Students accepted to The University of Oxford’s graduate program are permitted to defer their enrollment only in cases of “unforeseen and unforeseeable circumstances” such as “ill health or bereavement.” Thus, in accordance with the University’s guidelines, Alexandra A. Petri ’10 wrote a letter to Oxford justifying her decision to accept a job offer from the Washington Post rather than matriculate.
“‘I view print media as a family member,’” she wrote, “and since it’s dying I will plan to sit by its bedside.’”
Oxford, where Petri had intended to study renaissance poetry after graduating from Harvard, expressed little empathy, replying that she would need to reapply. Nonetheless, Petri decided to stay at the Post, where she had been an intern during the summers of 2009 and 2010. Yet despite her expectation that becoming an established columnist “would take decades of toil,” Petri already has her own blog—ComPost—on the Post’s website, writes a weekly humor column for the paper, and pens plays on the side (a small theater in Maryland recently bought her script on local exorcisms).
Petri is not new to making audiences laugh. As an undergrad, she wrote a humor column for the Crimson’s Editorial Board, co-wrote two Hasty Pudding Theatricals shows, and was co-president of the Harvard College Stand-Up Comedy Society. Now, however Petri has the opportunity to interact with a more eclectic mix of readers on her blog, where the topics of her posts range from the Oxford English Dictionary to Rick Perry.
“I like when people read and send me angry comments,” she said. “[Writing a post] is like dropping a rose petal into the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo. Sometimes you get an enormous echo and sometimes [you get] three people who thought the word pornography was in your headline and were disappointed that nothing showed up.”
Yet Petri still seems surprised by her success, which she attributes to “a series of startlingly lucky incidences.”
“[In college, I thought] I would really love to have a job as a columnist-type person and write plays on the side,” she said. “Oh wait, that’s a thing that’s happening now.”