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Colleges are Bureaucratic

At every stage in the higher education process, colleges in the United States are extremely bureaucratic. Each college or university has its own set of rules and deadlines regarding admission, choice of courses, financial aid, submission of academic materials, enrollment in extracurricular activities, and many more areas.

The first area in which most people encounter these strictures usually involves initial admission to the college as a student. College admission forms require prospective students to fill out, sign, and send in an application form, usually with a fee, by a certain date. Aptitude tests have their own deadlines, as do transcripts of grades from other institutions, and even such items as physician’s reports and immunization documents. If recommendations from others (former teachers, etc.) are required, look for a special form and, of course, a deadline submission date. Foreign students should be especially careful about deadlines, since getting transcripts and translations of foreign educational records can add extra time to the admissions process. The best advice: plan ahead, and read the requirements with care.

Once enrolled in an American college, rules and deadlines affect nearly every activity. One example is the system of prerequisite courses. These refer to the requirement that a student enroll in a basic class for any given subject before being allowed to take an advanced class in that subject. Sometimes a student can ask to have a prerequisite waived, but this usually requires a visit to a dean’s office, a formal request, some paperwork, or other measures. Students learn the hard way that they need to leave plenty of time to take care of these matters. Students also quickly learn that different departments in a university often have different administrative procedures, or that the rules that applied last year no longer apply.

College philosophy departments may teach logic, yet the rules and regulations of a college may often seem devoid of logic. It pays to assume nothing when navigating your way through college.

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