Grad school applicants on rise

By Sarah Wojcik

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In our troubled economy, the news that graduate school applications are predicted to surge may not come as a shock. The numbers are expected to rise nationwide and at Oakland University.

There were more than 675,000 people who took the Graduate Record

Examination (GRE) and graduate applicant volume was up 8.9 percent during 2008, according to Lee Weiss, director of graduate programs for Kaplan Test Prep and GRE instructor.

Kaplan Test Prep conducted a survey of graduate school admissions officers at 108 top programs across the nation. Seventy-eight percent predict an increase in the number of applicants for the current cycle.

“The past couple of years have been hard for college graduates trying to enter the workforce for the first time, as well as for working professionals looking to change

careers or bounce back after layoffs,” said Liza Weale, executive director of pre-business and pre-graduate programs at Kaplan Test Prep, “which has made graduate school an appealing destination for both groups.”

As a result of more grad school applicants, the entry competition has grown increasingly fierce, according to some.

During Winter 2011, the most popular programs at OU according to Doug

Bourassa, director of graduate marketing and recruitment, included Accounting, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Special Education with Autistically Impaired Endorsement and Leadership.

Several new programs will be introduced at Oakland next year, including a master’s program in communication.

“The M.A. was created because there has been a growing interest in communication studies as a discipline on the part of OU students,” said Rebekah Farrugia, assistant professor of media studies. “It is also the only M.A. in the state to offer a concentration area in Communication and Culture. The other two areas of focus offered are Interpersonal Communication and Media Studies.”

More programs offered through OU can be found at the graduate admissions page on Oakland’s website.

Amy Ring, vice president of OUSC and Spanish major, took her GRE Wednesday.

“It wasn’t too bad,” Ring said. “I bought a (Kaplan) GRE book and I pretty much went through it whenever I had an extra hour or two, but (my preparation) definitely was not super intense.”

Ring earned the score she wanted for her program — higher education student affairs.

“It’s to work on a college campus as a staff member,” she said.

Ring is lucky to have taken the GRE when she did. On Aug. 1, 2011, a new GRE will be implemented in all graduate schools, according to Weiss.

“The new GRE will be dramatically different — there is a lot of uncertainty among both test takers and the graduate school community,” Weale said. “While it’s safe to say most graduate programs will develop a transitional policy over time, we advise students to take the GRE before it changes, since scores are good for five years, and avoid the mystery if they can.”

The test is changing for three main reasons, the first of which is the question type.

“The new GRE has higher level reasoning questions that are a little more complex and are supposed to test more of what you are actually going to be studying in graduate school,” Weiss said. “The current GRE has question types like short verbal questions like analogy and antonyms, which are not all that predictive of how well someone is going to do in graduate school.”

Business school accessibility is another reason for the alteration of the GRE.

“The company that makes the GRE wants to be able to use the test for business school. Over the last few years, more and more schools have been using the GRE instead of the GMAT as a way to get into

business school,” Weiss said. “So they’re making the test more like the GMAT so that people can use it to get into business school.”

Finally, the scoring scale of the test will change in 2011.

“Right now they use the 200 to 800 scoring scale on the verbal and math sections,” Weiss said. “You can get a perfect 800 on the math side and you’re only in the 94th percentile, but you can get a 730 on the verbal side and you’re already in the 99th percentile.”

The Kaplan survey found that 81 percent of graduate schools do not yet have a policy for transitioning current GRE scores to the new format.

The new test will also be approximately an hour longer and will include stricter limitations on the frequency of taking it.

Students interested in going to grad school should follow Kaplan’s advice and take their GRE now as the scores are good for five years.

Kaplan found that of the admissions officers in their survey, an applicant’s GRE score is the most important admissions factor, followed by undergraduate GPA then work experience.

Those interested in more information about the graduate level standardized testing should visit www.kaptest.com