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Do you think I "may" still stand a chance? My GRE scores are quite low.


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I am applying to Art History Ph.D. programs in top tier schools (Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, NYU and UC Berkeley).  I am a foreigner (Brazilian), though I must say that I don't like to use that as an excuse for my poor performance in the GRE.  I got a 159 verbal, 153 quantitative, and 2.5 in the writing.  Though I am confident these scores are not representative of my acumen, I could not retake the exam in time to meet application deadlines.  Yes... I proscrastinated!  I was very ill during the test, and chose to concentrate my efforts on the verbal section, since I thought it would be the most challenging and important one.  In fact, I skipped most of the questions in the quantitave portion (especially the ones that required a little more thinking), and only wrote a couple of paragraphs for each writing section.  I was done with the writing in less than 10 minutes.  Anyway, excuses aside, I am well aware that I may have completely screwed up any chances of being accepted anywhere.


I do, however, have a strong GPA (3.94 cumulative and 4.0 my major).  I am part of my school honors program and will graduate summa cum laude this Spring.  I have been the recipient of several grants, scholarships, and fellowships. I have won many research awards. My letters of recommendation are very strong, and I "think" my writing sample and SoP are also pretty good. I have won a few awards for the research paper I submitted as sample.


In addition to that, I am a successfull photographer with work exhibited accross the globe and with photographs in major public and private collections in the US and Europe.  I forgot to mention that my area of interest is history of photography and modern art, so I am hoping that my photographic career will count for something (maybe). I have also worked as the art director for the art and literary magazine in my school and curated an exhibition recently at a local museum.  I can speak, read and write fluently in four languages: Portuguese (native language), English, French and Spanish, and have a basic knowledge of Latin and Italian.


Please pardon what appears to be excessively "amour-propre."  Honestly, I just wanted to give you a general idea about some of my more important accomplishments in order to get your opinion on whether I still stand any chance of being accepted anywhere.  Please believe me, though I have applied to top tier schools, I am constantly doubting that I even stand any chance (regardless of GRE scores). 


In summary, my most prominent weaknesses: poor GRE performance and graduating from a non Ivy League school.


I appreciate your honest feedback.  thanks for your time!


Alex Leme

P.S.: Do you think age is a problem? I am 34 years old and only now I am receiving an undergrad degree.  I am the first one in my family to achieve that though.






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For your discipline the GRE verbal and writing scores will be important.


Your Verbal score is fine, but the writing score is the problem here. But if you are submitting TOEFL/IELTS scores that are high and if your writing sample is really good, it may offset the writing score on the GRE.


About your chances, your application package appears strong, but ultimately what matters is how many candidates have applied and where you stand in the competition.


Age should not be a problem.

Edited by Seeking
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The concern when there is a GRE/GPA mismatch is that adcoms will think your undergraduate program was not rigorous. The TOEFL may save you here, as your score is not abysmal for a non-native English speaker. Good luck, you do sound well qualified!

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Unfortunately, because I am graduating from a US school I do need to take the IELTS/TOEFL.  So I will not have that to offset my GRE scores.  I guess I should start working on plan B and next year's applications.


I plan on retaking the GRE this month.  In case I do not get anywhere now, at least I will have gotten that one out of the way right away.  Hopefully I will have a better chance of being accepted in any of these schools next year.


Thank you so much everybody for your help!!!

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Even if you don't need it, why not take the TOEFL if it might benefit you?


You are right! At first, I didn't think it would make a difference, besides I know I can get substantially higher scores under normal circumstances.  I am already working on plan B and taking the TOEFL is certainly part of my to-do list now.

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