Senior admissions consultant Tom Steffen cautions applicants to be careful when using graduate program directories to assess their chances of gaining admission to various graduate schools.

The problem with most of these guides and directories, Tom 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 to rely too much on statistics when making decisions regarding graduate study,” Tom 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 Tom. 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 Tom. “That’s to your advantage, since these are the elements of your application over which you have the most control.”

– Senior Consultant Tom Steffen gained extensive graduate admissions experience during his tenure as Director of Graduate Admissions at Duke University.

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