So you’ve decided that you want to apply to the School of Social Work at UNC. (First, let me say you’ve made a good choice.) But sometimes the process between making the decision to apply and hitting “submit” on the application can be halted by three little letters: GRE. I know that for some of us, the thought of a standardized test can make our stomachs turn, but the GRE doesn’t have to incite dread.
Approaching this part of the application puzzle just requires some good preparation (and maybe some deep breaths). Here are a few tips as you prepare:
1. Stick to a timeline. Everyone works differently, and so not everyone’s timeline will look the same. Most people want at least a couple of months to prepare for the GRE, but you might find that you need more (or even less) time. Once you’ve registered for a test day, lay out your plan for studying. It might be one or two nights a week, Saturday afternoons, or sometime in between. You plan needs to be realistic and fit into your life. And – this is the hard part – stick to the plan.
2. Get some good materials/training. Go to your local bookstore or raid your friends’ bookshelves for those infamous GRE study guides. Some guides will give you tips on how to approach the test as well as what might be on the test. Many of them will also have practice tests (with the answers and explanations)! There are also GRE workshops that can be helpful. In fact, if you live in the Chapel Hill area, we host some workshops right here at the School of Social Work! (See http://ssw.unc.edu/admissions/gre_workshop for more information.)
3. Practice. Whether they are practice tests provided by ETS or in a GRE study guide, be sure you take a few practice tests before walking into your testing center. If you can take a practice test on the computer, even better! Taking practice tests will boost your confidence on game day: you’ll know what to expect and not be bogged down by trying to figure out which button to push.
4. Remember that you’re more than a GRE score. Sure, the GRE is required for your application. But it’s not your entire application. You are much more than a score, and those reviewing your application also want to know about your passions, experiences, and contributions. So while it’s wise to do all that you can to prepare for the GRE, when the time comes, get a good night sleep and take a few deep breaths. And don’t let three little letters stand in your way of taking the step to apply!