Tag Archive for 'graduate school'

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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The New GRE – GMAT Killer?


You can stop worrying about which exam you should take for graduate school. The GRE is accepted practically everywhere.

At one point in time, the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) was the de facto exam that students took to get into business school. But in 2006, the creators of the GMAT, the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), decided to sever ties with the Educational Testing Service (ETS), who up until that point had administered the exam. This move, which ended the non-compete clause that the GMAC held over the ETS, allowed the ETS to challenge the stranglehold that the GMAC had on business school testing.

Since 2006, the ETS has been campaigning schools to accept the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT. According to a press release by the ETS, “About 450 MBA programs worldwide now accept the GRE test, including 45 percent of the U.S. News & World Report’s top 100 U.S. programs and seven of the top 10 global MBA programs according to The Financial Times.” These schools include some of the top-ranked business schools in the world, such as Harvard, Stanford, Wharton at UPenn, Stern at NYU, and Sloan at MIT.

Additionally, the revised GRE is in part meant to make the exam more attractive to business schools. The ETS website states, “ETS has revised the test to better reflect the kind of thinking you’ll do in graduate or business school and improve your test-taking experience. New types of questions now more closely align with the skills you need to succeed in today’s demanding graduate and business school programs.” Removing analogies and antonyms, for instance, shifts the focus away from memorization and towards analysis and understanding.

It’s no surprise that more and more schools are starting to accept the GRE. The ETS estimates that there are approximately 700 GRE testing centers in 160 countries around the world; contrast this with a 2010 GMAC press release, which estimates that there are 500 testing centers in 110 countries. Schools that decide to accept the GRE can expand their applicant pools by making it more convenient for international applicants applying to US business schools in this era of globalization. Additionally, the move to accept the GRE is beneficial to students as well. Those who are trying to decide between going to graduate school and going to business school don’t have to choose one over the other or worry about taking two tests (and paying two registration fees) — they can simply take the GRE and apply to both. Test Masters recommends that prospective students take both tests and submit the higher score.

With the release of the new GRE and the momentum that the ETS has built up over the past several years, we can expect to see more and more business schools accepting the GRE for admissions. Of course, the GMAC is not simply twiddling its thumbs as the ETS courts its primary market — the GMAT is scheduled for a major facelift soon to give the exam more business-specific content.

But who knows? By then, it may be too late.

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Graduate Program Profile: Physics

The Milky Way galaxy.

From Newton to Einstein to Hawking, humanity’s pursuit of knowledge and study of the natural world has never been closer to complete; conversely, humanity has never so fully understood how far from a complete knowledge of the universe we really are. Physics, from the Greek physis, or “nature,” encompasses a marvelous spectrum of ideas and studies, but is, above all else, an endeavor to better understand the behavior of the universe.

Encompassing everything from classical mechanics to quantum mechanics, to relativity and the study of electromagnetism, physics is comprised of many disciplines and subdisciplines. As a potential graduate student, a background in physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, or some other natural science is absolutely fundamental to success at an advanced academic level.

Neil de Grasse Tyson

“Where ignorance lurks, so too do the frontiers of discovery and imagination” – Neil DeGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist/author

Before we turn our attention to the most reputable and highly ranked Physics graduate programs, let’s take a look at some of the employment and wage statistics associated with the field of Physics.

According to the US Bureau of Labor, physicists make, on average, over $100,000 a year, and have a median hourly pay of over $50/hour. Given the difficulty of obtaining a doctorate in physics, it should come as no surprise that there are approximately only 20,000 professional physicists in the country (note: this number is an approximation from employment surveys conducted in 2010; the “Job Outlook” for physicists and astronomers is expected to grow at a rate of about 14%). It should also come as no surprise that the most highly paid physicists work in the private sector and not in a classroom. Another note for Ph. D hopefuls is that most physicists do not start out in the private sector, instead they typically spend 2-3 years in a “temporary postdoctoral research position.”

Now that you are aware of the more important generalities associated with a professional career as a physicist, we can begin our examination of the best physics graduate programs.

#1) California Institute of Technology

Between breaking information transfer records and winning Nobel Prizes, Caltech has certainly earned its reputation as the number one graduate school for physics. According to their website, to be prepared for the Caltech Physics Ph. D. you must be familiar with, “Mechanics at about the level of Goldstein’s Classical Mechanics; electromagnetism at the level of Reitz and Milford’s Foundations of Electromagnetic Theory; atomic and nuclear physics at the level of R.B. Leighton’s Modern Physics; introductory quantum mechanics at the level of Dicke and Wittke’s Introduction to Quantum Mechanics, and advanced calculus at the level of T.M. Apostol’s Mathematical Analysis.You can learn about their policies regarding GPA, GRE, and TOEFL here. 

#1) Harvard University

It is no surprise that Harvard is, once again, at the top of our list of graduate schools. Among the many benefits of attending this Ivy League institution is the emphasis they place on interdisciplinary studies, the post-graduate employment help they offer, and the financial support they offer to graduate students. Like most graduate schools, students will not be automatically disqualified from consideration or admitted based on their GRE scores, although you should probably have a perfect or near perfect score. You can learn everything you need to know about the admission process to Harvard through this FAQ.

MIT prof webceleb

MIT physics professor Walter Lewin has become a web celebrity, making his lessons available for free on the internet and dazzling millions with his experiments and lectures.

#1) Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Aside from being one of the overall best universities in the world, one impressive feature about MIT’s physics graduate program is their hands-on, inclusive approach; “Learning takes place in both formal and informal settings with a broad spectrum of colleagues, including faculty members, postdoctoral fellows, research scientists, and graduate student peers.” You can learn more about the admission process for the MIT physics graduate program here.

#1) Stanford University

Stanford University describes its admission process as “holistic”; of the 500+ applicants who apply each year to the Stanford Graduate Physics program, only about 60 are accepted. Admission decisions are based on “the student’s academic record, the letters of recommendation, the scores on both the General GRE and the GRE Subject test in Physics, the statement of purpose, personal qualities and characteristics, as well as past accomplishments.” You can learn about life as a Stanford graduate student here and you can begin your application here.

#5) Princeton University

The Princeton Department of Physics Ph. D. program stands out as having one of the best faculty to student ratios; with a ration of about one to two, you can be sure that all of their Ph. D. candidates receive the attention they need to successfully develop and defend a thesis. Princeton also does an excellent job of preparing their students to be exemplary research scientists; the main philosophy of the Physics Department at Princeton is that the Ph. D. is essentially a research degree that is developed primarily through a general background in physics and then more fully through the completion of a thesis.

Well-known institutions like the ones listed above consistently rank at the top of every program they offer. The fact of the matter, however, 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 you may not be aware of, but that experts in your field of study certainly are.

Honorable Mention:

Rice#26) Rice University

Rice is notable for several reasons – though not quite as prestigious as an East Coast Ivy League school, Rice is widely considered one of the best schools in the country. Rice offers both an M.S. and Ph. D. program, both of which culminate in a defense of your thesis; topics by subdiscipline include Astronomy and Astrophysics, Atomic and Molecular, Biophysics, Condensed matter, Nuclear and Particle, and Space Physics.  You can learn more about Rice admission requirements and procedure here.

#30) Brown University

Brown University is known as the premiere liberal arts university in the country, but given it’s Ivy League status it should be no surprise that it’s Department of Physics is so well regarded. With an acceptance rate of 8.9%, Brown is one of the most selective schools in the world.

#40) Texas A&M University – College Station

The Texas A&M University Physics and Astronomy Department welcomes all prospective graduate students with an official “Howdy.” Research in the department focuses on astronomy, atomic, quantum optics, condensed matter, nuclear (in association with the Cyclotron Institute), and high energy physics. A&M has developed a culture built on trust and mutual respect, and endeavors for that culture to feature as prominently in its academic community as its residential one. You can learn more about the application process to Texas A&M University here.  

#52) University of Rochester

Located in Rochester, New York, the University of Rochester, is one of the smallest (in terms of University of Rochester logostudent body) leading research institutions in the nation. With a Ph. D. degree path that takes most students between four to six years to complete, the University of Rochester prides itself on turning each student into “a professional scientist: an independent and critical thinker, capable both of conceiving and conducting innovative research programs that advance the frontiers of physics or astronomy, and of disseminating the resulting knowledge widely and effectively.” It might impress you prospective graduate students to know that the University of Rochester physics faculty played a key role in the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle.


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Ask Test Masters: Cost of Attendance and GRE Scores for an International Graduate Student

ASK TMAsk Test Masters is a free informational service offered by the experts at Test Masters; you ask, we answer. Shravan, an international student interested in attending graduate school in the United States and abroad, has a few questions about admission requirements and the cost of attendance. Shravan writes,

“I’m pursuing a Bachelor’s in Information Technology (3rd year, 2nd semester) and would like to earn my MS in the U.S. or another country. My question is: my average is 60% aggregate and my financials are also not good; if I get a good score on the GRE can I get into at least an average university? Also, which university has the lowest fees for a semester? How much should I pay in total for an MS in the U.S., and how much money will it cost in total? Please give me some suggestions!!!”

Dear Shravan,

Let’s talk financials first. The total cost of your graduate education will depend on a number of factors – Better known schools are more expensive than less well known schools, private schools are more expensive than state schools, and certain degree programs are more expensive than other degree programs. Other factors, like the cost of living and financial aid, can impact your total cost of attendance, but are indeterminate. Universities regularly release helpful information regarding tuition and living expenses online, so getting a general idea of how much graduate school will cost is really only a Google search away. Let’s take a quick look at two examples of what different types of universities may cost.


Rice University is often called “The Harvard of the South.”

The University of Texas at Austin is a well-regarded state school, and generally considered a great value because of its high ranking and low cost. The cost per semester, when taking 12 hours of course work, for an Information graduate student who is a non-Texas resident at UT Austin is $10,830. Now consider Rice University, one of the United States’ premiere private research universities; the tuition for a full-time graduate student, regardless of residency status (though international students will have to pay certain fees that may affect the total cost of attendance), in the 2012-2013 academic year is $34,900. Notice that the cost of tuition is significantly higher at the private university than the state university. If you would like to do a detailed search of graduate universities by cost, this website is very useful. To get an idea of what your total tuition costs may be, simply research the cost per semester and multiply by the number of semesters it will take to obtain your degree.

In order to qualify for federal financial aid, international students are required to be US citizens or have permanent resident status, which, of course, makes financial aid for international graduate students extremely rare and very competitive to obtain. That said, it is not impossible to obtain financial aid as an international grad student; edupass.org is an excellent resource to understanding your options when it comes to financial aid. There is also the possibility of obtaining “work-study” employment, where you work for the university (as a Teacher’s Assistant or in some other capacity) for a small stipend to help pay for living expenses and tuition costs.

If you are worried that your grades might not be good enough to get you into your university of choice, there are a number of options available to you on how to mold yourself into a competitive graduate school candidate. You can learn more about getting into graduate school with a low GPA here. Remember, a higher GPA improves your chances of being admitted to the graduate school of your choice and drastically increases the likelihood of you obtaining a scholarship or financial aid.

GRE logo

The GRE is administered by the ETS.

In terms of standardized test scores, you should be focused on two things: the TOEFL and the GRE. The Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL, is mandatory for international students; its primary purpose is to determine whether you are fluent enough in English to communicate effectively in a classroom environment. You can register for the TOEFL here.

Before pinning your hopes of attending graduate school to achieving a near perfect GRE score, you have to realize the GRE is hard. This exam is designed to challenge people who are not just academically talented, but motivated to succeed. If you need an excellent GRE score to have a chance of getting into your college of choice, the best piece of advice we can offer you is prepare. Practice, study, review and then practice, study, and review some more. You can learn more about how to make your study habits more effective here.

International students are at a disadvantage when it comes to GRE preparation as professional exam preparation is not as widely available internationally as it is domestically in the United States. One excellent resource to consider is a GRE online preparatory course like the one offered by Test Masters.

We hope this helps, and let us know if you have any more questions!


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GRE Analytical Writing Overview Part II: Analysis of an Argument

Analyze the following Argument: "If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit."

Analyze the following Argument: “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

The GRE Analytical Writing section can be a stumbling block for many students. However, with practice it can become one of the easiest sections on the test. Scoring on the GRE Analytical Writing  section is based on a 6 point scale that is broken down into half-point increments. The highest possible score would be a perfect 6, and the lowest would be a 0 (reserved for blank or completely off-topic essays). This score is determined based on your performance on the two essays that make up the Analytical Writing section: the Analysis of an Issue essay and the Analysis of an Argument essay. Today, we will focus on the Analysis of an Argument essay.

In the Analysis of an Argument essay, you are presented with a short paragraph in which an argument in favor of a certain point of view is made. A typical paragraph of this sort might resemble the following prompt (which was indeed used on the GRE exam in the past):

“Woven baskets characterized by a particular distinctive pattern have previously been found only in the immediate vicinity of the prehistoric village of Palea and therefore were believed to have been made only by the Palean people. Recently, however, archaeologists discovered such a “Palean” basket in Lithos, an ancient village across the Brim River from Palea. The Brim River is very deep and broad, and so the ancient Paleans could have crossed it only by boat, and no Palean boats have been found. Thus it follows that the so-called Palean baskets were not uniquely Palean.”

Success in responding to these prompts is dependent both on one’s general writing skills and on strategies specific to this kind of essay. With regard to general writing skills, it is important to try to maximize both your idea count per sentence and the variety of your diction and sentence structure. Essentially, this means you should avoid diffuse, wordy writing and try to make use of all the vocabulary words you have been studying for the Verbal section of the exam. At the same time, attempt to create a pleasing variety of simple, compound, and complex sentences so that the writing flows nicely.

Turning to strategies specific to the GRE Analysis of an Argument essay, the most important strategy is to memorize and practice all of the possible kinds of prompts you could be given. These prompt types are listed on the official GRE website, and are reproduced here:

  • Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.
  • Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on these assumptions, and what the implications are for the argument if the assumptions prove unwarranted.
  • Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.
  • Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the advice and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the advice.
  • Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation is likely to have the predicted result. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.
  • Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the prediction and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the prediction.
  • Write a response in which you discuss one or more alternative explanations that could rival the proposed explanation and explain how your explanation(s) can plausibly account for the facts presented in the argument.
  • Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be addressed in order to decide whether the conclusion and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to the questions would help to evaluate the conclusion.

Essentially, you are being asked to determine the validity of the argument made in the paragraph in one way or another (note that this means the argument will always be logically flawed in some way: your goal is to find and explain these lapses in reasoning). Remember, the most successful essays are those that most directly address the specific task indicated by the prompt; less successful responses may be on topic but fail to address the specific task at hand. The official GRE website also lists past Analysis of an Argument essay topics that you can use to write practice essays. Remember, practice makes perfect, so you would do well to take advantage of these resources. For additional help, resources, and strategies that will prepare you for the Analysis of an Issue essay, consider studying with the experts at Test Masters. Until then, best of luck and happy studying!

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.

GRE Verbal Reasoning Problem: A judicious biography

Each week “It’s not GREek!” will present you with question types you are likely to see on the GRE, as well as a brief explanation on how to arrive at the answer for each question. We’ll start by examining a Verbal Reasoning question:

  1. A judicious biography must be (i) ____ representation that depicts both the strengths and the weaknesses of the subject, avoiding the two extremes of (ii) ____ and indictment.

Blank (i)                                                                            Blank (ii)

A. a complimentary D. censure
B. a polarized E. eulogy
C. an equitable F. vindication


Explanation: The key phrase to answering Blank (i) is “judicious” and “both the strengths and the weakness.” These phrases tells us that the correct answer choice will be the word that best corresponds to the conditions of depicting a person’s positive and negative characteristics equally; it must the answer choice that best corresponds to fair and balanced. Of the available answer choices only “equitable” means just and impartial; thus the answer choice to Blank (i) is (C).

The way to go about answering Blank (ii) is to begin by recognizing you are looking for an antonym. You should recognize the phrase “avoiding the two extremes of ____ and indictment” is telling you the answer to Blank (ii) is the word most opposite in meaning to indictment.  “To indict” someone is to accuse of wrongdoing, or to make a formal accusation. Of the three answer choices, “vindication” is most opposite in meaning; it is an argument in support or justification of something.

You can never have enough vocabulary words; here are the definitions of all the answer choices:

Complimentary: Expressing, using, or resembling a compliment.

Polarized: To cause to concentrate about two conflicting or contrasting positions.

Equitable: Marked by or having equity; just and impartial. Fair.

Censure: An expression of strong disapproval or harsh criticism; an official rebuke.

Eulogy: A laudatory speech or written tribute, especially one praising someone who has died; high praise or commendation.

Vindication: The act of vindicating or condition of being vindicated. The defense, such as evidence or argument, that serves to justify a claim or deed.


Graduate Program Spotlight: Computer Science

IBM’s Blue Gene Supercomputer.

It is safe to say that in the modern world, a Masters or Ph. D. in Computer Science is a safe investment; multiple professional fields have sprung up around or become increasingly associated with computer technologies. Given the increasing demand for computer experts, and the wonderful insights and benefits computer technologies afford other professional and academic fields, it is no surprise Computer Science has become a subject of significant academic importance.

Well-known institutions like Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Yale, etc. consistently rank at the top of almost every graduate program they offer; 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 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.

Before continuing with our Graduate Program Spotlight: Computer Science, let’s discuss some important and relevant information about the opportunities a Masters or Ph. D. in Computer Science might provide you with; specifically, opportunities in the context of potential employment and annual salary.

In computer terms, this is definitely the “Before” picture.

Computer Science is a prodigious and perpetually burgeoning field; as the influence of electronics and computers continues to expand and permeate everyday life, so too has the demand for computer tech experts increased. The field is so diverse that the US Bureau of Labor, a very reliable and trustworthy source for statistical information for any profession, has over eight general-employment categories relating to the field of Computer Science. There is no doubting that a graduate degree in Computer Science is viable; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor most professions requiring a graduate degree in C.S. are significantly out performing the national average in terms of both job growth and median annual salary. According to the Bureau of Labor’s Occupational Handbook, the median salary for a Doctoral or professional degree in computer science, with no experience outside of the classroom (though admittedly, many graduate programs will require work experience as criteria for admission) is $100,660, and the job market demand for an advanced degree in computer science is projected to increase between 19% – 22% through 2020.

Again, it is manifest that an advanced degree in Computer Science is a safe investment; it’s not quite gold, but it’s not far off either. Now that this has been made abundantly clear to any interested potential graduate school candidates, let’s take a look at some of the best Computer Science schools in the country (according to US News).

TOP 5:

#1) Carnegie Mellon University

This university played a significant role in the initial development of “thinking computers,” and Carnegie Mellon continues to be among the foremost researchers of computer technologies in the world. The School of Computer Science includes the Computer Science Department (CSD), The Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII), The Institute for Software Research (ISR), Lane Center for Computational Biology, Language technologies Institute (LTI), Machine Learning Department (ML), and the Robotics Institute (RI). Interestingly, Carnegie Mellon’s Masters program in Computer Science does not require an undergraduate degree in computer science, only “a strong aptitude for mathematics, programming, and logical reasoning.” Annual tuition costs are approximately $39,000. Though exact admittance data is hard to find, it seems that each program only accepts around 25 students annually; if this is true, it makes Carnegie Mellon’s Computer Science Department one of the most exclusive in the country.

#1) Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department is the largest in the School of Engineering, another testament to the growing importance of Computer Science in a contemporary setting. Currently, the EECS Department has about 700 students in their doctoral program. Admission to MIT is extremely competitive, and applicants are expected to possess a very strong background in math, physics, computer science, or engineering. For their M.S. and Ph. D. programs, the average GRE scores are Verbal: 158, Quantitative: 159, and Writing: 5.3. Though expensive, this program is quite obviously worth the yearly tuition cost of $41, 770.

#1) Stanford University

Not much needs to be said about any of Stanford University’s programs.  The average GRE score is Verbal: 159, Quantitative: 158, Writing: 4.8. Full-time Master’s students (taking between 11-18 credits) can expect an annual tuition of $29,300.

#1) University of California – Berkeley

Though the minimum prerequisites to apply to any of Berkeley’s graduate programs are not especially imposing, a Bachelor’s degree and a 3.0/4.0 undergraduate GPA, in addition to a GRE score, it’s important to note these are the minimum requirements to apply! The average GRE score is Verbal: 153-156, Quantitative: 167, Writing: 4.5; a competitive GPA for admissions purposes is a 3.5 or higher.

#5) Cornell University

Cornell’s suggested minimum GPA for admission is 3.5/4.0. The tuition cost for the 2012-2013 calender year will be approximately $30,000, about $14,750 (Note: this does not include the cost of attendance, i.e. room, board, etc.). Cornell has done a very effective job of not releasing a specific GRE score needed for admittance; however, it would be very safe to assume admission as a MS or Ph. D. student would require a GRE score of 310 or higher.


It is unsurprising that these schools are listed as the best in the country; they typically dominate across the board in terms of ranking and national prestige. Though these schools might afford you the best opportunities in terms of post-graduation employment, they are by no means the only options. There are a number of reasons a potential graduate student would look outside the top tier schools in the country: geography/logistics, finances, admission requirements, program requirements, etc., so it is good to know that even if you can’t get in or go to Harvard (or in this case, Carnegie Mellon) there are still plenty of options available that can give you the education and expertise you are looking.


#39) University of Utah

The University of Utah offers two degree programs for Masters and Ph. D. students through their School of Computing, one in Computer Science and the other in Computing. Emphasis areas include Computer Engineering, Data Management and Analysis, Digital Media, Game Engineering, Graphics and Visualization, Image Analysis, Robotics, and Scientific Computing. Approximately 100 individuals enter the University of Utah’s graduate School of Computing each year, with an almost even split between M.S. and Ph.D. students. The average new GRE score for the University of Utah is above 314.

#61) University at Buffalo – SUNY

The University of Buffalo – The State University of New York – offers two degree plans through its Department of Computer Science and Engineering: the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph. D.) and the Master of Science (M.S.). SUNY’s DCSE consistently ranks in the 60 in programs in the world. Full-time non-resident total cost of attending the University of Buffalo is approximately $9,200/semester. Though the University of Buffalo has a large graduate/professional student population, almost 10,000 students, there are only 80 Ph. D. students in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering; this means there is both a vibrant graduate community and a more intimate support network related to your specific field on interest.

#63) Iowa State University

Iowa State University’s M.S. program has approximately 50 students. ISU’s grade requirements are a grade of B- or better in each course and an overall average GPA of 3.0, in addition to other grade requirements. In order to be considered for the Master’s program students must have at least 3 Computer Science courses from 2 different “breadth areas,” for a total of 9 credits. Out of state Graduate student tuition costs per semester are approximately $9,900. Many applicants might appreciate the ISU Department of Computer Science motto, “All science is Computer Science.”

#63) University of Tennessee – Knoxville

The University of Tennessee’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science is the largest in the College of Engineering. They offer three programs: Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, and Computer Science; all three programs offer degrees at the M.S. and Ph. D. levels. UT – Knoxville offers concentrations in a variety of specialized fields, including Artificial Intelligence, Circuit Theory, Computational Biology, Robotics, and many more. Graduate admissions require a 3.0/4.0 minimum undergraduate GPA, at least two semesters of calculus and two additional semesters of college mathematics, and a course in formal languages as well as in systems programming. Students may use a valid GRE score received within the last three years for admissions purposes.


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