Friday, January 12, 2007

Where We Get Some Confirmation from Patty the Paper Pusher - And We Send Patty Some Empathetic Love

I work for a scholarship assisting in placing students in universities, so while I am not a professor, I deal with the same students you do. Worse, I supposedly deal with the elite who have undergone extensive testing to ensure that they are the best of the best. And I can assure you that they treat me the same way they treat you.

Vague, rude emails with unrealistic demands such as: "This is Bob, I need you to stay over lunch break in case my friend can make it to your office to drop off my resume. Also, give me your cellphone number because sometimes your office line is busy."

Stupid requests that show their belief that they are just the neatest thing on the planet: "Hi, I need to have airfare home paid for by you guys for spring break because I need to do a lot of things. Like my girlfriend."

Phone calls on Sunday nights, to order me around, from the first few I was stupid enough to give the cell number to: "Yeah, I hope I'm not bothering you at 10pm on a Sunday but tomorrow morning please send the financial guarantee letter to the university and then call me to say you did it. I'll be waiting."

Refusing to hear what they don't want to hear: "Yeah, I know Harvard has a deadline of Jan 1 and requires the GRE. Could you call them up and tell them to change that? Well, why not? What if I get the documents to you on the 7th of Jan, could you lie and say you got them the 1st and it's your fault?"

Lacking any analytical skills: "Well I know you said Big State U was #4 in engineering and had three Nobel lauretes on its faculty and won more NASA contracts than all the other universities combined and has perfected android surgery but it's still like #80 on US News Ranking (for undergrad education). Isn't MIT better?"

Best of all, asking everyone in the building the same question, trying to get the right answer: "Well, YOU said 17 year olds aren't allowed to live in off-campus apartments, but the intern who's been here one month said he didn't think it was a problem. I'm telling your manager you were mean to me!"

On the other side of the spectrum are the useless kids who won this scholarship I can't imagine how: "You wrote that we needed to send our application documents to you. Does that mean we should send all the documents or just some of them? If so, which ones? And who should we send them to you? Also you said I should do that as soon as possible, but when should I do it by? Is next week ok?"

I see people on this site offer up theories on why kids act this way. Why aren't they taught how to treat adults with respect? I'm not a bureacrat climbing the coporate ladder. I like my job because I work with students (a lot of whom are polite, fun, and kind), and everyday I help kids who are bright get into good schools. Some of them are too poor to think about college without out help and that is gratifying. To be treated like a nameless bureacrat by those above me is bad enough. To be treated like a nameless bureacrat by a 17-year old kid is enraging.

More and more, I have to blame their parents and their mentors whom I also see in abundance, unlike, I really hope, their professors. Mom and Dad are convinced the kid is a genius and unique because she's in chess club and marching band. Their uncle comes in, with his buisness card from some big company, and basically tries to bribe me with free merchandise. Their Kiwanis Club head, who used to work for the government, pops up to threaten me with a tax audit if their protoge doesn't get into MIT. And everyone who even knows someone in the organization that funds our scholarships threatens to get me fired.

Who the hell are these people to put this kind of pressure on me for the sake of a kid? About something totally out of my hands. Yes, I could rewrite their admissions essay. I could maybe put their applications in a shiny binder so it looks nice. But really placement is in the hands of the university. And these kids walk around with these support systems around them. People willing to put the resources of all their connections to work for them. I'm all for supporting children, but this is sick.