High GPA Versus Low GRE
October 2, 2008 3:51 PM   Subscribe

Does a high GPA make up for a low GRE score for grad school admissions? Should I send my scores to schools if they are "recommended" but not required?

I'm scheduled to take the GRE in two weeks. I took a Princeton Review study course over the summer, but didn't improve as much as I would have liked. My practice test score is around 1160, but I did receive a 5 (out of 6) on both writing sections. I'm applying to 4 grad schools, and only one of them requires GRE scores. My question is, should I send my scores to the schools that only "recommend" but not require them? If I do, and they end up being low (around my practice score), will my 3.98 GPA and good letters of rec make up for it? Would it look bad if I didn't send in my scores at all? Oh, my field of study is Urban Planning, and the schools I'm applying to are Portland State, NYU, UC Irvine, and the University of British Columbia. (UCI is the one that requires the GRE) Thanks!
posted by Delfena to Education (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The one thing I can say is that you shouldn't worry about UBC getting wary if you don't send the GRE scores. I've only got my own experience to offer as evidence, but I never took the GRE and was accepted to the two top Canadian departments in my field that "recommended" I send GRE scores.

With a GPA like that and good letters, I wouldn't sweat it.
posted by Beardman at 4:00 PM on October 2, 2008

1160 doesn't sound so bad to me, but I guess it's all relative. What's the average GRE for the programs you're applying to?
posted by meta_eli at 4:03 PM on October 2, 2008

As graduate admissions are handled on a departmental basis, there are no answers that will be correct across the board. But when I was helping out with grad admissions in my department (coincidentally, Computer Science at UBC), I'd be a little bit wary of someone that didn't include GRE scores.

It wasn't a deal-breaker, but if it came down to someone with a good GPA, solid recommendations and a decent GRE score versus someone that had the same except with no GRE score at all, I'd recommend the former. But if your GPA is almost 4.0 and your letters are good, it was take a really bad GRE score to raise eyebrows.
posted by Nelsormensch at 4:05 PM on October 2, 2008

I would send them. GREs seem to matter at insanely competitive programs in some disciplines, not because they're actually good indicators of intelligence or ability in a discipline, but rather they allow the committee to thin the pile of applications. With those grades and letters you'd have to do phenomenally badly to raise eyebrows, and that doesn't seem likely.

I would also note that I and many people I have known ended up doing better on the actual test than on practice tests. Not everyone can say that, but I have met very few people over the years for whom it went the other way. (Incentive for the prep books and reviews? Make you feel like their book/course really helped? Who knows?)
posted by el_lupino at 5:24 PM on October 2, 2008

I opined on the exact opposite of this question here. Turn it 180 degrees for what I'd tell you.
posted by Crotalus at 5:52 PM on October 2, 2008

Also, the weight a grad admissions committee gives your GPA vs. your GRE depends a lot on the reputation of your undergraduate institution.
posted by Crotalus at 5:53 PM on October 2, 2008

As far as science/engineering programs are concerned:

GPAs and GREs are nearly irrelevant if you have good connections to powerful faculty and well-connected students within the program of interest. Furthermore, a perfect GPA and perfect GRE scores will not guarantee you a spot if you apply as a total unknown. Stop worrying about your scores and spend your time making connections and endearing yourself to the people who can make or break your admission.
posted by rxrfrx at 5:54 PM on October 2, 2008

It depends on the graduate program. Often humanities degrees don't really need GRE scores. It really depends on what you would like to study. My program's admitting criteria was heavy on writing samples, but yours may not be. Additionally, however, the university that I attend (remotely at this point) does reward high GRE scores with a partial fellowship even though my program did not require high scores. And it doesn't hurt to email potential advisors or graduate coordinators to ask them their opinion, or perhaps more appropriately current graduate students.

Good luck.
posted by cachondeo45 at 6:14 PM on October 2, 2008

There is no secret, universal formula for how admission committees weigh things, but in general, a careful, well-crafted application package can usually take a hit and stay standing.
posted by limon at 9:05 PM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

A 3.98? That's pretty high (like, ridiculous) Are you trying to get a MA? All the Urban Planning schools I've applied to require GRE, but don't give any minimums (except a common one is 600 each for PHD applicants) and only several have given averages. You're at the average acceptance for schools that are pretty competitive.

Good luck!
posted by sandmanwv at 10:59 PM on October 9, 2008

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