Monday, November 22, 2010

Grad apps

Applying to graduate school should involve receiving a degree all on its own.

I vaguely remember applying to college several years ago.  I know that many of my applications were online, and most of them took the common app.  It was helpful; I applied to seven schools and five of them took the common app.  So I had to fill out my information about 3 times total, and the supplemental applications for individual schools involved a few extra essay questions.  I did have to mail in some things, specifically my flute CD,* but I know my mom took care of that, as well as my SAT scores.  My guidance counselor took care of sending off my high school transcript.

It wasn't easy or pleasant, by any means, but the college admissions process is at least somewhat streamlined.

The easiest part of graduate applications has been sending my GRE scores.  ETS lets you select all your schools and departments, and then you just enter your billing info, hit send, and weep openly as you look at the bill afterwards ($345!).

Transcripts?  No guidance counselor this time.  I have to send them, one at a time, using the Tufts system.  I have to enter my billing info for each one and pay one at a time.  There's a character limit in the address boxes, so I've been sending lots of applications to "The Office of Grad. Aff."  Awkwards.  I just had to call Tufts because the system didn't register my billing info for a couple transcripts.  I would have just canceled and re-entered my info, but one of the transcripts needs to be sent TODAY, so I was panicking a little.

My CV?  It's sort of important, especially for schools that either don't give me space to write much about my jobs, or for ones that assume that I'm applying right out of undergrad.  In some cases, I have to mail my CV because the online app won't let me upload it, just copy/paste.  But what about my gorgeous formatting?!

So I've got transcripts I have to send, and not only is it hard, but some of the schools haven't told me where to sent the damn things.  Half of the schools don't seem to want my CV.  What else?

Oh, there's no common app.  I've got some apps on Embark, and some on ApplyYourself, but neither system saves your information for auto-fill.  And the rest use school-specific application sites.  So I end up having to write out my address six hundred times, and my recommendation letter writers are probably so confused, I'll have to send them emails letting them know when to send letters to which schools.

Finally, certain schools want information mailed, in addition to completion of an online application.  The biggest culprit is the University of Iowa, which has just been killing me in terms of all of these problems.  I had to fill out an application on the biology department's site, THEN the general application.  I now have to mail them my personal statement (yes, they require it mailed), my CV, a waiver request, and an application for graduate funds.  I also had to mail two transcripts, and they have a form for letter writers to fill out instead of writing a letter.  They're also the school that assumes I'm just graduating from college; everything they ask either implicitly or explicitly assumes I'm in college.  The recommendation form refers to my letter writers as if they've had me in a class, etc.

So, where's my special degree for sorting through this mess?  Yikes.

First application is going out very soon (University of Chicago).  I'm waiting on one last once-through from my mom on the personal statement so I can send the electronic application, and as soon as I get my transcript in the mail, I'm sending it with my CV straight to the biology department.  I'm cutting through the chaos, and I'm finally embarking on the next stage of my life: PhD.

* I spent years playing flute and piccolo, and at one point, I was considering going to conservatory and going professional.  Not because I was that good; I would have been if I had practiced more often.  That was actually a factor in my decision not to become a musician.  Not only would my profession not be immediately helpful to anyone, but I'd have to actually practice.  Not gonna happen!

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