Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bending the rules

A good friend's daughter wanted to go to the summer program of a specific university. Problem was she had to be 16 before the program started but her birthday was a few weeks afterwards. My friend and his daughter decided to apply anyway and see if they got accepted. They did, some four months before the summer, and got it. They paid for the program, got her a visa, air tickets, and all the other preparations. But a couple of weeks before the start of the program they got a message from the university: the university had just realized she didn't meet the program's age requirements. She could not attend.

My friend called the university upset that they would first let her in then turn her down just two weeks before the program's start. The university was not at all apologetic, far from it, they were upset my friend's daughter had applied despite the fact that it was clear she didn't meet the age requirements. They felt that had been inappropriate.

I told the story to the boys and discussed the alternative approaches my friend could have taken:

1) Not apply.
2) Lie about her age.
3) Apply like they did.
4) Apply but add a cover letter mentioning the age issue and making an argument she would be fine age wise.
5) Inquiring before applying whether they would make an exemption and let her apply even though she was a few weeks short of the age requirement.

The boys quickly agreed that options 1, 2 & 3 were all bad. We debated whether 4 or 5 was better. The advantage of 4 was that it showed commitment and effort on part of the applicant before they had to decide whether to make an exemption. They could also potentially read the application and make an exemption if they liked the applicant. The downside of applying without getting the consent is that it was a bit "aggressive", sort of like showing up at someone's office (coming from far away) without having an appointment. Sometimes it works, sometimes it backfires.

We concluded #5 was probably best, particularly if the inquiry also included a bit of info about what made the applicant special.

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