Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Tang Thang

There is something about the graduate school admissions process that resembles the state of nature. I'm not even talking Hobbes/Locke/Rousseau here -- though by all means nasty and brutish, the admissions game is by no means short, and reason most definitely does not govern it. I mean the state of nature which preceded such "natural precepts" as striving for peace in favor of the natural precept "I want that banana, so gimme it or I will end you", where a funded acceptance might serve as the proverbial plantain.

Let us examine the following possible scenarios of the process. In honor of fellow crazed student Maggie's impending birthday, I have solicited the help of her favorites, the orangutans (afterward Tang), to provide a visual component to this study.

There are four general outcomes to the process, with each having several substages. If I can get a social scientist to diagram that for me later, we can explore those further. For now, we'll stick to the main categories: Acceptance, Waitlist, Rejection, and Nuttin'.

The good news first! Acceptance!

In the state of nature it resembles this:

Go, you! You're in! You are on your way to the highest tree in the forest, the ivory tower of nature, if you will. You might as well go beserk from the treetops and let everybody know: you are going to be Dr. Tang!

Less immediately enthralling is the Waitlist...

Which looks, both in the state of nature and in whatever state you reside in, like this:

Sad Tang. You are ranked somewhere between first alternate and eightieth. The admissions committee may or may not tell you this information. It is also possible that they may be lying to you. About everything. Adding to your misery is the fact that the goddang Accepted Tang is swinging about the jungle, throwing nuts and berries all over the place, and you just wish his vine would break already.

Still, it could be worse.

It could be Rejection.

I need no words. Big Aman here is taking care of it.

A lot of programs receive 200-plus applications for about 10 slots. That means each program produces at least 190 Big Amans annually between January and April. Multiply 190 and the hundreds and hundreds of programs, and add in Yale which rejects roughly a gajillion people per annum, for the total number of rejected applicants in the Big Aman army. The result is terrifying.

So it isn't really a wonder why the Adcoms like to play their Wild Card: Total Lack of Information!

No, Sad Eyes and Pouty Lip won't make the DGS return your calls, answer your emails, update the status website, or otherwise acknowledge you as a human/primate/whatever being. It is better for them if you exist in a state of anxiety, constantly refreshing the webpage and hitting redial, than for them to give any concrete information that might result in them a) having to prepare the campus for the giddy swingers, b) having to deal with Eternal Waitlistees, or c) facing their Big Amans.

It remains unclear if the graduate school itself is a civil society. I will report more on this in the future. In the meantime, I will give a shoutout to Wildcat U, which has ensured that this blog can exist for the next 5-15 years. ::throws nuts and berries::

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