If you’re seeking to add to your undergraduate degree, you are no doubt preparing to send your graduate school applications. If this is you and you’ve yet to complete your undergrad studies, this could be a little stressful.
You’re probably still winding up your junior or senior year in college and still hard at work on your thesis or finals; but right now is the right time to think seriously about what you want to study in graduate school, even though you’re so busy. Zeroing in on what you feel will be most beneficial to your career is daunting but worthwhile once you reach that next level.
Now is also the time to begin selecting the best academic institutions offering your chosen course and making your applications.
You need to create a final shortlist of institutions offering your preferred field of study and reach out to them, requesting application materials. As you do so, you also need to begin engaging faculty members about the courses you desire to take, soliciting recommendation letters from current faculty and crafting your personal statement.
And then there’s the GRE! If you feel overwhelmed, here are a few tips to help you get your grad degree plan started.
1. When can you take the GRE?
When searching for GRE exam dates, there are several things to consider. Firstly, almost all tests are done by computer, with exceptions for paper-based tests available.
Test dates are numerous, availing flexibility for those who need it. There a few centers that require test takers to sit the exam on particular days, though.
GRE test scores remain valid five years following the test being taken, for those who may want to take it earlier.
The most important determining factor when it comes to scheduling your GRE test is the date that your applying schools have set for receiving test scores. Typically late fall to early winter, determine the exact date that each of the schools you are applying to has set, and proceed with those dates in mind.
For the best results, find out the test dates for the GRE here.
2. How to study for the GRE
The GRE test is comprised of the types of questions you will face, highlighting the kinds of skills you will require to succeed in an ever more challenging graduate school climate. The test’s user-friendly design allows for the skipping of particular questions in a section, changing of answers, and picking which questions to tackle first.
The GRE tests for analytical writing, critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning. These are all skills that you develop over a lifetime of learning that is important to your continued studies.
Verbal reasoning measures the test taker’s ability to
- Draw after analyzing discourse conclusions
- Use incomplete data to inform reasoning
- Unearth perspective or assumptions
- Understand meaning on multiple levels (intent, figurative, literal)
- Pick what is important, discard what is not
- Summarize text
Quantitative reasoning measures
- Analysis interpretation and understanding of information
- Mathematical model problem solving
- The application of elementary concepts and basic skills of data analysis, geometry, algebra, and arithmetic
The analytical writing part of the exam tests for
- Effective and clear articulation of complex ideas
- Ideas supported using relevant examples and reasons
- A thoughtful examination of claims featuring accompanying evidence
- Elemental control of written English in its standard form
3. Keep your GPA up
To improve your chances of getting admission into grad school, you need a combination of a good GPA, a solid, well-researched, and defended thesis as well as a high GRE score. You, therefore, can’t afford to neglect your undergrad coursework as you study for your GRE.
Bear in mind that you can always retake your GRE, but it will be far more difficult to undo a low GPA. Try to remain focused and balance your time well. If you’re still in your freshman year, make sure you start early so that you can give yourself enough breathing space towards the end of your undergrad to accommodate GRE preparations.
4. Focus on your recommendations
We mentioned this at the top of the article. Begin approaching faculty for recommendations even as you look to sit your GRE. Cultivating a healthy relationship with these lecturers and professors from an early stage will put you in good stead when you finally approach them for a recommendation.
If you’re applying for grad school after being out of college for a long time, you may need to have a sample of your past work in hand. A good recommendation will lend invaluable strength to your application.
5. Sweat the details
Take time to go through your application essays, applications, and work samples to make sure they are rich in valuable points and well presented. They also need to be free of grammatical errors and typos. Such minute details can be difference between your application being considered with the weight it deserves, and not.
It doesn’t hurt to go over your application a few times, then hand it over to someone with the ability to go over it with a neutral eye and weed out any errors. They particularly need to ensure your essays bring you out in the best possible light.
Cover all bases
Applying for graduate school is an involving process, as you can see. It is, therefore, wise to give yourself enough time to cover all the bases thoroughly. Allow yourself ample time to obtain good recommendations, compose convincing essays, prepare well for your GRE, and compile the application. If you aren’t able to sponsor your postgraduate studies, also allow enough time to apply for scholarships or fellowships.