Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Institutional memory, or, How many transcripts are there in a plethora?

When one decides to go back to school after a long absence from things academic, one discovers many interesting things. (First of all, one finds that referring to oneself as “one” is very annoying, so one knocks that the heck off and reverts to first and second person early on. But one – er, I – digress.) FORMS. The existence of lots and lots of forms that need to be filled out in order to become Fully Matriculated is one thing that hasn't changed. How you fill them out, however, has.

Eager to set out on the road to Paralegal School, I get on the Harvard On The Highway Community College (hereinafter “Hoth CC”) website and find an online application form. Hooray! I can submit my information without worry about my sloppy handwriting. So I fill it out. No problem. Send it out into the ether, and go about the next task: rounding up Official Transcripts.

Getting transcripts from the hands of one academic institution and into the hands of another is also the same but different these days. Again, we have the wonder of requesting them online. Nice. First stop: undergraduate land. My first Institution of Higher Learning subscribes to a nationwide transcription service. I tell them my name, birth date, years of attendance, and who I want the information sent to, and Shazam! off it goes. Just like magic. Free magic. I'm loving this. My second Alma Mater isn't as technologically connected. I fill out their online form, send them my credit card particulars ($8 into the school's coffers), and they promise to mail out my transcript after my graduation is confirmed. (Guys: I graduated. Really. Twenty-five years ago. Trust me.)

I'm a bit embarrassed to request my last transcript. I attended Western California State School of Law at Swami's Point (hereinafter “WCSSL-SP”) part time, and didn't finish all of the traditional First Year classes. I also had a really crappy GPA. And now, I'm going to ask them to send the sorry record of my studies – to a Community College. Oh, the shame. Well, there's nothing for it – it's got to be done, or Hoth CC won't let me in. This time it's an e-mail, but it's free. Small consolation.

Having dotted and crossed all of my transcriptional i's and t's, I head back to Hoth CC's website to collect my shiny new student ID number.

Not so fast, pardner.

Seems that Hoth CC knows me: I already have a student ID. And the previous information doesn't match what I've submitted. Say what? I send an e-mail to Admissions for clarification, and am reminded that years ago, I took a Spanish class at Large Public Library which was taught by an instructor from Hoth CC. This made me an Official Previous Student of Hoth CC, and therefore not eligible to apply online. I must print out the 12-page paper application form, and submit it by fax, mail, or in person. Sigh.

Luckily, I'm able to access my online application, so I can use it to help me fill out the somewhat trickier and less clear paper form. I fill in. I go to Admissions office. I get a lovely “congratulations, you've been admitted” letter from the nice work-study student at the counter. Once all of my transcripts arrive, I can register for classes. I wait patiently. I get one, two, three automatically generated emails that my transcripts are in Hoth CC's custody. Hooray! I can register!


Seems I'm still one transcript shy of a full load. I'm told by a very helpful Admissions counselor that my undergraduate record refers to a class taken elsewhere. I wrack my brain. Ah yes. It's coming back to me: in an effort to get a better grade (and pay much less tuition), I took a required science lab class at a community college back home. Thirty years ago. And I need to submit an official transcript therefrom. You're. Kidding. Me. (No, they're not.)

The way I expected this part of my paper chase to end was with a harried record keeper at St. Swithin Junior College (now called “St. Swithin College” thankyouverymuch), faced with my request for records from the Pleistocene Era (exact semester unknown) to throw up her hands and say, “Forget it sister!” Luckily, SSJC has an online student service system. Type in your last name, birth date, and social security number, and ta-DAH! it spits out your student ID number, no matter how old it might be. Plug that into yet another transcript request form, and Shazam! again: transcript is en route.

Have I mentioned that I love technology?  

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