Posts Tagged ‘grad schools’

Dear GRE Services…

You’re sneaky little bastards, you know that, GREs? Hell, I bet you scored high marks on your own exam. You set up the most complicated, long-winded messages on your phone services to scare away questions. Actually, I don’t think there are customer representatives. There’s just the Matrix. A huge supercomputer with the voice of a ribbon-girl blonde cheerleader in a power suit that tells me to press 1 to continute. That’s really what the Matrix is, and you’ve trapped all college graduates in it to suck all their electrical impulses and dollar bills out of their orifices. After all, it’s not like I paid 51 grand a year for my education at this point. But kudos to you for figuring out another way to scam us!

Nevermind that you can’t tell that I’ve read Dante’s Divine Comedy in nine different translations, can make an incredible spaghetti sauce from scratch, or once trained for a marathon. Nevermind that my scores don’t speak to my social graces, charm, or cocktail party conversation. Nevermind that I’ve traveled through the Western Desert or am writing a novel. What matters are numbers, GREs, and you understand that with impeccable aplomb (aren’t you proud I used that word?) Numbers tell the truth. Numbers don’t lie. Except about someone’s intelligence when they’re a bad test taker. But that’s life, isn’t it? And you’re all about life. Especially in anaologies: life is written all over those. Here’s one for you:

GREs: real life :: unnecessary, impractical Renaissance-revival statuettes crafted of horseshit: _______

Bah, but people forget that you aren’t really about testing uselessly: you teach recent undergraduates valuable, practical life skills! Like spending an inordinate amount of money– and you teach us that pretty well. That baseline of $180 does it really well. And that $20 to send your scores to another school– my God, that’s like private tutoring in how to waste money. And for the overachievers (there are always some– how ever did you know?) who can’t wait to get their scores back, you tell them to calm down. Wait. Be patient. Or pay $12 to hear your scores on the phone when they’re been sent out and you won’t let them access them online.

And thanks, by the way, for the preparation booklet you sent me. Thanks for not sending it the DAY BEFORE THE EXAM (I checked the postmark).

You are a soulless, godless, unethical organization, ETS. Pontius Pilate at least washed his hands. GREs are your Rosemary’s Baby. Yes, you are Roman Polanski in this metaphor. At least he had the decency to produce art and run away. But no: you remain. And what do you produce? Pain. You produce pain. You are vampirically sucking out money I could use on food, ETS. But you’re doing it for our own good, you say? Because grad schools need you around to provide a level-planed standard of evaluation? Do you know what that makes you? You’re the Edward fucking Cullen of the academic system, sparkly in the sunlight of application reviews, but useless in Life.

That makes you the Diet Coke of the academy. Tasteless, useless to even dissolve teeth in. Useless to wash blood off the highway with. You would like that, too.

What am I saying, though? I’m sorry. You do have some good personal qualities, too. Like offering me a pencil to use during the exam (though it didn’t have an eraser. Beggars can’t be choosers, though).  You also have testing centers internationally, where you offer the traditional paper test to us over in the third-world; giving us children and friends of less privileged nations the advantage of no air-conditioning, thereby pitting the obviously advantaged students in the sweltering rooms of the Giza district in Cairo against the comfortably cold, less physically capable students of the United States. Genius, GREs; absolutely genius. Even with the testing environment, you test us!

And at least, at the end of the day, I had the satisfaction  of bubbling in every single letter of my name on the answer sheet in that preparatory thirty minutes.

That’s what I went to college to do, anyway.


I’m worn out by the fighting, the anger. I waited twenty minutes on the phone to get my scores because they hadn’t arrive yet.

Everyone across admissions departments admits that this is an outdated method of assessing potential graduates. When the hell are American universities phasing them out, then?

I just want to go to grad school…


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First term ended, and with the second week of Advent coming on fast (tomorrow) I’m feeling time start to slip through my hands. Two of my classes took their final exams on Thursday, and I’ve already got much of the same evening schedule for December, teaching five hours a day. This also puts me on another short hiatus to collect myself and figure out what I’m doing with the next class — and myself. John tells me that there’s a position opening up in Damanhour (a tank town along the road to Tanta), which prompted a little bit of reevaluation.

Alexandria’s gotten pretty crowded, when you think about it. In the year that I haven’t been here more and more Americans have been making the place their little Middle East playground. It’s not that I have objections to this, it just seems to make my stay a little less special. “Oh, you studied in Alexandria. Which program?” It makes me want to go to Yemen just to keep my hand in the whole game.

I’ve started my efforts to learn Latin by downloading a grammar onto my Kindle and slowly working my way through terms and the painful accoutrements of reading a dead language. There’s something about learning Latin (or at least the idea of it) that makes me feel like a complete Catholic: Father Carty is always going on about “us Latins” and the “Latin Church,” in comparison to the Greeks, Copts, or Byzantines. Makes me feel like I’m earning my stripes. Along with my attempts at reading the Injil (Gospel) in Arabic.

Grad school applications are starting to take shape, and once more I find myself freaking out again. Upside is that I might have an academic article readymade afterwards (on account of cutting down a 120-page undergrad thesis to 25 pages).

Air is definitely turning colder — and brighter. Where are the winter rains?

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A proper rant

I’m convinced that graduate school applications were designed specifically to weed out all the people who were “just thinking” of applyin to grad school. I’m reminded of the painful and idiotic process that undergraduate applications were, and working as a Senior Fellow for the Admissions Office last year hasn’t really restored my faith in anything. Sure, the process is a “human one”; your application gets read twice at Middlebury College. People discuss it. They argue for you; they argue against you. And tons of extremely qualified applicants get turned down everyday, NOT because they’re unqualified, or that we don’t want them, but we’re a small, liberal-arts school with a limited number of spaces.

I’m sure that grad school is a rarefied form of this process: after all, Midd’s got 500 spots — most programs I’m applying to have funding for 12. This time, however, you’re expected to be somewhat qualified for the things that you want to do. After all, you have a degree.

And why the GREs? Didn’t I get past standardized tests after high school? I avoided test-taking classes in college because I’m BAD at tests!

I don’t want to call myself a medievalist. I don’t want to call myself a modernist. I love theory. I love translation. I’m in Egypt for a damn reason. Can’t a guy just be interested in Shakespeare and skip a few centuries to the interwar period? Doesn’t that make me more interesting, Academy?

Bah, there’s hope yet. I just gotta buckle down. I just wish I didn’t have to box myself up into a resume, a letter of intent, a few recommendations, and a thirty-page writing sample. I’m more than that, UPenn. You deserve more than that, UChicago.

Back to the drawing board. Thanks for tuning in. You may return to your regularly scheduled programming now.


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