Ever notice how every company, from the largest corporation in America to the smallest Mom and Pop store on Main Street, has relinquished control of their telephone to the relentlessly annoying and endlessly mind-boggling automated answering systems?
"For billing, press 6." "To check the status of your order, press 7." "For repairs and technical support, press 9."
Assuming you have figured out the correct menu item (which, by the way, has never really changed), you are, more often than not, no matter the time of day or night, relegated to the equivalent of telephony oblivion and greeted by the following recorded announcement:
"We are experiencing a higher than usual call volume at this time. You may continue to hold, or visit our website at ..."
Try as you might to reach a human being -- or reasonable facsimile thereof -- on the other end of the line, and you are stymied at every turn by what amounts to the telephonic version of the Borg [And believe us, resistance is futile!].
"To return to the main menu, press 1." "You may now say or press 4." "We're sorry. We did not understand your request. Goodbye!"
Or should you somehow break the code and reach a living, breathing person -- "The approximate wait time for the next agent is 27 minutes" -- you will, more than likely, be met by the scripted, the uninformed, the, "we apologize for the inconvenience" or "sorry, that's corporate policy."
If it seems that we've turned the simple, the personal, the common place into the complicated and frustrating, we have. Looking for a manager or supervisor? "Sorry, my supervisor is in a meeting" or "The managers are currently unavailable." [If you think there's no one either in charge or capable of making a decision or judgment call, you are correct!]
The personal touch? Gone. That semblance of human contact? Gone. The ability of one person to assist another person, to resolve the most mundane of issues, to think, to act, to actually "take care of it?" Long gone.
Call it a culture of corporate contempt. Contempt for reason, for logic, for rules and regulations, for the employee as well as the consumer. Contempt for civility, for human dignity, for what little is left in this day and age of our humanity.
What once took a two minute phone call to someone who could -- and did -- swiftly handle your matter to complete satisfaction, now takes hours, days, or never.
Yes, we've come a long way ...
Along parallel lines -- and why should this be any different? -- the college application and admissions process has gone from a college handbook, accompanied by a short, hand-written application to a few schools, needing little more than an assist from your friendly high school Guidance Counselor and a 25 cent stamp, to a cumbersome, all-consuming complex mission akin to landing a man on Pluto and safely returning him to Earth. [In many respects, the latter would be less unnerving and a quantifiably more enjoyable journey than the former.]
That easy to understand and no-brainer to complete application has evolved into the uncommonly unfathomable Common App, Supplements, School Forms and Naviance. The once and done SAT (Scholastic Achievement Test) has de-evolved into a flawed, if not fraud-riddled SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test), and a host of standardized options -- ACT, SAT II, PCAT, GRE, MCAT, LSAT, AP -- enough to make an Einstein's head spin. The entire application and admissions process, once a clear path at a practical pace and for a reasonable price, has grown into, to paraphrase Dwight Eisenhower on the rise of the military, the collegiate industrial complex. [Just think. College Board has added what one would presume to be a critical component to the SAT -- the Writing section -- largely ignored (the ability to write, reason, comprehend and communicate being highly overrated, we suppose) by almost every college and university. And yet, finding that angle in the isosceles triangle, or that word that escapes the latest edition of Webster's dictionary, remains paramount. Go figure!]
In their wake, an entire cottage -- no, McMansion -- industry of tutors, test preparers, books, videos, webinars and, yes (thank the good Lord!), college planners and coaches. From Kaplan to Princeton Review, College Board to the Universal Application, it's big bucks to the big time world of not just getting into college, but getting into the college you really want to spend the next four years at -- and then, paying for it all.
Yes, the culture of corporate contempt comes to campus. Contempt for logic. Contempt for sanity. Contempt for the pocketbook of student and parent alike. Contempt for all reason. Why, it almost makes us want to pitch a tent in Princeton, New Jersey and Occupy College Board!
What was, not all that long ago, a calm and dignified academic exercise, the college application and admissions process has degenerated into what is today an ugly, costly, time-engulfing and mind numbing game, almost without rules, certainly without rhyme, and most assuredly an assault upon our very humanity.
It once took little more than a telephone call to check on the status of your college application, and to actually speak, firsthand, with a real, live college admissions officer. Today, amidst the flurry of viewbooks, the onslaught of emails and the plethora of online status checkers (each with its own unique login), it's "For Admissions, press 3. For Financial Aid, press 5. For the office of the Bursar (what the heck is a Bursar?), press 8."
Oh, and one more thing [as you prepare to answer that awkward Common App demographic, "Are you Hispanic or Latino?" (as if this should either play into the admissions decision or be anybody's business!)]. . . "Para español, oprime el número dos."
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer.
Who knows what peril lurks in the college application and admissions process? The College Whisperer knows. . .
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