It’s pretty hard to hear “Don’t worry, you’ll definitely be accepted” from the Center for Global Engagement (CGE) when they said that exact same thing weeks before they rejected your initial application to study abroad.
Don’t get me wrong, the fact that we even have the opportunity to travel abroad is amazing and — from what I can tell — everything works out 99.9999 percent of the time. No one lied to me when they told me that I shouldn’t be worried about having to do a rewrite on my application to the Kenyon-Exeter program; I ended up getting into the program. In fact, I got my official acceptance email just 15 minutes after turning in my three-paragraph rewrite. But, if everything always works out in the end, why are people so scared of this process? Why did all the students who had to do rewrites all tell me the same thing — “I have no idea what I did wrong”? Why do so many people, probably some of the people reading this article, not even know what a rewrite is?
The answer to all of these questions is something that appears all too often in the Opinions section of the Collegian: We are suffering from a sizable lack of transparency. So let me clear a few things up for you.
A “rewrite” is what happens when “the committee” feels that an off-campus study applicant has failed to answer one or more of the application questions correctly. If you receive this email, you have to rush to schedule an appointment with the CGE (they fill up super fast!) and then wait patiently for them to tell you how you can fix your application.
When all of the sophomores thinking about studying abroad met in Rosse Hall last semester, it was never mentioned that a rewrite was a possibility. So when I got that email, I thought I was being denied. Then, once I calmed down enough to finish the email, all I knew was that I was going to have another chance to apply. The CGE refused to even tell me what questions I would have to rewrite before I got into their offices, leaving me to spend a day telling my friends how awesome it was that they got into their program, “but I’m not in my program, but I still might be able to get in, but I’m not really sure how.”
Turns out I — like most people who had to do rewrites — got the fourth question wrong. The question concerned “aspects of identity” that could be a “challenge” in the host country. While some people I talked to interpreted this as a “how diverse are you?” question (which was apparently wrong), others interpreted it as saying “prove to us that you know something about the culture of the country you are going to.”
The question was vague at best and apparently tripped up and angered enough people that the entire question will be rewritten for next year’s class. To me, this reads as a sign that the CGE realizes that it isn’t perfect and is making efforts to increase clarity to students but, frankly, this isn’t enough.
I’m not going to pretend to have some magic answer as to how to make applying to study abroad a more straightforward and transparent process, but I do have a few ideas: At the first off campus study meeting every fall, tell people what I was told only after freaking out about not being able to go abroad. Tell people that each year around 70 applicants will be asked to rewrite some of their application, that they will have a week to do it and that, in 14 years, only one student asked to do a rewrite has been turned down a second time. Don’t wait until after the interviews to allow students to access the application. Let students come in to talk to you with those questions in mind. And tell those students whose applications were accepted what to do next, because I know a lot of people who feel like they are at a standstill even after getting their acceptance email. When it comes to thinks like getting visas or additional applications, no one seems to know where to go from here.
The CGE was right — everything did turn out okay — but I think it would have been much better to hear why it would be okay at the beginning of this whole process than at what I thought was the end of it.
Devon Musgrave-Johnson is a film and English major from Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass. Contact her at email@example.com.