Is a month enough time to get a grad school application together?
October 25, 2010 10:13 PM   Subscribe

An opportunity came up and I have less than one month to get a grad school application, including only half a month to prepare for and take the GRE. Is this crazy?

I am taking pre-req classes for a masters program that I was originally going to apply for admission for the Fall of 2011 - application deadline being sometime late Feb. They were not going to take applications for Spring 2011 initially, but the department decided just last week to open it up. This leaves me with less than a month to get everything together, and really just 15 days to prepare for and take the GRE so that they'll get the scores in time. Should I knock myself out and attempt this or wait till the next admission cycle. THe sooner I'm admitted to the program the better...
posted by delladlux to Education (15 answers total)
I think the real question you need to answer is: what do you have to lose?
posted by hapax_legomenon at 10:20 PM on October 25, 2010

It can't hurt to try.

Request letters of recommendation and transcripts immediately, though. Those are the really time consuming aspects of a grad application.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:22 PM on October 25, 2010

Don't stress about studying for the GRE - just go take the damn test. As long as scores aren't horrible you'll be fine. Your letters of recommendation and relevant experience usually carry far more weight in graduate admissions.
posted by chrisamiller at 10:25 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Take a free practice exam. If you do moderately well, apply. If not, wait.
posted by k8t at 10:28 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

How well did you do on your SAT/ACT? I found the GRE was about the same difficulty as the SAT, sometimes even a bit easier. It all depends on how good you are with standardized tests. (On the other hand, the subject GREs are hard as all hell.)

And to echo the above, rec letters, personal statement, college grades, etc probably count for far more.
posted by kmz at 10:38 PM on October 25, 2010

I think the real question you need to answer is: what do you have to lose?

You need to find out if a rejection for Spring 2011 admission also disqualifies you from Fall 2011 admission. In this case you definitely do have something to lose. If waiting will strengthen your application significantly, it is probably* better to wait.

* unless the pool of applicants is much less competitive now -- which it may well be.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:43 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sometimes the compressed timeline helps instead of hurts. I really wanted to get into UCLA's MFA in Screenwriting Program. The first time I applied, I slaved over my screenplay submission and my statement of purpose - rewriting and getting tons of notes and really trying to polish it up.

I didn't even get an interview.

The following year, I lost track of dates, and didn't realize the deadline until I had a week. In that week, I had to write an entire script, throw together a statement of purpose, beg for letters of recommendation... I had a very loose "I'm screwed anyway" attitude. And I made it that time.

So YES go for it. You'll feel like you're playing with house money anyway.
posted by visual mechanic at 11:42 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, do it. But do it as a trial run of "preparing your grad school application packet." If you don't get in, the next admission cycle will be a piece of cake and you will be sooo glad that you have pretty much already done everything you need to do, and instead you will focuss on revising your statement and upping your GRE scores. It will be such a relief.

Getting letters of recommendation in such a short time will be a nightmare, especially if you need to turn around and ask for them again 3 months later. Tell your letter-writers exactly what your plan is (applying now, and then if no, reapplying next cycle), so that they know why there's a big rush on them to get it done. Keep in mind that this time of year they are probably writing 10-50 recommendation letters for students...who probably asked them weeks ago. The letters they write aren't just for applications, but for funding ops, grants, conferences, etc. In sum, they're busy.

FYI, the GRE can be taken once a calendar month. If you can afford to take it in the next 4 days, you will be able to retake it in November.

Good luck with everything. If it doesn't all come together, don't sweat it, because you're really just cramming now to make life easier in a few months. Which will yield you a better application then anyway.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:46 PM on October 25, 2010

I agree: Go for it. I applied to a fairly competitive MLS program about a month and a half before the due date and the looming deadline was a great motivator. (And I was accepted!) If it doesn't work out this time, you'll be that much further ahead for the next deadline and can use the extra time to fine tune and finalize your application materials.
posted by lucysparrow at 12:06 AM on October 26, 2010

That was about my timeline. Ask for letters first, request transcripts second, take practice test third. I studied like crazy for about a week and took the GRE and things turned out fine. If you are on a campus with a good writing center, that might be one resource for help with the personal statement. If not, the Purdue OWL has a resource that may help you. Even with the time rush, be sure to have a couple of people look over your materials before you send them to make sure you didn't make any crazy mistakes.
posted by BlooPen at 6:49 AM on October 26, 2010

You can do it if you really want it. I had about 7 days to take my GRE once I decided I was definetly going to grad school. I bascically bought a GRE book and read it while my dad drove me to Birmingham because I had waited so long that there wasn't even a test being offered anywhere in Atlanta. I did really well on the logic, pretty good on language and not so hot on the math, I should have practiced the math, being a history undergrad major, I hadn't even considered some of those principles in a long time. So, your inherent strengths and weaknesses and what kind of program you are applying to are important factors to consider.

Also, I found it very helpful to understand how the computer scoring worked and use that as a strategy (i.e. be very careful on the first part and you can become more reckless towards the end of the time if you are running out).

Most grad schools also publish median GRE scores for each department, see if you can find that, you have time to take a practice test and see if you fall pretty close to that median, that will give you an idea of the feasability of
posted by stormygrey at 7:09 AM on October 26, 2010

Not crazy! Totally possible.

And a hint: the math portion is easier than the verbal. You will need to review high school level math that does not require a calculator, and you will need to study about 100 new word parts for the verbal.

Oh and YES take the practice test. It will give you a rough estimate of your score (within 100 pts), and you'll get early exposure to taking the computer-based test.
posted by jander03 at 7:40 AM on October 26, 2010

I know someone who just did this! He was planning to apply next year, but then he visited the school and met the dean who said they have an open spot - with the deadline in a month.

My friend had to take the GRE, complete the application, write essays, pull together writing samples, and plan his move to another state while he was working full-time. He was understandably crazy-cakes the whole time, but now he's off at school and happy he went for it!

It's totally possible - you'll just have to drop out of life for a month.
posted by jenmakes at 8:05 AM on October 26, 2010

the math portion is easier than the verbal

This really depends on you as an individual. I personally found the math portion significantly harder: I had to spend more time studying it and still scored worse. Additionally, how important each of those scores is really depends on what sort of program you're applying for.

Anyway, I think you should definitely check on what happens if you don't get it - can you reapply for the following semester, or would you have to wait longer?
posted by naoko at 10:44 AM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Get a test prep book with sample exams, take at least 1, preferably 2. You need to do reasonably well in the area that your program is in, i.e., physics programs require good math scores. But definitely go for it.
posted by theora55 at 1:13 PM on October 26, 2010

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