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Monday, November 28, 2005

A modest proposal...

I'm once again in the throes of grad school applications, although this time, two years after I got rejected to 5 out of my 6 schools, it's at least a bit more familiar.

Many of you are familiar with the drill; for those of you who aren't, here's how it goes: For each school, you fill out a long (generally online) application and pay anywhere from $40 to $100 for the privilege of having the school look at it. Then you send supplementary materials to various addresses within each school, including transcripts from EVERY INSTITUTION YOU'VE ATTENDED (for me this is now up to four--if I skip Villa Aurora--and Walla Walla charges $5 for each), GRE scores (these are $15 each from ETS), a "significant" writing sample, three letters of recommendation, a statement of intent, and occasionally a resume or CV. It is an arduous, painstaking, expensive process that, even with the online application, seems ridiculously out-of-date.

And as I go through this process again, I feel that there must be a better way! This may not be it (and may be completely insane), but I would like to see one huge database for all of this information. Every college graduate interested in grad school could upload a single, standardized application; letters of recommendation; GRE scores and college transcripts; a single statement of general intent; and maybe a Myers-Briggs profile. Then graduate schools could search for students who match what they're looking for. A student who had intended to study Art History might also get offers from English Literature programs, for example, which he or she would of course be free to refuse (or accept!).

This plan could benefit both students and universities. There would be less paperwork, less random money on things like postage and faxes, and much greater overall efficiency. Plus, schools would be sure they were considering all the available applicants, and students would receive consideration by all institutions, hopefully ensuring the greatest goodness-of-fit. And students would pay good money for a service like this. It often costs several hundred dollars just to make applications as it is; students would pay that and more for a more efficient, usable system.

It's probably just my complaint since today already I've spent $7 on postage and $9 on faxes, will soon be paying nearly $50 for transcripts and $75 for GRE reports, and haven't even begun to accrue application fees. It just feels so fussy and unnecessary! Sometimes I think that just completing the application successfully, and getting in all the necessary supplementary materials, is the major battle. And that's one thing an easy, efficient database system might not account for: a student's basic ability to run around, talk to humans, and get the job done, as fussy and unnecessary as it might seem.


Carissa J said...

I feel your pain and I'm so sorry that you are going through this a SECOND time. Yuck. Maybe the grad schools like to think that only people who would actually go through that whole crazy process are worth considering for entrance into their programs. But still. Yuck.

Scott said...

Applications stink. When I was looking for an undergrad program I thought about applying to Southern along with the two I actually did apply to (and was accepted at). But the application had a $25 dollar fee. Screw that. They were willing to give me free tuition and then they're going to charge me just to apply? I definately think that if we are going to pay them for the education, they can at least make the applications free.

But here's the thing, it keeps the locus of power in the hands of the school rather than the students'. Your plan would make it more a customer/service provider relationship than exclusive club/supplicant.

If it's any comfort, the process is far less painful in America than in many countries thanks to the GRE. In Poland and Ukraine at least, the supplicant must visit each school and take a test given by that school's faculty. It's a good way for the faculty to earn their summer paychecks, but it's really not fun for anyone involved.

turqois said...

i am telling myself that the hoops i must jump through mean that once i finally arrive, my fellow grad students will have at least my level of determination and (hopefully) intelligence.

but that may be a bunch of crap; we shall see once the rejections are in. :)