I did really well on the GRE. How will this actually help me?
I did surprisingly well on the GRE despite barely studying: I got a 170 (800) verbal, 161 (770) quantitative, and I don't know about the writing section yet but I felt good about it. I tend toward perfectionism and impostor syndrome, and I'm trying really hard to actually enjoy my success for once in my life instead of minimizing it or rationalizing that I got lucky. I tend to heavily underestimate my abilities because I'm the first in my family to finish college, and this surprisingly great score made me worry that I'm going to sell myself short again when I move on to graduate school.
I've often heard that GRE scores are mostly used as a reason to weed applicants out, but I haven't heard much about any advantages of doing really well. When I search grad forums and the like, I find a lot of vague, contradictory anecdotes - and not much else. Here are my questions:
- Will I have a significantly easier time getting funding for grad school (e.g. NSF, EPA STAR, fellowships, etc)? I would love to take a couple of years off to work in the field and write an NSF grant so that I could bring my own funding to a program and work on a really cool project.
- Can I join any interesting MENSA-like societies or anything? I know MENSA doesn't accept the GRE, but some of the high-IQ groups do - are any of them worth it?
- Most importantly - should I be aiming higher with my graduate admissions with a score like this, or does it not make that much of a difference, all other things being equal?
For context, I have a ~3.75 GPA, 3.9 in my major, in tough, quantitative classes at a generally-mediocre state school that has great programs in my field (terrestrial ecology & environmental sciences). I have some research experience and good recommendations, but no publications. I'm hoping to go to graduate school to earn my MS in Ecology, and I tentatively plan to go on to earn a Ph.D so that I can work in government or academia doing ecological research (specifically in landscape ecology). I had been looking at programs within my comfort zone (big state schools with good programs in my field) and assuming that the top-tier programs were beyond my reach, but now I wonder if I should aim higher.
How much does my GRE score change this calculation? How has your high GRE score helped you in your life or career (if at all)? Is this a big advantage in getting grants funded or is it a minor consideration? Cheers and thanks for your thoughts.
Sockpuppeted to avoid the dreaded humblebrag.