Tuesday, July 13, 2004

GRE Fee Waivers: Designed to Discourage Use

Many colleges and testing services offer admission fee waivers to students who need them. In the case of a GRE test this can make a big difference, since it is $115 per test. If you’re applying to an English literature program, you will also probably need to take the English Literature Subject Test. That adds up to $230 in exchange for the privilege of taking a test. And they’re not even easy to use. First off, they’re released in the middle of the summer when students are not typically at college or able to get the proper signatures, forms, and seals necessary to fill out the waiver form. It is also nearly impossible to contact the GRE administrators, as they do not have a toll free number, nor a competent person answering emails [example: I had very simple questions (when and where can I obtain a 2004/05 fee waiver form? How am I supposed to fill that form out with school officials’ signatures when I’m home in Oregon for the summer and the signatures are in South Hadley, MA?). The emails I received in response were clearly answered by someone who did not understand my questions in the first place].

The result of this big mess? The office of financial assistance first gave me a 2003-04 fee waiver form, which I proceeded to fill out. Then I realized that in very fine print it restricted the time I had to take the test – if I didn’t take the test by June 2004, I was screwed and would have to pay for it. Kind of a problem since in my mind 2004 means Jan. 1st 2004 until Dec. 31st, 2004! So that fee waiver had to be returned to the office of F.A. (since they can only give out one form to each student). Luckily they took it back, and informed me that the 2004-2005 school year waiver wouldn’t be available until July 1st, 2004. The director assured me that she could send the completed form to me over the summer, and gave me her card.

So two weeks ago I emailed her, without a response. After emailing again yesterday, she claimed to have already sent the form to my Oregon address. (Still waiting for Mum to confirm that she’s gotten it.) The director also told me that she had not gotten the required registrar’s seal on the form, and that they would need my student ID to do so. Not able to just drive out to South Hadley during business hours to flash my MHC ID, I emailed the registrar to ask about how to obtain this seal. The solution (from a very helpful registrar, I might add) is for me to have Mum send in the fee waiver form with a SASE. Then it will be sent to me -- registrar’s seal and all. It might be a good idea to note at this point that none of this is MHC’s fault – they’re doing everything they can to help me, and it’s still a “conundrum”!

The next leg of this journey will be trying to actually register for the test. The GRE people make this difficult, too (of course). Fee waiver students can only use one fee waiver, so they must decide when they are taking the subject test and the general test ahead of time. We can only register by snail mail, so we’d better decide fast to book our seats in time. I have no idea what will happen if I try to register for a time and location that is filled up. Will they send my fee waiver form back and make me re-register altogether for both dates? What happens if they don’t send me the form back for a month and I have no idea if I’m even registered or not?

This story will surely be continued at a later date…

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