UNC’s Graduate School Administrative Board recently passed a motion that will no longer require Graduate Record Exam (GRE) standardized testing in the admission process for graduate schools.
Individual programs will still be allowed to opt-in to requiring the GRE as part of the admissions process. However, per the most recent admissions cycle, nearly 90 percent of graduate programs have already eliminated the requirement altogether, according to a statement from a University spokesperson.
“Prior to May 2020, the GRE was required for admission to graduate programs, and programs could request to waive out and those individual requests were heard by the graduate school's Administrative Board,” Sarah Jacobson, assistant dean of admissions and enrolled students, said.
The board’s decision will end the GRE two-phase pilot program, which the Graduate School launched in 2020. Jacobson said the program was aimed to reduce the barriers to a graduate education and serve as part of conversations moving forward in holistic admissions.
The Graduate School has processed nearly 16,000 applications for this year’s application cycle, across more than 80 graduate programs at the school.
“The decision really was our Administrative Board, which is representative of all the graduate programs that we support on campus. We have representation from different degrees in different disciplines, and that's who voted on this,” Jacobson said.
Some graduate programs, such as the UNC Department of Sociology's, have retained the GRE requirement for the 2023 admissions cycle.
Yong Cai — the director of graduate studies for the sociology department — said his school will take a “wait-and-see” approach to dropping the GRE from their admissions process.
“The other departments are dropping the requirements, some other schools are dropping requirements and we want to see more data," he said. "We are integral in departments and we want the evidence to speak for itself."
Sharon Thomas, assistant dean of recruitment, admissions and financial aid at the UNC School of Social Work, said the department requested a GRE waiver in 2018 due to the growing national trend of no longer requiring the GRE, especially in social work programs.
Thomas mentioned that the exam is cost prohibitive for prospective students and does not tell them how well a student would function as a social worker in society.
“What I think finally caught a lot of folk’s attention is that when we were looking at the top 20 programs in the country for social work, we were one of only two in the top 20 that were still requiring it,” Thomas said. “And as I looked at our colleagues at UT-Austin, they were in the process of removing the GRE and so we would have been the last program that was still requiring this.”
Thomas explained the school just completed its fourth admissions cycle without the GRE as a requirement, and has noticed a drastic uptick in admission applications. School of Social Work application numbers more than doubled from 2018 to 2021, which Thomas said was tremendous growth from past years.
“We were seeing more international applicants," Thomas said. "We were seeing overall just a much broader demographic of candidates to our program, which only strengthens the pool of students that you can bring in.”
Thomas acknowledged there was trepidation from some faculty members at the beginning of the process, but explained the positive response students had to the news that the GRE was no longer required.
“When I would mention that it was no longer a requirement, it was met with sometimes literal applause. ‘Thank you,' 'Thank you for seeing me beyond a standardized test exam.' 'I now feel like I really have a shot or opportunity at Carolina.'”
Kristina Vaher is a undergraduate senior at the University and is applying to 15 different graduate and PhD programs across the country.
About half of the graduate programs she is applying to still require the GRE exam, and half of them do not.
Vaher is taking the GRE test on Friday and has been preparing for it since this past June. While she tries to study at least ten hours a week for the test, Vaher said she does not think it should be required in the first place.
“Really look at standardized testing," Vaher said. "You just learn how to take the test, you learn how they want you to answer certain questions on the test. You’re not really increasing your ability to learn in any other aspect."
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.