Thursday, January 3, 2008

The airport lounge of graduate admissions

Ever missed a connection at a major airport and found yourself sitting on some hardbacked chair covered with cracked naugahyde, wondering if you'll ever leave the confines of O'Hare/Phoenix/Philadelphia/Atlanta/Heathrow again, or whether it might be best to just stake out the best water fountain, buy all of the toothbrushes from the gift shop, sell them to other stranded passengers at gouging prices, and then charge admission at the water fountain? Does it make sense to stand in that refugee bread line snaking around terminals B and C, or make the best of a bad situation when, as is inevitable, the helpful airline employees tell you that you might as well get comfortable on your naugahyde because no one's EVER leaving?

A classic dilemma. Now that my applications are finished (provided that the University of Chicago acknowledges that it did indeed receive my transcripts and writing sample, as it says in the nice FedEx tracking information) I'm the naugahyde-bound passenger, waiting to see whether my connection comes through or whether this office at UCSD is the closest thing to a university I'll ever inhabit. People keep asking "how things are going?" in this sort of tentative way, perhaps how you'd ask a cancer patient if the latest tumor excision was successful without REALLY asking. Of course, I've no bloody clue how things are going. I sent off my applications, I did what I could with my writing sample and statement of purpose, paid ETS's highway tolls in both money and effort, and now I sit on my hands and wait until a group of professors give me the thumbs up or thumbs down. In the meantime, I keep studying Russian, chip away at my reading lists, and maybe work on a book. This book is actually my lifeline, because if I'm rejected everywhere come March 15, I'll have to look on something as positive progress towards a discernible goal. Also, I will move to Europe, acquire a gross of black turtlenecks, and start smoking unfiltered cigarettes. In a way, that doesn't sound so bad.

In the meantime, I've decided--in the interests of my second favorite virtue, total transparency--not only to post everything that happens to me in the meantime, but to put my statement of purpose, writing sample, and everything else related to my applications in the miscellaneous section of my website (primarily so I don't have to redesign my homepage webmap) in hopes of passing along some useful information, and entertaining dross, to future applicants to English PhD programs. If this gets me in trouble with various admissions committees, I'll be sure to post that fact as well, so that everyone can learn from my mistakes. ("Hey kids! Ever heard of Google? Google will keep you from pursuing your dreams!")

So enjoy, learn, and talk to me if you need a toothbrush.

Posted by Shannon Chamberlain @ 9:21 AM