Living on the Edge

or how I got through my grad school applications, on a few minor miracles and very little sleep.

Procrastination is one of those things I always thought I might eventually get over as I got older. But, at 23, I am no better than I ever was, and my process of doing my grad school applications evidences just how little I have changed. And should serve as absolutely no model.

Let’s start at the beginning. At least I did figure out where I wanted to apply comparatively early. As in, in October or November, with some lingering consideration into December. I asked for the recommendations, not strictly speaking early, but with plenty of notice. And when a couple of my recommenders asked for a draft of a statement of purpose in mid-December, I decided it was time to start taking things a little more seriously. So I requested my transcripts and started a draft of some statements but was getting nowhere. Frustrated, I wrote a couple pages of bulleted points detailing my interest in each program, as well as how they would prepare me for my future, etc. Good enough. So, then it was just before Christmas, and I set off up north. I took my computer with me, and indeed, worked distractedly on my statements of purpose, but really had no end result, not even remotely to show for it. And then I went down to Munich and near Munich and the Black Forest, and indeed, I made some progress then. In that, I managed to fill in the actual application parts. But then I realized the first of my errors.

I had forgotten to request additional GRE score reports to two of the institutions to which I was applying, both of whom wanted them to arrive by the application due date (January 4). It then being the 29th, I attempted to make a phone call to do it, but realized I had absolutely no way to make the phone call, since I had no touch phone capable of calling the US. Frustrated, I called my parents, who graciously took care of this step from state side.

Then, I enjoyed a lovely New Year’s with the Beckfords, ignoring my looming applications, and returned home on January 2, with zero applications ready of the six I was planning to do (due on January 4 (four of them), January 5 (one), and January 15). The next two days were spent writing and procrastinating. More of the latter than the former, but I did finally get down to work and did most of my applications between the hours of midnight and 4 am on each of those nights (not ever frantically, I might add. I was somehow really only able to focus then).

I had a few other problems along the way. The first was somewhat serious. That the transcripts that I had requested so long ago were somehow extremely held up. Extremely. Which was a minor problem for most of them, since they were all going to be sent directly to the unis to which I was applying. All but one, that is. Since Columbia requests that you actually get an unofficial copy yourself and upload a pdf of it onto the website. Which was looking absolutely impossible.

So, what to do? I knew I had a copy of my transcript somewhere at home. But where was a great mystery, other than somewhere in my room. I called my mother. After a bit of searching and a whole lot of luck, she managed to find it. So all there was left to do was upload it. Ah, if only it were that easy! Our scanner at home doesn’t work. So she sent off to figure out how to get that done. Poor thing. I got it later that afternoon by email, forwarded by my sister from the secretary of her former high school. Well, then I noticed the next problem. Only 7 of my 8 semesters of grades were there. Crap. So, I sent off an email to Columbia, informing them I would upload what I had, along with a supplementary document listing the grades from that final semester–if I end up there, I need an official transcript submitted, and any discrepancies would involve an offer of admission being revoked, so it’s not exactly like I have any incentive to lie. The reply indicated this was fine. And I wished all schools were as reasonable as Columbia about this–it’s not like I have any reason to lie. Seriously. So why should I submit official copies everywhere–seems so pointless. Oh well. I digress.

And then, the next small mistake. The fact that UChicago wanted a writing sample and resume to arrive in hard copy, no later than the due date. Of course, it was a bit late for this to be theoretically doable from Germany. Not to mention cost prohibitive. Yikes. So, what to do. My immediate thought was to send it to my mother and have her express mail it within the US. But then it occurred to me… My brother goes to UChicago and was already back on campus. So, my supplementary materials were mailed off to him. The wonderful Daniel printed them and hand-delivered them to the office, where they were marked with the date and put into my file. Disaster avoided.

Then comes the most hilarious episode. My application to the University of Wisconsin. I submitted the online application, and just as I was finishing up on January 3, the message indicated that the application was actually due on the 1st. Uh-oh. Had I somehow missed the important detail that this application was due before the others? Tired, I had called it a night. On the afternoon of the 4th, I called the office, only to get a machine. And then sent an email to the coordinator, who responded that the website was in fact wrong, the application was due on the 4th, and reminded me of an application supplement I had not noticed, and informed me I could have some extra time if I could not complete the application on time. Hallelujah. Crisis averted.

And so, the application was submitted. Along with the others. With many thanks to my father, who read through a few essays to check for errors (I don’t trust myself at 4 in the morning). And that’s how I applied to grad school.

Oh, I forgot, my last application wasn’t due until the 15th. Yet I still managed to find myself doing it last minute, getting all of an hour of sleep before I headed off to Munich with Kate. More on that trip to come.

But, as the Germans say, Ende gut–alles gut! All’s well that ends well. Sigh. Glad to have those applications done.


One thought on “Living on the Edge

  1. Wowww… stress! I hate when places still ask for hard copy versions of things — it makes life so much more difficult, especially when you’re traveling!

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