The University Experience

Written by Lord Lansdowne

I just got off the phone with the post-secondary institution I've decided to enrol myself in. In order to start my education in my new field of choice, I wanted info on the documentation I had to provide. After my many visits and phone calls, I know for sure only one thing: I'm as confused as I was before.

Clearly the people that man the phones at the school are happy, happy students employed by the university. They know as much as you do, except they don't care. If you're looking for ambiguous, generic or useless information, they're the right people to ask.

I'm trying to find out whether or not I have included all the needed documentation for my application for this particular course, but the forms they sent me don't quite tell me anything. I may as well had asked for the meaning of life, the answers might've been more useful.

The form is so generic that I could use it to do my taxes, since it also makes as much sense. It seems more interested in getting you to take advantage of their affordable housing, (excuse me while I snicker here) than they are in giving you any information. Useful one, I mean.

"You may need one or more of the following additional documentation, depending on the course you're applying for," it states.

One of the fields for the documentation they want you to provide is helpfully labelled as, "Other - please specify."

Great, but since you know the course I am applying for, how hard would it be to just tell me what I need, rather than leaving it a big mystery, and on top of that, blaming me if I don't find out? If not that, at least make the details a little more accessible for the poor plebes like me.

I'm told I need to look at the lovely Fall of 2004 Pamphlet which outlines what is needed for me to submit in order to get accepted. Again, this pamphlet is designed to cover every possible question you will never ask, most of which are for every other course the university offers but yours. The best part, it manages to remain as generic as possible and leave everything in an 'but this policy may change, probably already has, and the new rules are posted in a dark corner, in a locked room to which you have no access to and it's your fault for not reading them.'

Much like your tax form, there is one thing they're particularly keen on being clear about, though: money. In the last letter confirming my initial application, there are three pieces of paper, and all three clearly state the amount they want, what the amount is for, who to pay it to, when they want it for and many convenient ways for me to pay it. That's actually awesome: it's pretty clear, I love that. Why can't the rest of your information be this good?

Anyway, the friendly, very friendly and incredibly knowledgeable student answering my queries tells me that all the info is available on the university's website. He gives me the URL, which is basically the triple double-u portion, followed by the name of the school and ending with the country code. That's it.

I don't work for the school, and I could've easily told you the exact same thing.

And have you ever tried to navigate a university's website? It's like trying to find a bit of info on the Microsoft website. You spend hours and hours circling around what you want, learning a whole bunch of things about your course you always knew, but never the one tiny bit that you need to know. Best of all, it looks like it was last updated in 1996, when Netscape was king and dull grey backgrounds were the norm.

Rumour has it that I'm even supposed to write an essay in order to be accepted in this course. I found this out from accidentally reading over a four-paged yellow sheet of paper that had, in a font almost unreadable, the possibility that this might be required. No additional information. Nobody has been able to tell me anything more, when it's due, the topic, nothing. The faculty looked as puzzled as I was when I asked and pointed me back to the website.

The course outline book is this fascinating little green book which contains generic information about the courses, all written in the most mundane and boring jargon they could ever muster. The best part of this booklet, which tells you things you're not really concerned with right now (I'm still in the accepting stage, they're telling me what courses I can take in year four) is that it comes with no page numbers.

Now, if this booklet was solely for my course, that would be fine. But the booklet covers about half a dozen other courses, some of which I can't figure out how they fit into my field. So you're sitting there and flipping page by page, trying to discover where your bachelor course info is hidden, because page numbers must be such a novelty in this universe.

Centennial College, suddenly, appears like a clear and organized school. That's a disturbing realization.

I've also been asked to submit (in duplicate, no less) my transcripts (which I had already submitted with my initial application) though no reason as to why this may be. Did they lose them already?

I haven't even started my classes yet and already I can envision the nightmares that this education (all so I can get a job that will actually hire me and provide me with a decent income, not because I'm particularly bored, you know) will bring forth.

So far, it seems that university can be summed up in the following:

A couple of students from University of Toronto, to whom I shared my newly discovered fun, smiled the smile of "been there, done that, ripped my hair out," and gently stated this is normal for Universities and that their school is far more arrogant and insane then the one I am applying for. Oh, I'm so lucky. In fact, I feel better already.

I'd like to think that I have everything that I need, including the $65 cheque just so they will actually look at what I am sending them, since I am applying via form 105 rather than form 101 (I actually understand this now, but it would take me several pages to explain it to you, so please don't ask) but I am still not entirely sure if I have everything they want.

That "Other - please make a fool of yourself trying to figure it out," bit has me wondering. I bet it's a trick.

I guess I'll spend tonight hunting down the information on their website. Apparently I have until March of 2004, so that should at least give me enough time to find the course's website, buried somewhere underneath pages and pages of university propaganda.