June 21, 2010

Ask, and You Shall Be Mocked

From an unnamed university in the greater San Francisco Bay Area...

A major portion of my job is answering questions. By email, in person, over the phone, I answer questions about our admissions criteria, application procedures, academic policies, course availability, etc. It's pretty hard to have a job in higher education administration without answering a lot of questions.

I like knowing things that other people don't. I like telling them what to do. It usually works out great. But sometimes their questions are so incredibly stupid that I cannot take any joy in having special knowledge. Usually I don't get bombarded with idiotic inquiries until our application deadline gets closer, but today has been an exception.

I had a 10:00am appointment with an international prospective student from Nepal. She arrived shortly after 10:00am and announced that she was looking for me. "I'm right here, you made it, have a seat." "I called on Thursday to meet with you but you said you didn't have time and didn't work on Fridays, so I should come at 10:00am on Monday." "Yep. And here you are. Have a seat." "You want me to sit in this chair?" "Please."

Now this part was fine; it's her first time in the US and I've worked with enough international students to know to make allowances for cultural differences. What followed though was evidence that while this student had done her research and knew a lot about our admissions requirements and costs, but was hoping that none of them would apply to her. "Do I really need to submit 3 work samples?" "Would I have to pay that money?" I tried my best not to be condescending as I assured her that no exceptions were made to either our admissions policies or our tuition, even for people who considered our university "a dream."

I also received an email from a prospective student asking if I could tell her her chances of being admitted to our program. I mean, technically they're about 1 in 5 because we admit around 20% of our applicants, but I think she meant that based on the 3 pieces of information about herself that she gave me, what chance did she stand in our applicant pool? I wrote back telling her that I am unable to speculate as to anyone's chances of being admitted and she wrote back wanting to know who could tell her if not me. It was all I could do not to just write back "Nostradamus".

Finally, I just responded to my least favorite kind of email, the super open-ended one. The phrasing may differ but the person is basically saying "do all my research for me." Today's came in the form of "can you tell me what information about your program is not on your website?" but most commonly comes as "is there anything else I need to know about your program?"

Yes. You're too dumb for it.

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