By staff writer E.E. Southerby
Volume 93 – August 8, 2004
“The Column that Applies to 0.8% of its Readers”
Now Playing: “Make You Mad” by The Odds
It seems like only yesterday that I was just a college freshman, about to embark on a miraculous four-year journey filled with hopes, dreams and occasionally funny weekly newsletters. Now, as I enter senior year for the third and possibly final time, those hopes have been crushed and everyone I know is applying for grad school. Yes, it's a magical time all right, and it will become more magical still should I figure out how to open up the child-safety cap of my prescription painkillers. Here's what happened:
-Undergraduate schools had a whole lot of selling points: Dorm parties, frat parties, keggers… you get the idea. Every brochure for every undergraduate school has the same smiling, happy students who you just KNOW are getting laid more than I am. Graduate schools don't have the same brochures. They basically have a cold, sterile pamphlet, detailing how many holdings are in the school library. (“175,000 volumes! That's more than any other school! Where the hell am I going to find the time not to read all that?”)
-Before you can apply to any grad school, you will almost definitely need to take a scary-sounding pre-grad school entrance exam. This exam will probably be an acronym, like “GRE”, “MCAT”, “LSAT”, “NAMBLA”, etc. You will never be told what this acronym stands for. For all I know, this could be the only question on the test. You'll probably want to commit the North American Man-Boy Love Association to memory right away, just in case.
-The local bookstore sells hundreds, if not millions, of pre-grad school entrance exam study guides. Each one of these guides has an awesome-sounding title like “30 Days to the LSAT,” “7 Days to the MCAT,” or “How to Get Into Grad School Without Passing An Entrance Exam by Shamelessly Affiliating Yourself with a Minority Group.” Also, the back cover of each of these books contain testimonials from actual grad students who claim that they were going to fail their exam until they bought that particular book but then they magically got a 98% and that got them a full scholarship to Yale and when they woke up the next morning the hemorrhoid was gone and it's all thanks to this book that's only $49.95. You may think that, given how similar all these testimonials are, it would be difficult to choose the right book for you. I'd go with the minorities one.
-Quote of the Moment: In case you thought I was kidding about the testimonials, here's a verbatim example, assuming the definition of “verbatim” includes “totally made up, but with the sly pretense of being true”: “I had tried other books. I even hired a private tutor for six months. But still, I wasn't getting the results I needed to be competitive for the top-tier grad schools. But then I saw this book at Barnes & Noble and it changed my life. Thanks for making my dreams come true!” Wow, that's pretty impressive. She didn't even need to buy the book or read it in order to improve her test score. All she had to do was see it in the store. It's that good.
-In addition to the almighty entrance exam, you will probably be required to submit, along with your application, a letter explaining why you want to go to grad school, and more importantly, why you want to go to THAT particular grad school above all others. You will need to submit a similar letter to every school you apply to, so clearly they are measuring your ability to lie convincingly above all else (a skill, by the way, which is seriously undervalued in the real world.) Your best bet is to write a generic all-purpose admission essay, so you can use the same one for every school without having to change anything besides the letterhead. Bonus points if you can incorporate “World Peace” in there somewhere.
-Whatever you do, do NOT ask your college counselor for advice on the admissions essay. Most college counselors cannot successfully microwave popcorn unless there's a button on the microwave that says “popcorn,” so you can only imagine what their writing skills are like. Moreover, you can bet your ass that your counselor is giving the same advice he's giving you to every other student who approaches him, so your admissions essay will have approximately the same level of originality as any random episode of “The OC.” I don't suggest you make that bet, though, because I don't know what I'd do with your ass once I win. Maybe make a Nazi lampshade.
-Many people who are thinking about grad school want to stay at their undergrad college, where they already have friends, know their way around the city, and are well acquainted with the local jail. Other people choose to go to a completely different school, where they can start fresh and leave those pesky AIDS test results behind them. I don't really have any advice to give here, I just felt it had been a long time since I'd done a joke about AIDS. Maybe flip a coin? Heads for whatever school you're currently at, tails for BJU. Feeling lucky?
-I can not believe that there are college students out there whose sole reason for going to grad school is to stay out of the real world. “Dude, I'm totally staying in school forever. The real world sucks. I don't want to go get a job. I'm just gonna go off to grad school and put off going out into the real world for as long as possible.” Hey, if you hate the real world so much, I have a less expensive solution than grad school for you: Suicide. Save the classroom for those of us who WEREN'T thalidomide babies.
-Off-Topic Corner Revolutions: I wonder what it's like the first time you visit a plastic surgeon. I bet they make sure to ask YOU what you want done. Because it's probably not a good idea to try and guess. DOCTOR: “So, you're here to have your forehead lowered?” PATIENT: “Why? What's wrong with my forehead? (runs out crying).” I should try that just for fun. If I'm really lucky it might get me on Extreme Makeover.
-Parents are supposed to encourage their kids to get as much education as possible, right? And they're supposed to be supportive of their children's dreams, right? And yet, no matter how caring, loving and supportive they are, your parents will only be thrilled you're going to grad school for a very short time, defined as “the time between when you tell them you're going to grad school and the time you tell them how much tuition will cost.” Be prepared for a scene out of Austin Powers. (“That amount of money doesn't even exist yet!”)