Academic Catch-22

I, like many, am currently seeking entry to Grad school.  I do have a leg-up in that I’ve already completed an in-field MA degree, but I still have to go through the same processes as anyone else does: do the research in various programs and schools, write all of the dozens of cover letters and biographies, polish my C.V., choose professors to write recommendations, choose a paper that highlights your work, and—most dreaded—study for the GRE. 
Which brings up the academic Catch-22. Do I spend my time studying for the GRE or do I spend my time studying the discipline to which I am seeking entry?  Or, more cynically, “Is it a better expenditure of my time studying math formulas for a test that I need to do well on to get entry into the program that I dearly desire, but will never utilize again?  Or should I spend my time learning more about Hebrew syntax, polishing vocabulary, reading secondary literature, and learning secondary languages that will aid me once I get into school and continually thereafter?”
This is, of course, a huge problem.  Study the test and have a better chance to get into grad school, get a fellowship, etc., or study the material and do better once you get?
So, as a student, which would you spend your time on?  As a member on a graduate entrance committee, which would you place emphasis on?  Do you think grades, recommendations, publication, GRE scores, or submitted materials are the most important?   How would you grade the above in order of importance?  

Published by Jared Saltz

Biblical Studies Faculty (Florida College). PhD candidate at HUC-JIR. Husband, father, student.

4 thoughts on “Academic Catch-22

  1. Honestly…I didn't do either (I neither studied for the GRE nor made major preparations prior to starting grad school). I just kind of muddled through and God made it work out. Not that I expect this answer to be helpful to you. Except maybe…I guess I'm trying to say don't overthink this. It doesn't all hinge on YOU and YOUR perfect preparations. 🙂 Also, you could study for GRE, which I assume you're taking sometime in what's left of this year, and study other stuff afterward. 🙂

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  2. I'd also add that the entire point of going to school is (or ought to be) to learn; for now, if you must reduce yourself this either-or choice, focus on getting in. If you get it, you'll have several years, probably, to focus on learning. 🙂

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  3. Hannah: I have taken it already, and while I did fine for what I needed at the time (entry into my MA program), it's not as good as I will likely need to get graduate funding for the much more exclusive PhD programs to which I am applying.

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