I am...a New Yorker

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Monday, August 11, 2003
Ivy League Material

The sidebar is still stunned.

I am...still a bit beside myself. I actually asked our intern to pinch me on Thursday. There's an unbelievable yet certain feeling when one finally has a life-long dream fulfilled.

I was happy at NYU and accepted that I wouldn't get into my other choices because one of my previous schools (let's call it Redneck U.) was incapable of sending transcripts (even months after I cleared up all holds on my records). I tried calling, emailing and faxing them for months, all for naught. The excuses included that the person handling my file had retired, they didn't know her voicemail password and forwarded her email to the wrong person - none of which was my fault, mind you. Perhaps they weren't hers, but nor does someone's work end when they retire, get fired, quit or die.

Finally, in January, after calling and emailing the retiree's replacement about all my previous requests, she sent me half a dozen transcripts and said she would send them to the schools. I'd already been accepted to NYU last fall, because they will make an admissions decision without full transcripts. Still, I had to defer for a semester because of another snafu by, you guessed it, Redneck U.

No sooner had I returned from Europe on $50/day than I learned from my financial aid advisor at NYU that I was losing something like $15-20k in aid for the coming year. I had a bit left and my mother offered to pay for a couple of classes this fall, but that left three semesters to scrap up. If I could get into CUNY, the money she offered would cover three semesters, but without the transcript from Redneck U., I could neither be admitted nor receive an evaluation of my transfer credits. Arrrrrrrgh!

Last Monday, with a heretofore unparalleled sense of resignation, I begrudingly accepted that I would have to get my degree from, of all places, Redneck U. I was missing only one course, which I took at NYU in the spring. I'd petitioned to do just that as Plan C in January. But, as with the transcripts, there was no word or even an receipt that I'd paid the petition fee. Nor were any of my phone calls or emails answered in the last seven months.

Redneck U. remains a place of bad memories, racism, and mediocre grades. Not only is that not a time or place I want associated with my degree, but I was also concerned that I would not be able to get into a graduate or law school with such grades from a second-tier public university. All this is not to belabor the fact that Redneck U's inability to send transcripts or answer the phone (perhaps to verify graduation, should my petition ever actually be processed) would keep me out of grad/law school and any job worth having. Part of Plan C was to attend NYU part time or not at all this semester while I took the GRE (again) and LSAT and applied at grad and law schools. That way, if I didn't find funding to finish the B.A. here, I could get it (in theory) from Redneck U. and go on to the next step.

Wednesday night I had the surprise of the year, perhaps of my life. I got home and fell asleep after dinner, even as I told myself I had errands and work to do. I woke up at 3:30 in the morning and went downstairs to order my bag lunch and pick up an express mail package. I hadn't been expecting anything, but there was a FedEx for me and not the other E. Jackson in the building.

In high school, they told us to look out for thick envelopes, a sure sign of college admission -- bursting with forms to fill out and such. It still didn't register in my head. Perhaps I dared not dream or perhaps it was the weeness of the hour. I read the sender's name and return address on the top left of the envelope, but didn't really understand why I'd be getting something from that school.

I'd received a post card only a few weeks before that this school was missing transcripts from :::drum roll::: Redneck U., which, I also learned two weeks ago failed to send transcripts to CUNY (I applied at Hunter and Baruch). Indeed, the only school they did send transcripts directly to was NYU...the only school that didn't need them! I guess my livid call to the Admissions director two weeks ago paid off.

I opened the folder and read the words I hadn't dared dream aloud. "It gives me great pleasure to inform you that you have been admitted to...Columbia University for the Fall semester 2003."

Columbia, an Ivy League school and they want me! This weekend, I found the admission and autobiographical essays I don't remember writing last fall, and hell, I'd admit me, too. Yet I'd never attended an admissions event or even visited the campus. I took a tour of Barnard last summer, but didn't cross the street. I didn't want to get my hopes up, or see it with my own eyes and know what I was missing.

Columbia's tuition is the same as NYU, not more as I had thought, but the prestige factor is considerably higher. As long as I keep up my grades to what they've been in my 30s, I should have no problem getting into a good grad or law school. I'm finally in the right place.

It's a great school, in a great city, with a 7 Sisters college (Barnard) as one of its schools (as a Columbia student, I can take classes there). Moreover, Columbia is known for its journalism and writing programs. Unlike NYU, the adult studies program is composed of the same classes & teachers as Columbia College. I didn't like being segregated and having restrictions on doing study abroad. I'd hate to be at a school like this and not be able to take a course with a well-known author or guest lecturer, just because I am a reentry student.

Also, the housing is about half as much as NYU, so I hope to move into an efficiency or small suite in Morningside Heights by next semester or over the summer. I'm looking into staying at International House, and even found a connection to the management through my job. I would relish the International atmosphere and older students (it's mostly grad students). That way, I'll be more a part of the community. After the big convention at work this fall (during the preparation of which, I don't think I can attend full time), perhaps I can even cut back on my hours a bit.

All my life, I always wanted three things: to move to NY, to attend an Ivy League School, and be a published writer. I wanted these things so much, I never told anyone. They all seemed impossible. So now I have the first two down! Perhaps #3 will help pay for #2. If nothing else, I'm appreciating the jaw-drop factor when I tell people. I haven't yet started calling ex-boyfriends, but I'm not above doing so. There have been many jokes among my co-workers of something not being worthy of an Ivy-Leaguer. It's all in good fun. I promise not to affect some ridiculous Northeastern accent.

I still have the question of how to pay beyond this part time semester, I should know more after talking to the Financial Aid director tomorrow. However, I have beaten the odds to live in NYC, and get into Columbia...I'll find a way to pay for it. I never have riches, but I always seem to have just enough. Eric used to say that, if I needed $200 to pay my rent, I would find it if I took a walk around the block five minutes before the rent was due.

As I joked when I lived in the Tenderloin and again with a neighbor this week, there's always the meat-packing district, then I can have a best-selling memoir of being an Ivy League hooker.

Ya'll don't expect me to get all snooty and lose my sense of the absurd, do ya?

[Next entry: "Living the Dream"]
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Replies: 1 Comment

you wont get snooty! Those enrolled at Ivy league schools know they have an answer, therefore always remaining humble. Thats the best part!!!

Posted by aaron @ 06/11/2004 12:23 AM EST

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