Jump to content
renea

RANT: In terms of applications, what we wish schools did better.

Recommended Posts

3 minutes ago, la_mod said:

Ok, so they send out ~40 requests for interviews, but they only interview like 25 people, then choose from THAT final pool. 

that's bullshit.

3 minutes ago, punctilious said:

This would be amazing. Imagine how productive we could all be if we just knew the exact date/time that decisions would be released! No more reason to obsessively check emails/portals/phones!

That would be amazing, but even just a, "We expect that offers will be sent out on the third week of february. Offers will be sent out via email. Please ensure this email xxxx@xxx.com is saved in your inbox so that our letter is not sent to spam"

If departments are so disorganized that they can't even provide that information, then they have no business holding graduate applicants (who have the least professional experience) to higher standards then they are held. You can't provide a date range for applicants? Well then you shouldn't be penalizing an applicant whose professor submitted a letter two days late. 

I mean, programs know whether they'll be calling or email. I should hope most have a projected date for decisions. Also, I had a friend whose acceptance email straight up went to spam a few years ago. She was accepted for weeks and didn't know until she contacted the department. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Wooshkuh said:

and will only allow you to wear your hair tie in your hair and not on your wrist. 

Oh my gosh!!!! 1000x this.  Clearly, I have all math formulas hidden on the inside of this elastic rubber band.  You caught me.   ALSO, yes, please, take 1 minute and a half of my TIMED TEST to tell me my hair tie must be in my hair at all times. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, mk-8 said:

Imagine all the brilliant people who are kept out of grad school because they can’t afford the fee. 

Also this.  Academia is elitism.  Money to apply, money to take the tests, money to travel, money for accommodations, money to appropriately present yourself.  I truly appreciate the schools that are willing to waive application fees and attempt to cover interview fees, but we have a long way to go before academia is truly accessible. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, kitcassidance said:

Oh my gosh!!!! 1000x this.  Clearly, I have all math formulas hidden on the inside of this elastic rubber band.  You caught me.   ALSO, yes, please, take 1 minute and a half of my TIMED TEST to tell me my hair tie must be in my hair at all times. 

And you can't sit certain ways (legs crossed or folded in anyway), can't take your shoes off, and if your ID moves from the little place holder.... OH NO! YOU'RE NOT WHO YOU SAY YOU ARE.

My mom had to take a professional test for her job, not administered through ETS or anything, but they wouldn't let her wear her hair barrette. She was so frazzled when they told her to take it out, luckily I had an extra hair tie :(

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, kitcassidance said:

Academia is elitism.  Money to apply, money to take the tests, money to travel, money for accommodations, money to appropriately present yourself.  I truly appreciate the schools that are willing to waive application fees and attempt to cover interview fees, but we have a long way to go before academia is truly accessible. 

I think what makes me the most sour is how so many departments talk about promoting diversity and making education accessible and equitable, and yet they continue to stick with traditional, outdated application methods. I'm sure the answer is that it requires labor and time to change these systems, but I also feel like faculty are so distant from this process they have forgotten what it feels like- or else they remember and feel like it is something everyone should go through because they had to do it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, renea said:

I think what makes me the most sour is how so many departments talk about promoting diversity and making education accessible and equitable, and yet they continue to stick with traditional, outdated application methods. I'm sure the answer is that it requires labor and time to change these systems, but I also feel like faculty are so distant from this process they have forgotten what it feels like- or else they remember and feel like it is something everyone should go through because they had to do it.

Yeah- this bothers me too. I realize that most probably have zero say in application fees, but.... they're certainly in a better position than us, as potential applicants. I think it's really frustrating- especially in rhet/comp- because we have so many people studying accessibility and wanting to change things but when it comes to it, it feels like nobody is. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Part of the issue is that most schools expect that students should only be applying to 3-5 places, where they fit best. 

The advice I give my students is to not apply to more than 6, and only that many if there are compelling reasons. 

The arms race of the sheer number of schools students are applying to doesn't help anyone- it means fewer truly tailored applications, more people that get into a school they aren't a good fit for, and more work + cost for everyone. 

Part of the reason behind application fees is that it helps to prevent students applying with a shotgun approach, and promotes carefully selected options. 

I also don't know anyone that has really benefited from applying to a ton of schools over finding a handful you're a good fit for. 

"Reach" schools and "Safety" schools are OK in undergrad admissions, but they're generally a crappy idea in graduate school applications. The criteria that matters the most is fit, and you can't have "reach" fit and "safety" fit. Apply to where you feel like you will mesh with the department and be happy. Don't apply to schools just to get in, don't apply to places just because they're prestigious.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
53 minutes ago, la_mod said:

I agree with @Wooshkuh, that they would get more applicants. But like... is that so bad? It’s labor-intensive for readers, but the alternative is that only people who are wealthier are able to apply to a lot of “reach” schools. If everyone needs to have one or two “safeties” (which is becoming harder to gauge anyway), then really bright students who might have otherwise applied to Penn etc may decide it’s not worth the risk. There’s a reason that first-gen students such as myself have a hard time accessing postgrad education.

EDIT: I’d also add that I recognize my privilege here. I know I applied to a lot of schools and a lot of them are SUPER reaches. I’m lucky that I live with my parents and don’t have to pay rent. If that weren’t the case, I’m not sure what I would have done. 

I was able to afford one application this season. That was Christmas money. I wish it were more like law school...those are usually waived if you are poor.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 minutes ago, Eigen said:

Part of the issue is that most schools expect that students should only be applying to 3-5 places, where they fit best. 

The advice I give my students is to not apply to more than 6, and only that many if there are compelling reasons. 

The arms race of the sheer number of schools students are applying to doesn't help anyone- it means fewer truly tailored applications, more people that get into a school they aren't a good fit for, and more work + cost for everyone. 

Part of the reason behind application fees is that it helps to prevent students applying with a shotgun approach, and promotes carefully selected options. 

I also don't know anyone that has really benefited from applying to a ton of schools over finding a handful you're a good fit for. 

"Reach" schools and "Safety" schools are OK in undergrad admissions, but they're generally a crappy idea in graduate school applications. The criteria that matters the most is fit, and you can't have "reach" fit and "safety" fit. Apply to where you feel like you will mesh with the department and be happy. Don't apply to schools just to get in, don't apply to places just because they're prestigious.

What bothers me about reach and safety schools for grad programs is, what if my dream school is your reach...Would I have a better chance at getting an acceptance if people that KNEW they would not accept the offer if they got into a better school did not apply. How many people that get into Harvard REALLY want to go to UMN?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Pet peeve: When an application lets you select both of your races but then a subsequent pop up asks you to "please select one race that *most* describes you." Sorry Mom and Dad, I'm going to have to decide which of you annoys me more in this moment so I feel less guilty cutting you out of my identity. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In addition to what's been said here about application fees, official transcripts, the portals, and the GRE, I'll add a couple: 

  • Finding basic information about a lot of the programs I researched was inordinately difficult because of poor website design. When links are broken, information is incomplete, and I can't find my way to the course requirements, I'm tempted just not to apply, even to a "good" school. (I mean, I still applied, but I thought angrily about giving up.) 
  • 300-500 word limits on personal statements are atrocious! I understand that committees don't have the time (or resources) to read hundreds of super long statements, but I don't feel I can accurately describe my research interests, my teaching experience (because many of these schools also didn't have a separate teaching statement), and where I'd fit in the department in just 500 words. Again, I completely understand that the departments are working with limited resources, but I'm surprised that they feel they can gauge a person's fit for the program in 300 words. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I figured this link/article is perhaps OK to drop in this thread - I discovered it in another, earlier GC thread. Props to that OP. 

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/01/06/new-book-reveals-how-elite-phd-admissions-committees-review-candidates

The article's introduction: in 2016, "Julie R. Posselt, the author and an assistant professor of higher education at the University of Michigan, obtained permission from six highly ranked departments at three research universities to watch their reviews of candidates, and she interviewed faculty members at four others. All the departments were ranked as among the top programs in their disciplines. To obtain this kind of access (not to mention institutional review board approval), Posselt had to offer complete anonymity." I was intrigued and bought the book - I think the article does a great job of summing up the text, so the book definitely isn't necessary to get to the significance.

The interviews reveal that adcoms (the ones she interviewed at least) rely more heavily on the GRE than applicants are led to believe (upsetting but not entirely surprising.) In addition, Posselt touches on questions about bias and diversity and elitism - all questions everyone here has brought up. The anonymity seems to offer pretty secure protection to these adcoms, as I don't think the conversations are exaggerated.

They are, however, troubling and indicative of an urgent need for change/the development of a transparent admissions processes. 

And since we're all academics here (FWIW, the assumption that the academic identity requires a current institutional affiliation really grinds my gears since I spent 2 years as an "independent scholar") who have bright futures in education/culture regardless of this year's results, I figured this might be interesting/cool/able to confirm That Feeling That All Is Not What It Seems.

Edited by a_sort_of_fractious_angel

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I tried arguing (with someone in another thread) that the GRE has a role in gate keeping. It gives the committee a way to narrow the pool, which is bad news for someone with lower scores. I'm a first generation college student who studies language preferences and the lexical bar. I tried to address it in my SOP, but who knows if a reviewer even got that far. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 minutes ago, Wooshkuh said:

I tried arguing (with someone in another thread) that the GRE has a role in gate keeping. It gives the committee a way to narrow the pool, which is bad news for someone with lower scores. I'm a first generation college student who studies language preferences and the lexical bar. I tried to address it in my SOP, but who knows if a reviewer even got that far. 

It absolutely does. I understand the interest in narrowing the pool* but the limit as it currently stands is too arbitrary; if someone has a low V score but also has a letter writer who can phone in a request (which happens), they might fare OK. But what is a low V score? I've heard anything below 163 (the lowest 90th percentile) is dangerous. It's like, really?? I don't have a problem with minimum scores per se provided the scores reflect what a majority of the applicant pool can achieve without spending 1/5 of their lives/wallets in preparation. But when the exam ceiling is 170 (which almost no one hits) and a 165 is required - the adcoms are losing strong scholarship. And then to pair the hard academic data (GRE/GPA) with bias - it's just .... UGH. AND I KNOW NOT EVERYONE DOES IT BUT SOME DO WHICH IS ENOUGH TO BE A PROBLEM!

Also - my rant doesn't touch on the problem of cost, which is another stupid thing. Fee waivers and free score-sending should be widely available. At the minimum (if I put my EVIL ETS hat on), I would argue that scores should "cost" to send during high-priority months, like Dec/Jan and be free every other month. It's still a stupid solution but it'd allow grad students to plan around the fee. I've emailed this idea to ETS several times and they have not responded. And why are there no test fee waivers? WTF.

*In that (from what I understand) adcoms are asked to do admissions on top of regular work, which is confusing to me because it is a full-time job and could probably be done more easily/quickly if there was a dedicated group whose sole task (for 3 weeks) was to read through applications, but that is a problem for another day/another 50 billion dollars/a university building in my name. Because if we could do this and let adcoms be totally devoted to the job, we could do away with the significance of hard academic data. Because, you know, they could read all the apps.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 minutes ago, a_sort_of_fractious_angel said:

my rant doesn't touch on the problem of cost

I completed ETS's post-GRE survey just so I could include a, I kid you not, five-paragraph screed on the iniquity of its prices. I know they probably don't read those, but it felt good to get off my chest. I wish I could find it somewhere; it was quite colorful, if I remember correctly. 

I half expect that "Educational Testing Service" is a dummy label for their true name: "Egregiously Torturing Students"

Edited by FreakyFoucault

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I want out of the GRE general as well, not just the subject. I had to learn how the f standardized tests worked, I was not familiar at all with how I should write US essays, and I hadn't done math since mid-high school. There is NO reason to ask for any of those tests from prospective Lit. students. None whatsoever. The fact that I'm anxious around numbers and can't understand how their sh*t works does not make me a dumb person who can't study literature at the graduate level.

And speaking of the GRE subject: there is no way I could get even an average score at the GRE subject, and I'm fairly certain I would not be able to study for it because I grew up in France and missed out on 20 years of an anglophone literary and cultural education. Even the normal general stuff is usually too sophisticated for me, unless it's some of the big classics. If you want to see how I reason and write, use the writing samples and talk to me.

Also, the SOP's. There are guidelines here and there on how to write them, but we all know that there are so many tacit requirements behind that document. They want to see/know specific stuff, and they should just provide a little more clarity and help. Getting into a program is very far from what their websites say. It's all a matter of behind-the-scenes biz biz that we can only figure out thanks to these forums! 

Angry rant. Frustrated rant! I feel like the process is extremely discriminatory to foreign students (and I don't even need a visa thank goodness for that), and they're probably missing out on a lot of valuable diversity. Also I had to pay like an extra three hundred dollars to translate my transcripts with a specific service, although I had a legit translator (whom I had already paid a hundred bucks) in Paris who had already worked on them. 

Edited by Yanaka

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Eigen said:

The arms race of the sheer number of schools students are applying to doesn't help anyone- it means fewer truly tailored applications, more people that get into a school they aren't a good fit for, and more work + cost for everyone. 

Part of the reason behind application fees is that it helps to prevent students applying with a shotgun approach, and promotes carefully selected options. 

There's a difference between the *intended* reasoning behind fees in a hope that it leads to more tailored applicants (this is the optimistic reasoning which we hope programs have) and the reality--which is that those with money generally have more resources and time to apply to far more programs thus increasing their chances of being accepted and increasing competition for those who can't afford more than a handful.

 

4 hours ago, Eigen said:

I also don't know anyone that has really benefited from applying to a ton of schools over finding a handful you're a good fit for. 

We should also recognize that fit does not always mean research interests. There are many individuals who do not have the privilege of applying to just a handful of programs that are the best fit. Some applicants are

  • limited geographically (perhaps limiting them to schools that even though aren't a perfect fit they would still thrive in),
  • they have partners who they are applying with (thus narrowing their choices and simultaneously adding in another factor- both partners being accepted to the same school),
  • they might have a weaker portion of their application such as spotty grades from when they were younger, gaps in their school due to family problems, health issues, or financial reasons,
  • they may be unable to take a subject gre test (or even the regular gre) due to money or work schedules. 
  • they might have niche research interests that don't have a clear "fit" 
  • They might not have the resources, support, or mentorship at their undergrad to help them figure out what a good fit would be

Applications are complicated. They take time and require a myriad of factors. When money is an issue or one of the above situations factor in, individuals would benefit from having lower application costs, because they'd be able to apply to more programs. My husband and I are both applying to programs. Of course I applied to programs that were a good fit for me, but some schools were a compromise (good fits, but not the best) because we both had to like the program. We also had to reduce the amount we applied to because of $$$. Had applications cost less, we could have afforded to throw one or two programs in that we loved, but didn't know if we were competitive enough for. Let's face it, there are programs we are great fits for, but on paper many institutions throw candidates out due to good, but not amazing GRE scores. I wanted to apply to Purdue so bad, but my husband's gre scores were not at their recommended score. Sure we could have risked it and applied as a reach school (a good fit, but not a sure thing), but we're barely could afford the schools we did apply to. We saved for months for these apps, and we didn't want to waste the money. Let's stop using fit and labor as an excuse for gatekeeping policies. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, renea said:

Let's stop using fit and labor as an excuse for gatekeeping policies. 

 

I'm out of "reactions" but I am so grateful you said this.  Thank you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, Yanaka said:

but we all know that there are so many tacit requirements behind that document. They want to see/know specific stuff, and they should just provide a little more clarity and help. Getting into a program is very far from what their websites say. It's all a matter of behind-the-scenes biz biz that we can only figure out thanks to these forums! 

Transparency please! We wouldn't grade our students without giving them rubrics or providing them with prompts, why do we treat the SOP like a mystic formula. Not everyone has the time to contact every graduate director for the inside scoop. 

 

1 hour ago, a_sort_of_fractious_angel said:

(from what I understand) adcoms are asked to do admissions on top of regular work, which is confusing to me because it is a full-time job and could probably be done more easily/quickly if there was a dedicated group whose sole task (for 3 weeks) was to read through applications, but that is a problem for another day/another 50 billion dollars/a university building in my name. Because if we could do this and let adcoms be totally devoted to the job, we could do away with the significance of hard academic data. Because, you know, they could read all the apps.

Academia is full of required "volunteer" service activity used to justify tenure, pay raises, work, ect. We review articles for free, we do university service for free, serve on committees, etc. It's not fair, but that doesn't mean we should use unethical practices to lower the labor. Instead we should be changing the expectation that the work should be done free. It's not an applicant's fault that departments don't pay the admissions committee money for reviewing. That's the department's fault, maybe budget a few less pizza days or find althernative ways to honor and thank admissions committee members- but no program should use that as an excuse to enforce instutional bias against poor people.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@renea exactly! And while I accept that they want me to take the time, I am wasting their time! If everybody is going to email or call for more info every year, why not put up more actual info on the website??

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, Yanaka said:

@renea exactly! And while I accept that they want me to take the time, I am wasting their time! If everybody is going to email or call for more info every year, why not put up more actual info on the website??

Case in point: I'm applying to Georgia State- their rhet/comp pages all stated (explicitly) that they wanted two letters of recommendation. It said this in more than one place. I'm about to submit my app and decide to double check the catalogue requirements. It says 3. I have to contact the director. They say three too. Now I have to contact my third letter writer to see if they can write it and send it in. So much extra work. Please keep the policies up to date and clear. Please keep the website accurate. It saves everyone time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you know, let US know that people are retiring. Don't let us apply and then tell us that the only person in our field is at the end of their academic life. My field is already small enough, just let me know it's dying.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, mk-8 said:

Also, application fees in general. What purpose do they serve? Why do I need to pay a many times outrageous fee for you to look at my application? Imagine all the brilliant people who are kept out of grad school because they can’t afford the fee. 

All the applications I submitted had provisions for waivers, though I don't know how feasible the process is. Unfortunately, there's no provision for fee waivers for  transcripts or GRE scores.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
24 minutes ago, renea said:

Case in point: I'm applying to Georgia State- their rhet/comp pages all stated (explicitly) that they wanted two letters of recommendation. It said this in more than one place. I'm about to submit my app and decide to double check the catalogue requirements. It says 3. I have to contact the director. They say three too. Now I have to contact my third letter writer to see if they can write it and send it in. So much extra work. Please keep the policies up to date and clear. Please keep the website accurate. It saves everyone time.

 

13 minutes ago, khigh said:

If you know, let US know that people are retiring. Don't let us apply and then tell us that the only person in our field is at the end of their academic life. My field is already small enough, just let me know it's dying.

Exactly, and exactly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
26 minutes ago, maengret said:

All the applications I submitted had provisions for waivers, though I don't know how feasible the process is. Unfortunately, there's no provision for fee waivers for  transcripts or GRE scores.

Most of the schools I applied for this year only offered waivers for *current students* that can demonstrate need. Because I graduated in May (and didn’t fill out the FAFSA in preparation of graduating) I was ineligible, though I would have qualified. The GRE does something similar. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.