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Professional Confessional

A blog providing tips and resources for life after college

2013 October

Which Admissions Exam Do I Take?

It depends upon the program. While some programs will require that you’ve completed various academic coursework, most graduate programs require that you take an admissions exam. There are several options available. First, decide where you want to apply. Then, research the admissions requirements for each program. Finally, determine which exam is required for each program.

GRE – The Graduate Record Exam General Test measures quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning, and analytical writing skills. It is a computer-based test allowing test takers to skip questions and change answers. It also provides an on-screen calculator. There are five sections of multiple-choice questions with at least two sections of quantitative reasoning and two sections of verbal reasoning. The quantitative and verbal sections’ scores are reported on a 130-170 scale. The analytical writing assessment provides two prompts for you to analyze and write a short essay using the computer. This section is scored on a 6-point scale.

Some programs require the GRE subject test such as psychology. The Subject Tests are given at paper-based test centers worldwide three times a year in September, October, and April. Research your program to identify which GRE, general test or subject test, is required for admittance into the program. Scores are valid for 5 years.

Visit www.gre.org for more information.

GMAT – The exam includes analytical writing assessment, quantitative, and verbal sections.  Data sufficiency and problem solving questions are intermingled throughout the quantitative section, and sentence correction, reading comprehension, and critical reasoning questions are intermingled throughout the verbal section. The verbal and quantitative sections contain computer-adaptive multiple-choice questions. For the analytical writing assessment, you will be presented with two essay topics and will type your responses using the computer.  Scores are valid for 5 years.

Visit www.mba.org for more information.

LSAT – The exam is a half-day standardized test consisting of five 35-minute sections of multiple choice questions. It is designed to measure reading and comprehension of complex texts with accuracy and insight, the organization and management of information and the ability to draw reasonable inferences form it, the ability to think critically, and the analysis and evaluation of the reasoning and arguments of others. The test is offered 4 times per year: June; October; December; and February. Scores are valid for 3 years.

Visit www.lsac.org for more information.

MCAT – The exam is a four and a half hour test only on the computer. There are four sections; the verbal reasoning, physical sciences and biological sciences sections consist of multiple-choice questions and the writing sample consists of two essays. Scores are valid for 3 years.

Visit www.aamc.org/mcat for more information.

Remember, plan ahead. Studying for these exams may take 3 months or more. So, you want to work backwards. Know the application deadline for the program(s). Put the date on your calendar. Count back six months from the application deadline date and mark the date on the calendar. Consider when the exam is offered too. This will be the target date to start studying, preparing your personal statement, and requesting recommendations. Exam fees range from $160 to $250. Therefore, you want to provide ample time to prepare for the exam. You don’t want to pay another fee to retake the test. Do you best to do well the first-time. Good luck!

Are You Ready to Apply to Graduate School?

If not, don’t let the application process frighten you. It’s not scary; though it takes time and planning. After you narrowed your choices and identified programs to which you want to apply, now research the application process for each program. Each school varies on the application process and requirements. Don’t wait until the last minute to apply. You will need time to request and receive recommendations, and gather supporting documents. Allow at least 3 months to prepare. Add an additional 3 months if you need to study and take an exam before applying. It may be helpful to follow a timeline. Use these timelines of the graduate schoolpre-law and pre-med application process to help you stay on  track.

Here are several general items to consider in the application process:

Test Scores – Test requirements and scores vary from program to program. Research programs of interest for test requirements including test type and preferred scores. Some schools will list the score(s) they are seeking in competitive applicants. Be familiar with what exam you need to take in order to apply for admittance to the program.

Application – Generally, an application asks for your program of study designation, personal data, academic information, disciplinary actions, and test scores. Most schools have an online application process which makes it easy to complete the application and upload the required documents such a personal statement.

Transcripts – Programs require you to provide an official transcript from the university. However, some programs allow you to submit a copy of the transcript in order to apply. Upon acceptance, you will need to send an official transcript. Contact the registrar’s office to request an official transcript. There is a fee associated with the request.  Be prepared to pay a fee.

Recommendations – Typically, programs require you to submit at least 2-3 recommendations. These recommendations vary from whom you receive them. Pay attention to what your school requests. You may need to have academic, community/service, professional references.

Personal Statements – Graduate schools want to learn about you. You need to tell your story, but be specific about your long term goals, and how the program to which you are applying will help you to accomplish your goals. Some programs will have specific prompts to answer; others might simply ask you to “write a personal statement.”

Writing Samples – Some programs want you to submit a writing sample. Research papers written in your undergraduate courses and select one that best represents your writing aptitude. If feasible, select a sample related to the program to which you are applying. This will help make a connection to the program and your interest in the discipline.

Fees – There are fees associated with the application process. Fees vary from school to school. They can quickly add up if you apply to multiple schools. So, narrow your choices.

Remember, each program is different. Do your research and allow yourself adequate time to prepare and apply.

Which Graduate School Program is Right for Me?

Shan WoolardOPCD Expert Contributor – Shan Woolard, Assistant Director of Career Education and Counseling

Once you have decided that you want to go to graduate school, determining which graduate school program is right for you can be a daunting task.

Begin by identifying schools and programs in your discipline using resources such as Petersons.com and gradschools.com. Every April, US News and World Report publishes a guide of the top ranked graduate programs in various disciplines. Use it to determine the best programs in your discipline. If you are applying to a pre-professional program, such as medical school, law school, counseling, clinical psychology, and physical therapy among others, make sure you are applying to an accredited program. Find out the accrediting body for your discipline (for example, for clinical psychology it is the American Psychological Association), and check out its website for a list of accredited graduate programs.

After you have an initial list of programs in your discipline, start narrowing your choices by evaluating the following factors:

Reputation: Is the program a leader in the discipline? Is it necessary to go to a highly ranked program to get a job in the discipline, or will the degree itself, from any institution, be sufficient?

Curriculum: Does the program offer the specific courses or concentrations in which you are interested? For example, if you wish to pursue school counseling, make sure you are applying to counseling programs with a school counseling track.

Age of program: Decide if the age of the program is important to your career goals. Newer programs might have the latest technology, while older programs will have more alumni for networking.

Size: Do you prefer a program with more students and faculty or fewer? Larger programs tend to be more well-known. Smaller programs are able to provide students with more individual attention.

Location: Do you want to be in an urban or rural community? Close to family and friends? Are you planning on staying in the area after you graduate? Sometimes the nature of the field determines your location. For example, most marine biology programs are located on the coast.

Online or in person: More and more programs that can, such as library science, computer science, and business administration, are offering degrees through online programs. Online programs allow students more flexibility, and are great for motivated, self-starters. Classroom programs provide more structure and allow student to interact with their classmates more easily.

Where you can get accepted: Do you have the necessary GPA and test scores to be a competitive applicant?

Cost: What is the tuition for the program? Check with individual programs and universities to see if they offer tuition waivers, scholarships, or financial aid. Determine what your living expenses will be and how much debt you are willing to incur.

Atmosphere: Some programs require interviews, but if you are applying to a program that does not, try to schedule a visit to get a “feel” for the place. If possible, sit in on a class and meet with students and faculty. Although you will spend the majority of your time in the school or department, explore the rest of the campus and community. Can you picture yourself there for the length of your graduate program?



Is Grad School the Answer?

Tiffany WaddellOPCD Expert Contributor – Tiffany Waddell, Career Counselor

Short answer: maybe.  If you are thinking about graduate school, you are not alone.  Nearly one third of Wake Forest seniors will enter a program after graduation.  Deciding on a program and when to enter is a big decision.  Before you send off those applications and secure your enrollment spot, it’s a good idea to ask yourself a few questions and take time to reflect on whether or not graduate school is the appropriate next step for you.

The first question I ask most students who meet with me to chat about researching graduate programs and application prep is simple: why?  For each person, the answer is different.  Immediate entry into graduate school may give you a leg up in your professional field of interest.  Many times graduate or professional school will afford you a number of specialized skills or certifications and help propel you into the next step of that particular industry.  For example – if you want to be an attorney, then at some point, attending law school, succeeding in your studies, and passing the Bar exam is a pre-requisite before you can attempt to practice law.  In other fields, a graduate degree may be required simply for candidacy of application to apply.  However, this is not always the case.  Some graduate programs are more likely to admit an applicant who has work experience. It is important to identify the norm or standard of education in a given field – and do a bit of research to find out whether or not graduate school immediately after college is a necessary or realistic goal.

Another big question to ask yourself: are you ready?  By ready, I simply mean are you ready to continue attending school for several months or years?  As you approach graduation, you may find that you would like a break from school to recharge before you pursue another academic program.  Perhaps you would like to gain some “real world” experience and explore the world of work a bit before deciding which field of study is the best one for you. Maybe you would like to travel the world or give back in the form of volunteering or service work.

Whatever you decide, remember that the choice is yours.  Family, friends, and other influencers will not be attending classes (or work) for you.  Adjusting to a new academic or work environment and geographic location is a major life transition and certainly worth consideration and intention.

The Professional Confessional launches its third series – Graduate School Series.  You have many questions. Be prepared – follow the blog to get your questions answered and make an informed decision.  Learn more about the ins and outs of graduate school application prep, and how to make the most of your post-graduate studies.  For now, take some time to reflect as to whether or not graduate school right after college is the right choice for you and visit the Office of Personal & Career Development to discuss your options.

Explore, Repeat

Still not decided on a career? Keep exploring. Career exploration does not end with the interview, graduation, or the first job. You want to continue to research companies and individuals within your field(s) of interest. This will help you stay current on industry trends, industry or company initiatives, and who’s who in the industry. Informational interviewing is a great way to learn from industry insiders and build a network within your career interest, not to ask for an internship or job. If you went to the career fair, you have already experienced one form of informational interviewing by exploring a career, discovering skills employers seek, practicing your pitch, and connecting with employers in the field. You want to repeat the process through other methods such as phone conversations or meetings. Be prepared when speaking with industry experts. Keep the phone conversation or meeting brief. Their time is valuable. When you contact them via phone or e-mail, state clearly your interest in their field and express your curiosity to learn more. Schedule a date and time most convenient for their schedule.

To prepare, follow these steps:

  • Know yourself. What are your interests, skills, qualifications, and goals? Be able to articulate them.
  • Prepare a pitch. You are not trying to hard sell yourself. However, you never know where this bridge may lead you. Be succinct allowing 1-2 minutes for your introduction to why you are interested in the field and career goals. Know what you want to take away from the conversation. Use this worksheet as a guide to develop your pitch.
  • Make a list of questions. You want the questions to be insightful and relevant to their experience, work, and industry.
  • Close the conversation.  Always ask if they recommend other individuals to interview about the career field. If they give you names, follow through. Promptly contact those individuals following the same steps listed here.
  • Be professional. Send a thank you after the phone conversation or meeting.
  • Follow up. Stay connected with your contact. Send an update on your exploration, and interviews with contacts made from their recommendations. Share information you find on industry news and trends.
  • Track your contacts. Use this networking tracking tool to keep track of your opportunities and contacts.