score a part-time gig somewhere local, like at a zoo or amusement park. Or you could advertise your availability for special events and parties. 

11 Freelancer with Fiverr 

Whether you like to write, craft, draw, paint, or something else, consider offering up your services on fiverr.com. Fiverr.com is a freelance marketplace where you can offer up almost any service – you can translate documents, make a drawing from a photo that a buyer provides, write a custom story about a child using their name and interests (e.g. “Laney’s Trip to Monkey Island”), and on and on. The possibilities really are endless, and while the prices start as low as five dollars you can earn much more depending on the requested work.

12 Copyeditor

As a Humanities student, especially if you’ve taken a lot of English classes, you’ve probably been writing your butt off. Along the way, hopefully, you’ve gained some mastery over grammar rules. If so, you can put those grammar and writing skills to good use copyediting! Here are some currently available copyediting gigs.

13 Freelance Writer

peaking of writing your butt off, don’t forget that writing isn’t just for term papers. You could try your hand at freelance writing. Many websites will pay for content. Check out this list of websites that compensate writers for generating new articles.

14 Blogger

Maybe writing for websites doesn’t quite scratch your writing itch. You could always take a shot at writing your own blog. Monetizing your blog with ads will allow you to (eventually) earn some money.


Writing opens so many doors for your career or as a side-hustle.

15 Publish an eBook

Writing and self-publishing an ebook might allow you to flesh out some ideas that you have had while working on assignments for writing classes. It could be freeing to write without the usual constraints you have when writing for school. Plus, if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to make some good money from selling your ebook!

Of course, you shouldn’t limit yourself to the ideas on this list. As a student of the Humanities, you may have other talents totally unrelated to your major. If you’re a math or spreadsheet whiz, you could try freelance bookkeeping or accounting. And no matter what your major is, using the BookScouter app to sell your used textbooks is always a simple way to earn some extra income!

Peruse this list of 50 ways to make $50 online to spark some other ideas for how to get a side hustle going.

This article was written by BookScouter contributor Crystal Koenig.

Crystal Koenig BookScouter Contributor

Crystal Koenig is a freelance writer and adjunct college instructor based in Southern Utah. She holds a PhD from Washington University in St. Louis.


The Studentpreneur Show Episode Seventeen: Taking Advantage of College Accelerators – With MyFetalLife creator, Riya Shah

College, General, Media, Mobile, Podcast By November 29, 2019 No Comments

“Age is just a number.”

High school senior Riya Shah developed the concept for her business, MyFetalLife, when she was just a freshman, at age 15. Taegan interviewed Riya on The Studentpreneur Show about her amazing story of building a business while still roaming high school halls.

Riya was inspired by her mother’s pregnancy with her. Being the first child, the pregnancy with Riya held lots of unknowns and new experiences for her parents. Her mom traveled to the hospital several times due to Braxton-Hicks contractions, which, Riya adds, developed more stress and anxiety for her parents.

What is MyFetalLife?

Wanting to help women navigate their pregnancy with more peace of mind, Riya patented her concept and started MyFetalLife.

MyFetalLife is now an app with over 12 thousand users!

The app now contains numerous features beneficial for women trying to conceive through birth. The app also hosts a forum for women who have used the app to share their stories and opportunities for families to engage by sharing their due date predictions.


This free app for pregnant women offers many beneficial features throughout pregnancy.

How did a 15-year-old high school student learn how to start a business?

Riya shares that her family was incredibly supportive–always helpful at any age and any endeavor.

One of the most beneficial experiences she had when starting MyFetalLife was enrolling in the LaunchIt program at the University of Louisville. While Riya was the youngest person in the program, she learned how to create a business plan, start, and run her business in this ten-week business accelerator.

Like most businesses, Riya also has the guidance and support of a board of advisors, investors, and a great tech team. Riya’s mom also helps her make wise decisions through it all.

Over the past couple of years, Riya and her team have learned so much about building a sustainable business. First, the app already has a strong partnership with the American Pregnancy Association, which further legitimizes their resources for women. They have also come across a few hurdles. By listening to their customers and anticipating needs they now have a thriving app that helps over ten thousand pregnant women through this free service.

Riya reminds us that “age is just a number.”

Inspired by Riya? Us too! With passion and support, we can all do anything!

Listen to the full Studentpreneur Show episode HERE!

Share the free MyFetalLife app with someone who can use extra support during her pregnancy.