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GRE Matter

I may have mentioned in the past that I’m applying to graduate programs again. I’ve pretty much given up on Iowa, or rather, didn’t have enough time or energy to put something together before the deadline. I decided that I didn’t want to leave the area unless I got a total free ride, so I have only applied to UW-Milwaukee and two low-residency programs, all of which would allow me to live at home.

Then, in early December, I had a bit of an epiphany and pretty much decided that I only wanted to do the low-residency MFA programs, since UWM’s MA program would be pointless. I couldn’t get a university job without an MFA or a PhD, so why go through all of that for a degree that is just setting you up to get a PhD? Although I did want to keep my options open and also sort of doggedly want to get accepted to UWM, just to know that I could do it.

After class on Tuesday, Dr. Clark mentioned that he hadn’t seen my manuscript in the pile. I was a bit surprised, because while I had been having a very difficult time getting the department admin (who had lost my letters and transcripts from last year, all of which I had to have resent) to realize that he did indeed have my GRE scores, I knew damn well that he had my writing sample. I was a bit distraught and my sweet wonderful professor reassured me that he had probably overlooked it but maybe I could ask the admin about it again and mention that the professor hadn’t seen it. The kind doctor then added that since he was one of the three people who decide on the Creative Writing applications and since he himself had written me a glowing recommendation letter, he couldn’t see any real reason why I wouldn’t be admitted to the program. And then I left class a bit giddy, because it’s sort of a lovely thing to be told that you rock, especially by someone whose opinion you deeply respect. But also, I was confused because if I so rock, then why have they sent me ‘No Thank You’ letters the last two years in a row? Even when I used to be a member of this program and had a 4.0 GPA in its hallowed halls? The fuck?

I sent a friendly email to the admin (which did not start ‘Listen you lowly pile of shit’ the way I originally composed it in my head), asking him about the manuscript and the application. He replied that he had still not looked at the application to make sure that it was complete. This was after the GRE score thing had been resolved by the Graduate office. Fine. Whatever. I’m a reasonable person.

Obviously, this guy was a ditz or something, but whatever.

I followed up with him later, after I hadn’t heard anything. He replied that my application was missing the GRE scores. Despite the fact that we’ve gone around and around five times on the GRE score thing, I calmly and politely sent the Graduate office lady another email, asking her to please again send the English admin my GRE scores, as the admin cannot find them. She replied to both of us, restating that he already had them. Fine. Good. We’re all on the same page once more.

Then, this afternoon, he sent me a fresh email. One without the trail of back and forth discourse during which he insisted he didn’t have the scores and we insisted that he did. This new email states that my GRE scores are six years old and their program only accepts scores that are less than five years old. Was I planning to retake the GRE?

I think I’ve heard the phrase ‘Seeing Red’ a lot, and I can tell you that it is not a clich’. I think my very eyes almost burst and then everything went white as I started to pass out. Actually, here’s an excerpt from the email I shot off to a friend, which I think portrays my reaction to the admin’s email quite succinctly. ‘My god. I am absolutely seething. No. No. I do not plan on retaking a $150 four-hour grueling test just because these fuckers wouldn’t accept me back when the test results were still valid. No. No. Fuck that. Fuck them. I hate them. I want them all to die. Look at how he cc’d Dr. Frank Asshole too. The hate. The seething hatred. Burning. It’s burning mefrom the inside. Fuck fucking fuckers fuck.’

And I hadn’t even had any caffeine yet.

Did I plan to retake the very expensive and grueling GRE? Which would involve studying in between my class and homework and writing and life and home renovations and oh yeah, two jobs. One would think it were as simple as stopping at the drugstore for a box of Kleenex. When I took the GRE the first time, I studied for two months, had strep throat on the day I was supposed to take it but nonetheless drove two hours to the testing facility, was only allowed to bring in two cough drops at a time, lest I had written out vocabulary words on the wrappers of my Celestial Seasonings herbal throat drops, took a computerized version that allowed me to take it at my own pace, but it still took over two hours and afterwards I felt like my brain had been scrubbed out with a Brillo pad. The whole ordeal was sort of an experiment in psychological torture for a perfectionist because when you get a question wrong, you get an easier question of the same nature that is worth fewer points. So if you ball something up early on and get repeaters, you KNOW that you just messed something up and are watching your ability to get into a good school ebb away with each mouse click, so it makes you even more nervous and apt to make mistakes. I’m not making excuses, but as someone who has always scored within the 99th percentile on standardized tests, that 78th percentile score was very upsetting. So no, admin boy, I am not planning to retake the stupid GRE. No. No I am not.

I postponed answering his email until the end of the day and then tried to keep it light and chirpy, refraining from calling him a cocksucker. I explained that I didn’t think there was enough time to prepare for and retake the test and what could we do to proceed with the application. He replied this morning and said that generally, the old scores were enough to deny admission and it would be up to the committee.

Wow. So maybe that was the reason that every program last year said ‘No Thank You’ save for the one program that did not require GRE scores? Maybe someone from any of these programs could have’I don’t know’mentioned that the scores were worthless?

By the way, Dr. Frank is the head of the committee, so take one guess as to that decision. Unless my delightful professor has some pull and takes pity on me. We shall see. Not that it matters anyway, I guess. It’s become my windmill now.