Follow by Email

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Excuses, Schmexcuses

*Just a note; I’m posting again today since the blog is so new, but from now on, I’m going to post regularly every week, Friday afternoons or Saturday mornings.  I’ll post a new survey then too.

Getting into grad school is competitive.  Here is a list of solid excuses;

  • In a bad economy, more people want to go back to school.
  • It’s a different time than a generation ago when even a BA was considered “optional” and could really put you above the pack.
  • My dog ate my good application (note; you may need to actually own a dog to pull this one off)
  • Creative Writing MFA programs are the definition of subjective when it comes to accepting applicants.  Though you have to submit undergraduate transcripts, statements of purpose, GRE scores, it really all comes down to whether a mysterious panel of shadowy writing critics likes your twenty-something pages of sample writing. 
  • El Nino

I turned to each of these while applying to grad schools during my first go-around—GradAp 1.0.  I casually rattled off these excuses to folks in an effort to justify my future rejections to them, and to a lesser extent, to cushion the blow of any such rejections for myself.  They were my series of strategically placed safety nets, but safety nets that I never anticipated on needing.  Because honestly, after putting in all of that work, all of that time and planning, does anyone actually believe that it will be all for naught?  When applying does anyone actually think, “Wow, I’m sure glad I’m getting in all of this great application practice, gee golly!  It’ll sure be real helpful for next time, gosh,”?  Of course not!  To paraphrase my Little League coach from fifth grade, “You play to win!  Now run out to my car and find me my cigarettes!”

You did not want to not find Coach Lundy's cigarettes
I applied to nine schools—nine!  I might have talked a humble game, but I always expected that I’d get into one of them.  Actually, I thought I’d get into three.  Three felt about right.  Three was a nice, workable divisor of nine that would reward 33.3% of my hard work while giving me some options.  Three was acceptable.

Zero was reality.  By April I had been outright rejected by seven schools, and waitlisted by two, which would later kick me off of the waitlist lifeboat.  Apparently the rightful passengers of the S.S. Grad School 2011 Fall Class were ready to embark and it would be just peachy if I’d be so kind as to let go and sink to the bottom of the ocean.  Aha, not so fast Titanic fans, I said “lifeboat” not arbitrary floating door, or dresser—chifferobe maybe?—anyway, it is not a comparison to Leo’s big drowning scene, although I have to admit, I can emphasize. 

Seriously, is it like a kitchen table or part of the ship's dance floor?  What the hell are they floating on!?

When I was applying to college, I applied to five schools and got into four of them.  The only school that I didn’t get into was due to the fact that my guidance counselor forgot to submit my high school transcript—you know, you duct tape just one teacher’s kid to a tree and you’re paying for it for the rest of your life.  Despite my humble pie demeanor and all of my half-assed mental preparation, I was decidedly unprepared for such rejection.  Maybe I should have been.  Thank God for Little League and the opposite sex, to this day, still my best references for rejection.
Bryan had it coming

Ultimately, these well-crafted excuses cut it just about as well as my applications did.  They might pacify others, but I still feel the same with or without them.  GradAp 2.0 has got a long way to go… dum, dum, dum!

Since I can't post a new survey until Saturday, feel free to post your own solid excuses for rejection that I can keep in my back pocket for next time, just in case.


  1. Every one of the "excuses" you list is perfectly valid (with the exceptions of the ones based on canines and quasiperiodic climate phenomena), and you should give yourself permission to use them. It really is more competitive out there than it used to be. And the economy really is terrible. As a wise man (with whom I shared an apartment during grad school) once said, "Unemployment is the mother of advanced degrees."

    You specifically declined my offer of critique, so I am totally not going to point out that you misspelled "naught."

    Oops. Sorry. My bad.

  2. You forgot, "I felt I needed to take a year and find myself. I really need to think about who I am. I mean is grad school worth it?"

  3. good one--maybe backpacking through europe too? actually, that would be pretty sweet...

  4. You bring up a good point of how stymieing it is to face rejection after years of self-esteem bolstering from childhood onward.

    You do face challenges from K-Undergrad and they're usually surmountable if your are a reasonably bright person. If not, you just take your C, chalk it up to a professor's subjective exam grading, and take an easy education class to get your GPA up.

    You finally get to a point where from all your past experiences of jumping through hoops and getting certificates with gold seals that you're feeling pretty good. You come to the Grad school table saying, "Yeah, I'm good enough for this. I know me. I took an extra year out of school just so I could know me better. You should probably know me too by now from all this crap that I had to send you: all these tests about the proper usage of the word 'reticent', all these documents I dug up about how I did in my scuba class, my statement explaining in writing how my month-long study trip to ____vania changed my life."

    To hear them say, "No, it looks like you aren't good enough. We've seen good, and we've seen what you sent us. You seem okay, maybe, but we've seen better. I think you would do better serving coffee for a few years while you work on your word choice on your statement describing your month-long trip to ____vania."

    It's confounding, especially if you are smart enough to have gotten more gold stars in your past than red-ink-sad-faces.