Congratulations on completing the GRE! So now what are you going to do?
The best advice is to speak with someone who can evaluate the rest of your application and provide you with a non-biased opinion as to your competitiveness. We know sitting for the GRE General Test is not a joy (we’ve done it), so please be assured that we only recommend taking the GRE again if we think it is truly beneficial or necessary.
Now that you have your scores, you can take that deep, holistic view of your candidacy. One thing to keep in mind is that most applicants to selective grad schools clear the same academic qualification hurdles (grades and GRE) you’re facing. So you need to make especially sure your intangibles section – the “wow” factors, your personal statements, letters of reference, resume and possibly even an addendum – all reflect who you are and where you want to go. The grad school admission process is more than just a “who has the best numbers” system; it’s a chance for you to stand out in the crowd and show the admissions committee you have the most to offer their community.
Another step in the application process to consider is the ever-present question of money – and if you should apply for financial aid. It is not too early to start thinking about financial aid! Typically, most applicants begin the financial aid application process in January or February. It’s difficult to begin earlier than that because you will want your tax information to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and the FAFSA is used to determine your eligibility for federal loans.
So why is it not it’s not too early to start thinking about it? Because if you anticipate securing private loans (in addition to federal loans) to fund your graduate education, we highly recommend obtaining a copy of your credit report now. The sooner you receive that report, the sooner you can correct, or at least mitigate, any credit problems. Additionally, these reports sometimes contain inaccurate information, so getting one now will allow you plenty of time to correct any mistakes. It is imperative that you ensure you have good credit prior to applying for any private loans.
Lastly, one thing you might want to hold off on is your letters of reference. Oftentimes, it’s best to wait until you have the rest of your application together so you know what to have your recommenders focus on about you. Instead, start taking a look at getting your list of extracurriculars together, tightening your resume, and put some more time into researching your target schools. Get to know what they’re looking for and make sure they’re also the best fit for you.