Lack of Experience? It Doesn’t Mean You’re Not a Great Grad School Candidate

By Lee Weiss,  Director of Graduate Programs at Kaplan Test Prep

A terrific question was recently asked at a Kaplan graduate school event focusing on Master of Education programs.

“I’m just out of school—how do I compete against applicants with years of work experience?”

It’s a legitimate concern, but it definitely should not stop you from applying.

What we’re hearing from admissions departments of graduate programs across the country is that the average age of those applying—and those accepted—is trending younger.  Top programs in business, education, engineering and public policy are seeing younger, less experienced applicant pools.   For less experienced applicants who want to stand out, it’s important to make sure you are highlighting your commitment to your chosen graduate discipline.  Your story should communicate why you need to study this particular subject at this particular school and why now.

This doesn’t have to be demonstrated through years of experience, but rather, through your qualitative admissions factors, including your personal statement, essays and interviews where you can demonstrate your passion and commitment.  Success in undergraduate coursework relevant to what you’re planning to study also bolsters your argument, as do internships and volunteer activities that showcase your leadership, research capabilities and dedication to your future.

It never hurts to have strong quantitative factors.  Top GRE scores are a key differentiator, as they are one of the few data points with which admissions departments can compare everyone who applies.  Studies show that the highest median GRE scores are achieved by those aged 22-23, so college is a great time to take the GRE—especially because scores are good for 5 years. A strong GPA also proves you can excel in the classroom—a great indicator of graduate school readiness.

A recommendation to all graduate school applicants, no matter your experience or background: get in contact with programs that interest you early and attend open houses, tour these programs, sit in on classes, and speak with all students, alumni and professors that you can.  This allows you insight into whether the program will be a good fit for you.  And it always helps you if a program can associate your face with your application, and it will help separate you from the pack.

Lee is Director of Graduate Programs at Kaplan Test Prep. He graduated from Cornell University with a concentration in international and comparative relations and a minor in literature. He has been teaching and tutoring for Kaplan since his college days. He had a nearly perfect score on the old GRE and has spent countless hours analyzing the new GRE. Still an active GRE instructor, Lee has helped thousands of students, and has won numerous awards for his teaching and tutoring. For more information on Graduate School, the GRE, and  courses offered by Kaplan visit:



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