I did something really dumb in January. I was hoping that it wouldn’t come around and bite me, but it kinda did. And you know something, it could’ve been a lot worse. But it wasn’t because I got up my courage and asked for something and now it’s not as bad as it could be.
I didn’t write about it at the time because I wasn’t sure how it was going to end (and in the long run I’m still not) but after an update I got this week I’ve decided to share the ups and downs.
In January, I was finishing my applications for graduate school. I’d planned to work on them over Christmas, but some bad things happened over Christmas & New Year’s and then into January. Between my job, my consulting, and these extra factors (you’ll see below), I had a very hard time handling the stress of applying.
I was applying to three schools and got two applications in before the deadline. The third I got in just a couple days late. It would have been only a day late, but I decided to give myself another couple days to polish things once I realized the problem. Supporting docs were in within a week.
Rather than settling for the date I applied for, I decided to write to the college, explain my situation, and ask for consideration.
What I Wrote
Edited for some identifying information, of course:
My name is X and on February 6th, I completed my application to the X. I missed the deadline for Fall 2010 due to an ongoing family emergency and was hoping that because I submitted it so soon afterward it might be counted towards application for the Fall semester.
I had planned to use the time I took off for Christmas & New Year’s to complete my application to X and the other library science programs to which I’m applying. However, when we arrived for Christmas we found that my mother, who is fighting terminal carcinoid cancer, had taken a very bad turn the day before and was no longer able to eat or drink. As the eldest child, I took over making Christmas happen and helped my sister and father take care of her. Once we got ahold of her doctors, we discovered that the cancer had closed off her GI tract and that she’d need to be hospitalized until a surgery could be done.
I spent January balancing my day job, commitments to clients I’d booked for my small business back when I thought I’d have already finished my applications, and visiting Delaware in order to take care of the cleaning, and some of the cooking, and my mother herself. During January, my 87-year-old grandmother also broke her ribs in a car accident, so while I was up there I visited her too and helped out a little.
I worked on preparing applications, but between the time crunch and the mental and physical strain, I wasn’t able to get X’s submitted by the 31st. Once I knew I’d missed the deadline, I decided not to push everything in but took a couple days to get it right. I waited on sending this e-mail until the school reopened after last week’s record snowfalls.
I understand that my family’s crises are not anyone else’s crises. So I understand if you are unable to change the semester for which I’m applying. But I ask because I hope that there is something you can do for me. As you can see from my application, I have been an excellent student, I scored a 1580 on the GRE, and I believe my letters of recommendation are excellent (though I haven’t read them). I would like to get started on my graduate school career and my career as a librarian sooner rather than later.
If accepted, I would be attending part-time and would prioritize my life accordingly so that my studies don’t suffer. Since I have fulfilled my obligations at both my job and my small business and have cared for my family, I believe I can be an excellent graduate student as well. I underwent similar family emergencies in college and still graduated with a 3.91 GPA, with only one accommodation (taking a late final exam early in my Sophomore year so that I could be home when my mother got out of the hospital after a similar operation).
I am deeply grateful for your time and consideration.
Why I Wrote It
Because the worst that they can say is “no.” An admissions office isn’t going to say “No, and we hate you and never want to see you again so we’re going to throw out your application.” In fact, if one did I’m pretty sure you could appeal it. If they don’t say no, then you’re better off. If they do say no, then you’re no worse off.
And I wrote it because while, as I said, my family’s crises are not the school’s crises, I think that this was a legitimate reason to ask, even if they said no. And I wanted to make that clear, as well as the rarity of this occurence and my general ability to get things done, so they didn’t ask themselves “why admit her if she’s always going to need special consideration”? It’s true that I haven’t asked for special consideration from an employer or school since that one occasion.
Lastly, I wrote it because I think that I’m a student they would want. Not very modest, but when it comes to applying for things one can’t be too modest (I swear I’m much shyer about my achievements in real life).
What They Said
Yes. Sort-of. What they said was that they could shift me to Fall, but only by putting me on the waitlist so that the students who’d applied on time & been accepted had had a chance to accept/decline first. I could re-apply again if I wasn’t admitted. Of course, going on the waitlist would depend on the strength of my application.
It was about what I was expecting. I was late and therefore I shouldn’t be at the front of the line. This was also not my choice since it was local and the excellent online program I applied to would allow me to move out of area if necessary.
Where This Went
The first two schools accepted me. That would be great except that my top-choice school didn’t offer me enough of a scholarship for me to be able to attend full-time. I’m out-of-state and online, which means tuition would be $900+/credit hour if I went part-time and I can’t afford that.
The second school is a good one and I’d have 50% off tuition, but I’ve decided that I don’t want to go there. I found some information about the program at the third school (the deadline-missing one) which made me far more interested and even willing to wait a semester or two if I have to.
So the good news is that I did make it onto the waitlist until mid-July (when it dissolves). The bad news is that I have to reapply if I don’t make it in and I have to tell two of my references about it and ask for them to resend their recommendations (at least this school only asks for an e-mail). That’s far more embarrassing than writing about it on here. I’ve told the third reference already because she’s my boss and has been really supportive and we’ve been talking about this.
What I did wrong:
I didn’t apply earlier to give myself plenty of time. That was a big screwup on my part. I’d even gotten all the information together, I just waited to apply until too close to the deadline. I didn’t know something bad was going to happen, but if I were more responsible I would have allowed for that possibility.
I also should have prioritized the schools that I wanted to go to. A caveat on that one is that I this is my first-choice school NOW, but wasn’t when I applied. At the time, I didn’t have a particular piece of information which pushed this one solidly to tie for first-place, but that’s not an excuse because I didn’t look for it until after I applied and I should have before applying. If I had, this whole thing wouldn’t have happened.
They didn’t say no, not at all. I felt a lot better about it after I wrote the letter and got a response. I screwed up, I decided to take initiative, and now it’s possible that my screwup won’t be as bad as it could have been.
And worst case-scenario, I’ll start late (I do think they’ll accept me based on my other two acceptances and what I know about the school, otherwise I can go to the school which gives me 50% off). There’s even an option to take a couple classes ahead of time as a non-matriculating student and then apply them to my degree once I’m accepted.
My outlook is hopeful and positive, if a bit stressed over knowing exactly what I’ll be doing in the fall (it’s the uncertainty that’s getting me).
Why I Wrote About It Here
I had several reasons. I got the waitlist news this week and it’s been on my mind a lot since then. Also, this is kind of a follow-up to Monday’s post of advice…I sometimes give advice but some of it is based off of my own idiocy. And if I’m going to share the advice, maybe I should share the failures.
I see it as a concrete illustration of something I wrote about two years ago: the worst they can say is “no”. I was going to try to draw some sort of useful conclusion but I think I’m just going to share the story and how it worked out instead.
Also, this is a really convenient way to update my family and my blogging friends all at the same time about my general plans for the next year and where we are in those right now.
So there you have it. I screwed up. I made an attempt to fix. I partially succeeded. I’ll let you know whether I get in or not.