Saturday, December 25, 2004

she's so unusual

Letters of recommendation are, generally speaking, institutionalized acts of hyperbole that pose for reading committees the problem of trying to figure out what are the true sentiments lurking amidst all that lavish praise. Some places ask writers to fill out a form in addition to providing a letter, but the chronic problem with these forms is that writers just go through and fill in the best candidate for a student. In questionnaire research of any kind, when you have clumping on an extreme category, the usual solution is to add even more extreme categories, and this appears to be what Berkeley's graduate school is trying to do with its form. For "Please rate this applicant in terms of overall promise," you have 7 options:

1. Below average
2. Average
3. Somewhat above average
4. Good
5. Unusual
6. Outstanding
7. Truly exceptional

But, in addition to this, you can also check:

8. Best student this year
9. Best student in five years
10. Best student in ten years
11. Best student in _____ years

Missing, strangely, are "Best student there ever was" and "God."

(originally posted under a pseudonym to SconnieSoc)

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