When considering graduate school, there are many decisions to make. The main decision is choosing what industry you would like to work in and what type of degree you’d like to pursue. After that, it’s time to select the school or program that works best for you. This decision might be based on school rankings, the reputation of the faculty, the school’s location, the availability of online classes, or whether the school requires applicants to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
Why Require the GRE?
The GRE is an exam that some graduate schools use as a common measure to evaluate applicants. The GRE is broken down into three parts: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. The exam is designed to allow students from different educational backgrounds an opportunity to showcase skills they may use in graduate school. However, not all schools and programs require the GRE. Some schools don’t require students to take the exam at all, and others waive the exam for applicants who have attained a certain grade point average (GPA). At some schools, certain programs require the exam and others do not.
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Schools with No GRE Requirement
The reasoning behind requiring or not requiring the GRE varies by school, but some critics feel the exam is not an effective indicator of academic success or that the test favors applicants from wealthy backgrounds over those from the working or middle class. GRE requirements also depend on the type of program, as some engineering, computer science, and public health programs are starting to pull the exam from application requirements. These schools include:
University of Texas at San Antonio
Penn State University (some programs)
Rochester Institute of Technology (some programs)
South Dakota State University (some programs)
University of St. Thomas
California State University Northridge (for applicants with a GPA over 3.0)
Grand Valley State University
Western Michigan University
Wright State University
Preparing for the GRE
Keep in mind that there is a $185 fee for the exam—which is a little cheaper than the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)—and there are many opportunities to receive test prep help. If you do apply to a program with a GRE requirement, you will need to put in some solid studying time, but check out sites like ETS (www.ets.org/gre) and Princeton Review (www.princetonreview.com) for advice on the best techniques and specifics about the exam.
Benefits of the GRE
While some schools have no GRE requirements, it’s important to remember that you may benefit from taking the exam, especially if you are applying for a Master of Public Administration (MPA degree). Some of the most competitive—and consequently the best—programs in the country require applicants to submit GRE scores. This includes schools such as Columbia University, University of Rochester, University of Pennsylvania, the George Washington University, and our partner University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The GRE is not an easy exam, but it might pave the way to a better program and, in the long term, a better career. Plus, even if the program you select doesn’t require the GRE, excelling on the GRE can be a great way to stand out from the competition, and it can also be a deciding factor in whether or not you receive scholarship opportunities. Taking the exam will allow you to keep your options open when it comes to programs and schools. With a little work, you could be applying to some of the best schools in the country and on your way to a great career.