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Should I retake the GRE?


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Hi!

I just took the GRE yesterday and got a 160V/155Q. I am wondering if, based off of my profile, it would be in my best interest to take the GRE again. I am extremely aware that the thing working against me the most is that I am applying to enter straight after undergrad, but I believe that my SoP adequately addresses why now. I am posting here, and not in the "chances of being accepted" post because I specifically would like to hear from users whether they think that my GRE scores will be what holds me back from getting into these schools. 

Schools: Harvard Kennedy (I think my GRE scores should be solid for HKS)- MPP, Princeton WWS-MPA, and UC-Berk Goldman-MPP.

GRE: 160 Verbal. 155 Quant. I will get essay scores soon, but I am a strong writer (I took the LSAT and have legal experience, so analyzing argumentation comes natural at this point). 

Undergraduate Info: The New School (NY, NY) // Global Studies (Rights, Justice, Governance concentraction) and a minor in Journalism + Design (think interactive data visualizations and journalism as public art)// Currently 3.8gpa, but will likely increase to around 3.85 by the end of this semester. I have taken 15 credits worth of international affairs graduate-level courses with an average GPA of 3.8.

Publications: "From Churches to Mosques: We Need to Include Every Faith Community in the Fight to Against HIV." Poz Magazine, 2015. 

Work Experience: None full-time post-undergrad (obviously), but..

-Global Strategy Intern, DoSomething.org (part-time internship where I managed a strategic partnership with a not-for-profit in Ghana, designed and created a Global Youth Advisory Board, surveyed 100,000+ members on global systemic issues and presented a DoSomething.org action plan, and created all global response campaigns)

-Host Country Affairs Intern, United States Mission to the United Nations (full-time internship where I archived 4,000 pages of documents and created a memorandum that is serving as guidance for US Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN regarding Travel Restrictions placed on DPRK, Cuba, Syria, Iran, Russia, and PRC) 

-Assistant Producer of University Showcases, Telsey + Company Casting (part-time job for over 2 years)

-Crisis Counselor, Crisis Text Line (certified Crisis Counselor with over 30 hours of training. Serve as a Crisis Counselor weekly)

-Public Policy & Affairs Intern, Gay Men's Health Crisis (wrote public comments on the NY Medical Marijuana Bill)

-Paralegal Intern, Children's Rights

-Legal Intern under Judge Felicia A. Mennin, A.J.S.C., New York City Criminal Court 

-Policy Intern, Midtown Community Court (co-facilitated cognative behavioral group therapy with ex-convict and non-custodial fathers)

Languages: French (intermediate written, speaking, reading)

Quant Coursework: Stats with SPSS, Quant. Math Model and Analysis, Micro Econ, Macro Econ

Statement of Purpose: Focuses on my desire to conduct quantitative studies regarding the effectiveness of faith-based HIV prevention measures with the end goal of doing work on implementing these measures into NY's Blueprint to End AIDS by 2020. I need an MPP in order to engage, and do so effectively, in this policymaking decisions. Future career goals are centered around working for NYC Government.

Letters of Rec:

LOR 1: The Chief of the Counterterrorism & Sanctions Unit @ US Mission to the UN, a WWS alum, who negotiated the Iran Nuclear Deal with Kerry 

LOR 2: The Chief of the Research Unit @ US Mission to the UN, a UC-Berk a PhD alum 

LOR 3: Director of Public Policy & Affairs @ Gay Men's Health Crisis, an MPA alum

LOR 4: Head of Legal Studies @ The New School, wife of the President of TNS and past-director of Int'l Human Rights Law Clinic at Northwestern Law School 

Other: Semi-finalist for Point Foundation (re-applying this year), Co-Chair of University Government, member of University Security Advisory Committee, University-wide Student Leader of the Year Award, and  member of the University Disciplinary Review Panel

 

 

 

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I would say yes and to try improving your verbal a bit while simultaneously shooting for a 160 on the quantitative.  While you have good work experience for someone coming out of undergrad, you have to remember you'll be up against people with 3-5+ years of work experience.  Internships with a prestigious organization don't match up to full-time professional jobs with good organizations, even if their organizations aren't quite as prestigious.  Likewise, LORs from well-known people will only matter insofar as they can personally attest to your skills.  Although you may have gotten this in your internships, this is easier to get in a full-time professional job.

You're going to need everything going for you if you want to go to an elite MPP program out of undergrad, and IMO your fringy GRE could hold you back.

Edited by Ben414
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I would say yes and to try improving your verbal a bit while simultaneously shooting for a 160 on the quantitative.  While you have good work experience for someone coming out of undergrad, you have to remember you'll be up against people with 3-5+ years of work experience.  Internships with a prestigious organization don't match up to full-time professional jobs with good organizations, even if their organizations aren't quite as prestigious.  Likewise, LORs from well-known people will only matter insofar as they can personally attest to your skills.  Although you may have gotten this in your internships, this is easier to get in a full-time professional job.

You're going to need everything going for you if you want to go to an elite MPP program out of undergrad, and IMO your fringy GRE could hold you back.

Hey, thank you! The LoRs are from people who know me extremely well. Both Chief's have known me for over a year and the project I worked on at the US Mission was one that was atypical for an Intern to have been assigned (my direct supervisor and the program specialist were assigned it and could not complete it, so the Minister Counselor [head of the Section] assigned it to me to see if I could get it done after reading my published piece and believing my research/writing skills would enable me to do so). While completing the project, I interacted very closely with several Chief's of Units. I would never use a high-level person just because of their title. I am using them because they can attest to my skill level right now. Apologies for the long response, but I just want to clarify this in case someone else reads the post and has a similar response re: using those persons as recommenders. 

I understand your thoughts on my GRE score, which is why I asked. I will take that into consideration. For me, the negative of taking it again and studying intensely to raise my score is that I would then be taking time away from the written portions of the applications. Do you think it would be worth splitting up my time investment for grad school apps in order to raise the score? Also, I understand the 3-5+ in a good organization, but do you firmly believe that it is more important to work at a "good" organization potentially doing menial work for 3-5 years after undergrad versus begin new programs and contribute lasting organizational change in a "prestigious" organization throughout 3 years of undergraduate studies?

 

Thanks again!

Edited by StormHur
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Hey, thank you! The LoRs are from people who know me extremely well. Both Chief's have known me for over a year and the project I worked on at the US Mission was one that was atypical for an Intern to have been assigned (my direct supervisor and the program specialist were assigned it and could not complete it, so the Minister Counselor [head of the Section] assigned it to me to see if I could get it done after reading my published piece and believing my research/writing skills would enable me to do so). While completing the project, I interacted very closely with several Chief's of Units. I would never use a high-level person just because of their title. I am using them because they can attest to my skill level right now. Apologies for the long response, but I just want to clarify this in case someone else reads the post and has a similar response re: using those persons as recommenders. 

I understand your thoughts on my GRE score, which is why I asked. I will take that into consideration. For me, the negative of taking it again and studying intensely to raise my score is that I would then be taking time away from the written portions of the applications. Do you think it would be worth splitting up my time investment for grad school apps in order to raise the score? Also, I understand the 3-5+ in a good organization, but do you firmly believe that it is more important to work at a "good" organization potentially doing menial work for 3-5 years after undergrad versus begin new programs and contribute lasting organizational change in a "prestigious" organization throughout 3 years of undergraduate studies?

 

Thanks again!

Good to hear about the LORs; that should help your profile.  As to whether you should retake the GRE, there are a number of factors: (1) How much studying do you think it would take to raise your quant to a 160? I'd recommend taking a look at the GRE section on this forum and see how others have improved their GRE.  You might be able to notice a flaw in your study plan that you could easily correct, resulting in a better quant score without much additional studying; (2) From what I understand, the written portions of the application do matter for a MPP (unlike law school).  Especially for someone coming right out of undergrad, a strong SOP may be crucial for getting into a top MPP program.  I wouldn't recommend slacking on this, but maybe you could lessen your extracurricular time for a while to focus on both the application and GRE studying? If it were me, I'd slack a bit on my academics for a few weeks to focus on the application and GRE studying.  Would you be able to do this without seeing a major adverse effect on your grades?

I don't think it's great to do "menial work," but I do think schools would view professional, full-time work as showing some professional skills that are almost impossible to show at an internship. There is a higher accountability (e.g. you can be fired), you have to navigate the corporate structure (generally immune to this as an intern), and you have to do the job 40+ hours per week all year round. This may or may not be fair, but I think it happens to some degree.  I think it will help that you have worked at the same place fairly continuously for 3 years, even if it wasn't full-time; it may be received more similarly to professional work.  Just remember that the applicants you will be up against at HKS, WWS, and Goldman will be a lot better than an average applicant.

Overall, IMO you have a chance at a top MPP program.  However, I think this chance would be low without at least improved GRE scores to boost your profile.

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