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


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This is a general rant/reflection as the application season is nearing an end and the waiting is happened. I know a lot of us have started considering what we wish we did better, but I'd love to know- what do you wish programs did differently. Also, I'm sure this goes without saying- but I'm not bashing, just recognizing how stressful this process is and the places that schools could improve. I'll start us off.

  1. Just take the unofficial transcripts dammit. Don't make me pay $10+ dollars for each transcript that I have to send. Don't make me send paper copies. If you accept me, I'll happily go through the trouble.
  2. Quit with this community college bullshit. I just received an email from a program saying that once they receive an official transcript from a community college that gave me credit for a math class I took in highschool then my application will be complete. It was a dual credit class! It's listed on all my other transcripts and wasn't even taken at the college. Do you really care what I made in calculous 7 years ago? Do you really need that to review?
  3. Just give us the projected acceptance dates. Please don't make me crawl through the results page. Please don't give me anxiety checking the portals, email, mailbox... We're expected to turn in everything by a certain date and time. If our application is late, many schools won't even consider it. So I ask, why is this a one way street? We paid you the money, can't we at least know when we'll find out. 

 

What are your top 3 pet peeves of this application season?

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This is a general rant/reflection as the application season is nearing an end and the waiting is happened. I know a lot of us have started considering what we wish we did better, but I'd love to know-

Can we talk about the GRE please? ETS makes so much money off of us. They know that most of us are applying to more than four schools (sometimes 10, 14, 17...). $27 to send scores electronically is ab

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promoting diversity and making education accessible and equitable, and yet they continue to stick with traditional, outdated a

5 minutes ago, renea said:

Quit with this community college bullshit. I just received an email from a program saying that once they receive an official transcript from a community college that gave me credit for a math class I took in highschool then my application will be complete. It was a dual credit class! It's listed on all my other transcripts and wasn't even taken at the college. Do you really care what I made in calculous 7 years ago? Do you really need that to review?

+1 for this. I specifically asked every school I applied to about this (because I had a lot of dual enrollment credits from high school), and they all said it was okay if I didn't turn them in. I got an email from a school about needing better transcripts because they didn't have these CC credits... They're so old! They don't even count towards my GPA!

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15 minutes ago, renea said:

This is a general rant/reflection as the application season is nearing an end and the waiting is happened. I know a lot of us have started considering what we wish we did better, but I'd love to know- what do you wish programs did differently. Also, I'm sure this goes without saying- but I'm not bashing, just recognizing how stressful this process is and the places that schools could improve. I'll start us off.

  1. Just take the unofficial transcripts dammit. Don't make me pay $10+ dollars for each transcript that I have to send. Don't make me send paper copies. If you accept me, I'll happily go through the trouble.

Yes to this 100% - I understand why they don't want transcripts that have no identifying information on them (my MA advising transcript was literally a WordDoc) but they should absolutely all accept PDF copies of official transcripts. That way, we only have to buy one copy for ourselves - I really think that's quite reasonable. 

I also wish some schools were more clear about the portals-  like, some of the portals need 24 hours to "compute" the grad school application before you can upload supplementary materials. So, if one submits the grad school application on the day its due and the supplemental stuff the next day, does it count? I'm not sure. I don't know.

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3 minutes ago, a_sort_of_fractious_angel said:

I also wish some schools were more clear about the portals-  like, some of the portals need 24 hours to "compute" the grad school application before you can upload supplementary materials. So, if one submits the grad school application on the day its due and the supplemental stuff the next day, does it count? I'm not sure. I don't know.

UGH YES THE PORTALS.

 

And the complication for LORs on portals. I had two schools that required me to submit *and pay* the application fee before it would send instructions to LOR. Which meant I had to send my application in a week or two early or else I risked having late letters. 

Some schools even have the graduate application portal and then some other department specific application that asks basically the same questions.

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2 minutes ago, Wooshkuh said:

Can we talk about the GRE please? ETS makes so much money off of us. They know that most of us are applying to more than four schools (sometimes 10, 14, 17...). $27 to send scores electronically is absolute garbage. 

Every school, "We consider all applicants holistically, we do not have any cutoffs for GRE scores....but........ successful candidates usually have xyz. Also unofficial scores will not be accepted"

Translation, "We believe that a highschool level test with nonsense questions that is timed in a cold computer room that won't allow snacks will help us decide if you're prepared for graduate level work even though you're literally already sending us a cumulative record of all your college classes, a writing sample you spent months on, a personal statement that you crafted, and letters from professionals vouching for you...but yeah, we'd like you to spend another $200 + $27 for that numeric score"

 

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4 minutes ago, renea said:

Every school, "We consider all applicants holistically, we do not have any cutoffs for GRE scores....but........ successful candidates usually have xyz. Also unofficial scores will not be accepted"

Translation, "We believe that a highschool level test with nonsense questions that is timed in a cold computer room that won't allow snacks will help us decide if you're prepared for graduate level work even though you're literally already sending us a cumulative record of all your college classes, a writing sample you spent months on, a personal statement that you crafted, and letters from professionals vouching for you...but yeah, we'd like you to spend another $200 + $27 for that numeric score"

 

"A cold computer room that won't allow snacks" and will only allow you to wear your hair tie in your hair and not on your wrist. 

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8 minutes ago, Wooshkuh said:

Can we talk about the GRE please? ETS makes so much money off of us. They know that most of us are applying to more than four schools (sometimes 10, 14, 17...). $27 to send scores electronically is absolute garbage. 

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. 

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3 minutes 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. 

It would be complete anarchy without fees though. Every department would be inundated with even more applications. Think about that time sink. 

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7 minutes ago, Wooshkuh said:

"A cold computer room that won't allow snacks" and will only allow you to wear your hair tie in your hair and not on your wrist. 

and only let's you use pencils... :angry:

 

3 minutes ago, Wooshkuh said:

It would be complete anarchy without fees though. Every department would be inundated with even more applications. Think about that time sink. 

I understand wanting to prevent students from just randomly applying to every school they are remotely interested in, but come on-  some schools charge $80+ in addition to all the other costs involved (gre, subject tests, transcripts). Also let's ponder, where do these fees go? I know at my institution, faculty are not paid to review applications. It's all volunteer, sometimes grad students even help review. So where does the money go? How about if you get accepted they give you your fee back or we reduce the fees or provide fee waivers based on something other than my parent's income when I was in undergrad. 

 

Unless you're a McNair scholar, good luck paying for fees. I consider myself a strong candidate, and even I had to limit my schools down to 6. With mine and my husband's programs combined we spent a little under $1500 applying this year (and that was only bc I was able to use my gre scores from two years ago). 

 

Let's not even get started on the schools who take your money and never even give you a decision. 2 schools from my application season 2 years ago never even officially rejected me. These were top programs with top fees. There's no system to keep schools accountable after they take your money, and the anxiety over being professional keeps many of us from ever addressing the issue with directors or faculty at those programs.

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8 minutes ago, Wooshkuh said:

It would be complete anarchy without fees though. Every department would be inundated with even more applications. Think about that time sink. 

I really don’t think that would be the case. Applications are already laborious enough. 

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24 minutes ago, mk-8 said:

I really don’t think that would be the case. Applications are already laborious enough. 

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. 

Edited by la_mod
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50 minutes ago, Wooshkuh said:

Can we talk about the GRE please? ETS makes so much money off of us. They know that most of us are applying to more than four schools (sometimes 10, 14, 17...). $27 to send scores electronically is absolute garbage. 

I’ve heard of other programs doing unofficial GRE scores until admission, which I would like to see!

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4 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.

I agree with you here. There would be more applications for sure, but I can’t imagine it being to the point where departments can’t manage.

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3 minutes ago, la_mod said:

I’ve heard of other programs doing unofficial GRE scores until admission, which I would like to see!

Texas Tech let me do this, but I specifically asked them. I wonder if other schools would be open to it if we asked. Certainly I wouldn’t lie about my average scores LOL

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3 minutes ago, mk-8 said:

I agree with you here. There would be more applications for sure, but I can’t imagine it being to the point where departments can’t manage.

Yeah and I think it would be equalizing and totally worth it. Not sure that making sure low income students have access is a priority tbhhhh

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6 minutes ago, mk-8 said:

Certainly I wouldn’t lie about my average scores LOL

Haha, yes! I mean, why lie anyways? Wouldn't you be found out when you accept and have to send in official?

 

3 minutes ago, la_mod said:

ALSO, I wasn’t going to single out Chicago, but that whole “we’re going to send 40 interview requests but only honor 25, so the other 15 are cut” is SUCH BS. It left such a foul taste in my mouth that I didn’t reapply this year. 

What. Is. This? I didn't apply to Chicago, but you're telling me they send out 40 and then rescind 15 of the offers?.....on purpose?

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-GRE Subject test

-Outrageous fees.

-Physical and official transcripts

-All schools should require the same sample and SoP length and should require an extensive prompt and/or samples for us to work from

-Any pre-set invisible factors should be made visible (i.e. Americanists need not apply this term, we placed 3 last cycle

-Collate review data and offer feedback to condidates who wish to receive it

-Homogenized portals, deadlines, set response dates, etc. I am applying to a scholarship in my home country to fund my studies and they have extensive information on how review panels are composed, what factors are considered (e.g. is this your first time studying overseas), they send back some info to rejected and accepted candidates (all parts of the app are graded out of 4 or 10, so you are told if your SoP and letters of recommendation and eveything ranked in what percentile compared to other candidates) AND they let you know WHEN YOU APPLY when the results will be in, to the minute. So it can be done, and they receive more apps and have more moving parts than any department.

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4 minutes ago, renea said:

Haha, yes! I mean, why lie anyways? Wouldn't you be found out when you accept and have to send in official?

 

What. Is. This? I didn't apply to Chicago, but you're telling me they send out 40 and then rescind 15 of the offers?.....on purpose?

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

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3 minutes ago, WildeThing said:

AND they let you know WHEN YOU APPLY when the results will be in, to the minute

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!

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I wish more schools would send updates on the admission committee progress / app decisions. 3/5 schools I have heard absolutely nothing from and those were Dec 1st deadlines.  Some communication would be nice! I am sure I have likely been rejected from these programs at this point but I would like to actually be told that rather than speculating on an application portal that has not updated since submission.

Honestly so annoyed by this that if I don't get into a school I like this cycle I may remove some of these mutes from future application cycles.

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