“I looked up your ranking, and I think that’s where the problem lies.”

Kyle shifted in his seat uncomfortably. “I figured that we would come to that topic.”

The professor ran his eyes over the papers again. “Your GPA seems fine, and your letters of recommendation were also very impressive, but the trouble is that this university is very hesitant with applicants who are below three billion on the ranking system. Out of the seven billion some people on this planet, you’re worse than nearly four billion of them, and that’s something that this university takes very seriously.”

Kyle stared at the floor. “Right, but my grades were all fine.”

“Yes, yes, your grades were right on par with the rest of the applicants,” the professor agreed offhandedly. “But your ranking bothers me. You got through high school without a hitch, and you’ve finished your undergraduate degree with acceptable grades, and yet your ranking is still very, very low.”

“I wouldn’t say very low,” Kyle frowned. “I’m just below average.”

“Extremely few people of your ranking even get through college. For somebody below three billionth rank to even consider graduate school is surprising. What happened?”

Kyle leaned back in his seat and folded his arms, trying to avoid eye contact. “Well, there are a lot of variables that determine your rank. Intelligence, personality, attractiveness, wealth, if you’re hardworking, if you’re charitable, if you’re popular…”

“Yes, and your intelligence seems fine,” the professor nodded. “And you also appear to be hardworking. So where does the trouble lie?”

Kyle hesitated. “It’s… It’s my personality, you see. I’m not particularly popular, or likeable in general.”

“That was my suspicion,” the professor nodded again, more curtly this time. “And have you done anything to improve your personality?”

Kyle shrugged, and he smiled sheepishly. “My mom always told me to just be myself.”

Frowning the professor looked over the papers again. “Yes, and I see that’s done wonders to your ranking. Have you been fluctuating much?”

“No, my ranking has been the same for most of my life. I was a bit better in elementary school, but not by much. All of my friends and family have always been high-ranking people, so I hoped that it would eventually just rub off onto me.”

“Now Kyle, I understand why you want to go to graduate school,” the professor told him. “With a ranking like yours, it can be hard to get a good job. You want the credentials.”

“Yes, exactly,” Kyle agreed.

The professor was reading over the papers again, for the hundredth time. “This letter of recommendation does mention your personality problems. I’m afraid that if this university is to accept you, it will have to be on the condition that your ranking rises very quickly and very soon.”

“I can do that,” Kyle said quickly, almost desperately. “I can do it immediately. I’ll get straight to work on it.”

“I never really liked that personality was a part of the rankings,” the professor admitted. “Hard work, wealth, and popularity are really all that a person should need to worry about.”

“I agree,” Kyle nodded.

Casually, the professor commented, “I heard that the top rank changed earlier this week.”

“Really?” Kyle perked up. “It isn’t Joseph Gordon-Levitt anymore?”

“No, he dropped down to rank three recently. Now it’s Emma Watson at the top.”

“Again? She was at the top just a month ago.”

The professor shook his head. “It’s fierce competition at the top one hundred. It’s a miracle that those people aren’t trying to kill each other. Of course, murder would lower their rank, obviously.”

Curious, Kyle questioned, “What’s your rank, professor?”

“Mine?” the professor asked, surprised. “I’m nearly in the top million.”

Kyle’s eyebrows raised. “That’s very impressive.”

The professor shrugged modestly. “There’s still a million people on this planet who are better than me.”

“I guess,” Kyle stated, not sure how to respond.

The professor sorted the papers back into a stack. “Well Kyle, you’ve heard my offer. I’ll accept you into our graduate program conditionally. If your rank hasn’t risen substantially in the next month, I will be forced to withdraw the offer.”

“Yes, yes, of course. I understand,” Kyle nodded vigorously. “I’ll do whatever I can.”

“Good,” the professor said, wearing a fake smile. “That will be all.”

Kyle left the office, wondering which charities he might donate to.


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