Is Grad School for Me? is a calling card and a corrective to the lack of clear guidance for historically excluded students navigating the onerous undertaking of graduate school—starting with asking if grad school is even a good fit. This essential resource offers step-by-step instructions on how to maneuver the admissions process before, during, and after applying.

Yvette Martínez-Vu is an academic coach and host of the globally top-rated podcast Grad School Femtoring. She is coeditor of the best-selling Chicana M(other)work Anthology and founder of Grad School Femtoring LLC.
Miroslava Chávez-García
 is Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Faculty Director of the UCSB McNair Scholars Program. She is author of Migrant LongingStates of Delinquency, and Negotiating Conquest.

There are many books focused on accessing higher education, but Is Grad School for Me? is not a traditional grad school guide. How does your guidance differ from existing advice out there?

Our guidance comes from research and from professional and personal experiences. We blend these approaches to provide our readers with a solid foundation, which includes along with all the unspoken caveats and expectations, forin successfully navigating the graduate school application process. In doing so, we foreground our readers—first-generation BIPOC students—and consider their educational, cultural, and economic needs and assets and make it our mission to provide them with the relevant information that speaks to them, their families, and communities. Ultimately, the heart of the book is femtorship: mentoring, teaching, guiding, and sharing our more than thirty-five (combined) years of experience. 

When you say “historically excluded students,” who are you talking about? 

We mean all those who have had educational opportunities closed off to them for institutional or other reasons. They include Black, Indigenous, and People of Color more generally who have faced institutional racism, sexism, and classism, as well as first-generation college students who have had limited exposure to colleges and universities and/or the idea of pursuing graduate-level higher education. We also include returning students and those with disabilities who have had to struggle doubly and triply to gain access to the “traditional” (white, middle class, young, cisgender, male, non-disabled) classroom.  

What are some of the obstacles that marginalized students face when considering grad school? 

Nontraditional, first-generation, low-income, and BIPOC students face a wide range of systemic barriers that impact their graduate school prospects, including balancing part-time or full-time employment, tending to family responsibilities, caring for dependents, and managing one or more disabilities. They may experience micro and macro forms of racism, sexism, classism, ableism, and more. These challenges become further compounded because they are learning to navigate new spaces full of many hidden rules.

The book takes students through three parts of the application process—before, during, and after applying. What are some concrete steps that Is Grad School for Me? covers that other guides don’t?

This guide offers a holistic approach to the graduate school application process. It begins by providing life planning questions to help an individual decide if graduate school is the right step for them in their career and life. The book also teaches planning and time-management skills to help an individual apply to programs without burning out. This book stands out for sharing ample resources including an application timeline, email templates, interview questions, prewriting exercises, and sample application essays to demystify and simplify the application process. And this guide also highlights steps to prioritize wellness, career development, and personal growth throughout one’s higher education journey. 

How have your own personal experiences informed your work? 

Much of the inspiration for the book has come from our personal experiences as first-generation Latinas navigating graduate school and wanting to pay it forward by shepherding others through the process. Coming from supportive families living in under-resourced communities, we know first-hand what it’s like to struggle to achieve our educational hopes and dreams. If we can help others avoid those challenges and succeed by sharing what we have learned, we will have achieved our aim.