On the grad school application front, I have now heard back from two universities besides Visitation U. “Great White North U.” has made me a very nice offer, which would most likely involve Beorn and I applying for permanent resident status. Their program is excellent, but I’m not sure it’s realistic for us to move to such an expensive city and try to emmigrate and all.

On the other hand, one of the top rated programs in the U.S. sent me a rather strange acceptance letter. It went something like this…

Dear Breena,

Thank you for your application to the graduate program of the “Head Studies” Department at “Top State”. You are in the top third of the application pool. As a result, we are recommending to the Graduate School that you be admitted to the program. Congratulations! The fact that we let you in means you must have had a good application.

Although admission is good news, we haven’t worked out a financial aid package for you. Although we have already made some TA and RA offers, it is unclear how many more admission-with-aid packages will be available. You are among a group of 20 students who didn’t quite make the cut. In the next two or three weeks, I hope to contact you to make you the offer that you are undoubtedly waiting for!

We know you may have had good offers from “lesser” programs, but if you have independent funds to support tuition and living expenses, you are welcome to consider coming anyway. There is some chance that over the summer – or in subsequent semesters – we will be able to find an assistantship for you. But as of now, it is a case of wait-and-see. Thank you for your interest in “Top State”.

Dr. So-and-so
Chair, Graduate Admissions Committee

Jane Doe
Graduate Assistant

I modified the wording of the letter somewhat to protect the not-so-innocent, but not much. The tone is fairly true to the original. Notice that while the letter is officially signed my Dr. So-and-so, it was sent from the account of his graduate assistant. This letter has to be the worst acceptance letter of all time. It does not make me want to join their program, no matter how highly rated. In fact, I would like to email the chair and gently mention that I found the letter off-putting. Seriously, someone should learn how to write an acceptance letter. I know it isn’t a good idea to go telling tenured professors in my discipline how to do their jobs, but really, I could write a much better letter than that.

More realistically, I would like to write them and let them know that I have firm offers from other places and if they would like me to consider their program, they should up their game, but I’m almost certain that email would come out sarcastic. In any case, I think I should contact Dr. So-and-so directly rather than his staff person. To me it seems very rude for him to not take the time to write himself, at least for the first contact. It would only take a few minutes to cut and paste the letters. And twenty students on the waiting list? Frak, how many students did the let in?

Any suggestions?