Happy almost FAFSA-renewal day, fellow grads! The big day’s the 1st. I hope to sicken you all with how well-prepared I was this year and how smoothly everything went. (Please remember that if I am on top of this, it means I am procrastinating something else probably even more important.) My togetherness with the FAFSA renewal and my taxes (Yes, I’m done with those too --- hey, they’re easy to do if you have no money) stands in marked contrast to the previous years, when I discovered that trying to upload anything on the evening of the FAFSA deadline would make my browser first chug ever more slowly, then crash, and sometimes take down the computer with it. Or the years I couldn’t figure out how to estimate my taxes and income stuff, so I sat there trying to do my entire taxes (on paper! that’s how long I’ve been in this game, folks!) with less than three hours to the deadline of the FAFSA, the fed website still open forlornly on the computer, half-finished.
You may ask why, if I am so jaded and cynical as I claim, why am I not stickin’ it to The Man with some civil disobedience aka ignoring this sort of crap? (You must have skimmed that earlier parenthesis, didn’t you? Seriously, it’s either this or start a new chapter.) Well, sez the cynical me, at my school if we don’t fill out the renewal every single damn year, the trolls come out of the underground lake beneath the Administration Building and haul you back to their lair, where they beat you with teaspoons. And if you’re at a school where they don’t care or make you do this crap annually, I’m going to haul you off somewhere and beat you with teaspoons. While reading you bad 19th Century American epic poems.
Slightly more seriously, if our grad advisor discovers that there is no happy little check mark by your name on whatever secret list she gets, you will be considered Unhelpful, or even, A Troublemaker, and your name will be moved to the bottom of The List. This means that extra bits of money or useful information will not get sent your way, as it will first be distributed to the grad student Elect at the top of the list. Moving to the bottom of the list puts you among the preterit, the unchosen, the ones doomed to languish in the land of famine while the blessed dine at the table of scarce TA assignments, or even ascend to the Elysium of fellowship funding.* There are countless other ways to offend, and probably several ways to get back in the good graces of administrative trolls, but no clear rules on this are written, so when one discovers, or hears about, any effective remedies, one slavishly follows the appropriate rituals. Therefore, do not consider this accomplishment a sign of how organized I am, but how superstitious. I lay this burnt offering on the dark and terrible altars to bureaucracy.
* (Could I hash my metaphors/religious allusions any further? Hey, has anyone done a grad-school-as-Pilgrim’s-Progress thing yet?)