Wednesday, 19 November, 2008

Silly numbers

I refrain from writing about personal experiences, especially bitter ones, for fear of sounding like a cry baby. But this one is an example of such downright stupidity and high-handedness, that I cannot but put it on record.

I had asked several American universities if they'd accept my 3-year BS degree as minimum qualification for their MBA programmes. Some replied they won't, because, according to them it wasn't equivalent to an American 4-year degree. Some said they would. And some wanted my numbers evaluated by a 3rd party.

There was no question of applying with the first group; and I generally steered clear of the third. But one course I badly want to attend wanted the 3rd party evaluation, so I had to approach one of the agencies. So far, so bad.

I sent them copies of my transcript, attested by my university. On receiving them, they sent me mail confirming they had the documents, and saying my marks will be evaluated in a week or so, but I can hurry the process by making an extra payment. Since the last data for the application in question was in February 09, I didn't may any extra payment.

On the promised data, I went online to see my results. To my shock, it said my numbers couldn't be evaluated because I hadn't sent them a copy of my diploma or a provisional certificate. Now, my university's transcript clearly states that it doubles as a provisional certificate. Besides, the final certificate, which I got four whole years after passing, doesn't even carry my percentage. I couldn't see why they needed it. Even if there was a reason, why did they wait so long to tell me that my application was incomplete. Clearly, they hadn't opened the envelope till the day on which they were to deliver the evaluation.

Anyway, I called them up, after a futile search for an email ID. And was put on hold. A recorded message informed me that the average on-hold time was 12 minutes! My any standards, this is pathetic. Worse, the time kept changing every half a minute. Once it the 7 minutes 36 seconds, then 10 & 42, and then 13 & 3... This was technology without commonsense. Instant averaging for the sake of it, never mind if it mislead and irritated callers.

Finally, someone turned up. “Why do you want a copy of this diploma?” “Because that's the policy, and it applies to everyone, not just you.” “Of course, but why do you have such a policy, more so when the transcript clearly says it's a provisional certificate?” “To make sure you really took the diploma you say you have.” “And why should an university attest its 15-year-old transcript if I hadn't? Never mind, do you have an email ID to which I can mail a scanned copy?” “No. You have to fax it.”

So I faxed a copy the next day. And went through another 12-minute wait, whence I was informed that the executive (clerk is far more apt) had no clue if my fax had reached.

But today was the worst, because I got my marks. Apparently, my BS is equivalent to a GPA of 2.85. I knew I hadn't done well, managing just 59% in those bad old days, but I was pretty sure I was a better student than this. So how did I fall so hard?

I looked up their evaluation method. This depends on two things: (a) the credits assigned to a paper and (B) the grade equivalent of your score in it. I need that quarrel with the latter, but the former left me flabbergasted.

In my university, University of Calcuatta, at my time, 1993, a student's BS percentage and class (1st or 2nd) depended solely on his eight Honours subject (3 Theory & 1 Practical in Part 1; 2 Theory & 1 Practical in Part 2).

He merely had to get through his two Pass papers in Part 1, after which both were discontinued. The English papers didn't count at all.

So, one can reasonably expect maximum and equal weight to all Honours papers, less weight to the Pass papers, and none for English.

Instead, this evaluation agency assigned the same weight to all papers, Honours and Pass and English – except the two Part 2 (Honours) practical papers!

Every market struggles with exchange rates. I wonder how many accept whimsical balderdash, topped with horrible service, as the solution?

PS: When I tried to complain online, I found their email takes only 255 charecters. I asked for an ID, and was told to fax.

PS: It's 3rd December today, a week since I faxed them my points. I haven't even got an acknowledgement. 

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