Getting into grad school for dummies

The Society of Honor Students (SHS) hosted a Kaplan Graduate School Admissions and GRE Strategy Seminar on March 20.

The presentation, by Kaplan instructor Eric Schwartz, focused on the importance of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and provided some useful tips to create a stellar grad school application.

Unlike undergraduate schools, which have high student matriculation, there is no guarantee that students hoping to get into graduate school will be accepted.

“The endgame is getting into that graduate school program,” Schwartz said.

The first part of the seminar focused on academics, namely a student’s GPA and GRE scores.

According to Schwartz, the GRE is “something you have the ability to change or modify.”

The GRE is a computer-adaptive test, meaning that as one answers questions correctly, the difficulty level increases, and as one answers questions incorrectly, the questions become easier.

“It is a predictor of your success in your first year of graduate school,” Schwartz said. “It is probably stronger than GPA because it is more analysis and critical-thinking skills.”

To be a competitive applicant, experience is necessary. This includes work, internships, extracurriculars and community involvement, often overlooked by students.

However, “that’s where the strong candidates separate themselves from the rest of the pack,” Schwartz said. “If you do one thing well, it means far more than you doing 15 different things.”

The presentation also focused on how to write a winning personal statement.

The right personal statement is “going to stand out,” Schwartz said. There are about six essays required for graduate school applications.

“I generally recommend you have three people read the personal statement,” Schwartz said, “someone who knows you . someone who doesn’t know you . and someone who writes well.”

Schwartz said the right number of schools to apply to varies by student.

“We recommend that you apply to approximately eight schools – four good schools, two safety schools and two reach schools,” Schwartz said.

Kaplan offers complete standardized test preparation, including six computer-adaptive practice tests for the GRE and 19 for the MCAT.

However, taking practice test after practice test is not helpful; it is what happens in between that matters.

“You have to study and prepare like it’s a marathon,” Schwartz said.

Heema Tambakuwala, senior nursing major and SHS vice president, said “I think this was very helpful. It provided motivation to start working on the GREs and grad school and start thinking about your future.”

SHS provides “academically-geared programs and events for all students on campus,” Tambakuwala said. “We thought this (seminar) would be beneficial for our members.”