October 28, 2005

Graduate degree is closer than you think

Project 1000 helps underrepresented students with the application process.

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

Mercedes Cepeda-Lorenzo is eager to go into graduate school.

As a program manager for the Center for Community Solutions, a health and human services agency in San Diego, she has been able to use her knowledge to help people around her.

That’s the reason why she decided to pursue a graduate degree in Social Work.

Although she knows what program she will like to go into, Cepeda-Lorenzo said she realized beforehand that the graduate school application process was going to be challenging –and expensive.

“Each application is about $75 per school,” said Cepeda-Lorenzo, who did her undergraduate work at State University of New York at Buffalo.

Luckily, through her sorority, she learned about Project 1000, a program that helps underrepresented minority students with the application process for graduate school, from application fee waivers to proofreading of personal statements.

“It was just convenient to have that support,” Cepeda-Lorenzo said.

Project 1000 is a national program created to assist underrepresented students applying to graduate school.

Laura Serrano, program coordinator for Project 1000, said that the program serves about 350 students each year.

She added that about 70% of those students are Latinos.

The name of the program comes from the goal it had when it was founded in the 1980’s, Serrano said: “The goal was to make sure we could have 1,000 more Ph.D. candidates from underrepresented groups.”

So far, Project 1000 has surpassed that goal by much, she said.

Although applying to graduate school can be an overwhelming experience, Project 1000 tries to smooth the process for participating students, Serrano said.

Students may apply to up to seven of the over 88 participating Project 1000 institutions by using one application.

Best of all, participation is free of charge to individual students.

Headquartered at Arizona State University, Project 1000 has bilingual (English/Spanish) academic advisors available to assist with the graduate school application process.

“The advisors are very helpful over the phone,” said Cepeda-Lorenzo, who’s the first one in her family to pursue a graduate degree.

And because Project 1000 has contracts with the participating universities, it also offers students an increased opportunity of being admitted to up to seven of the 88 schools in the program.

San Diego State University and the University of California, San Diego, are local schools in San Diego County that are part of the program.

Project 1000 is open to U.S. citizens or permanent residents underrepresented in U.S. graduate programs. It especially targets: 1) Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans, and other Latin Americans; 2) African-Americans; and 3) Native Americans, including U.S. Pacific Islanders.

In addition, eligible fields within Project 1000 are those disciplines that require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or those programs that do not have an entrance exam requirement.

Eligible programs include the arts and sciences, engineering, education, among others.

Students need to be aware that programs that require standardized tests other than the GRE (such as business, law or medicine) do not participate in Project 1000, Serrano said.

Some of the most popular fields students using Project 1000 go into are psychology, education and engineering, she said.

Those considering graduate school, should keep in mind that the entire graduate application process, from application to acceptance, takes months, Serrano said.

“Start early to avoid possible setbacks,” she said.

The easy-to-use electronic application is available at www.asu.edu/project1000.

Serrano said that after learning more about Project 1000 at the website, prospective participants should call the nationally toll-free number 1 (800) 327-4893.

While Cepeda-Lorenzo is still waiting for a response from the graduate schools she applied through this program, she said that the process was made a lot easier thanks to Project 1000.

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