How the GRE Almost Got to Me

I took the GRE two weeks ago, and I choked.

It might have been too little sleep, too much pressure, or a combination of the two, but I found myself thinking, as I took the test, You have to do well.  You have to get a high score.  Your whole future is at stake.  P.S. My god, why didn’t you have a second cup of coffee this morning?

My scores appeared at the end of the test — cruel system — and they were a blow.  Not low, but a few points lower than I had scored on my practice tests.  Perhaps this doesn’t seem like choking to you, but to me, full of self-inflicted pressure and expectations and exhausted from five months of study, it was a deep disappointment.

Thank goodness I had read a blog post the night before about saving your scores no matter how you feel about them, because I was so upset that I might otherwise have deleted those offensive scores and trudged off.

I saved them, but I trudged off anyway.

And I put on my sunglasses so no one could see me cry.

And I second guessed myself almost instantly.  Maybe this is a sign, I thought.  Maybe the fates are telling me I’m not supposed to go to graduate school.

I was even relieved for a week or so, because how much easier would it be to not go to graduate school?  No anxious application process; no long, lonely nights spent researching; no crippling debt.

And then I came to my senses.

How ridiculous to be demoralized by a test!  What’s more, by a test that only obscurely relates to the skills I’ll need to study what I want to study and accomplish what I want to accomplish.

History and higher learning are too precious to me to give up for such a paltry disappointment.

I’ve written about stories before.  To me, history is the most magnificent collection of stories there is.  And how we tell them and why we tell them says everything about who we are.

I’m too curious about those stories, too eager to draw connections and ask questions, too fond of research and writing, to give up now.

So, I’m throwing myself forward again.  Deciding whether to retake, deciding where to apply, hoping they’ll take me.

Trampling self-doubt, working to be worthy of the beautiful work ahead of me, hoping they’ll take me.


In Jamestown, practically jumping out of my skin with excitement.

7 responses

  1. You are SO much more than couple numbers on a screen! Apply!
    One of the best things I did for myself after scoring low on the MCAT was to apply to med school anyway. Because I still got three interviews, and those boosted my confidence SO much more than another round of test-taking ever could.
    [The rest of that story doesn’t have a happy ending but I’m sure yours will.]
    You can’t get into grad school if you don’t apply, whether your score is low or sky-high. I think you’ll have much more to gain by starting off on apps than by taking another pointless yet grueling test again.

  2. Hi Holly!
    After I took the GRE I showed my scores to the career guy at Morris and told him I was applying to grad school at MIT. He looked at my scores and said, “you might be better off applying to South Dakota State…” Thank goodness I didn’t listen to him! Don’t let those scores hold you back for a second.

    • Thanks, Alli! That’s so good to hear-I’ve been tempted to retake because I’m kind of a perfectionist, but I also know that the rest of the application is way more important than the GRE scores!

  3. Pingback: Friday | In Spec

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *