I’m going back to school. The thought has crossed my mind many times over the years, but I always had excuses as to why I couldn’t go back just yet: children, work, transcripts. The thought of having to get transcripts was more daunting to me than having to juggle children, work, and school.
I will never forget the struggle of transcripts. When I began college, the year was 1991, and to my knowledge, there was no internet. The college application process was straightforward enough – you got your Official High School transcripts, SAT scores, Letters of Recommendation, and your letter of Intent, or essay, and you would make copies of all of these and pay the application which was anywhere from $50 – $100 to EACH college you applied to, and then mail them to each college. If you were lucky you could use the same essay for more than one college, but invariably you had to write multiple essays.
And the acceptance letter. You just knew if there was a large, 8×11 manilla or white envelope shoved into your mailbox that that was a letter of acceptance. The regular letter sized envelope that most bills came in were the letters of rejection. To this day, I consider the large envelopes to be the bearer of good news.
I was opposite girl, having gone to UCSB and then, because of the lure of Los Angeles, I went from being a B student to C, then by the final quarter, all F’s. I lost my scholarship and my admission to the school revoked, all because I was more interested in going to Los Angeles and with my fake ID I gained admittance to all the clubs and met so many celebrities, the highlight of my life occurring at the age of 20 when I met and danced with Prince at his nightclub Glam Slam at 3rd and Boylston in Downtown L.A. (I ended up dating him as well, but that’s another story).
Of course I think, if I had been in school, would I have ever met Prince? I don’t know. Perhaps, but the fact of the matter is that everything happened and I can’t change what was. It is what it is.
Because I was essentially expelled from UCSB, I was free to live in La La Land. I got a job at a Haitian Art Gallery operating out of a cute craftsman style bungalow North of Sunset, near the Screen Actors Guild. Several years later, I enrolled at Santa Monica College, and this time, I had to do everything myself: get the transcripts, pay ALL my own bills, work and go to school. It was so different embarking on this journey on my own, without the help, financial, emotional, and mental, of my Mom and family.
The year was 1996 and the Internet was barely beginning. In fact, in 1997, I remember writing an article for the school newspaper called “Life Without the Internet.” The internet was so new. As were cell phones, the kind that was most popular then being a flip phone, which we now know are basically obsolete or if used are viewed as a relic (albeit a charming one).
The internet wasn’t so advanced that colleges and schools had all the student records readily available. They didn’t. So to get college transcripts or high school transcripts required you to drive to the school or in my case SCHOOLS in question, and fill out the required forms, and then wait, and wait, and wait, and wait, in lines the likes of which you see at an amusement park, except at the end of the line, the thrill is getting your transcripts so you can begin that college ride. Not quite the same as a roller coaster, but still, they both give you thrills, chills, make you scream out loud, smile, freak out and yet have fun.
Because I went to UCSB, I had to drive from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara to get my transcripts, and then I also had to drive to West Los Angeles City College and Pasadena City College to get those transcripts before I could begin attending Santa Monica College. It took days to get all of this done, many hours of waiting in traffic, waiting in line, just waiting.
Flash forward to 2018. I have decided to go back to school. I’m trying not to think about the age I will be when I get my Bachelors, and perhaps even my Masters. I try instead to focus on the fact that the majority of people who meet me think I am at minimum 5? Maybe 10 years younger than I really am, so although I may be old enough to be the Mother of many of my fellow students, I look more like an Auntie, or Sister.
I went online just yesterday, October 22, 2018, and I was so astounded at the EASE of applying to colleges and getting my transcripts.
You don’t remember your Student ID from 1991? No problem! Enter your Social Security Number and Date of Birth, we will email it to you.
You don’t remember your other Student ID from 2004? No problem! Apply again to the same school and the system will recognize you and regenerate your former Stuent ID number.
Armed with my Student ID’s, I can, with a few clicks, get my unofficial transcripts and begin to apply to school. And this is where it got interesting.
As I said, in 1991, I applied to college and the most personal questions asked of me were my ethnicity and my personal essay. I remember being unsure what box to check for race, because my Mother is (mostly) Italian and Irish, and my Father is (mostly) Creole, a mix of Black, French, and Cherokee Indian.
When people would ask me, “What are your?” I would reply, “Black.” This would invariably prompt them to pause, and give me a look, starting with my hair (curly and long), to my face and skin (either pale yet a bit caramel, or bronzed by the sun), and then they would ask me, “But what are you REALLY?”
So I would then tell them what I knew they wanted to hear. And I get it, it is a bit fascinating to throw two people of different ethnicities together and see what you get. It’s like painting or coloring – let’s combine pink with white, and how about a little red, what new color will we get?
In 1991, the college applications, just about any form requesting your personal information, was all about checking the boxes, and their wasn’t an option for more than one race. It was cut and dried. Black, Latino, white, Samoan, Chinese, Japanese, etc. I never knew what box to check.
NOW, in 2018, I’m not only offered the chance to check “as many that apply” but I am also asked “Black,” “African American,” or “African.”
NOW, in 2018, I am asked what my GENDER is, and my sexual orientation. Am I transgender, female, male, prefer not to say? Am I heterosexual, bisexual, or am I just gay?
Wow. So with the ease of the application, there is still a bit of unease. WHY do I have to answer these questions? Or rather, why do they have to be asked? Can’t we just BE who we ARE, and what happens when or if we evolve?
The person you are when you begin college is most likely not quite the same person you are when you leave. You GROW. You evolve. So certain questions may not have the same answers.
I guess that’s why we have an edit option when applying to and keeping an archive of your school history. If only life could have that same edit or undo button, right?