Sadly, ladies and gentlemen, malevolent artificial intelligence has taken over the Earth.
I’ve collided head-first with the vast Illuminati conspiracy currently threatening our precious globe on numerous occasions over the years. As you are all well aware, I was nearly assassinated by squirrel nationalists who launched a daring daytime raid on the Boathouse in my sophomore year, leaving it without power for the better part of a full day and night.
The assault became even more intense during my junior year. “For my safety” I was locked out of my bank account for over a month. Shortly thereafter, government cyborgs descended in droves upon our fair university, collecting intelligence on me for three months before my application for a passport was approved, only days before I was to leave for Oxford, England.
While I was at Oxford, both my bank and one of my credit card providers failed to note my phone calls to them and froze my accounts. This left me with no way to fund my trip other than morris dancing with bells attached to my ankles outside the Eagle and Child pub.
Thanks to intervention by Her Majesty’s Secret Service, my credit card was eventually restored, at which time the British promptly stole my laptop, leaving me on the high seas with no means of communicating with the outside world other than through semaphore.
Prior to that, yet another laptop was destroyed by a small kitten. On closer inspection, the kitten was revealed to be a “little person” formerly employed with the KGB, who fled immediately upon discovery.
Only a few months before, yet another laptop of mine was destroyed by a small kitten. I have since decided never to use a computer that can’t be safely bolted to the floor.
Just recently, the vast transnational conspiracy has tried to silence me again, by installing Windows Vista and Word 2007 on all of the university computers.
Luckily, my computer, being over seventy years old and constructed primarily of bark, cannot even run Vista, inoculating me from its assorted perils.
I considered purchasing a new laptop, but decided I would simply set fire to some money and consider the hypothetical machine pre-emptively stolen.
After all that, you’d think that I would abandon civilization in favor of a bunker in the mountains of Colorado, but I climbed out of the defensive moat I’ve been digging around Straz Hall long enough to take the GRE.
Which leads me to now and the unholy fruit of that decision: graduate school applications.
For those of you who plan to continue your triumphant ascent of the Olympian heights of academia, let me warn you that the process of applying to even one graduate school would turn Mahatma Ghandi into a puppy-kicking misanthrope.
And it’s quite likely you’ll be applying to several – perhaps as many as ten or more – a process which, due to nonrefundable fees, will normally set you back around $800,000.
In many ways, the fairly recent transition of many grad schools to an online-only application format is quite laudable.
After all, when you inevitably reach the point where you need a drink, a cold shower, or to spin around in your chair until you’re dizzy and sick, the online format allows you to do that.
Unfortunately, it also gives the invisible masters of these applications even more power over your life. Every university seems to have its own hidden “trick” in the application process.
The first trick is getting together letters of recommendation. This seems simple at first.
If you were able to conduct the academic equivalent of saturation bombing, getting every professor who has ever passed you in the halls to write a letter, there would be no problem.
Unfortunately, most programs accept only two or three, turning the whole thing into a demented game of Hollywood Squares where you struggle to match up professors with institutions, only to find that you’ve asked one person to write 96 letters, and promptly starting over again.
Another delightful aspect of the problem has to do with the notorious “safety school.” The concept is simple: pick one school you can’t possibly fail to get into.
It makes sense at first.
But the question is as complex and inscrutable as a meeting of Japanese mafia men who also happen to be Rorschach ink blots. There seems to be no practical way to decide how bad is too bad.
No university I’m aware of carries the slogan “We’re almost as good as the other guy!” In my attempt to pick a safety school, I nearly selected one whose residential campus is composed entirely of pup tents.
After spending the equivalent of a semester’s tuition on fees, mounting a brave academic defense which some of my recommenders will surely not survive, and even selecting a safety school not located on an itinerant garbage barge, I’m still left with weeks worth of work to do.
Considering all I’ve survived so far — uprisings of nature, Minaret-inspired riots, thefts, irrelevant classes, mind-bogglingly relevant classes, Oxford pub crawls, FBI stings, a war on USF, and not one, not two, but three of UT’s esteemed fiction writing courses, this should be easy.
But as each of life’s most important processes becomes more “convenient” and more “safe” I can’t help but wonder if the people who cavalierly change them to appear more tech savvy have ever attempted to actually use them.
Far too often, an online process is just as onerous as a paper process, only different.
Who’s running these things?
As for me, once I find the appropriate labor union, fill out the appropriate forms, consult the necessary experts, get the proper inoculations, and consult the I Ching, I think I’ll put in an application to be a beach comber in Aruba.
After all, by the time I finish with all of the paperwork involved in grad school, actually attending one will be the last thing I want to do.