GRE scores:(total obfuscation)

Peter Herman x5495 rpeter at
Thu Feb 10 13:58:35 EST 1994

In article <2j6akg$mvb at> finelli at (Chris Finelli) writes:
>What do you do with a student who has completed a tough undergrad. curiculum,
>and really turned on in their jr. and sr. years, with a 3.0-3.5.  Who also
>has Superb undergrad research ability, but VERY low GRE scores.  

I too have been watching this discussion with some interest.  There
are a number of solutions to this problem, but they all depend on
some flexibility on the part of admissions commitees (and more
critically, assistantship committees).  Some schools will only take
students if a screening committee passes on them.  Here, we will
take a student if a major professor signs off on their application.
We have no screening committee for admissions.  WE then put all the
accepted students in a group and select the subset who will get TAs.
TAs are awarded based on academec record, GRE scores,
recommendations from references (this is very important here both in
admission and TA awards) and, to a degree, the students proposed
area of study.  This last point sees to it that we do not support
all plant ecologists and leave the micro labs without anyone to teach
them, or visa versa!

If you have RA money in a grant, nobody can or will tell you not to
take a student in whom you see potential, regardless of their scores
or grades.  A student who is brought in this way and makes it then
may be picked up on departmental support the next year.

So, the question is how to indentify the potential gems among the
lumps of coal.  In a word, recommendations.  If a member of this
department receives a set of strong letters about a student,
particularly if the faculty member knows the recommender personally,
that student's stock rises a lot.  The best letters of this type
address the low scores head on and tell us why the writer thinks the
student will make it despite the bad scores.

Some years ago, my wife took a student into her lab as an undergrad
based on a hunch.  He had majored in tennis and heavy metal music
for his first two years and only got turned on as a junior.  We
accepted him here as a MS student in spite of a low overall GPA (2
years of C really pull down a good last 2 years) and poor verbals
(sub 500) combined with  good analytical/quantitative on the GRE.
He did a good piece of work which required a lot of writing help on
the part of his mentor and committee members to turn into a quality
thesis and publications.  He worked hard on improving his writing
and speaking skills and made great progress.  On the strength of his
MS and recommendations (not on his retaken and somewhat improved GRE)
he was accepted at Berkely and just finished his PhD. IN THIS

Some departments with a screening committees reserve a spot or 2 in
the incoming class for a "risky" admission.  This spot can also
serve to rescue late bloomers.

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