On Readmission

Hi Friends,

It’s been a while. I’ve been busy earning money and spending it on cases of almond butter and toe socks. (I recently downloaded an app that tracks my spending. It’s…informative, scary, and not all that surprising). I’ve also been busy thinking (read: worrying) about re-enrolling in the school next fall. Warning: if you haven’t liked my rant-esque pieces in the past, change the tab in your browser now. Go back to Kim Kardashian’s Tumblr or the imaginary vacation you’re planning on Kayak. Go anywhere but here.

Readmission and medical leave have been hot topics this year. Not great timing for one PJ Fitzgerald, unfortunately. Most unfortunate, perhaps, is that the whole process of readmission has drained me of my energy to write and create…and it hasn’t even officially begun! So sad, so I had to do something. I took the time to sit down and think about it, to analyze what was really stressing me out. (If you’ve been following along, I’ve withheld the name of my University on this blog. I wrote the following as an op-ed and submitted it to the school paper; I did not feel inclined to change the name of my university for the sake of this post. Now that you know where I’m writing from, please don’t stalk me.) Here you have it, PJ’s thoughts on readmission:

To take a leave of absence from Yale, one must humble a bit. In an ambitious community such as this one, being “behind the curve” or “off schedule” is akin to leprosy. When a student admits that he has a problem that he must deal with away from Yale, he should be respected and supported, for he has made a healthy decision. It is courageous to leave your friends and your comfort zone in order to seek treatment, but beyond that, it is responsible. Unfortunately, this decision can be difficult for many reasons, including the University’s antiquated readmission policies.

I have had the unique experience of living in New Haven while on medical leave. From the outside, Yale is seductive and impressive in many ways, ways that are too good to desert. But I honestly think that if I had chosen to take my leave somewhere else, I might not have come back. The expectations Yale has for those of us on leave—and those not on leave—are too many. The pressure is palpable, the culture cut throat, at times.

Because of this intense nature, Yale requires that students on leave prove themselves ready to return. For the healthy and functioning individual, two courses, three interviews (to be completed in New Haven between June and August), two letters of rec, an essay, and a fifty dollar application fee may seem like something you could bang out one night after Woad’s*. But for those recovering from a medical trauma, for those coping with mental illness, and for those of us just trying to catch a breath along the way, this is a tall order.

Some (administrators?) might argue that if one finds it so overwhelming, perhaps one is not ready to return. I would argue that’s not the case, because for many, it seems, the most overwhelming aspect is cost. Yale forgets that we don’t all have $3,000 to spend on classes at a local university (most of which do not offer financial aid to visiting students). Yale forgets that it’s medical services, though inadequate at times, are a bargain and that seeking treatment at home can be a costly burden. Yale forgets that withholding a readmission decision until “late August” creates anxiety and stress for those us waiting to hear from the financial aid office. In short, Yale forgets us. At the moment we need her most. Yale is that boyfriend/girlfriend who totally supports you when you want to go to four parties in one night, but who stops responding to texts as soon as you reveal, or hint at, some emotional insecurity.

The whole process of readmission is a bit of a cluster-fuck, if you ask me. It’s unnecessarily cold and impersonal. In order to return, students must complete three interviews in person over the summer. The letter I received notes that they must occur between June 8 – August 12, but to keep in mind that deans are on leave from June 15 – August 9. Some simple math reveals that there is a twelve day window in which to make these appointments. We could give everyone a break and conduct the interviews over Skype, but instead students must schedule their summers (and spend their savings) around three appointments in New Haven. Why does Yale go out of its way to make cripples of the courageous?

To quote from the recent piece in YDN Weekend: “Legal issues govern withdrawal, and students who have to leave are unlikely to ever be pleased.” Perhaps there is some truth in this. Those of us on leave face extenuating circumstances, which often are not directly caused by Yale. We are by nature an unhappy lot, marginalized by our differences, unable to take part in day to day college life. I think I speak for many, though, when I say we would be made happier if our University would bend its policies, just a bit.

We are members of the Yale community who, for one reason or another, needed some time off. Yale dictates just how long we have to stay away (the policy states that for medical leave you must take off one semester in addition to the one you withdrew in, even if you withdraw in the first week of that semester.), and makes us jump through hoops to return. We should be given the opportunity to explain to the administration our cases on an individual basis without such stifling requirements. By stepping out of the main flow of things, we have taken the initiative to get better. The daunting readmission process seems to penalize us for doing so.

The one thing that gives me hope about rejoining this community is that Yale students speak up. That this issue was the focus of a YDN Weekend piece, and that I am not the first one to write on this topic, relieves me and reassures me that I want to return in the fall. Fingers crossed that the decision will be made in my favor; I guess time will tell.

*Woad’s is a Yale-only event at a local club, held every Wednesday.

I could rant for days, but I’ll call it quits for now. Hopefully this has been enough of a release that I can actually sit down and write something cool and personal, rather than a cool rebuke of some bullshit ivy league bureaucracy.

Until later,

PJ

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