Wednesday, October 04, 2006

First Impressions

At work, I've been working on catching up on emails sent to our department account. It had been forgotten since October 2005, leaving me with 844 messages (not including the spam in quarantine).

Many of the messages were prospective graduate students just asking questions or requesting information for our department. Come springtime, the questions became, "Did you receive all of my materials?" and "What's the status of my application?" One amusing international student, becoming frustrated with no reply, began sending the same message at frequent intervals. Once he became especially desperate and we received his message once per minute. I imagine him home late at night, disgruntled with us, pounding the Send button over and over. (I must add, though, I felt guilty many of these waited without receiving a response, which is not professional, but seeing as how I wasn't responsible for the lapse, I'm trying to find some humor in the work.)

I faced this daunting task and have now caught up with all the messages that needed attention. However, I must mention that, although I may just be a conduit for these messages, there's no way anyone addressing messages to that address knows it's me versus the director of graduate students or the chair of the department. This is why I was surprised to read the following message:

To whom it may concern

I was wondering if i coudl get some information on your biology
programs. I am requesting this so i can make a decision on where i hsould attend for graduate studies.

[Name withheld to protect him from humiliation and justified censure]

I recognize it sure can be tricky to hold down Shift as well as press another key in order to create a capital letter. And have you ever actually tried to run spellcheck or glance through your message before relegating it to your Outbox? Because that is just tiresome. But when you're hoping to be a potential graduate student in a prominent university known for their strong academic tradition, shouldn't you make the effort?

In short, I responded, but he's fortunate that I don't make the admission decisions. Let's hope, if he does apply, he puts a little more thought into his application. And that this message was not characteristic of his work, instead being written under the influence of cold medicine.

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