Sunday, March 6, 2011

Applications out my ears

My work life has grown increasingly stressful over the past few weeks. After plowing through a busy fall season of recruitment at the UNC School of Social Work while my boss Sharon was out on maternity leave, we had a brief moment to catch our breath over the holidays when Sharon returned to work, and then we launched together into the admissions season.

This year our program received 500+ applications, and with the introduction of a University-wide PeopleSoft computer system that was supposed to ease the application process (but has actually made the process a living nightmare), push has definitely come to shove. In mid-January I approached Sharon and basically said, look, we're never going to get through this alive with the hours I'm currently working, so if you can find money in the budget, Marcos has agreed to be flexible so that I can work 30 hours a week instead of 20 for the next two months.

And let me tell you, the change to 30 hours has been really difficult! My in-office days have lengthened quite a bit, and although I was able to negotiate continuing to stay home two days a week with Gigi, I have to work quite a few hours from home on those days. I know that most grown ups work 40 hours a week, so I'm not complaining, but with my responsibility to be with Gigi a few days, and working 30 hours, I often feel very stretched out. I thrive with the challenge, and I love being busy, but there were a few days this past week when I was ready to pull my hair out. Luckily, there are just a few more weeks of powering through the bulk of admissions before we have made all of our decisions, and I can go back down to 20 hours.

My boss Sharon and me at my graduation in 2009

So to capture the work that fills my brain as of late, I've decided to list some things that I have learned from the admissions process. The vast majority of our applicants are very inspiring, but a few of them have reminded me of a few important things:
  1. If you are applying to graduate programs, make sure you consistently use the proper name of the school you are applying to. Writing a letter that starts with, "Dear UNC Admissions Committee: The reason I want to attend Columbia is..." does not impress anyone.
  2. If you are applying to graduate programs, don't have the family for whom you babysat write one of your letters of recommendation. Just don't.
  3. If your life has been eternally altered by a quote you once heard and you have to write about it in your personal statement, please make it a good one. You are one of a billion people whose pivotal moment in life occurred when you came across a quote, so for the love, make it a good one!
  4. If you are applying for graduate school and you feel like a certain program is taking forever to get back to you with their admissions decision (and you don't know that they are being held up by a ferocious new computer system), don't send snotty emails to the assistant to the Director of Admissions. That assistant may be rating your application.


Kim said...

I love the 4 lessons you learned! That sounds like you have seen some seriously awesome applications! Haha

m.a. said...

Love the tips Metta - sounds like fun reading!

Mariko said...

Good to know, since I just applied to a program. Luckily I did none of those things, so my application must be a shoo-in. Right?
Of course, I did all that work to apply and I probably won't end up going even if they accept me.
Hey, working 30 hours a week in education is like work 60 hours a week in the real world. :)

Unknown said...

So, what do you exactly do for work? I have actually been curious how you have been managing work and Gigi because I kind of have a similar life style. I worked 40 hrs a week from when Adeline was 12 wks old until she was like 5 months. Then, I dropped a few hours and am working 32 hours a week. So, I totally understand how difficult it is!