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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Column: Free food at the GRE

My roommate, Rita, and I are sitting in the front row of a packed Wellman 106 lecture hall. Students are waiting to receive their test packets by the blackboard. Calculators and pencils are being fiddled with as chatter quickly fills the muggy air. Anticipation arises.

This might sound like a typical day of college midterms, but it’s not. It’s a Saturday morning. We’re taking the GRE. (Well, a practice one, but still.)

You’re probably wondering why anyone would volunteer to take a long, boring practice test on a Saturday morning. I wondered the same thing as I filled in endless multiple-choice bubbles in those infamous gray workbooks that I haven’t touched since the SAT back in high school.

The obvious reasons of “gaining familiarity with the test” and “preparing ourselves for success” (as Kaplan likes to put it) didn’t immediately occur to me when I clicked “attend” on the event’s Facebook page.

Skimming the event description, my mind immediately skips to the words “free food.” Free food. That’s a good enough reason to click “attend” and register on Kaplan’s website. Better yet, the free lunch was going to be provided by 3rd & U Café, so I assumed it would be something actually edible – unlike the bits of stale graham crackers I’ve received at other standardized tests.

Wanting an accomplice, I turn to my roommate. Knowing Rita’s similar free food urges, I ask her if she wants to take the practice GRE with me on a Saturday morning. When I don’t get a quick reply, I add that there’s free lunch. Of course, that immediately gets her hooked as well.

When we arrive at Wellman, there are a couple hundred nervous yet focused test-takers. Although this was only a practice test, it seemed many juniors and seniors were taking the event seriously because it was their final opportunity before taking the actual test.

By the time I finished the last question (which, ironically, was to define the word “jejune,” meaning “juvenile; immature; childish,” according to dictionary.com), I doubted the seriousness of my intentions to mostly be there “for the free food.” It became obvious that I should probably be there for the “much-needed practice if I want to stick with my grad school plans.”

Of course, this self-questioning of my intentions may stem partially from the sad, last minute announcement that Kaplan got to choose what we ate at 3rd & U Café (which meant cold, half-sandwiches).

I would like to imagine I understand the true value of grad school. I ingrain in myself that although grad school might be a time-consuming, debt-inducing and tear-jerking experience, it’ll also be a thought-provoking and life-changing one.

So I might as well jump on the bandwagon and start studying – although that wagon just might have to wait until junior year or possibly senior year. Or maybe a few days before the test.

Then again, the food just might motivate me: More practice tests equals more free food. With all the free food at practice exams, by the time senior year rolls around, I’ll have a full plate.

TIFFANY LEW desires clean, free food. E-mail her at tjlew@ucdavis.edu if you know of any other school events that will fulfill these desires.


  1. If graduate studies is supposed to be ‘thought-provoking and life-changing’ then what are your undergraduate studies? With all this chatter about fees and getting a good education and such in undergraduate, why is graduate school that much better? Apparently someone is devaluing undergaduate degrees already! Shame. TJM


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