I like to keep my rejection letters. Well, at least some of them. I don’t think I kept the multitude of graduate school rejection letters because that would be depressing…..not to mention hefty to tote around. Why do I keep them? In the not so distant past, I kept them to justify my feelings of doubt and worthlessness when I was in the depths of despair. But let’s face it; that is a rather disturbing and depressing image no matter how true. Instead, I like to imagine that I keep them so that I can stick it to the man when I am rich and famous:
“See you fools!? You rejected me. Now you can weep and mourn over your short-sightedness and your pathetic show of favoritism and nepotism. I triumph over all those who seek to repress me!”
I mention this because I recently received another such letter. Not to long ago, I applied for a fellowship which “provides a unique educational experience to students who have an interest in ocean, coastal, and
The application is a multi-step process with two “weeding” of applicants, one at the state level and another at the national level. I made it past the state level but not the federal. But lucky for me, and for my fragile self image, the national committee sends backs comments on your application, which is what I am going to share with you today.
As part of my application, I had to send all college transcripts, both graduate and undergraduate, an academic CV with a listing of classes that I will take prior to finishing my Masters, three letters of recommendation: two that I supplied and one from the state office after they chose me to proceed in the process, and a personal statement.
Yeah yeah. No big deal. Either you have the good grades or you don’t. Hopefully, the people that you ask will write you decent recommendation, etc. We all know what makes or break the deal with these applications. It is The Personal Statement. Or the essay from Hell as I like to call it. It has to be the most painful piece of writing that a person is asked to do in her lifetime. There is nothing more uninspiring and mind-sucking.
For this particular application I had to write a statement that “emphasized the applicant’s abilities, career goals, applicant’s expectations from the experience for career development, and relevance of background to seeking [the fellowship].”
Let’s take a moment to look at the bolded words, shall we? I took them seriously that they indeed wanted this information and tailored my essay accordingly, whipping out my mad creative writing skills to compose such uninteresting prose.
These are their comments:
“The applicant had very good academic credentials…..[yadda yadda yadda]. She has quite a bit of quantitative scientific course work…..[yadda yadda yadda]. She has a broad and varied research background….[yadda yadda yadda].”
“The reviewers felt that the applicant wrote a clear, succinct, and logical statement that demonstrated her strong writing skills.”
“The applicant has strong academic and research credentials and has learned very valuable skills that are applicable to a career in resource management.”
So far, not so bad right? So why didn’t they choose me?
“There was very little information about the applicant’s additional qualifications (extracurricular activities, etc.). Her personal statement could have been more personal and less focused on her technical background.”
“We would have liked additional insight into who she is as a person and what motivates her.”
“The letters focused primarily (i.e., too much) on her strong scientific skills, but did also discuss her work ethic, people skills, writing skills, and confidence.”
Oh. I’m sorry. I thought this was an award based fellowship not a personality contest. I guess I could have written a warm fuzzy personal statement about how there was this one time that I swam with the dolphins, and this experience made me decide on the spot to become a marine biologist and dedicate my life to dolphin preservation. However, I decided to avoid the cliché route and actually Answer The Question. Note to self. Always go with the cliché.
And extracurricular activities? Give me a break. Are we still in high school? I hate to break it to you folks, but a stellar academic background and research experience leaves very little time left over for extracurricular. I don’t have time to join various clubs that engage in beach cleanup and pointless meetings. And regarding wanting more personal information? I mean, I could have mentioned my Jane Austen obsession, my general weakness for period drama, my love of steamy young adult romance involving body snatchers and humans, and my propensity towards blogging, but somehow, I thought they would want RELEVANT information. And finally, what is with this too great of focus on my strong scientific skills. Do you want someone with paltry scientific skills? Isn’t this in fact the whole point of the fellowship? Are they saying that I am too qualified? Wow!
So, yeah. I fantasize about being in a position of power and prestige where I could go back to this committee, swathed in my glory and radiance, and tell them to Just Go Suck It.