Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions Releases Free and Comprehensive Guide to Graduate School

This guide to graduate school for students at minority serving institutions provides meaningful insights about the process of applying to, attending, and succeeding in graduate school.

Philadelphia, June 25, 2015—The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) has published an informative new guide for undergraduate students who are considering graduate school. The comprehensive manual, Building on a Solid Foundation: A Guide to Graduate School for Students at Minority Serving Institutions, is freely available and provides meaningful insights about the process of applying to, attending, and succeeding in graduate school.

“MSIs provide undergraduates with a strong educational foundation for future endeavors and graduate school has become an attractive option in recent years,” said Francisco Ramos, co-author of the manual and a CMSI affiliate. “However, a lot of thought should go into the process, and this manual explains everything one needs to know.”

The manual addresses master’s degree and doctoral programs at all stages: the preliminary decision-making process, the application process, cost considerations, the graduate school experience, and the transition to a post-degree career. Written in accessible and encouraging language, the manual reframes the conversation and is helpful not only for students at MSIs but also for students at any institution.

While a person with a master’s degree will typically earn $400,000 more over their lifetime than someone with only a bachelor’s degree, the report explains, figuring out the logistics of paying for graduate school is a task unto itself. According to the New America Foundation, the average college graduate borrowed $57,600 for a graduate degree in 2012. Timing when to attend can be the difference between struggling and excelling.

“It’s a big decision,” notes Felecia Commodore, co-author of the manual and a CMSI affiliate. “And it’s not for everyone. All of us who wrote the manual have successfully finished grad school and we’ve included all the trial-by-fire information we wish we would’ve known beforehand.”

The manual includes a timeline to help prospective students plan ahead and breaks down the laborious process of applying by providing insider tips and tools that can help candidates succeed. Much of the guide anticipates the common challenges students may face and asks its readers to be very self-reflective and honest about their reasons for considering graduate school.

“Those who read the manual and are undeterred from its pragmatic account of graduate school will undoubtedly be in a better position not only to get in but to thrive,” added Fernando Coello, co-author of the report.

The manual also includes external resources for students who have finished graduate school and are looking for employment. Transforming the skills and knowledge learned in graduate school into professional success is the last step of the process, and the manual offers an initial springboard for those having difficulty in this area.

Full copies of the digital manual are freely available at CMSI’s website.


About The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions

The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions brings together researchers and practitioners from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Asian American, Native American, and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions. The Center’s goals include: elevating the educational contributions of MSIs; ensuring that they are a part of national conversations; bringing awareness to the vital role MSIs play in the nation’s economic development; increasing the rigorous scholarship of MSIs; connecting MSIs’ academic and administrative leadership to promote reform initiatives; and strengthening efforts to close educational achievement gaps among disadvantaged communities. For further information about the Center, please visit


About the Graduate School of Education (GSE) at the University of Pennsylvania 

Penn GSE is one of the nation’s premier research education schools. No other education school enjoys a university environment as supportive of practical knowledge building as the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania. The School is notably entrepreneurial, launching innovative degree programs for practicing professionals, unique partnerships with local educators, and the first-ever business plan competition devoted exclusively to educational products and programs. For further information about Penn GSE, please visit