One of the great things about pursuing graduate study in the U.S. is the wide variety of schools and programs that applicants have to choose from. No matter what your academic interests are or where you want to live, chances are good that there is a school out there that can make you happy.

Senior admissions consultant Heather MacNeill encourages applicants to research their choices carefully – but also cautions them to be careful when using graduate program directories to gauge their chances of getting in to various graduate schools.

The problem with most of these guides and directories, Heather says, is that they rely too much on numerical data to describe graduate programs. That can give applicants the misleading impression that they’re all but guaranteed admission to a particular school if their undergrad GPAs, GRE scores, etc. match those of previous admits.

“I would caution you not to rely too much on statistics when making decisions regarding graduate study,” Heather says. “Keep in mind that averages are just that – averages. Many students admitted to a program have numbers falling above or below that average.

“Also keep in mind that your GPA and test scores are just part of the application,” says Heather. Although these are important data, chances are slim that any school will make an admissions decision based on them alone.

“Your letters of recommendation and your essays are the true way to differentiate yourself from the rest of the applicant pool,” says Heather. “That’s another thing to be thankful for, since these are the elements of your application over which you have the most control.”

– Senior Consultant Heather MacNeill gained extensive graduate admissions experience during her former service as Assistant Director of Graduate Admission at Pacific University. She also worked in graduate admissions for the Oregon Graduate Institute at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU).

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