The cost of applying
It costs a lot of money for prospective students to apply to most university programmes, and if you’re hedging your bets and applying to a lot of different places, the application fees add up very quickly. I dropped between $700 and $1000 in the past 12 months just on application fees. That’s not money going toward tuition. It didn’t pay for my MCAT, to say nothing about the prep materials. The only thing that money did was buy me the consideration of the admissions committees for all those different schools.
Does it seriously cost a university anywhere near $100 per applicant just for their consideration? What could the cost really be?
I have a pet conspiracy theory that this sort of practice is designed mainly to keep money and power within families and a certain social class. There is a serious financial barrier in place, keeping certain classes of students out of medical schools and the more prestigious schools. I have some discretionary income right now, so I can afford to apply to schools, but I feel like there is a justice issue here that should be addressed.
No information regarding when to expect a decision
Whenever anyone asks me about when I’ll know what I’m doing next year, the most truthful answer that I can give them on the subject is, “Whenever they feel like letting me know.”
Universities never give a straight answer about when one can expect a decision regarding admission. I realise that there is a bit of flexibility that is required, in that many of the students who are first offered positions in university programmes do not accept them, because they have also applied to many programmes at many schools, and a student can only accept offer of admission, and so multiple rounds of admissions-offers must be made. Not a big deal.
That said, if you’re in charge of deciding who does and does not get in to a university, you’ve probably got some pretty smart people who work for you, and I bet if they made it a priority and thought hard enough, you could probably give a date by which all decisions would be made, or a schedule for when rounds of admissions offers will be released.
(I haven’t thought this through, but it might be interesting for competitive university programmes’ admissions committees to get a Twitter account, and release information by tweeting. Something like: “Second round admissions done—4 more spots to fill,” or “All admissions decisions for autumn 2011 have been made.” Sort of a random thought.)
When I was admitted to McGill, I didn’t get the letter until May. That’s a long time to wait to find out what’s going to be happening in the next year. It’s hard to live like that—hoping that you get into one of these programmes, while they’re stringing you along, keeping your eye on viable alternate plans, but not being able to commit one way or the other to any of them. Housing is up in the air; one can’t commit to employment either. I really don’t mind waiting, but it is a really disrespectful way for universities to treat people—not knowing when or if you will ever get a response, and feeling like one has to be ready to pick up and run at a school’s whim.
Vague questions on the application itself
In contrast to undergraduate admissions, which are very straightforward by comparison, graduate and professional school applications always have essay questions that are very vague, and there is almost never a way to get clarification on what exactly is being asked for. I hate trying to play the “guess what I’m thinking” game. That is no measure of whether I am well-suited for your programme, unless I’m applying for some sort of school of clairvoyance, and if that was the case, then I would expect that the administration of such an establishment wouldn’t need an application to divine who would be a good student.
Bad feedback regarding receipt of application’s supporting documentation
When you have completed an online application, it is not uncommon for universities to provide an online “supporting document checklist” which is supposed to indicate which documents required for your application have and have not been received by the university.
I have yet to see one of these that is updated on anything close to a timely basis. I sent in all my supporting documents for my MSc(A) over a month ago, and yet none of them have shown up as having been received on the “supporting documents checklist.” I remember the same thing happening for my Memorial University MD application. It was over a month after everything was due that the checklist was finally updated to reflect that it had been received on time.
If I’m paying an average of $100 to each school I apply to, then I think the least they could do is spend a couple minutes when my transcript arrives to update their websites.