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angelayar

Berkeley's arrogance

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Berkeley was a bad fit and I may discover that my application for other institutions wasn't so great.

 

But I'm completely astonished that people will accept their treatment at the hands of Berkeley. As a foreign student, I had to pay $100 to apply to Berkeley. In my home country, it is free to apply for graduate school. Where is my money?

 

Berkeley mismatched my GRE scores and didn't even bother to tell me. Then they said out a totally dehumanizing email telling me to check my account and then just read some form rubbish.

 

I'm going to write a letter to Ethan Shagan, who is responsible for this degrading treatment. YES RESPONSIBLE. He is department chair and under his watch this has happened.

 

Please can others join me. His email address is: shagan@berkeley.edu

 

Here is the website of this gentleman: http://history.berkeley.edu/people/ethan-h-shagan

 

And really, please don't post nonsense about this being the process and me being p'd off. Obviously I'm upset not to be admitted but I'm ANGRY that this is the way people are treated. And please understand, if this is how they treat you now at this august institution, this is how they will treat you when you finally get your PhD from wherever.

 

Just don't take this from them. Please

Edited by angelayar

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I did not apply to Berkeley, so I don't know if the fee is higher for international applicants. But applications for PhD programs in the United States are rarely free and are frequently in the $100 range for top programs.

 

You should complain about them mismatching your GRE scores, though. Do you know they mixed them up because incorrect scores appear on your account? I'd imagine the program would be glad to alerted that something is wrong with this part of the admissions process.

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While I share your disappointment at not being accepted by Berkeley (which I and my POI thought was a great fit), I'm afraid I don't share your outrage. The application fee is a burden, but exists in an attempt to limit what is already a massive applicant pool. Furthermore, I can't see how it would be practicable for them to send out what I would estimate to be 350-400 personalized rejection letters, as much as I would like to hear their reasoning. I am really sorry to hear that they mismatched your GRE scores; when I was applying to MA programs one of them sent me a form email rejecting me from a different program than I'd even applied to, so I understand your frustration. Perhaps I should avoid platitudes about the face of today's academia, but I simply hope that we all keep this in mind when we (hopefully) are the ones sending out information that will crush or elate people we've never met.

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Well, I've said for months that Berkeley is vastly overrated.. and most applicants cant even tell you why they apply there other than "it's the thing to do."

 

But at the same time, they're inundated with international applicants, never mind the domestic ones, who likely didn't really consider te program, what they want to do, etc.. beyond "Go to Berkeley."

 

Trying to combat that there's going to be some collateral damage. Many people who would have been perfectly good or even exceptional students will get cut.. and some who will turn out to be terrible mindless morons will get accepted. Such is life.

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Hmm...I understand your concerns and I recognize that you don’t want comments about the application process, but honestly, that’s what it is. 

 

A couple of notes:

 

1) All but a few schools in the United States charge application fees. Indeed, I paid over $3500 dollars to apply to 14 universities. It absolutely sucks, but $100 is actually a pretty standard rate and I’m a DOMESTIC student. I paid over $200 per application for some schools. 

 

2) Most universities won’t contact you if there is a problem with your application. I agree that it’s a frustrating thing, but usually just checking in once after you’ve submitted your information will help alleviate some of that pain. They have a lot of students to try to work with and so it’s really up to you to make sure your materials are there and accurate--a fact that ALL universities post on their application pages. 

 

3) When schools like Berkeley get over 600 applicants per department, it is somewhat unrealistic to expect personalized responses to each application. I think your use of the term “degrading” is a bit harsh and your calling out of a single person is blatantly out of line. 

 

I understand your anger. I, too, was rejected from Berkeley and they were my absolute dream school. Honestly, though, your tone is harsh and your arguments are fairly invalid. 

 

Moreover, if admissions committees were to see this type of behavior from a student, you’d likely be blacklisted from every university in the nation. Just FYI. 

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Yeah, I'd agree to be careful how "angry" you sound at specific schools (especially if you're easy to identify somehow).  Even if universities are in the wrong for various things, they're still all in it together to a certain extent.  

 

I think the fee is pretty typical, and as much of a pain as it is, I can see why it is there to keep the applicant pool to a reasonable amount.

 

But I agree with your general annoyance with schools.  They're not all "the worst," but they can certainly be brusque about some matters.  And it's not that I don't understand how they feel.  But I think they suck (generally) for being vague about what they want in an applicant (scores-wise, everything-wise), and accepting only 10 out of 300 applicants.

 

Honestly, I think that every single application season, any given school should make public a detailed letter (nothing terribly long, but something thorough) that tells prospective applicants what they (the school) needs that year.  I know this eliminates the schools' getting to see a wide variety of applicant interests and being able to pick up on the quirky student research interest that they weren't actively looking for but can't pass up, but I think it would be a more moral thing to do. 

 

Some people say to this that "Well, you've got to understand, that adcomms operate in a way that is convenient for them, not for you.  It's just the way it is."

 

And I realize this.  I'm just saying...it's wrong.

 

They don't have my disgust for rejecting me.   They have my disgust more for encouraging too many people to apply.  I give Wayne State University a lot of credit for telling me, back in October or so, "No, don't apply here.  I don't think it'd work for you."

 

We waste a lot of money on apps for places where we had no good chance.  Schools should be more sensitive to people's financial situations.  

Edited by purpleperson

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As someone with a quirky research interest... I'd like to point out I think such a limitation would be bad for history in general.  I think you are underestimating how much change in scholarship comes from creative minds who wouldn't be able to fit "we're looking for 3 modern Europeanists and 2 latin americanists and 4 americanists and maybe an Africanist."  It would also short shift a lot of smaller, less geographically based fields.

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Well, that's understandable.  But I didn't quite mean something that simplified.  I said a detailed letter (and I meant with nuance and room for non-easy-to-categorize interests, but still giving a rough idea).

 

And I figured that there is some pitfall to the school being overly specific about what it is looking for.  Yet, I wonder if some middle ground couldn't be struck, too, where some idea is given that could rightly discourage things the school is definitely not looking for.

Edited by purpleperson

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I guess my point is your dealing with bureaucracies.  We'd end up with something more specific that would discourage thinking outside the box.

 

As someone who applied to an area in the arts that specifically said they'd consider pretty much any form of art/design.. and then being told that the adcom had questions because I didn't show a particular artisan skill.. I can't imagine trying something different would be any worse.

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I had worse things happen to me when I applied to grad school--one program lost my letters of recommendation; another program sent me an acceptance letter by mistake; another program accepted me, promised funding, and then revealed that they had underestimated the number of people who would accept their offer and therefore had to rescind the funding.

 

A couple of other programs were not up front about their preference for BA candidates (I had an MA).

 

And this was all in spite of the fact that I paid $70-$100 app fees. There are a lot of unprofessional graduate programs out there.

 

Having said that, I agree with Loric: Berkeley is overrated.

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The OP got one key thing right: if this is how they treat you now, think about what happens when you get your PhD. At that point you become one of hundreds sending in resumes to school after school for job postings. There's usually no application fee at that point, but you also don't get the courtesy of an impersonal form letter.

 

Once someone told me a story that I always think about at times like this. I assume it's apocryphal, but I love it. The story goes like this: guy is out on a boat with his friend, having a great time. He says to his friend, man, I'm having such a great time, I'm going to get a boat. His friend asks to borrow $20 -- and proceeds to flush it down the lav. The guy freaks out. The boat owner says, listen, if you're upset over that, then I just saved you a world of heartache.

 

I don't dispute that Berkeley, like all top schools, is capable of arrogance (the extremely polite rejection letter from Harvard still made me smirk: there was a sentence in there that seemed to exist primarily to demonstrate that Harvard men and women do not end sentences with prepositions). But this is the real world. If all it cost to get this admittedly painful lesson is $100, you got a pretty sweet deal.

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Other than the mismatched GRE score, I really do not see anything out of the ordinary in the OP's complaint. App fees, as others note, are standard procedures, alas, and the system would frankly be even more clogged if they weren't. Instead of 200-600 applicants per school, it could easily reach the tens of thousands of applicants, as not only could all of us apply to every school that tangentially met our interests but also dabblers who are not serious applicants would add to the ad-comm' workloads. The process of acceptances, waitlists, second-round choices, and ven third or fourth rounds would be even more overwhelming, and instead of potentially knowing by March where one will be, it might be well into the summer. 

 

The app fee system is an unfortunate gatekeeping system, but (except for all except the wealthiest people) it ensures that applicants are serious about where they apply to. I say this as a generally poorer person who has a hard time swinging even a handful of apps in any given season. 

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I'm in another discipline, but dropping in to say a few years ago a university I applied to lost my application.  They literally misplaced an entire stack of applications and didn't find them until late March, well after all notifications (including rejections) went out.  They tried to cover it up, but I know someone there and she told me the deal and why my decision was so late.  I went AFTER them -- I didn't care about getting rejected, but I did care about my application fee.  I wanted a refund.

They pretty much swatted me like a fly.

 

So let it go, re: Berkeley.  Nothing good can come of this.  I was mad for ages, and now I barely remember what it felt like.  Sorry to hear about the rejection though!!

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As far as the application fees go, a lot of us lower-income folk receive fee waivers. I had my fees waived for all but I think 2 of my schools B)

 

There is also a fee waiver for the GRE exam... I think it's offered by ETS. The deep savings definitely helped, since I still had to pay for transcripts, etc, but my damage was minimal.

 

It seems like most official correspondences tend to be of the form variety, but after receiving impersonal form letters from everything to prospective employers to utilities, it's not that big a deal. I see it just as a time-saving effort and am not personally offended by it. Maybe that's just America, though.

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Poor foreign people like me don't get fee waivers for either those things.

 

So we apply $100 to look up a form email instead of even an email with my name on that. Still can be form, just send the rejection instead of treating me like this lab rat following a trail. But you don't get it, you want your system to work, you want to believe that is better than all the alternatives etc.

 

But sigh at most of the response here. You're American and this is all you've ever known but and I know you have to live in that system every day, but I think you should have very little faith in these systems and that they will have given more than minimal attention to your file.

 

So I'm glad you're not feeling degraded as I feel by this style of rejection, the actual way in which you get an email saying check another place and what? It's sad when you dont' feel that any more.

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And all your voices sound like authority. Like by rationalising the system and you'll be part of it then. By mimicking the "reasonable voices" maybe you too will get to be a 'reasonable voice" some day. Good luck to the world.

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Seriously... If one rejection from one school is causing you this much distress, perhaps academia is not the place for you.

You may want to curb the anger in your emails to Berkeley; you will certainly not be taken seriously with such venom. I hope your emails are professionally written.


Yes, it sucks. Yes, a lot of us have grown to accept it. But, that's Capitalism for you and this process is no different.

 

Also, please do not tell me what I can or can not do in terms of responding to your post; you put up a very strong post and you should expect a variety of responses.

 

Unless you are trolling...if you are, then forget everything I said.

Edited by A Finicky Bean

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Poor foreign people like me don't get fee waivers for either those things.

 

So we apply $100 to look up a form email instead of even an email with my name on that. Still can be form, just send the rejection instead of treating me like this lab rat following a trail. But you don't get it, you want your system to work, you want to believe that is better than all the alternatives etc.

 

But sigh at most of the response here. You're American and this is all you've ever known but and I know you have to live in that system every day, but I think you should have very little faith in these systems and that they will have given more than minimal attention to your file.

 

So I'm glad you're not feeling degraded as I feel by this style of rejection, the actual way in which you get an email saying check another place and what? It's sad when you dont' feel that any more.

 

"You're American and this is all you've ever known but and I know you have to live in that system every day, but I think you should have very little faith in these systems and that they will have given more than minimal attention to your file."

 

^ Thank you for gaslighting "us." If I put much stock in "us" vs. "them" tactics, I'd probably be offended.  

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As far as the application fees go, a lot of us lower-income folk receive fee waivers. I had my fees waived for all but I think 2 of my schools B)

I looked into the requirements and found that I was not eligible for any of these fee waivers, and I am a U.S. citizen. I believe they are generally available only to students currently enrolled at an American college or programs like Americorps.

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I apologise already, I was wrong to say it like as just an American thing. But there it is very different and 100$x5 applications is yea 500$ Many poor people on here have applied for more than this by three.

 

The people who are so dismissive remember this is a lot of money for some. Probably not the ones who go to Berkely which mostly will be for the weatlthy class. Some exceptions but mostly merit from wealth. I wanted to go there too, I want to do phd, I have no money, i will be part of that perhaps somehwere tho I feel so insecure about it.

 

Still I think it's suck if you accept it blindly and don't try to sound like them. And yes they are a THEM. they have money and most of us dont and wont.

 

And i really find a lot of people who are probably men are ganging up and wading in behind to say shut up you annoying foreing person just as when i elsewhere criticized anti-woman stereotype.

 

But it's fine I expected you to be here.

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I looked into the requirements and found that I was not eligible for any of these fee waivers, and I am a U.S. citizen. I believe they are generally available only to students currently enrolled at an American college or programs like Americorps.

Not available for all students at American college. I am pretty poor and was not eligible for any!

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I just cried when this happened. I expected the rejection but I just cried about how it came. And then I drank and I have kept doing that since when it came which was evening here. i'll be ok again but still think i'll be sad about what they treated us like.

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