Once you make your educated decision, it's important to know that graduate school requires certain items from you before you can apply. Set aside at least a month for this scavenger hunt, as it will no doubt take many man hours, a winch and a canoe to find and send the following items:
Letters of recommendation
Various test scores
A left-handed ledger
A license plate that reads STHRN MN
A pencil that isn't a No. 2
A field mouse with three legs
The jeweled scepter of Amon-Rah
Out of all of these, what will give you the most trouble are the letters of recommendation. If your strongest academic area was "attendance," abandon your hopes and dreams right now. As soon as you entered college, you should have been participating immediately in the elaborate network of ass-kissing that goes on in all institutions of higher learning. You see, every student needs to find a mentor (Hint: the ones with the beards are usually the smartest) and become their apprentice, or "toady." Then and only then, after forging intimate intellectual relationships, will these professors find it not out of the question to write 500 words that summarize your entire academic life. It's also important to send a writing sample to these chosen professors so they can praise more than just your impressive use of margins and Times New Roman. If you have not produced any writing of value in four years, simply find the nearest book, tear out 20 random pages, and use a magic marker to blot out the original author's name. When you're finished, assemble this collection of scraps and stuff it in any liberal elite campus mailbox. With any luck, you will be lauded for your brave, Pynchon-esque writing style.
Along with sending these items, most grad schools require you take a test called the GRE before you can apply. What's "GRE" stand for? 130 goddamn dollars. Now you have two choices: pay for the GRE and possibly go to grad school, or buy a Nintendo DS Lite, which will last twice as long and may be more rewarding.
If you decide to take the GRE, the first thing to do is to pretend you are a fine, upstanding gentleman from 1837 with spats and a mercury-cured hat. Congratulations! You are now perfectly suited to pass the verbal portions of the GRE. The GRE tests you on words, that, if uttered aloud, would cause the word "faggot" to escape from the lips of those around you. Sure, you may be able to get away with it a few times, but the excuse of, "I learned it by watching Scrubs!" only works until others realize your hatred for Zach Braff and cloying montages.
So if you don't have a time machine, there are many books that can help you study for the GRE; and even if you did have a time machine, you would probably go mad trying to figure out the right butterfly to kill which will make your current life full of gold bricks and baubles. But if you don't want to spend the money on a time machine or study guide (both comparatively priced), you can always analyze your current writing and speech and ask yourself, "How would a 19th century plutocrat say this?" If you find yourself inserting the exclamation "Balderdash!" at the end of every sentence, you're on the right track. It also helps to waddle around your house in a cummerbund, grumbling about tariffs and the state of opera. Just remember that no matter what you do, you will be unprepared. Regardless of how hard you study, the GRE is bound to pull most of its words from sources like the rudimentary languages of feral children and Anna Nicole Smith.
The GRE also has a math section, which is equally hard to prepare for. I'm not fond of the expression "How is (unrelated field X) going to apply in real life," since it's a lazy copout to learning; but I am perfectly happy knowing nothing about nature's cruelest shape, the triangle. I rarely encounter them in real life, and when I do, I am never required to find "proof" that they exist. And if my life depended on finding the slope of something, I would not only welcome death with open arms; I would also try to get romantic with it in some way.
The final step in the grad school application process is the submission of all required items and forms to the University of your choice. But don't get too confident; most of what you need can be found online, but it's important to know that every university created a webpage upon the creation of the Internet, and these pages have yet to be updated. So, as you browse desperately, searching for a graduate program, be prepared for broken links, Linkexchange banners, and "Mr. T ate my balls" pages. You will be required to submit materials via the internet, but for some reason certain items must be physically mailed, turning your application from one solid file to dangerous shrapnel that tears through the admissions department. It's necessary to call frequently in order to make sure those various items reach their destination, and are assembled properly; so don't feel paranoid about checking up on this, even if everyone is out to get you because your cover letter has a typo and the paper clips holding everything together are a few degrees away from that perfect, 90 degree academic standard.
Through my own scientific hypothesizing I have determined that all admission materials are transported around grad schools in pneumatic tubes, and most of these tubes end in utility basements. Just remember that your admission fee goes to pay brave men that investigate these utility basements, kill any mummies or wolfmen they find, and return to the admissions department with valuable treasures like the 8-page analysis of feminism in Jane Eyre that you wrote in 20 minutes. Yes, many of these men will die, but do communications majors ever truly live?
What follows is this final step is the interminable process of waiting, which I am currently in. While I wait for my future to be decided by a bunch of strangers, I can only hope that writing a snotty article about graduate school with my name branded on it will not harm my chances of getting into my school(s) of choice.
Graduate schools, if you are reading this, please consider the following:
I am a smarty
I smell nice
Top score in Word Munchers, St. Luke Elementary, 4th Grade
Accomplished Internet Jokester™
No outstanding warrants
And don't forget: I love you.
If you are 35 and you are not integrated into the Gigathrax then you are not ready to retire.
While designing this space, I imagined David Fincher being forced to recreate the music video for Nine Inch Nails' Closer in a haunted gas station bathroom.
My game is funded. Now I know everything.
The Something Awful front page news tackles anything both off and on the Internet. Mostly "on" though, as we're all incredible nerds.