Saturday, December 22, 2007

A journey of a thousand miles...

I've been contemplating, for some time, starting a blog about my experiences as a female geologist (and continuing geology student). I've recently discovered a number of other geology and science-related blogs, and I find their discourse stimulating, informative, and in many cases enlightening. It's useful to me as a student to have insight into the thoughts of professors and older scientists, and it's often easier to discover it through print than conversation, since my interactions are usually limited to my undergraduate department, conferences or the occasional research collaboration. All of these are useful, but I feel like there's very little discourse among students about what it's like to be in the formative years of your career.

FemaleScienceProfessor's blog is one of the most interesting to me, since she describes not only the internal workings of an academic science department but the experiences she's had as a woman and a scientist. I've been lucky so far to never encounter the kind of chauvenism and callousness she's had to deal with, and perhaps that's a result of my choice of geology for a field of study. She's never really specified what field she works in, and I don't want to try and guess because I'd rather not start out with any preconceived notions of what I might be getting myself into. I hope that I'll be fortunate enough to avoid those difficulties, though I'm not so naiive that I believe that will never be the case.

At any rate, I'm currently working (quite happily) for a non-profit geoscience organization where I get to help promote geology, but I'm very eager to continue my studies in graduate school, and to that end I'm deep in the throes of graduate school applications. I'm finding that I alternate between enthusiasm for the prospect of starting the next phase of my career, and total disgust for the amount of crap I have to deal with just to complete an application. Every time I turn around there's another form that has to be signed, letter to be requested, essay to write, or transcript request to pay for and send in.

The transcript requests are what really annoy me. Out of three schools and the GREs that I have to get transcripts or scores from, only ONE school doesn't charge for a transcript request - and that's the community college! I understand that these institutions need money to operate, but isn't the money that I paid to TAKE these classes in the first place enough to cover postage and the cost of a few pieces of paper with official stamps? The GREs are especially galling. I only had to pay more than a hundred dollars to take the damned test in the first place - on ridiculously outdated computers, no less - and it costs me another $15 every time I need a copy of the scores. Ridiculous. They're MY scores; I earned them. I paid to take the classes and the test. It strikes me as slightly petty to charge students an additional fee simply to have access to something that rightfully belongs to them.

Anyway, the application slogging continues; I hope to be done with them before the New Year rolls around. Two down and four to go - thank goodness that all of them are online, at least partially. (And I have to wonder who gets the processing fee that goes along with some - though not all - of the applications. If it's being used to pay for printing all the paperwork I'm submitting, and to pay the salaries of the people who have to process and file it, then I suppose it's appropriate that I get charged. I won't begrudge them that.)

Then, I suppose, the waiting game begins. I was lucky enough as an undergraduate to be accepted early admission to my college of choice, so I didn't have to complete multiple applications and agonize about which ones were going to result in acceptance letters. I guess it's my time to give up the blood and sweat I didn't pay out the last time.

Wish me luck, blogosphere!


Ron Schott said...

Good Luck, Tuff Cookie!

I'm subscribed to your blog and eager to follow your progress. Just remember that a bigger part of grad school than you'd care to think is about jumping through hoops. Depressing, but hardly worth dwelling on it. Keep focused on the goal and enjoy all the great geology along the way!


Tuff Cookie said...

Thank you! I'm looking forward to it - even the hoops. Adversity builds character, I've heard.

Of course, if I gain too much character people will think I'm even more insane than I already am. Tradeoffs, tradeoffs.

Kim said...

I just found your blog via a link from Ron's. You know, I had never really thought about where the application fees go. When I applied, back in the Cretaceous, I sent paper letters to the schools, and they sent glossy brochures back to me. I imagine that some of the fees paid the expenses of printing and distributing all that propaganda. But maybe the application fees also are a way of weeding out applicants who aren't serious - because the admissions committee's time is also important, and they don't really want to read applications from people who don't really want to go to their grad school.

And then maybe the money goes to buy chips and beer for after the department seminars.

(Good luck with the applications!)


Kim said...

(And I forgot to say: great blog name!)

Tuff Cookie said...

Another thank you! I always wanted to graduate Magma Cum Laude, but they wouldn't print that on the diploma.

Weeding out is a good hypothesis. I definitely wouldn't be dropping a few hundred dollars on this if I weren't serious. (If I didn't have a job, I really wouldn't be, which makes me pity my friends who had to pay to apply during their senior year.)

And hey, as long as I eventually get to partake in the pizza and beer, it's all good.