Satire | An open letter to grad school

By Anne Marie Yurik, Senior Staff Columnist

Dear grad school,

I simply don’t know where to begin. Researching your programs online, reading your required prompts and slowly checking each and every aspect of my plea for acceptance to you obliterated me. You gaslit me more than any Carhartt-wearing indie boy ever could.

I remember four years ago when I submitted my undergraduate applications. I was one of those seniors who thought that college was a form of adulting. I thought it would bring me wisdom, independence and immense growth. I felt like a little caterpillar waiting to blossom into an educated and empowered butterfly.

Four years, a semester abroad, a personal health crisis and a pandemic later and I feel more like a roly poly than a beautiful butterfly. High school me hated the common application, disdained the process of begging teachers for letters of recommendation and took any moment I could to talk about how wiped out applying to college made me feel.

But you — oh grad school — showed me that I was just getting started. Not to invalidate my own feelings, but if I could see that young version of myself from the point I am standing in now, I would grab a skillet and start swinging.

Your applications made me feel like a contestant on “The Great British Baking Show” after they realize that they don’t have enough time to finish proving the bread, but they have to put it in the oven anyway. I know each application wasn’t a home run, but by the time I was half way through your process, it felt like I was swinging with a broken bat. 

I know I am talking about you as if only one grad school existed in the entire world, but think of it as a metaphor. Grad school is like a white boy’s Tinder: most have pictures with a fish, they probably list their height “bc apparently that matters” and there’s a slim chance that there are any photos other than group ones.

That just means that grad school — like white boy’s Tinders — have differences, but they’re subtle. Grad school applications are tiring regardless of whether you’re applying for a doctorate, a master’s, law school or medical school. The requirements will change and the way your undergrad looks is different, but the exhaustion feels the same.

I know that grad schools love to talk about themselves. They have marketing teams and social media teams and more teams than play in March Madness, if you asked me. I on the other hand have no teams or significant income to work with. I market myself like pudding — reliable, tasty and goes over well with older folks. 

But despite what you may think from the sheer number of columns that I write about my life, I don’t like talking about myself. I also don’t know how to talk about myself, so writing a personal statement felt uncomfortable. What is a life-changing moment when I know so many people overcome so many different things daily? 

How do I show you all the work and effort I put in, without sounding entitled? What would make me different from the thousands of qualified applicants you get each cycle? The whole process made me feel like a contestant on “The Bachelor” waiting for you to offer me a rose, except I didn’t get to go on vacation or any fun dates.

Your prompts and questions and requirements left me more lost than even the largest of Illinois corn mazes. Yet you amaze me, grad school. Despite the warnings and looks of dread that I received from many of your exes, I chased after you. Better yet, I chased after you and paid you throughout the entire process.

To be perfectly candid, if you were to be embodied by one person, it would be Mark Zuckerberg. You’re a bit shady, you like to pretend to be progressive and you have too much money. And even though you are the institutional equivalent to Mark Zuckerberg, I still spent hours painstakingly summarizing these last four years so I could sound impressive.

I think it would be fun if you got to know me a little more. I mean, I am going to be committed to you for a minimum of one year — or three in my case. Don’t you think you should know how I take my coffee? The answer is I don’t take coffee because I don’t like how it tastes.

You should also know that my favorite show is “Schitt’s Creek,” my favorite candy is a Take 5 and I like most shades of the color green. You should also note that about half of my personality traits center around being from the Midwest and the other half come from my astounding lack of any athleticism.

I know those facts seem inconsequential because you mainly care about the big picture items — GPA, test scores, resumé, personal statement, letters of recommendation. But this open letter to you, my dear, is also a letter to everyone else who was ensnared within your hypnotizing grasp.

You might be the next step I need to get to the future I want for myself, but you are not a determinant of my self worth. You do not know me. No four-page personal statement or polished resumé will tell you who I am. No interview or letter or recommendation will adequately measure my work, my time and my dedication. You can learn more about me from my Venmo transactions than the application you read. 

Dearest grad school, I humbly await your answer, but I regret to inform you that your decision does not change the things I have accomplished. Your admission does not validate my accomplishments or career at Pitt. Nor does your rejection negate the late work nights, the long days or the energy that I poured into the people and things I care about. 

I am more than my application and more than your decision.

Warm regards,

A very tired Fall 2021 applicant

Anne Marie typically writes about unapologetically doing her thing. Write to her at [email protected].