Saturday evening I went online for the exclusive purpose of registering Ph.
to take the ACT
in June (so that ACTropolis doesn’t seem like something I made up, follow the
link). His guidance counselor encouraged him to sign up online rather than on
paper. It has been seventeen or eighteen years since I signed anyone up to take
the ACT. I am old; the process has grown unbelievably cumbersome under a sharp
jump in the value of high school student profiles to predatory admissions
practices. This is the database at its collect-all worst. Had there been all of
this data-collection all those years ago, I almost certainly would have been
more enthusiastically recruited. Right?

I filled out screen after screen of profiling data related to Ph.’s high
school program of study, extracurricular activities, career aspirations, and so
on. Somewhere along the way, I also selected a testing date (June) and
site (Jamesville-Dewitt H.S., the nearest site with an open seat). Near
the end of the process, an hour later, D. and I chatted briefly and agreed that
he should be scheduled for a slightly different test. The ACT offers one
test with writing and one without. I clicked back into the web form,
switched that one item, and clicked ‘continue’ until I was at the pay screen.
Then I input the payment information, clicked on ‘submit payment’, and held my
breath hoping for a felicitous conclusion to the ACTropolis 5K.

Everything was fine. And then I clicked the ‘print confirmation’
button. Calamity! The page showed the wrong testing date; Ph. had been
signed up for the April date rather than the June date. What the? Next, I tried
‘Change Testing Date’. Something I learned: you can change the testing
date for a modest $20.85 (or thereabouts), even if the transaction is hot, still
flowing through the pipes. Also, I have since learned that the ACT system
requires you to re-submit a payment for the full cost of the test when you
change the date. Within three days they will refund the amount posted for
the initial (mistaken) sign-up.

Rather than panic, I retraced my steps and learned that the web form
automatically resets the testing date to the default setting (April) at the
moment any action is taken on that step in the process. Changing the test
type caused the test date to reset. I simply didn’t notice, perhaps
because I was numb from the deadening tedium of filling out profiling questions
for more than an hour. I would be out twenty bucks for my oversight, which
was terrible enough to tarnish the entire ACT sign-up experience for me. So I
filled out the customer service form, sent it, and wrote a note to myself to
call on Monday. Today.

I called. The first service rep heard me all the way through a
rendition of what I’ve just shared with you. She explained the delayed
refund process, and said she would have an IT person call me about the problem
with the web form. Cool. Later, the call came, I described the
problem–almost certainly a short circuit between my own weekend blink-out (Why
should an established entry reset without notification?) and the aliveness of
the seat-counting ACT registration form (which interacts immediately, ticking
off seats in the database as they are filled). You won’t believe what
happened next: I was thanked for the feedback, offered to by-pass the change of
date fee, and asked to share the few pieces of information they needed to
correct my mistake. The sun suddenly shined on ACTropolis; on the horizon,
a rainbow.

It never ever works out this way for me. Thus, I have resolved that
today, February 11, will be an annual holiday, a day of respite during which I
shall not have a single negative thought about standardized testing, the filing
and profiling of youth into quasi-normative rank (for lists, which will be $wooped
up by admissions offices), the profit-making at the heart of the enterprise, the
tyranny of No. 2 lead, the mechanical ways of ACTropolis (even the corny-tropolis
name itself). Today I am at strangely at peace with the ACT, and maybe even a little bit


  1. Bloody hell! That sounds horrible, but what an eloquent account. I’m glad it sort of worked out. You might treat yourself to a peanut butter pie.

  2. Good suggestion re: PB pie. I haven’t made it since I blogged about it (last year?).

    Also glad to read that little one is healthy as of the latest checkup.

Comments are closed.