Cornell’s Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Eliminates GRE Requirement

By: Erin Philipson

Both graduate fields in Cornell’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences have announced that they will be dropping the requirement for the general GRE test. This impacts the fields of Atmospheric Sciences and Geological Sciences.  The change in admission process will be effective for the fall 2021 application cycle for all graduate and professional degree programs in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

During 2020, faculty began a new holistic review of applicants to the MS and Ph.D. programs.  

“In the first round of review, we hid the GRE scores but evaluated the candidates using all of the other components of their application: academic preparation; professional maturity; initiative; research experiences; and community engagement,” says Matthew Prichard, the Director of Graduate Studies for Geological Science and Professor in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. “When GRE scores were revealed, the ranking of the candidates was not materially affected.”

This information along with other articles about the ineffectiveness and negative impacts of the GRE motivated a field vote in June of 2020 to no longer require the GRE general test for Fall 2021 admissions.   

The department is part of a national trend in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences to eliminate the GRE to promote equity and inclusion in the field. Research continues to show that the GRE is not an accurate predictor of graduate school success and scores are commonly misinterpreted or misused in the admissions process.

The geosciences are historically some of the least diverse fields in STEM. Members of the geological community commented on this systemic problem in a recent article in Eos titled #GeoGRExit: Why Geosciences Programs Are Dropping the GRE. 

“Structural and social barriers result in underrepresented minority students, both undergraduate and graduate students, leaving the field, which compounds the lack of diversity at the faculty level. The lack of diversity and inclusion hurts the geosciences, excluding voices that can help solve Earth’s most critical problems,” said Sarah Ledford, Minda Monteagudo, Alejandro Flares, Jennifer Glass and Kim Cobb, who collaborated to write the article.

The elimination of the GRE requirement is part of a department-wide initiative to create a diverse and equitable community. Geoffrey Abers, Chair of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, formed the Diversity Equity Inclusion and Anti-Racism (DEIAR) faculty planning committee. This committee has been actively collating information about new and existing intiatives across colleges, on campus, and throughout the US more broadly. It will also work closely with the Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (IDEEAS) working group to promote a more visible and equity-focused culture in the department. IDEEAS was formed in the fall of 2019 and represents a full cross-section of the department including students, staff, researchers, faculty, and emeriti.

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