Vanguard STEM

6 Resources for Graduate School Applications

A compilation of resources to increase your chances of having a successful graduate school application.

6 Resources for Graduate School Applications
[Image description: A black woman in a Jaguars shirt throwing confetti at the camera.] Image credit: Joshua McKnight.

Edited and re-posted with permission from Renetta G. Tull, Ph.D. (original piece). Editor’s Note: This piece was updated at 7:16 p.m. on October 15, 2018 to correct Dr. Tull’s formal title, which we had originally misprinted.

Dr. Renetta Garrison Tull is the Associate Vice Provost for Strategic Initiatives at University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). Here she shares advice about applying to graduate school, which we’d like to (re)share with you. There’s a lot of wisdom here, so take your time reviewing and be sure to let us know if you have any questions about what you find.

6 Resources for Graduate School Applications
Dr. Renetta G. Tull, pictured here smiling at the camera in front of a white background with a pearl and stone necklace.

My talk on applying to graduate school is one of the four modules for The National GEM Consortium (GEM) GRAD Lab’s program that is provided for students at various schools and conferences across the country.

At the end of the talk, it’s wonderful to have such a vibrant Q&A session and in-person conversations with students. As questions arise, in addition to referring students to the GEM resources, I regularly refer students to the background information that I use in my talks. Typically, I don’t get to answer all of their questions, so below you’ll find tips and advice that my teams and I have curated for applying to graduate school.

  1. In a previous post, I wrote a detailed rundown regarding the grad school application process, including application requirements, application fees and funding graduate school.
  2. So, you’ve just asked for a Letter of Recommendation … What does the recommender need from you? When someone asks for a letter, this is the information I (or any professor or academic professional) need in order to write a strong recommendation. (Editor’s note: we’ll have another piece about this later this month.)
  3. I wrote a paper on preparing a competitive application with two of my former graduate assistants after giving talks at the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) conference in 2011. It has now been shared in English and Spanish across the U.S. and in Latin America.
  4. About email correspondences, be professional. Do not write casual email messages, especially to people with whom you are developing a professional relationship. Two things to keep in mind:
    (a) Word to the wise from my colleagues at the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) — organizations such as these will throw your application away if you have an inappropriate email address like
    (b) If you are interested in learning about proper casual email etiquette check out this piece.
  5. How to optimize your summer research experience is an article based on my talks at MIT for new summer researchers.
  6. For those who worry about survival while in graduate school, here’s a piece on The Imposter Syndrome from my article for SHPE, Fall 2009.

You can find Dr. Renetta G. Tull on twitter, medium, her website and at her many appearances all over the world! She’s the architect behind #ThinkBigDiversity and has been doing big things in higher education to increase equity for quite some time.

Good luck with your applications and let us know if you have followup questions!

If you enjoy our curated content, consider donating to our parent not-for-profit, The SeRCH Foundation, Inc., to help support this work.

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