Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Another Reason Why People Probably Don't Apply for Grad School

Though I am applying for my Ph.D, I'd rather leave off all the schools I'm applying to for now. That really doesn't need to be public for reasons as such.

I just called a school that I'm planning on applying to. It took me three tries to get to the English Department. Then it took me another try to get to the Graduate Coordinator, who really wasn't the Graduate Coordinator and told me that the Graduate Coordinator had left already for the day (at 3:00 P.M.). The conversation was a bit disenchanting, very odd, and kind of confusingly combative:

"Hi, I'm looking for some specific information about the Ph.D Program in Creative Writing that I couldn't find on the website."


"First off, Do you require the GRE Lit Subject Test?"

"Yes, we do."

"OK, I didn't see that on the website, but it's good to know. Secondly, I have scores that are on the cusp of being invalid as far as the GRE General Test [The scores are invalid after 5 years, for folks who don't know], and I want to make sure they're valid before they're used for the application process. Some schools have told me they're fine as long as I get ETS to send them the scores ASAP. Some schools told me that if I'm accepted, I'll have to take them again before classes start for accreditation. I just want to know what the policy is on that at your school since there seems to be different responses from what I've received so far."

"Well, what did you get on your GREs?"

"You're asking me my score?"

[Keep in mind that it's none of their business until they receive the application. My writing score was perfect. My verbal and math scores were not very good. I, like others, am for the most part unwaveringly terrible at taking standardized tests.]


"Well, I got a perfect on the writing. I know that. And to me it seems like that would matter more, since verbal and math scores really shouldn't either impair one's ability or increase positively one's ability to write poetry and take classes at the graduate level."

"We do consider them as we're looking at the applications."

"I understand that, which is why I want to make sure your school will take them, and if not, I need to know whether I'm going to have to take them again for your school and / or maybe a few others."

"Well, do you have a master's degree? Because you can't even apply for a spot in the doctoral program without a master's degree."

[Again, confusion here overtakes my ability to probably answer the question in a nicer way.]

"Uh, Yes. I have an MFA in poetry from Virginia Commonwealth University. Otherwise I know I wouldn't be able to apply and obviously wouldn't even consider it. And I'm sorry to bother you with all these specifics, but I really want to get my ducks in a row since it's already halfway through October and I have a lot more work to do with all of these applications."

"Yes, I understand that."

"And I emailed ------------------ to ask them about the program on two different occasions during the last week, and they didn't get back to me, which is why I decided to call about these specifics."

"Well, they're not the Graduate Coordinator anymore."

"That makes sense then I suppose, though an updated website would've helped me out a bit more in that case."

"I'll have them get back to you tomorrow if you can leave your email address and phone number."


Seriously. Seriously? I feel like I'm pulling teeth. Just for some seemingly innocuous specific information. I've gone through it for my MFA, all the applications, singular specifics, all of that, so it's expected.

But talking to an almost combative assistant that almost got mad at me for asking questions that I need to know? Just needless and frustrating. Hopefully I'll get a call back in a day or two; otherwise it's right back to trying to get simple answers to seemingly simple questions. And maybe at the rate I'm going trying to figure out more schools to apply to. Looks like my list of eight may have to be cut down, shuffled around, and back to eight in a few weeks as I look at others to apply to, since answers are a lot harder to get than I thought they would be.


Not only that, but another school has literally no information on their website (and after emailing hearing back from a former student, hasn't for some time now). The emails I sent to the Graduate Coordinator (also two in the last week) were returned to sender (me) via email -- address doesn't exist, undeliverable, etc. And apparently they have no phone.

So unless I drive to the state and go to the building where the English Department is, how am I going to get this information?

I just don't understand how -- with where we are as far as technology goes -- websites can't be updated, emails can't be updated, information can't be updated. It drives me nuts.

The day all the applications are completed and in the mail, I'm going to be celebrating. Just from mailing the applications.