Saturday, September 30, 2006

A fluke?

You are a fluke
Of the universe.
You have no right to be here.
And whether you can hear it or not
The universe is laughing behind your back.
~"Deteriorata," National Lampoon

Wow, does this one ever capture how I'm feeling lately. All my life I have been a person of faith. Not just in the sense of being an adherent of one, but in the sense of being defined by the gift of believing, of being able to take huge steps on faith. An informed faith, yes, but still leaning more on the faith than on the information. This characteristic gave me some fantastic stories of times I stepped out in faith and received otherwise inexplicable results.

My graduate studies began as one of these. I was praying over what I should do next in life, and although the previous year's answer had been that I wasn't done yet with the work I was doing, that year I was getting the sense that it might be time to go back to school. The fellow I was involved with at the time was very into education and suggested I at least find out when the deadline was to apply to the out-of-state school I had in mind. Lo and behold, the deadline was just one week away. They had my GRE scores still on file — including that perfect 800 on the analytical subtest, which doesn't count toward the overall score but still makes me proud — so I dashed around getting letters of recommendation and writing my admissions essay between classes.

While filling out the paperwork, I indicated that I was applying to a master's program in public administration, but would like to know if the School of Education thought I'd be likely to be admitted (down the road, of course) to a doctoral program there at the end of my MPA. After all, if not, I might as well apply here in Texas, where they had excellent programs for both at UT-Austin. I also check-marked a little box that said, "Indicate here if you are interested in financial aid." I'd never qualified for much aid before, but I was appreciative of my parents' being willing to finance my going back to school so long after I'd finished undergrad, and would like to help.

All this hullabaloo was back in the days when being online tied up the phone, so Mom had to get online and IM me to tell me the news. She didn't even start out with any introductory words, simply typed in the first lines of the letter, "Dear Miss _____, We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted to the Ph.D. program in Curriculum and Instruction at ________. ..."

I couldn't believe it. I hadn't even applied to that program, formally, and I telephoned the next day to make sure there was no misunderstanding. Did they not see that I didn't have a master's yet? The catalog indicated it was a requirement for the C&I program at that school. Yes, the director said, they knew, but there was a master's program within the School of Ed that I could do instead, and they were offering an $11,000 merit assistantship and a job supervising student teachers in my two fields, as well.

So let's tally that up, shall we? An inquiry that turned out to be just in time, success in gathering recommendation letters and writing a essay in a week when it takes others a month, admission to a doctoral program that normally didn't take bachelors-only students, and a massive scholarship for someone who merely checked a box. I should add at this point that I don't qualify for any kind of affirmative action in this case: I'm not an ethnic nor religious minority, I'm not the first in my family to go to grad school, I'm not poor, and I am a woman in a field that tends to overflow with them.

I'm not the kind of person who has stories like this for every week or every month or even every year. But I do have stories like this for various different major turning points in my life: my choice of college, my first big job after being RIFfed from my first major job, admission to grad school, and so forth.

But that was before ...

No comments: