Johnny, It's Downhill From Here

Discussion in 'Introductions' started by CogitusInterruptus, Sep 27, 2013.

  1. CogitusInterruptus

    CogitusInterruptus New Member

    Greetings, Hej, Hola, Ahoj!

    Here's my story:

    I grew up as a public school overachiever. I was the kid in gifted-and-talented math classes who got sent into the hall with the computer because the accelerated class was boring him. I went to high school for the last period of my 8th-grade year to take Geometry, because I'd tested out of Algebra I after studying it for three weeks at Duke University's summer program.

    I started college two years early at a state school, through one of those state-funded "We need more engineers" programs that grants you both your two years of college credit and a high school diploma at the end. I finished the scheduled math courses within the first year, so I devoted the fall semester of my second year to the elective Introduction To Axiomatic Theorems. It was a challenging romp through the mathematical landscape, essentially Principia Mathematica in reverse, in which we began with a core set of axioms and had to establish everything after that by proofs alone.

    I did well in that course, but it taught me that I didn't enjoy the deeply theoretical side of math as much as I had hoped I would. In fact, I came close to hating it. So my electives for the spring semester swung toward my other talents and interests: Poetry Composition, Oral Interpretation of Literature, and Shakespeare in Performance.

    After finishing my two years at the state school, I applied to other colleges with the new intention of majoring in English literature instead of mathematics. I put in my applications to Yale (wait-listed), Harvard (slept through my interview due to a power failure and never got another one), Duke (wait-listed), Emory (full scholarship), University of Texas (full scholarship), and Georgetown (tiny scholarship). In the end, despite visiting Emory and liking it a lot, I chose Georgetown. At the time their English program was very well regarded, the classes were all small seminars (even for freshmen), and the diversity of the campus and the city really appealed to me.

    Unfortunately, when I arrived at Georgetown they refused to accept any of my transfer credit. I had been advised by the admissions counselor for our early-entrance program that it was best for me to apply to GU as a freshman and then seek to transfer the credit. That proved to be very poor advice, as the university insisted that they had a much higher standard for transfer students and I might not have been admitted if I had applied as one. Hence, it would be unfair for them to accept my transfer credit.

    After months of wrangling, they finally agreed to grant me credit only for the courses that satisfied the core distribution requirements outside my major subject. They declined to even grant me credit for more than one French class, despite the fact that I had placed into 4th-year classes on the placement exam. At the time, this compromise did not bother me too much. It meant I would still need 3.5 years to complete my degree, but I decided to make it an even 4 and enjoy the opportunity to take lots of advanced English courses.

    For 3 semesters, I did quite well. GPA around 3.6, plus a good group of friends and some fun extracurriculars.

    Then the wheels came off. The 4th semester brought a breakup with the girl I was dating, followed almost immediately by my parents announcing their divorce. And on top of all of that, I had over-committed myself to my extracurricular activities. Overwhelmed and overwrought, I finished the semester with two Bs and three Incompletes. I knew I had royally screwed up and needed time to recover, so I wrote a letter to the Dean of the college volunteering to avoid the time and expense of an Academic Review Board by taking a year of academic suspension on my own recognizance. She accepted the proposal, and I slunk home feeling a weird mixture of shame and barely-maintained dignity. Cue the sad trumpet.

    At the time, I fully expected to return in a year. I haven't been back since.

    The parental divorce divided my parents' finances into the support of two households instead of one, and suddenly there was no money for more college. As my mother put it, "We've paid for four years, so for the rest you are on your own."

    Luckily for me, I'd spent the entirety of my four collegiate years doing on-campus work with computers. At the state school I'd run a computer lab, and at Georgetown I'd worked for the campus IT department building out networks. So despite majoring in English, I actually had some marketable skills.

    It only took me a month or two to find a good IT job paying the same as what most of my peers at GU could hope to make in their first job after graduating. Within 6 months of that, I had a promotion. By the time the one-year anniversary of my voluntary suspension arrived, I had saved enough to pay for only half of another year at GU, so I deferred my return for another year and kept working. Meanwhile, I was recruited for a new job paying 150% of what I was making, and since it was on traveling duty for a defense contractor I could get all of my living expenses paid and really rack up the savings. My new plan became "Save enough on this contract job to finish the bachelor's and then go back." But then there was a budget fight in the Congress, the funding faucet shut down, and I lost the job.

    By the time I found my next job, and it paid me 25% more than the contracting job, I was beginning to question why I was so eager to go back to college in the first place. My career was humming along just fine without a degree. IT was a great field to be in - largely a meritocracy, and I was good at learning new things and quickly demonstrating my merit.

    So college went on the back burner, and there it has stayed ever since. I now work for a major public company, take home a 6-figure salary, and have options and restricted stock likely worth near-6-figures when they vest.

    So why the heck am I here?

    1. I truly miss academia
    2. Despite never finishing college, I have remained a learner all my life
    3. Given 1 and 2, why not let all the learning that I already choose to do for my own edification earn me some credentials that might improve my career, or enable me to change it? A natural conclusion.

    Thus my immediate goal to finish a Bachelor's degree.

    I'm considering Resumed Undergraduate programs for adults from the likes of Brown, Yale, etc. I know these are highly competitive, but I like the option of participating fully in a bricks-and-mortar campus. However slim the chance, I'd like to try for it. I have the advantage of being single and unencumbered, so I actually have the flexibility to take a couple of years off and focus on my own education. And I have enough in savings and retirement funds to pay my way if no financial aid or scholarship is forthcoming.

    However, that option has quite a few ticks in the Con column. It would mean taking a leave of absence from work, or resigning if they refused to grant the leave. That would mean delaying or forfeiting my stock options and RSUs. So the real cost of the B&M education would be not only the tuition, room and board, and opportunity cost of lost wages. It would also be the additional opportunity cost of the lost equity. When I do the math on the Brown program, for example, the net cost of doing their resumed program becomes a scary-big number.

    And that is what brings me here, looking for options that will enable me to finish my degree without that massive opportunity cost.

    The key qualifications that matter to me are:
    1. Regionally-accredited (or equivalent, if foreign)
    2. Reasonably prestigious, because I will probably want to continue on to post-graduate programs and would like to be highly competitive for highly-selective programs
    3. Mostly distance-based, but some residencies are acceptable
    4. Will accept transfer credit from 1990-1994

    Qualifications of only slightly less importance:
    5. High level of instruction/quality of educational experience. I've been self-taught most of my life, so I could certainly make it in a hardcore self-starter-oriented program like the University of London. But I would prefer an environment that is animated by great tutelage and lively high-level debate. I don't believe that online delivery is anathema to these qualities, although it is admittedly a weaker incubator for them than the B&M classroom.

    Qualifications of minimal importance are:
    6. Work-related subjects, because there is no tuition reimbursement at my company, so I might as well pursue what I like. Still, it can't hurt to take some classes of immediate value to my career.
    7. Cost, because as long as it offers value commensurate with the cost, even an expensive distance program is a great savings over the aforementioned bricks-and-mortar opportunity cost. Still, a penny saved is a penny earned.

    Sadly, #4 and #5 eliminate the otherwise excellent University of London from consideration. If it were #5 alone I'd keep them on the short-list, but their window for Accreditation of Prior Learning is only 5 years, so I would be starting from scratch in any of their programs.

    So at present, Harvard Extension is looking like the front-runner. I'll confess I find the prescribed wording for the degrees petty and unnecessary, but ultimately their graduates seem to achieve the kinds of results I want, including going on to some top post-graduate programs at the likes of Yale, Oxford, Harvard proper, etc.

    I am open to other suggestions, though.

    In conclusion, why yes, I am a verbose m^%$^f&^&*%. :redface:

    Thanks for your attention, and for offering this board with its great wealth of information. I look forward to participating in the community as I complete my journey from long-time drop-out to credentialed graduate.

    - Cogi

    ps - A tasty white chocolate macadamia nut cookie for anyone who can identify the source of this thread's title.
  2. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    Johnny Wander
  3. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    I think it's the title of a song from the Seattle neo-folk group "The Inessential Uncle Bonsai" that started in the 80s.

    The lyrics begin:

    Johnny, It's Downhill From Here

    "Most likely to succeed
    President and sweater man
    There for all to see
    Drama prince and letter man
    Babes around your feet"

    Is that the way you see yourself?

    You can see the rest of the lyrics here: THE INESSENTIAL UNCLE BONSAI

    Keep the cookie. And yes, you are a verbose um...whatever you said you were. :sad: A bit condescending, too, methinks.

    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 28, 2013
  4. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    You might be right about the title Johann. As for our op, I'm thinking that if he's as brilliant as he thinks he is then he really doesn't need any help finding the right program.
  5. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Agreed 100%. And since he likes quoting a German author (Rilke), here are two from Heinrich Heine for the OP :

    (1) I have never seen an ass who talked like a human being, but I have seen many human beings who talked like asses.

    (2) Experience is a good school. But the fees are high.

    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 28, 2013
  6. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    per my rule of 1 sentence for new posters, I'll simply suggest Harvard Extension.
  7. Jonathan Whatley

    Jonathan Whatley Well-Known Member

    For the HES ALB, at least 16 semester hours (credits) must be earned in "on-campus-only" courses from Harvard University.

    Undergraduate Degrees: Online Courses and On-Campus Requirement

    You'll want to consider carefully whether and how you could meet this requirement while maintaining your present employment.
  8. Jonathan Whatley

    Jonathan Whatley Well-Known Member

    By the way, Cogitus, every respondent above me has a heart of gold and gives a good amount of their time to helping people figure out higher education.

    Stepping back though, you can imagine that if a character walked into a play, perhaps by Shakespeare idem, introducing himself as a super-genius with lots of money… that yeah, the author, the other characters, and not least the audience would have some fun with the guy.

    I hope you stick around.

    I was also in gifted programs in elementary, middle and high school. This didn't lead directly to elite-college success in my case either. Now, small world, I'm an on-campus student at HES. I consider myself lucky to be here.
  9. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    The most prestigious schools in the US tend to have (1) little interest in undergraduate distance learning programs, and (2) little interest in undergraduate degree completion programs. So if you want an undergraduate degree completion program by distance learning from a prestigious school, the options may be limited.

    Harvard Extension is one possibility, though it will require some residency for an actual degree, as noted above. I would also look into online bachelor's programs offered by large state university systems, like Penn State World Campus or UMass Online. In many cases, such degrees are issued by the well-known "flagship" campuses/colleges of their respective systems, although in other cases they may be issued by lesser-known campuses/colleges.
  10. Jonathan Whatley

    Jonathan Whatley Well-Known Member

    Recent thread: Ivy/top DL Bachelors
    I would reiterate my nods there to Waterloo and Queen's in Canada.
  11. rebel100

    rebel100 New Member

    You need 16 credits, 4 classes (there are a few 2 credit classes so it could be more than 4 classes) at HES to fulfill the residency requirement. You can complete up to 8 hours in a single 7 week summer session. And you can do 4 credits in a 3 week January doesn't have to be done during the regular calender....and in fact may be best done via the alternatives listed above, depends on the student.

    Many seem to just fly in or take a train to Harvard for their on campus courses....with all the money and intelligence of the OP I would think that would be the easy way to do it. :)

    Seriously...the residency requirement at HES shouldn't be a deal breaker for anyone resourceful enough to gain admission.
  12. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Given what you said about prestige, I'll skip the options that would let you complete a degree quickly but at a school that's not one most people would recognize. Harvard Extension is one option, of course, and might be a good one. But in case you didn't realize it, Georgetown has a Bachelor's degree completion program these days. You didn't say where you live, but it sounds like that's negotiable. So if you'd like to finish there, it may be an option.
  13. CogitusInterruptus

    CogitusInterruptus New Member

    I clearly should have tempered my introduction with more humility. So let me balance what I have already said with some.

    Whatever "overachiever" history I had is as much a product of fortunate circumstances as of my own ability. Many others could have achieved the same rise (and fall) if given similar opportunities. I lucked out, and I know it.

    I understand well that being frank about my funding situation likely comes across as arrogant. I simply didn't see any advantage in being coy about my situation. I have lurked here reading dozens of threads in which someone asks a question and receives ten replies saying "Well, we can't answer very well unless you give us more information about your situation and what you specifically are looking for." So I gave as much accurate information as I could. If it helps to know this, I also lived next to the train tracks as a kid and was on the school lunch program for poor kids. Whatever means I have now, I worked my ass off for. Even so, I recognize that I was given fortunate opportunities to demonstrate myself through hard work. I take none of it for granted.

    Meanwhile, my mom has finished a bachelor's and an MBA in the interim since I left Georgetown, thereby becoming the first person in our entire family tree to ever finish a college degree. I love her for beating me to it - go, Mom!

    I am, by nature, a very emotionally-sensitive fellow. It is that, more than anything, that caused my collapse in my fourth semester at G'town. I was 20, an introvert, a virgin, clueless about dating, and almost as clueless about making friends. Both then and now, I was and am someone who feels small pains as big ones. So I am grateful for the rather combative response to my initial post because it offers me the opportunity to see that my skin is thicker than it used to be. I may still be a sensitive fellow, but I've learned to cope and choose my battles.

    And coming across as a pretentious ass just isn't worth getting upset over. :)

    By now I am well-accustomed to the fact that things I do for my own delight can come across that way. For example, I quote Rilke as a genuine fan, and have a long-standing personal project of translating one of his French poems every week. He challenges my thinking on morals and ethics and aesthetics, and sometimes I find him brilliant while at other times he seems much like me at 20: paralyzed by a complete misunderstanding of how people actually interact.

    I've demonstrated some of the lingering effects of that paralysis here, so let me introduce myself anew.

    Hi, I'm Cogi. My room is a mess right now and I rarely make my bed. I wear glasses not because it makes me look smarter but because I hate putting things in my eyes. I'm a pretty decent guy once you get to know me. Until then, I probably *will* come off as a pretentious ass.

    Thanks for your honest reactions, because they have shown me that I had better step it up and adopt a warmer, softer, more approachable tone when writing my application essays. I certainly preferred those that addressed me directly instead of talking about me in the third person, but I'm taking them all as valuable feedback.


    Assorted responses:

    - It was Uncle Bonsai, and no, the song is not at all how I see myself. I just like the band and the title was convenient.
    - I'm aware of the HES residency requirement. My work could accommodate me working remotely for a couple of summers, just not for an entire 2 years.
    - I'm also aware of the Georgetown completion option. If I lived in the DC area I would go for it. At present, I am in Texas. However, switching jobs to one in the DC area is something I have considered. It would certainly be a satisfying narrative to finish the degree at the same school I left.
    - The Canadian options Jonathan suggested are just the sort of additional inspiration I was looking for. Those programs were unknown to me. Either I am not, in fact, as smart as I think I am, or Kizmet was wrong. Probably the former. ;-)

    OK, now that I've bungled my first impression here, I'm going to resist the temptation to start over under a new screen name and simply stick around trusting that you'll all enjoy me better in the second act than in the first. Peace.
  14. mcjon77

    mcjon77 Member

    I was actually going to recommend this exact program.

    As you can see from my sig, I too attended Georgetown. In fact, I transferred into the College back in 1996. If you were there back in 1994, was the Dean that you were talking about Ann Sullivan?

    Let me offer 5 options for you:
    1) LONG SHOT - You may want to check to see if you can just return to Georgetown. You would be surprised at how long they allow students who have taken a leave of absence to stay out. I think 20 years might be too much, but then again, I was out 3 years before getting my degree (left school during the dot com boom for a tech job). You never know.

    2)If they won't let you back in the College, the School of Continuing Studies' BA in Liberal Studies would be a good option. I am pretty sure that the GU liberal studies program is residential only, but if you are in the metro DC area, it is definitely something to check out. Also, Continuing Studies degree completion programs are very flexible about accepting credits from classes taken years (even decades ago).

    3) HES is an excellent option. I am finishing up my Masters at HES right now. The 16 hour residential requirement is very doable. you can take 8 credit hours during each of the 7 week summer sessions, and/or 4 credit hours during the 3 week January sessions. There is housing in the dorms for the summer session (which I highly recommend using, even if you are older). No housing is provided during the January session, but you can usually find an apartment to sublet during that time.

    4)Some other top school's continuing studies Bachelor program. There are several other highly ranked schools that have similar programs. The biggest problem is that most are residential, so that may be a deal killer for you.

    5) Another option is to crank out your bachelors degree quickly through schools like TESC or COSC (You could probably finish in a matter of months), THEN take one of the masters programs offered at Georgetown SCS, HES or other schools. I actually recommended this option to a cousin of mine that was in a similar situation.

    If you have any more questions (including Georgetown and HES specific), feel free to ask. Whatever you chose, good luck!
  15. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    (Breaking my own rule) I've noticed the OP hasn't reappeared...anyway, for anyone else who might be considering HES, one thing to consider. Not every class is offered every semester. One of my issues was the field requirement. If your degree requires a field study credit (many do) those are typically NOT offered in the summer and never in January (and never online). In fact, I'd check carefully using the archives that all requirements can be met during summer sessions before selecting a program, or the ONLY way to graduate is to spend a full 12 week term on campus. Now, that class might meet only 1/week, making a train ride, plane right or long commute possible for many people, but that's a significant issue that you should know going in.
  16. 03310151

    03310151 New Member

    Wow. Impressive first post. At least the OP is not asking for easiest/fastest/cheapest/no writingiest degree out there.

    Good luck.
  17. rebel100

    rebel100 New Member

  18. CogitusInterruptus

    CogitusInterruptus New Member

    The very same. I briefly had a course with her, but had to drop it due to scheduling conflicts. But in the few sessions I spent in her class, as well as my interactions with her as dean, I found her a very genuine and compassionate educator. One of the good ones.

    I have given this approach a lot of thought. Considering that I have approximately 3.5 years worth of total completed undergraduate credit, it would certainly be the fastest route to a completed bacc, and the least wasteful of my prior learning investment. My primary reason for sidestepping such programs is that I harbor the intention to shift careers completely into professional academia. (Yes, even with eyes wide open to the increasing competitiveness of the field and the declining availability of tenure-track positions.) I'm not fully committed to the idea, but it's enough of a possibility that I want to hew to the path that will be most beneficial to my future competitiveness in the academic job market.

    Thus, prestige became more of a priority for me than it would otherwise be. Yet, to be honest, I continue to question and adjust the amount of weight I should give it. If I had no professional needs or aims and self-satisfaction were my only criterion, then intellectual rigor and student engagement would eclipse prestige as the qualities I desire most in a school. And whose satisfaction am I living for, if not my own?

    The OP is reappearing as often as he is able. The new member moderation policy makes it difficult for him to participate fully in the discussion at this point. The RP raises a valid issue, though, and the OP will take it under advisement.

    I am starting to seriously consider having my screen name formally changed to "The OP", so I can pretend people are addressing me directly. ;-)
  19. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    The only thing of interest here is whether the op has sent Johann his cookie.
  20. CogitusInterruptus

    CogitusInterruptus New Member

    Johann declined his cookie.

    If even the moderators don't read the thread attentively, I fear for the future of this forum. ;-)

Share This Page