Prospective Graduate Student FAQ

1. What if my GRE scores aren't great? 

GRE scores are optional and you can use your discretion in submitting them. In my view, high scores can be meaningful, but low scores are much less so. This is because the GRE can:

  • reflect stereotype threat (Gaither et al., 2015) or systematic bias in the test items (Anastasi, Lamer, & Weisbuch, 2016; Gonzalez-Espada, 2009);

  • be confounded with test anxiety or training;

  • reveal socioeconomic differences among applicants who may have less access to expensive GRE prep courses, who may have fewer financial resources to re-take the test, or who have to limit the number of schools they can apply to because it is costly to send the GRE scores.  Success on the GRE can be coached and accounting for SES differences mitigates or substantially reduces differences in scores by race (Penncock-Roman, 1994). 

These specific biases can put certain populations - especially applicants from underrepresented or marginalized groups - at a disadvantage.  ​Thus, a high score communicates your aptitude, but a low score is much less meaningful.  Submit what documents support you as a strong candidate.  That is what I will evaluate.  Some lab principal investigators (PIs) do not consider GRE scores at all, but that too may limit applicants who do not have access to extensive research opportunities during their undergraduate career.  The important thing to know is that I take a thoughtful and holistic approach to evaluate applications and will assess all available components (e.g., GPA, research experience, letters of recommendation, GRE).  If you think you are a good fit for the research we do in the lab, apply! 

Members of underrepresented groups (e.g., POC; first-gen; LGBTQ+) are encouraged to apply!

 

2. Should I email to indicate interest in applying?

Yes! This is a norm in the field, but not one that all students know about while they are applying.  You should feel free to email me to indicate your interest in applying to the lab, but this step is not required: slamer@utk.edu.   

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