In honor of Women’s History Month, one of my Kaplan colleagues sent me a recent article on the most popular master’s degrees, broken down by gender. While you might expect these lists to be very different, what jumped out at me were the following two data points:
- The MBA is the most popular degree for both men and women.
However, the percentage of each group that pursues this degree is very different: 22.3% of men get an MBA, while only 11.4% of women do.
- Various degrees in education appeared multiple times in the top 5 lists of most popular degrees for both men and women.
Once again, though, there is a big difference between the specific degrees that men and women obtain. For example, men are more likely to get a degree in Education Leadership and Administration (#4 on the men’s list, with 2.7%), while women are more likely to get degrees in Elementary Education or Curriculum & Instruction (#4 and #5, respectively, on the women’s list, with 3.8% and 3.6%).
What do those numbers say to me? One very important thing:
3.6% of women or 2.7% of men (for example) may not sound like a lot of people, but those percentages represent thousands upon thousands of people competing for spots at the same programs that you want to attend. And even if you’re pursuing a less-popular degree, that doesn’t take any of the pressure off – those programs tend to be smaller by nature, so schools still have the power to be very selective in whom they choose to accept.
So what’s the best way to make yourself stand out of the crowd and gain acceptance to the program of your choice? The two biggest factors are:
- Your GRE scores: This is the measuring stick by which admissions committees can evaluate all candidates, regardless of their backgrounds. Simply put: Schools take it seriously, and so should you.
- Your personal statement: This is your first, and often only, opportunity to communicate directly to admissions officers – make sure that it’s compelling.
And if you’re just now at the beginning of the grad school research process, also make sure to check out my recent entry on how to road-map your applications.
What are you planning to go to grad school for? What career are you hoping to pursue with your degree? Let us know in the comments!
Recently, The Wall Street Journal’s At Work blog published an entry and subsequent live chat that spoke to a concern I hear almost every one of you voice at some point in your GRE prep: “I’m just not very good at [standardized tests/geometry/learning vocabulary/etc]”. This attitude perpetuates what author Heidi Grant Halvorson calls “the success myth”: The common misconception that innate ability is the only, or even the most important, factor that affects performance.
Attributing others’ success to natural talent is detrimental to your own potential success. It prevents you from focusing on the behaviors that you have the power to adopt and that have been proven to drive achievement. According to Halvorson, “strategies like…planning ahead, monitoring your progress …and perhaps most important believing you can improve, can make all the difference between success and failure.” I’ve seen many of you get discouraged by a topic or question-type, give up on that one area, and then gradually lose hope of improving your GRE scores at all. This doesn’t need to happen: As long as you can identify what is tripping you up, then you can work on it and you can improve your GRE skills and score. Now, determining why a particular area is difficult for you is not an easy process, but you have multiple resources at your disposal to help you understand each of the topics tested on the GRE:
- Our free GRE Question of the Day and explanations
- Our free GRE practice tests
- Your Kaplan teacher if you are taking a Kaplan GRE On Site or Anywhere Course
- This very blog!
In the chat that Halvorson hosted after her initial post, she discussed the success myth more in-depth, offering the following thoughts on the setbacks that everyone inevitably experiences while working towards a goal: “When we believe we can improve, we handle failure much more adaptively. Learning from our setbacks and persisting is so important – otherwise you sell yourself short.” This is easier said than done, but here’s how I frame the issue in my classes: I love mistakes. I absolutely cannot get enough of them. The more gaffes you make in practice, the less likely you are to make them when it actually counts – on GRE Test Day. When you think about it that way, making mistakes becomes a positive force in your prep, instead of feeling like a failure.
Now that you’re sufficiently motivated to dive back into your studying with gusto, here’s one final thought from Halvorson about how to realistically set goals: “There is no limit to how far in advance you can set a goal [or limits on what that goal is], but to stay motivated, you’ll need to feel like you’re making progress, closing the gap. To do that, set sub-goals… Reaching sub-goals sustains you over the long haul.” Keep this in mind as you set your overall goals. Working towards small, manageable ends will help you reach the overall result that you want. Tackle one thing at a time, and if you start to get overwhelmed, make the goal smaller and start again. It takes persistence, but just remember that you’re not alone: Everyone gets discouraged at one point or another; it’s how you handle it and move forward that will determine your final outcome.
What do you think – how do you handle the feeling that someone else is just naturally better than you? How have you overcome it? Let us know in the comments!
What was your favorite part of the recently-concluded London Games? Was it watching competitors smash world records? Seeing veteran champions such as Misty May-Treanor and Michael Phelps end their athletic careers on high notes? Gasping at the dramatic upset victories by up-and-comers, à la Katie Ledecky? I’ll tell you what my favorite part about this Games was: The coaches. Every coach of a world-class athlete understands that reaching peak performance is more than just being in top physical form – to take home the gold, a lot of other factors have to come together. The same is true for acing the GRE: While content practice such as building up your vocabulary and mastering the exponents rules is crucial to hitting your target score, mental preparation and stamina are just as important to both your preparation and your plan of attack on Test Day. Here are three lessons from London coaches that can help you train and be at your best when you take the GRE:
- Bob Bowman is known for pushing Michael Phelps to his physical and mental limits from the time Michael was 11 years old. He would make Michael swim for several consecutive days at meets, so that the young swimmer was exhausted to the point of tears. The goal? To give Michael the capacity to concentrate and perform under any circumstances. While you shouldn’t study for 12 hours straight for days on end to prepare for the GRE, you do need to prepare for a four-hour or longer marathon of a testing experience. The best way to ensure that you can focus for the duration of your GRE test is to regularly take full length practice MSTs (multi-stage tests) – this is the only way to guarantee that you’re in top form on GRE Test Day.
- Mark Cannella, the coach of rising weightlifting star Holley Mangold, posts her workout schedule at her gym, so that the other patrons know when she’ll be there – in fact, he encourages the public to observe her workouts. For Holley, constantly having an audience motivates her to put all of her energy in every single lift, even if it’s just practice. How can this preparation tactic help you? Tell people that you’re getting ready for the GRE – having the support of others will keep you motivated, keep you from slacking off, and will overall create a more conducive environment for GRE prepping . This will likely result in fewer invitations to Tuesday-night happy hours with your friends, but remember that 1) it’s only temporary, and 2) they’re doing it for your own good.
- Liang Chow, the coach of double-gold gymnastics medalist Gabby Douglas, gave her advice during her all-around competition that is very applicable to how you should behave on Test Day: He forbade her from looking at the scoreboard until she had completed her last event. He didn’t want her to know how she was stacking up against the competition – he wanted her 100% focused on her own performance, regardless of the score. That compartmentalization paid off, and it will help you too: While taking your GRE, do not¸under any circumstances, dwell on any of the sections that you’ve already completed. Yes, the GRE does adapt between quant and verbal sections, but there’s no way to determine the difficulty level of the second quant or verbal section with any certainty. Don’t even worry about questions within each section that you don’t know how to solve right away – simply flag them, move on, and only come back to them if you have time at the end of the section. Giving each problem your full energy, and not splitting your focus, will maximize your GRE score.
You’re well on your way to training like a London champion. What other lessons did you learn from the athletes or coaches that you can apply to your GRE prep? Let us know in the comments!