Tag Archive for 'graduate admissions'

GRE Subject Tests: To Take, or Not To Take

Wait. There are subject tests, too?!

Wait. There are subject tests, too?!

Remember when you took the SAT for the first time? You were so anxious because it was the SAT AND IT WAS THE BIGGEST TEST YOU WERE EVER GOING TO TAKE! And just as you got up to the front of the line to check-in, they asked you if you were taking an SAT II. A WHAT?!

And, indeed, it turned out that on top of the SAT reasoning tests there were other subject tests that were “optional.” Perhaps if you’re a strange Martian who is immune to the horrors of standardized testing, you were excited for another chance to show what you know, but more likely, your heart sank with the realization that “subject tests” meant that more future Saturdays would begin with your stomach in knots at 8 AM in a cold testing center.

You may have thought applying to graduate school would be more straightforward, but if you’re taking the GRE, you’re likely to find yourself at the same crossroads. Yes, luckily for you, if you’re applying to graduate school in the field of Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Literature (in English), Mathematics, Physics, or Psychology, you have the option to take a GRE Subject Test to support your graduate school application. The tests are administered in April, September, and October and scored on a scale of 200-990 in ten point increments. The Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology; Biology; and Psychology Tests all have subsections scored on a scale of 20-99 in one point increments. The question is, do you need to give up $150 and a weekend? Continue reading “GRE Subject Tests: To Take, or Not To Take” »

GRE Scores May be Down, but Competition is UP!

Our mantra at “It’s Not GREek” is “The score you want is the score that will get you into your graduate school of choice.” Though every student has different goals and ambitions, this means that you do not need to get a perfect score on the GRE to get into a good graduate program; you do, however, generally need to score above average to have a chance at being admitted to your program of choice. This self-evident, sagacious wisdom has come under scrutiny recently as the average GRE score for American test-takers has dropped to, well, below average. The Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the GRE, recently released data outlining the average scores of domestic and international test takers.

*Source: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/02/21/ets-releases-data-gre-averages-country


It is apparent that a truly significant number of undergraduate students and undergraduate degree holders in the United States are considering applying to graduate school; as Bachelor’s degrees are now the workplace standard rather than the exception, people are seeking to stand out from the crowd by pursuing advanced degrees.  The most important consequence of this is, though the average GRE score is down, competition for admission into graduate school is up.

The sheer volume of potential applicants is staggering; simply put, there are not enough spots available for the number of interested or potential graduate school applicants. This is true without even mentioning the challenge competing for spots at prestigious universities with well qualified international students poses to prospective American graduate students. Given the new GRE average score for US test takers, suffice it to say, it is no longer enough to score ‘above average’ on the GRE.

It might be tempting to look at these scores and breathe a sigh of relief, thinking, “Well, look … my score is above average.” Well, suck in that sigh and let out a groan, because the admission standards for prestigious universities have not been lowered to accommodate the drop in GRE scores for the average American test taker. Quite the opposite, in fact; competition for a spot in an excellent graduate program has never been fiercer (as evidenced by the exponential growth of potential applicants).

The simple fact of the matter is ‘above average’ no longer means what it used to; at least when it comes to the GRE. With nearly 320,000 annual GRE test takers in the United States, averages may be down but competition is UP! 


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Ask Test Masters: Which Study Book Should I Use for the GRE?

ASK TM“Ask Test Masters” is a free informational service offered by Test Masters, the fastest growing professional exam preparation company in the United States. You ask, we answer. KJ, a graduate school hopeful, wants to know which GRE study book to use in the preparatory process.

KJ writes, “Which GRE study book is most effective for doing well on the test overall?”

Dear KJ,

This is an excellent question; the materials you use to prepare for the GRE will have a significant impact on how well you do on the exam. A study guide is no substitute for taking a preparatory course; however, when you are operating on a budget, studying on your own can sometimes be necessary. Test Masters prides itself on using only the best and most accurate course materials; included with every Test Masters GRE course is an Official GRE Study Guide (2nd edition). This guide is the most up to date and comprehensive independent study guide available, and if you intend to prepare for the GRE on your own, it is a must-have. The Official GRE Study Guide is available for purchase at the Test Masters book store.

Hope this helps! Let us know if you have any more questions.


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Graduate Program Spotlight: Environmental Studies

One beautiful reason to consider Environmental Science as a career path.

One beautiful reason to consider Environmental Science as a career path.

Well-known institutions like Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Yale, etc. consistently rank at the top of every program they offer, and this is no different for Environmental Studies graduate programs. However, the fact of the matter is you do not have to attend one of these schools in order to get a great education out of a Masters or Ph.D. program. At “It’s Not GREek!” we want our readers to be aware of not only the important generalities of the field they are considering, but the multitude of options they have when it comes to picking a graduate school. These are some schools, along with the usual suspects, you may not be aware of, but that experts in your field of study certainly are.

For years, global experts in environmental studies have been proclaiming the necessity of greener living and a reduced carbon footprint. Nobel Prizes have been awarded to especially outstanding activists (Theodore Roosevelt, Al Gore, Wangari Maathai) and the study of environmental sciences has blossomed into an important and prominent part of the scientific community. Though many people associate Environmental Studies with greener living, as a science, Environmental Studies is not strictly limited to campaigning against deforestation or global warming; many environmental scientists are tasked with identifying and eliminating pollutants, concern themselves with issues affecting the general health of the public, or, as we will see, focus primarily on solving environmental problems with innovative engineering solutions.

U.S. Bureau of Labor is an excellent source for occupational projections. If you're interested in a particular field, I strongly recommend visiting USBLS.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is an excellent source for employment and wage projections. If you’re interested in a particular field, I strongly recommend visiting USBLS.

With this broader categorization of Environmental Studies in mind, it is easy to understand why the occupational statistics, including wage and employment, seem so bright for Environmental Scientists and Specialists. Though the employment statistics are not particularly staggering, the mean hourly wage is a comfortable $33.08. This hourly mean is an average that includes both the higher-level earners (those with M.S. and/or Ph. D) and the lower-level income earners (those with only a Bachelor’s or Associate degree). An individual with a Masters or Doctorate in Environmental Science can potentially earn up to $110,000/year or more in salary.

It is important to keep in mind, as we begin our Graduate Program Spotlight: Environmental Studies, that the employment statistics above do not include specific niche areas of environmental studies like Conservation Scientists, Forest and Conservation Technicians, Game Wardens, or Wildlife Biologists; the US Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains separate statistics for each of these employment categories. So, while the employment statistics for Environmental Scientists and Specialists are “not particularly staggering” (with a 19% Job Outlook for 2010-20, which is about average), the existence of these specialized niches suggests that a broader, aggregate consideration would reveal Environmental Studies is a pursuit that is excellent not just for the endeavors of the field but the employment opportunities associated with it.

#1) Stanford University

Stanford offers a number of graduate level studies related to studying the environment, including Energy and Climate, Earth Systems, the Emmett Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies in Environment and Resources, Environmental and Natural Resources Law and Policy Program, Center for Social Innovation, and the Public Policy Program. Additionally, Stanford’s geographic location has two “unique natural laboratories,” the Hopkins Marine Station and Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, both of which have proven to be outstanding sources for study and research. The Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment includes the Rising Environmental Leaders Program, which is an “innovative interdisciplinary initiative that exposes graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to national policy development, partnership building and public service careers.” You can find out more about Stanford graduate admissions here.

Oski the bear is just one more reason to go to Berkeley.

Oski the bear is just one more reason to go to Berkeley.

#2) University of California, Berkeley (UCB)

The University of California, Berkeley offers a stunning array of graduate programs for students interested in post-undergraduate studies in Environment and Sustainability. The university takes a very serious approach to the issue of sustainability; they have even gone so far as to introduce the Cal Climate Action Partnership (CalCAP), which is “is a collaboration of faculty, administration, staff, and students working to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at UC Berkeley.” Recent environmental studies released by UC Berkeley range from why species migrate, or don’t migrate, in response to climate change, to air pollution as it pertains to diesel versus other gas emissions, to the environmental quality of child care settings. The issues UCB considers most important include Agriculture, Air Quality, Energy and Climate Change, Environmental Economics, Natural Resource Management, Sustainable Development, Sustainable Living, Transportation, and Water. You can find out more about Cal Berkeley graduate admissions here.

#3) Harvard University

Harvard’s Sustainability and Environmental Graduate Program is one the best in the country. Their extension program offers a great degree of flexibility, requiring student to take only one classroom course and the other courses online. You can choose from two concentrations, one in Ecosystems and the other in Sustainability. Like every program Harvard offers, admission is competitive. You can find out more about Harvard graduate admissions here.

#4) Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Areas of study in MIT’s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering include Environmental Chemistry, Environmental Microbiology, Environmental Fluid Mechanics and Coastal Engineering, Geotechnical Engineering and Geomechanics, Hydrology and Hydroclimatology, Materials and Structures, and Transportation; their related graduate degree options are Master of Engineering, Master of Science, Master of Science and MBA, Doctoral Degree, Interdepartmental Master of Science or Doctorate in Transportation. You can find out more about MIT graduate admissions here.

#5) California Institute of Technology

The Environmental Science and Engineering (ESE) program is an interdisciplinary degree option, culminating in research leading to a Ph. D., which aims “to provide a comprehensive understanding of our complex environment and offer efficient and effective engineering solutions to environmental problems.”  Cal Tech requires its Environmental Science and Engineering students to have foundations in science, engineering, or math. Specific research areas include Atmospheric chemistry and air pollution, Environmental chemistry and technology, Dynamics of climate, Biogeochemistry and climates of the past, Environmental microbiology, and Landscape evolution. You can find out more about Cal Tech graduate admissions here.

Honorable Mention:

“Buzz” is a very inspired nickname for a bee, I think.

#27) Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Tech’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) offers 4 MS degrees: Master of Science in Civil Engineering (MSCE), Master of Science in Engineering Science and Mechanics (MSESM), Master of Science in Environmental Engineering (MSEnvE), and an undesignated Master of Science (MS). In a Welcome from the Chair, Reginald DdesRoches writes, “We believe that our strong reputation is based on several factors, including our attention to engineering fundamentals, investments in state-of-the-art technology, and the world-class scholars that comprise CEE’s faculty.” Research in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering is broadly categorized into six “affinity-areas”: Construction Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Environmental Fluid Mechanics and Water Resources, Geosystems Engineering, Structural Engineering, Mechanics and Materials, and Transportation Systems Engineering. You can find out more about Georgia Tech graduate admissions here.

#39) University of Washington

The University of Washington’ School of Environmental and Forest Sciences “focus (is) on the sustainability and functionality of complex natural resource and environmental systems, using an integrated, interdisciplinary approach across multiple scales involving the urban-to-wildland gradient.” Graduate degree programs include a Master of Environmental Horticulture, Master of Forestry – Sustainable Forest Management, Master of Science, and A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph. D.). Though ranked #39 by US World News, Shanghai Jiao Tong University (which ranks universities based on academic or research performance) has consistently ranked UW in the top5 globally for the excellence of their staff, students, and research. You can find out more about University of Washington graduate admissions here.

If you are a fan of the environment, you will be a fan of CU-Boulder.

If you are a fan of the environment, you will be a fan of CU-Boulder.

#43) University of Colorado at Boulder

CU-Boulder’s Environmental Studies Program (ENVS) offers both a MS and a Ph. D; that said, Colorado at Boulder prides itself on the “truly interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Environmental Studies that awards (these) two degree(s).” One of the more amazing aspects of CU-Boulder is the breadth and scope of their Certificate Programs, which are offered to interdisciplinary and professional graduate students to complement traditional educations; in the certificate programs, students take classes outside of their department and work directly with a faculty member affiliated with the program. You can find out more about CU-Boulder graduate admissions here.

#50) University of California, Irvine

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the Henry Samueli School of Engineering (HSSoE) at the University of California, Irvine offers a Civil Engineering M.S. and Ph. D. with an emphasis in one of three areas: Hydrology and Water Resources, Structural Engineering, and Transportation Systems Engineering. The CEE also offers an Engineering M.S. and Ph. D. with a concentration in Environmental Engineering.  Scholarship in the department is focused around four primary application domains: environmental processes, hydrology and water resources, structural engineering, and transportation systems engineering. You can find out more about UC Irvine graduate admissions here.

This concludes this week’s Graduate Program Spotlight: Environmental Studies. Remember, all of these schools are great and they will all require excellent GRE scores to be admitted into. If you’d like to know more about the GRE keep checking out “It’s Not GREek.” If you’d like additional help, the experts at Test Masters are available year round all your test preparatory needs.

Top 5 Graduate Programs: Microbiology

Microbiology is the study of microscopic organisms; microbiology includes the fields of virology, mycology, bacteriology, and immunology among other branches. Microbiology plays an important role in many professions, including but not limited to disease research and prevention, general health care, environmental studies, and sanitation. The demand for microbiologists is expected to increase about 13% through 2020, and the median salary for Ph.D.-level microbiologists is $93,800.

Well-known institutions like Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Yale, etc. consistently rank at the top of almost every graduate program they offer, and this is no different for Microbiology Ph. D programs as well. However, the fact of the matter is you do not have to attend one of these schools in order to get a great education out of a Masters or Ph.D. program. At “It’s Not GREek!” we want our readers to be aware of not only the important generalities of the field they are considering, but the multitude of options they have when it comes to picking a graduate school. These are some schools, along with the usual suspects, you may not be aware of, but that experts in your field of study certainly are:

1) Harvard

2) Stanford

3) University of Wisconsin – Madison

Madison’s top priority is research training. Their campus encompasses over 80 faculty trainer labs covering a considerable range of scientific questions and approaches. Nearly all careers that Ph.D. microbiologist students may pursue involve teaching, either as a formal component in academia or in industry, government service, and even private foundations. For this reason, UWD focuses on enmeshing teaching and learning.

4) Johns Hopkins University

4) University of California – San Francisco

In addition to having a 21 full-time faculty members, including a former Nobel-Prize winner, on staff, research at UCSF concentrates mostly on areas related to infectious diseases, immunology, and cancer. PIBS has allowed the creation of interdisciplinary graduate curricula rather than limiting students to studies in conventional departments. While the five Ph.D. programs differ in their emphasis and degree requirements, students admitted to any PIBS program can enroll in course work, attend retreats and carry out their thesis studies in any of the 150 labs affiliated with PIBS.

4) Washington University in St. Louis

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis recently made headlines when they received a $5.3 million dollar grant to explore the way gender and age influence in susceptibility in one of the most common types of bacterial infection, the UTI. This fact might not immediately strike you as a reason to attend WUSL School of Medicine, however there are a more similar stories coming out every year about this program. Check it out here!

7) Massachusetts Institute of Technology

7) University of California – Berkeley

7) Yale University

Honorable Mention:

Case Western Reserve University

Case Western Reserve University has two different Ph.D. programs in this field of study; the first is in Molecular Biology Microbiology and the second is in Molecular Virology. In the academic school year of 2009-2010, graduate students in the program received full tuition as well as a stipend of $25,000. From 2003-2005, Case Western’s average quantitative GRE score was a 656. There are many appealing aspects to Case Western’s Ph.D. program, like a collaborative and enthusiastic scientific community, an outstanding and promulgate faculty that regularly contributes to national scientific publications, as well a strong commitment to growth and research. Perhaps, though, we should let the Ph.D. Department Chair, Johnathan Karn, speak for himself.

Tufts University

The Sackler School claims collaborative and interdisciplinary research are hallmarks of its program. Their graduate programs emphasize research, teaching, interdisciplinary studies, and an integration with the university’s entire scientific community. Some outstanding facts about the Sackler School include a student/faculty ratio of 2:1, an student age range of 22-55, and that 98% of students receive a stipend. An additional university perk is its location in the heart of Boston, “thee largest city in New England, and one of America’s most stimulating places to live, offering a rich history and an abundance of culture.”

University of Pittsburgh

The Graduate School of Public Health focuses on developing methods for disease prevention and treatment, and places a special emphasis on population-based education and prevention for control of infectious diseases. Among the various degree programs offered by the U. of Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health is a Master’s International Program with the Peace Corps. Though the University does not guarantee full funding to its students, last year the Graduate School of Public Health received over 5 million dollars in financial aid.

Top 5 Graduate Programs: Geology

The Grand Canyon is a geologic testament to the wonders of nature.

In an effort to not let my liberal arts bias permeate my every post, this week we will examine the top five programs in a truly scientific field of study: geology.

Geology, derived from the Greek gê, which means Earth, and logos, which means study, is the (surprise!) study of the Earth; specifically, it is the study of the rocks which make up the Earth and the process by which they evolve. People considering a graduate program for this titillatingly tectonic subject should also consider that according to the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) the average annual salary of geologists has seen a 15% increase over the last 3 years. In fact, today’s average starting salary for a M.S. Geology graduate (0-2 years experience) is $99,000.

Salary aside, another important factor for students considering a graduate degree in geology is the current employment climate; like the rocks they study, a geologist’s job prospects are solid. According to the United States Department of Labor, the employment rate of geoscientists is projected to increase 21% from the year 2010 to 2020. There are a number of reasons for this, the main one being that the number of students expected to pursue a degree in geology is expected to remain constant while the demand for such experts is expected to increase.

“Granite”-d that’s all you might want to know about a potential future in geology, but of-“quartz” some of you will know Geology Rocks! and let me tell you the top 5 geology graduate programs in the country (according to US News).

#1) University of Arizona

#1) University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

#3) Pennsylvania State University – University Park

#3) University of Texas – Austin

#5) Stanford University


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Top 5 Graduate MFA Acting Programs

Shakespeare’s fool frequently grounded more complex and dramatic scenes with humor, often providing a reinterpretation of events that allowed audience members to better grasp the ideas and emotions at play.

So,  you have chosen acting not just as a hobby, but as a career choice. You defied your parents expectations, went to college, and majored in the love of your life, theatre. Then four long years later, after numerous voice, movement, and acting styles classes, your alma mater sent you away with high hopes and dreams. Then, six months out on your own, with less money in your pocket than a family of five with food stamps, you find yourself asking… what now?

Well, if you are a little reticent about making the big leap to New York or LA, you may consider auditioning and staying in the world of academia just a wee bit longer. Graduate MFA Acting programs can allow you to specialize in a type of theatrical expression (e.g. Shakespeare or Mime/Clown/Mask work) or to merely spend time honing your craft. The next step is to select a MFA program that fits your needs. What are the top 5 nationally ranked programs, you ask?

The American Conservatory Theatre (ACT) in San Francisco, CA

One of the best known programs, ACT is a highly competitive 3 year intensive MFA. They only select 8-12 actors each year, who will work as an ensemble in class and in performance. They strive to cultivate “transformative actors”, who can give breath to a wide variety of dramatic literature. ACT also helps MFA students supplement the cost of education with paid acting and teaching opportunities.  ACT melds classic and contemporary dramatic literature and allows the interplay between the students and the professional acting company.

The Actor’s Studio at Pace University in New York, NY

With such notable alumni as Bradley Cooper, Sally Field, and Paul Newman, and supervised by the Actor’s Studio (originally created by Eli Kazan), The Actor’s Studio Drama School totes that it offers “…the authenticity, continuity and authority of the Stanislavski System and the Method.” The Actor’s Studio Drama School offers three years, lovingly named after Stanislavski’s three books, An Actor Prepares, Building a Character, and Creating a Role. During the third year, the actors will apply the intensive training to a full-fledged repertory season. This is the only MFA officially sanctioned by the Actor’s Studio.

Florida State University in Sarasota, FL

This college may not have been on your radar. Why go here? How about a full-tuition waiver and an assistantship to help with living expenses? Eligibility to join Actor’s Equity? The third year as a full time member of Asolo Theatre and performing in repertory? This program selects 8-12 students a year, and offers many reasons to consider a little drive down to Florida.

CALARTS (California Institute of Arts) in Valencia, CA

This three-year MFA Acting Program is designed for advanced student actors who are adventuresome, imaginative, and highly motivated. The admissions process is very competitive. The program’s curriculum focuses on all facets of each actor’s art and technique. It also strives to question commonly held assumptions about theater while exploring new possibilities. During the first year of the MFA program, students take courses in speech, voice and movement, and clarify and refine acting techniques and personal aesthetics. In the second year, the emphasis is on classical texts, Shakespeare and other style work, while the third and final year is devoted to performance. Additional coursework can include seminars in play analysis, history of the avant-garde, contemporary drama and other topics.

Tisch School of the Arts in New York, NY

The arc of production at the Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Acting Program is organized over three years in a variety of projects and productions that build and evolve your ability to master different texts, different experiences, and different collaborators on an evolutionary route towards entering the professional arena as an actor prepared–and open to–any eventuality and experience. Faculty members support these productions with their involvement in your progress at rehearsals; they will both work with you directly on these productions and/or support the professionals who come to work at Grad Acting. This school allows you to engage with New York City and strives to mold actors to be able to do theater, film, or emerging theatrical media.

These are just a smidgen of the information contained at the websites for these schools. Most MFA programs cultivate an ensemble relationship with your fellow students, and my best advice would be to go in person to the campus. See which program speaks to you artistically, stylistically, and financially. Once you find the one that fits, you will know.

By Curtis Barber

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GRE Subject Tests Part 1

If you’re applying to graduate school, chances are your program may require you take specific GRE subject tests in addition to the GRE.  Much like the SAT subject tests, the GRE subject tests are designed to help you stand out from other applicants by emphasizing your knowledge of a specific subject area.  Even if your program does not explicitly require a GRE subject test, a high GRE subject test score could help your application stand out from the crowd.

There are eight GRE subject tests currently offered by ETS: Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology; Biology; Chemistry; Computer Science; Literature in English; Mathematics; Physics; and Psychology. Continue reading “GRE Subject Tests Part 1” »