You’ve worked so hard for so long to get a great test score for getting into graduate school, but you’ve fallen just short of the target score range for your dream program. Thankfully, many schools are making standardized test scores optional. So, what should you do? Should you submit your lower score, or leave it out? What gives you the best chance of getting in?
Welcome to another installment of our monthly Ask The Art of Applying® series where we give you a peek into what it’s like to be a client asking a question in our Q&A Vault. We bring you answers to your questions about getting into graduate school. This month, Adam, one of our consultants and a graduate of University of Virginia Darden School of Business, is answering a question about whether you should submit your test scores to programs that have deemed them optional.
Our client asked: Should I submit my test scores when the admissions committee at my school says they’re now optional?
Here’s the full question from one of our amazing clients,
“Hi, I’m applying to the Harvard Kennedy School’s MC/MPA program, which is their Mid-Career Master in Public Administration. Basically, for folks who are really excited about public service with at least seven years of work experience already. The school is saying that the GRE is optional. I have a score that’s a little bit below what their target is. Should I submit my test scores or not?”
After much debate amongst the consultants, we became convinced that this is the right answer: you should not include your GRE score in this case. Especially, if you have a strong GPA, compelling essays, and great letters of recommendation. You should only share it if you hit that target score or do better. If it’s optional, a test score lower than their target doesn’t help you make your case that you deserve to be there.
What if I want to submit my test score anyway?
Put it in the optional essay and highlight any issues you had that would explain why you had a lower score. Maybe the test crashed while you took it remotely, or you have a learning disability that kept you from hitting the target score. In the same essay, be sure you include a sentence on how you’ll focus on academics. Going to class, being proactive in study groups, and going to office hours are great things to highlight your ability to improve performance in weaker subjects – especially if they’re quantitative. At the end of the day, schools aren’t worried that you’ll flunk out. They want to know if you’re comfortable with numbers and can keep up with the rest of the class.
What else can I do to show my comfort with quantitative coursework?
Other things you can do are take supplemental courses in a quantitative subject and get good grades to show that you can handle them, talk about the other quantitative classes you took in college previously if you did well with them, and best of all, you can showcase work experience in which you have proven that you can handle quantitative work in a professional environment.
What should I do if I get waitlisted?
Our CEO and Founder, Kaneisha Grayson, weighs in! “Don’t submit the score unless you get waitlisted and you want to provide some information.” It’s a data point they do care about, but the schools recognize that not everyone is able to do their best or even get access to taking tests during these difficult times. So, don’t put your scores in your application if you don’t feel comfortable with them.
My situation is different, can you help me?
If you want some help from experienced consultants who can help you decide whether it makes sense to include your test scores or not, we’re here for you. Book a Quick Call with us, and we’ll make sure you get the help you need. If you enjoyed this post, tune in next month for another edition of Ask The Art of Applying®!