My friend, who was also recently barred from the Land of Grad School, showed me a letter he received from a program a few days ago. After being told that, “although your qualifications met the criteria for acceptance to Example State University, unfortunately, we cannot accept you at this time,” he had the audacity to write back to them and ask (in nicer terms), “What the Hell!?”
|Bill Lumberg should write/ orate rejection letters.|
We get it. Competition is high, higher than high has ever been before. So how hard is to say, “You just weren’t good enough, and here’s why...” Such explanation would certainly sting to say the least, but at least we would be able to wrap our heads around it. This Zen-corporate soft-speak that is polite to the point of saying nothing, is no help.
Here is one of my favorite rejection letters (can you have a favorite rejection letter?) I like it so much because I can truly imagine its conception. I can picture some belabored copier in some florescent tinted office pumping out hundreds of these clones to be distributed across the country to each applicant who simply, “cannot be accepted at this time”. Its signature, just the recycled copy of some muckity-muck’s hand who doesn't remember my name.
Now, you might ask why would I even apply to Douche U? Everyone knows they’re just a party school with an English department that’s seriously lagging, but you can’t be too choosey when it comes to applying for full rides and teaching stipends. More importantly, why was I rejected from DU? What can I improve upon? Can you tell from this letter? Apparently, somewhere between my “GRE scores, GPA, [and] quality of writing samples”, I didn’t meet the “criteria for the committee’s judgments,” so that’s pretty clear. Either that or my “goals and plans [did NOT] fit with the program’s”. My goals were to go to grad school to learn to write and teach—what goals should I have had to apply to a Creative Writing MFA program?
This letter tells me nothing! Nothing, I tells ya, nothing! After all of the cajoling and gentle encouragement by universities to have prospective students apply and up their programs’ submission numbers, this letter ultimately represents the quickest, easiest, and least personal way to fish and cut bait. Its three paragraphs certainly do not warrant the hundreds upon thousands of collective hours that all of the applicants like myself invested in their applications to schools like Douche U.
So my friend here—you remember my friend, from the first paragraph?—right, so my pal politely wrote back to Example State requesting some ways that he could improve his application. A reasonable inquiry. To his surprise, someone actually returned his letter and offered some advice. Getting past the politeness pudding slopped onto the page, it stated that he needed to essentially return to college for a year and take the undergraduate courses that were supposedly “suggested” for consideration into this particular program.
|In grad school's eyes, I am NOT complete.|
Ouch. Harsh. Not want he wanted to hear, but at least it’s something. At least it’s a goal to work towards. It’s a ridiculous goal, one that would put my friend further into massive debt, and I doubt he’ll consider. He’ll probably just try to find some backdoor way in because he’s not an eccentric millionaire or son of an eccentric millionaire, but again, at least the letter actually said something. A novel concept for a graduate program, and even more novel of one for a Creative Writing program. I guess before I can get some real answers I have some letter writing to do, or at least some trench coat wearing, boom box hoisting, and 1987 Buick Cutlass Supreme standing in front of to do.