Here’s the summary of a question that was forwarded to us from someone who had seen it on a graduate school discussion board:

Should I take the GRE?
now, although I’m only in my first year at college?I know I want to apply to graduate school after I get my bachelor’s degree. I think I’ll do better if I take the test now, while I’m still feeling sharp about my multiple choice standardized test scores.

The answer to that question is, technically, yes. GRE scores are good for 5 years. Most graduate schools would consider your scores as long as you applied within 5 years of the test date, regardless of what year of college you were in when you took the exam.

But taking the GRE while you’re a freshman may do your grad school admissions chances more harm than good, regardless of how high a score you get.

Grad school admissions committees are bound to notice that you took the GRE unusually early in your college career – and many of them are likely to think that it’s a strange thing to have done. It’s hard to think of a way to frame that fact that wouldn’t reflect badly on you.

If you’re honest, you would say that you were afraid a revised test would be introduced before you applied to grad school and you were afraid you wouldn’t do as well on the new version of the test as the old one. Or perhaps you feared your standardized test scores were going to atrophy throughout your undergraduate educational experience. Either of these makes you look insecure. (It also makes you look naïve about graduate study. GRE scores generally carry less weight in grad school admissions than SAT scores do in college admissions. Even a spectacular GRE score will not, in and of itself, get you into a top graduate program.)

If you wanted to spin the story, you could try saying that you took the GRE as a freshman because you knew even then that you wanted to apply to grad schools. But that makes you look silly. If you really want to start preparing yourself for graduate study now, there are more productive things you could be doing. An admissions committee would be more impressed to see that you used this time to apply yourself in challenging classes and to improve your research and writing skills.

Our advice would be to forget the GRE for now and focus on being a first-year college student. The best way to position yourself for future grad school admissions at this point in your college career is to do well in your classes and to start developing relationships with professors and mentors who might go on to serve as your recommenders.

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