What are you doing after graduation?

What are you doing after graduation??

The Department of Black Studies would like to see you continue in your education after graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara! This site is dedicated to providing info. which you may find useful as you seek out graduate/professional school opportunities and during the time that you are applying to those programs.

Applying to Graduate School

A statement from the Department of Black Studies Faculty

Students who major in Black Studies can go on to advanced graduate study in many different fields, but it is necessary to approach the application process seriously. It is important to assess your own strengths and weaknesses honestly, to apply to schools that are likely to grant you admission, and to select schools with programs where you have a strong likelihood of success.   Applications are expensive and time consuming. You should research carefully the places to which you are applying by looking at their graduate courses, the research specializations of faculty members, and the record of professional success by their recent graduates. 

Graduate school admissions are extremely competitive. Most PhD granting departments in major research institutions require at least a 3.5 undergraduate GPA, combined verbal and quantitative GRE scores over 1100, strong letters from faculty members who know the candidate well from close supervision of work in upper division courses and seminars, and a flawless writing sample.  Less selective institutions and M.A. programs still require a minimum 3.0 GPA, and strong GRE scores, letters, and writing samples.

When faculty members write letters of recommendation, we are putting our credibility and the credibility of the institution at stake. If we exaggerate a candidate’s credentials, if students admitted from UCSB do not do well once they are admitted, if it is not clear that we have good judgment and high standards, our future letters will not be taken seriously and we will lose the ability to help worthy students succeed.  You should get letters from faculty members who know you well, who have worked closely with you in upper division courses, who have good knowledge of y our writing, participation in discussions, professional plans, and likelihood of success in graduate school. When you contact a faculty member for a letter you should supply them with your GPA, GRE scores, personal statement, and remind them of the work you did in their courses – especially of any long research papers you did under their supervision.

Students who major in interdisciplinary fields like Black Studies may have an advantage in applying to interdisciplinary PhD programs in Ethnic Studies, American Studies, and Feminist Studies, but may be disadvantaged in applying to graduate programs in traditional disciplines. Students are unlikely to be admitted to graduate programs in the disciplines without evidence of strong success in that discipline as an undergraduate. Elite institutions also evaluate GPAs in relation to the quality of the undergraduate institution. Success in more prestigious undergraduate schools is usually valued more highly than similar success at UCSB. There are, however, many different paths to professional success. Some applicants who are not competitive candidates for admission to PhD programs in elite institutions enroll in M.A. programs and enhance their chances in the future by doing well at the M.A. level.

There are good people to learn from and to study with everywhere. Your job is to find them and make the most of whatever opportunities you have. The most important variable in calculating success as a scholar is the internal resolve, work habits, ability, and determination of the individual. No institution can make you succeed simply by approving of you and no institution can make you fail simply by rejecting you. Your task is to use your intellect to design the path most likely to be successful for you.

Finding a School

Finding the graduate school that best fits your needs requires time and a commitment to researching the many schools that can offer you the opportunity to further your academic/career aspirations. If you are considering advancing your education in a field related to Black Studies you may want to consider the following Masters or Doctoral Programs:


Masters Programs Related to Black Studies

Doctoral Programs Related to Black Studies

The Application

Applying to graduate school program can be a long and arduous process. Some graduate schools require students to apply online; others give applicants the option of applying online or via paper form. Most paper applications can be downloaded directly from the school’s website in PDF format. Each graduate school has its own application, and each school may require different supplementary materials to be submitted along with the actual application. Each school will indicate what method(s) can be used for submitting the application and/or supplementary materials. To alleviate stress, once you find out what schools you want to apply to, make a list of the application requirements for each school. Pay close attention to the deadline for each application and add this to your list so that you can prioritize your time and meet each deadline.  If you are unsure of any deadlines, or if you need clarification regarding what materials are required to apply contact the graduate school directly. Always ask a professional to look over your application/supplementary materials before you submit them—a fresh pair of eyes may see some part of the application/supplementary materials that you missed!


Taking a GRE test is an essential early step toward a graduate or degree. The General Test is comprised of three sections: Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing. Graduate schools use GRE test scores to evaluate your readiness for graduate-level work. Some schools require the General Test as part of the application for admission. Some schools required specific subject tests along with the General Test. Some graduate schools require the GRE for only certain Departments/Programs. Check the admissions requirements for each program you are applying to in order to find out whether or not the GRE is required, and what specific parts of the test are required.  Current GRE Board policy states that your scores are reportable for 5 years. Your scores are retained for the 5 testing years following the testing year in which you tested.


Contact the Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions office at UCSB to learn about tools to help you prepare for the GRE, or visit their office, located at the UCen. (805) 685-3620


To learn more about the GRE and where the test is being offered, please visit the GRE website:http://www.ets.org/gre



The Curriculum Vitae

A Curriculum Vitae (CV) is a concise overview of your academic background and academic accomplishments. The role of the CV is to pique the interest of the reader, to get the reader to take a closer look at your other application materials, and ultimately to invite you for an interview. Although the format of an academic CV is fairly standard and straight forward, there is some variation across disciplines and you should consult with members of your home department about any particularities associated with your intended field so that your CV is drafted appropriately. Always check with the program you are applying for to see if a CV is required. If you are asked to submit a CV with your application for admissions seek out a professor in your home department or staff member in the UCSB Career Services office who can help you to draft this document. Be sure to have this professional look over the final draft of your CV prior to submitting it.


The Statement of Purpose

A Statement of Purpose is a document that you write that creates an image of who you are and indicates your qualifications for the specific graduate program for which you are applying. Generally, if a Statement of Purpose is required by a graduate program it will be one of the following two types:  (1) the general, comprehensive Statement of Purpose which allows you maximum freedom in terms of what you write; and (2) the specific Statement of Purpose which includes particular questions posed by the graduate program which applicants are expected to answer.

Before you write a Statement of Purpose you should do background research on the program that you are applying for, as well as on your area of interest at that particular university.  Then, check the application instructions regarding the length, deadlines and other requirements for the Statement of Purpose requested by the graduate program you are applying for.If, after reviewing all requirements, you are still unsure about what you should include in your Statement of Purpose, contact the school’s graduate advisor with your questions. Do not be tempted to use the same Statement of Purpose for all applications. Each Statement of Purpose you write should be unique in that it answers the specific question(s) on the application.

Whether writing a general or specific Statement of Purpose, you will likely find that it’s beneficial to self-evaluate and reflect on your academic, social, and personal journey. Consider the following questions (not in any particular order):

  • What is your story and what makes your story special, unique, distinctive, and impressive?
  • What details of your life (personal, familial, cultural, events, etc.) have shaped you or influenced your goals?
  • Why are you interested in this particular graduate program?
  • Why are you interested in this field?
  • What are your career goals?
  • Which faculty member do you want to work with in this particular graduate program and why?
  • What do you hope to gain from attending this graduate program?
  • Do you have any research or internship experience that can directly relate to this field?
  • Have you worked closely with any faculty at your current/past institutions? Explain.
  • Are there any gaps in your academic record? For example, did you withdraw from a quarter? Explain.

Avoid sharing information with the committee that can make you look like a “questionable” applicant.

Eziaku's Words of Advice

"Do's" and "Don'ts" to consider when drafting a Statement of Purpose

Letters of Recommendation

Most graduate schools will require at least one letter of recommendation as part of the application for admission. With the help of the McNair Scholars Program we have compiled a list of documents that you should create, assemble in a folder, and provide to persons you would like to receive a letter of recommendation from. These materials will provide your potential recommender with important information that can help them to write a clear and concise letter of recommendation on your behalf. Please note, you should request letters of recommendation from professors that have instructed you in at least two upper-division courses or from professors under whom you've worked in a research capacity.


All About You
This document should consist of your name, year of graduation, major(s) and minor(s) and a short biography about you. This document should also include the following (in no particular order):

  • What classes you have taken with the professor (include the letter grade)
  • What research you have done with the professor
  • Your ethnic/cultural history
  • Any extracurricular activities throughout your college experience
  • Why you interested in the program that you are trying to pursue.
  • Your cumulative and major GPAs.
  • Any challenges that you had to face during your college experience

These tips can help your recommender gain a better understanding of who you are. Even if you think a professor knows you well, this document can help your professor to cite specific information about the interactions you’ve had (including dates he/she worked with you, grades you obtained in classes, etc.).


Curriculum Vitae (CV)
See “Curriculum Vitae” tab for details about this document.

Statement of Purpose
Give the professor a copy of the Statement of Purpose you plan to submit for the school he/she is addressing. If the professor is doing multiple recommendations, give the professor a copy of your Statement of Purpose for the school you’re most interested in attending. See “Statement of Purpose” tab for details about this document.


Copy of a writing sample or a former *excellent* paper, exam, lab report, etc. 
Pick one written example to give the professor based on your relationship and what would be most helpful for him/her to write you a strong letter of recommendation.

If you’re not using your writing sample:

  • Make sure the assignment is from a class the professor taught
  • Make sure you submit a sample of something on which you received a grade of B or better
  • Make sure the writing sample includes your name, the course title, and the quarter during which the course was taken

Graduate School List
Provide your recommender with a list of schools you are applying for. Include only the relevant information about each school:

  • Name of school
  • Contact person (or addressee for each letter)
  • School Address
  • Deadline for submission of recommendation
  • Relevant website(s)
  • Brief statement about why you’re interested in the school and who you hope to work with at the school

Memo/Instructions for submission of recommendation materials 
Be sure to give explicit instructions for how the professor is to handle the recommendation

  • Will the recommender receive an email from the institution with submission instructions? If so, when should the recommender expect to receive this email?
  • To whom should the letter be addressed?
  • What specific question(s) need to be addressed in the letter?
  • Does the recommender need to fill out something in addition to writing your letter?
  • When is the deadline for submission of recommendations?

Note: If requesting letters for multiple graduate applications, it is usually easiest to give the professor one deadline for all letters (at least a few days before the earliest deadline).

  • How is the letter submitted?
    • If online: What’s the appropriate link or website?
    • If by mail: Include a pre-stamped and addressed envelope for submission
    • If you need to pick it up: Find out when you can pick up the letter. Be sure the letter is put in a sealed envelope and have the professor sign on top of the seal so that the graduate program knows that the letter has not been seen or tampered with.
  • If the professor is doing multiple letters, be sure to clearly indicate how each letter should be processed, based on the questions above.
  • Make sure you thank the professor with a formal thank you card/note after submission of each recommendation.

Once you are accepted into a graduate program thank the recommender again either with a formal thank you card/note or in person. If you are accepted into more than one program be sure to tell your recommender which school you plan to attend and keep up with your recommender throughout your time in graduate school. Lastly, don’t forget to thank your recommender when you graduate with your Masters or PhD!!!