How to NOT get into Grad School

I don’t talk about work on here. I love my job and would like to keep it that way. So, I’m going to try and keep this as vague as possible. Bear with me.

Hypothetically, I may or may not work at a higher learning institution, in the admission office of a graduate program that shall remain nameless. This program that I may or may not work for is very competitive and prides itself on admitting only the best and the brightest. With that said, it’s possible (hypothetically speaking) that I encounter some pretty wacky stuff on a daily basis.

Therefore, I have come up with a list of sorts that I would like to share. Think of it like a Public Service Announcement. (FYI. This is just general life advice. This is not specific to academia. Because really, I may or may not know anything about that)

How NOT to get into that school OR land that job OR make a good impression.

1. Whenever you’re corresponding with a prospective school/company/contact never use punctuation, EVER. Send emails that look like this “What are your admission criteria are because I have always wanted to do a degree at your school I need to know right away what they are you know my GPA is below average but I am working on it please send me the details so that I can see because I have an internship coming up please send the info soon because I need to know“. Make sure you send all your emails first thing in the morning so that when the under-caffeinated admission assistant opens your mail she thinks “WHAT THE _____ are they talking about?!”

2. If you want to take things a step further, make sure your emails are written as if a thirteen year old girl texted them: “Whut R UR admission criteria R becuz I have alwayz wanted to do a deg. @ UR skool I need 2 know rite away whut they R u know my GPA iz below avg but i am workin on it pleez send me detailz so that i can see becuz i have an internship coming up pleez send the info soon becuz i need 2 know“. Abbreviate everything. Do not leave an “I” capitalized or an “S” not turned into a “Z”. MAKE THE ADMISSION STAFF’S EYES BLEED. COME ON. WE DARE YOU.

3. If you come from a country where English is not the native language and you choose to take an “English Name” for application purposes, DO NOT pick something ordinary like Ricky, Johnny or Sam. Challenge yourself to be as outlandish as possible. We suggest you pay homage to the heroes of the 80’s and choose a name like Hulk, Mr.T or Rocky. If you are female, decide to call yourself Cherry Surprise.

4. Whenever you’re corresponding with someone from a prospective school/company never refer to them using the correct name. If their name is Susan, call them Shannon. If their name is Simone, call them Joseph. Eventually when I have to forward your email to my superior, the following conversation should take place:

“Who’s Joseph?”
“That’s me”
“Who’s Hulk?”
“That’s the applicant”
“Who is Wei Chen Fong?”
“That’s also the applicant”
“I’m confused”
“Me too”

5. While you’re at it, make sure you refer to the wrong school/company. If you’re applying for NYU say you’re applying to UCLA. If you’re interested in McGill, say you’re interested in York. If can swing it, also misspell the actual degree. A PdH is a real degree…right?

6. Pick an email like “downtownCampusStalker69@” or “knifemaster82@” that suggests YOU WILL HUNT US DOWN AND KILL US if we don’t admit/hire you.

7. Call us and ask for information on our policies. Argue with us then hang up mid-conversation.

8. Say you’re going to show up somewhere and then just don’t. Lie to us afterward and say “I was at the interview, I just couldn’t find you”. Because after all, life is one big Where’s Waldo Book.

9. Go into a 20 minute long personal narrative that sounds something like this “So, my grades are really horrible but it’s not because I’m stupid, its because I belonged to a fraternity….I mean, its normal to drink your way through college right?…..and then in the early 2000’s I went bankrupt….and that’s about the time my first wife left me…. they re-possessed my truck….I miss my truck…. I’m hoping to get it back someday if I can pay off my credit cards….I really need to get into this program to impress this “special gurl” I met up in “Canadia” …, what are my chances?”. This is even more effective if your voice sounds like a cross between Kenneth Parcell and Ned Flanders. Make sure you throw in a few “gosh darn diggity dog I reckon I need to get into the program!” -isms and repeatedly refer to the admission committee as “ALL Y’ALL”. We call this technique, “Turning your Admission Meeting into a Country Song”.

10. Show up at my office to talk about the program. Give me the Oh hello Pervert Googly Eyes and giggle nervously as I talk to you from the other side of the desk (you know exactly what I’m talking about). After the meeting is over, lurk conspicuously in the hallway outside my door. Ten minutes later present yourself again and say “I’m sorry, but I never got to introduce myself…or shake your hand” (COME ON. TOUCH HER! DO IT! SHE’S DRESSED LIKE A SEXY TEACHER! DO IT!) Extend your hand, which is slicked with what we can only hope is sweat or water and shake my hand vigorously. If I don’t reach for the Purel as soon as you leave, you have failed at the wet handshake. (Hypothetically speaking, this exact scene may or may not have happened this afternoon)

This is not an absolute list. Doing any of these things will not guarantee that you won’t get into the program of your choice (with exception of maybe #7-9). It will however guarantee that you’ll make the person on the other end want to bang their head on their keyboard, like I am about to do right now.


Anyone have anything to add to the list?

  • E.M.

    (And I may or may not have experience with this, too.)

    Never, ever refer to the program’s website or other published materials, as they will tell you nothing you need to know. Instead, go to the program’s admissions FAQ, copy only the questions, and send them verbatim to the admissions assistant. Better yet, send the questions to the admissions assistant, the department administrator, and the faculty advisor for graduate studies.

    • Anonymous

      OMG. YES. ALL OF IT.

      It definitely sounds like you may or may not have experience with this.