Friday, January 23, 2009
"I got no strings to hold me down"
Two weeks ago I got an email from Columbia…
Happy New Year. I hope this email finds you well. The admissions committee is in the process of reviewing your application file and I was asked to see if you would be willing to take the biostatistics placement exam. It will help the committee in their decision-making process…
I nearly shat myself. My heart started racing. Biostatistics? Test? Now? Are you kidding me? It didn’t help that I read this email at 8 in the morning after a four night stretch at work. As tempted as I was to just shoot back and email saying, “NO!.” I knew that was essentially writing my own rejection letter. I did the next best thing and called the woman who sent me this email. Of course she wasn’t in the office, so I left a voicemail. Boy do I wish that she had the option to delete and re-record because I rambled and babbled and stumbled. I managed to leave her my number and the best times to reach me, but I hung up with a pit in my stomach.
Thankfully, I managed to fall asleep for a few hours that morning. I got up and went about my day (gym, grocery shopping, post office, shower, date with the firefighter). After a late night, I didn’t wake up until the 11 the next day. What’s waiting for me? A voicemail from the admissions woman. I had only missed her by twenty minutes; I quickly called her back. She picked right up. She sounded so happy and perky; I, on the other hand, sounded like a hoarse, stuffy nosed sick person. I apologized for my rambling message and she said, “ Well after reading your application it sounds like you have a very intense and exhausting job. No excuses necessary.” Phew! That made me feel better. I told her that I was glad we were able to speak in person. I had a few questions and felt that speaking was much more personal than email (bonus points?)
But onto the real issue at hand. What I wanted to know was if they wanted me to take the test because of a shortcoming on my transcript/performance, or if it was something they were asking all candidates to take? She quickly summarized why she had contacted me. She was a member of the admissions committee and they were in the middle of reviewing my application. They were very impressed with my undergraduate transcript (Ivy League, Magna Cum Laude), my letters of recommendation (two PhD’s well known researchers & the worlds best nurse- BSN, CCRN, MSW, NC, Reverend –I forget all of his other credentials), and my personal statement. However, what they were rather concerned about was my quantitative GRE score. My scores just didn’t match up with my other credentials. That being the case, they felt that they needed me to take a placement test to determine my quantitative (math) capabilities.
I took in a deep breath and said, “Sure. When would you like me to take the exam.” She said, “Great! Here’s the name of the woman you need to contact about the test. Best of luck, Kelly.”
I hung up and sat motionless in my bed. I hadn’t taken a statistics class since my sophomore year of college, but I did get an (A). When I contacted the exam woman in the afternoon, she said that the sooner the better. I looked at my calendar. This was a Wednesday, that Friday I was beginning a 5 night stretch. I told her that due to my work schedule the earliest I could take the exam was the following Thursday. And that was that. Thursday at 10am. I no sooner hung up from her and ran out to the store to buy a review book.
Over the next week I did nothing but work (and study), work-out (and study. I’m sure the other gym members were like who’s the nut on the treadmill reading a statistics book?), and “sleep”/have nightmares of linear regression models, T-scores, and Z-scores.
Before I knew it, Thursday had arrived. I got up early that morning and was at the gym by 5 (sans review book). After a good sweat and steamy shower I set out for 168th and Riverside Drive. Oh yeah, WAYYYY up there across town. Knowing that public transportation would take almost an hour, I opted for the cab (gasp!). What I didn’t account for was morning rush hour traffic. I left my apartment at 8:50. I caught a cab at 9:20. Absurd! My stomach was in knots, my heart racing. The cab driver asked me if I was okay- I guess my voice was shaking as I told him where I needed to go. He was sweet and dropped me off right at the door, wishing me good luck as pulled away. I made my way to the sixth floor, knocked on the door, and then- test time!
The woman’s chipper personality made me more at ease. She led me to a barren room, I said a quick Our Father and Hail Mary and began. Forty minutes later I emerged and handed in my exam. She asked me to sit outside as she graded it. I could hear her turning the pages, it seemed like an eternity. She emerged from her office, paused, then said, “Congratulations, Kelly! 20 out of 21.” My stomach flopped, my head buzzed, I felt all warm and tingly. It may have been just a test, but it was a sweet victory for me.
And now all I have to do is wait for their decision….