How can I go back to scbool?
January 29, 2012 12:54 AM   Subscribe

What are my options for resuming my undergraduate education? Somewhat longwinded special snowflake details inside.

I am 21 years old and have had a number false starts at several prestigious institutions. Years ago, I suffered through a scarring high school experience that exacerbated preexisting mental health issues. In my immaturity, I neglected to thoroughly resolve these difficulties before entering college. My inability to deal with horrible cycles of depression, anxiety, and agoraphobia within the framework provided by each of these schools' health services forced me to drop out several times. I'm now left with a transcript full of half finished classes and 3 mismatched "A" grades. One is from an intensive for-credit summer course taken at an institution to which I was granted entry as a doe eyed 17 year old. I am not debilitated by my mental health issues any longer but feel unfulfilled, unchallenged and at a horrendous disadvantage because of my lack of a BA. Right now, I am toiling away as a hostess in a restaurant. The restlessness I feel is beginning to reach an unbearable level. I need help to find a way out.

Complicating matters is the fact that if I find some miraculous way to regain entry into University #2 (where I took that summer course), it will be free because of a family member's employment benefits. As it turns out, one of the only places that has liberal enough admission criteria to accept me is an alternative/community college within U#2. Unfortunately, after meeting with the Dean, I discovered that U#2 does NOT accept transfers from the continuing studies side to the regular undergraduate college under any circumstances. What a horrid little policy, by the way.

I also have a somewhat open ended (though fast decaying) offer for re-matriculation from the first college I ever attended. The terms for re-matriculation include a year of continuous and successful enrollment and residency at an accredited university, and a minimum GPA among other things.

So my question is this: How can I cobble all of these discordant shards of nearly squandered opportunity together into a BA from a solid institution? Also, while I'm here, does anyone know of any relevant resources, grants, and/or scholarships for (female African-American) "non-traditional" students here on the east coast?
posted by panthera to Education (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Wellesley's Davis Scholars program might be worth checking out. Though you are a bit younger than their usual student target population, the various challenges you've faced in getting access to higher education sound like the core issues the program aims to address.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:18 AM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, I would suggest that you not see "accepting transfer of existing credits" as a deal breaker (which you may not be, of course--I've just seen too many people get so locked into that idea that they passed up better opportunities for lesser ones). Especially with only three completed courses, it may not make sense.

Best of luck to you!
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:22 AM on January 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think what panthera meant was:

U#2's alternative-learning college is the only one that will accept me.
U#2's MAIN college will not accept credit transfers from its A-L college.

Which I agree is very stupid. Meh. Perhaps you could ask how many credits you might need before you WOULD be considered for acceptance, and then take a few classes for fun until you qualify?

You could also inquire about your re-matriculation offer.
posted by Heretical at 1:29 AM on January 29, 2012

Can you actually get a BA from the alternative/community college within U#2?
Does it offer the classes/program that you want to study?
Would your tuition at the alternative/community college also be free?

If yes for all of these things, why don't you want to do that?
posted by needs more cowbell at 1:33 AM on January 29, 2012

Your post is a little confusing. What I understood from it was
#1. You attended College A straight out of high school. If you can enrol at a different accredited university X and get a year's credit (and residency? what does that mean, they require you to live in dorms at X?) with a given GPA, you may re-enrol at College A. This is a good university. Tuition/cost/other desirability was not given.
#2. You took a summer course at College B. If you get in to College B, tuition will be free, and it is a good university. You do not currently meet the requirements to get in here. What are the requirements?
#3. College B has a Community/Alternative College offshoot, CC. You currently meet the requirements for admission already. You don't say if it offers an actual BA, but I assume it does not meet your definition of 'a solid institution'. It sounds like taking classes here will not count towards meeting entry requirements for B. Would taking classes here count towards the credit you need to get into A?

When you say 'the only place that will accept you', are you saying 'out of A, B and C above'? Have you looked at other institutions? There are many more than 2 solid institutions available, and even if you are dedicated to one of these two options, you might need to enrol somewhere else to meet the re-enrolment criteria.
posted by jacalata at 2:16 AM on January 29, 2012

I teach at an open access 4 year public college. Open access means we take anybody who applies. Many students come to us with a few college credits, which it sounds like is what you have, and we help them find a way to use those credits within one of our majors and get on solid academic footing and succeed again. Many students leave us after two successful years and transfer to one of the more prestigious flagship state schools. Then they end up with a diploma from an excellent, rigorous school for which they are better prepared because of their time with us. (Many of them choose to stay and graduate from our college because they've gained an appreciation for how we do things.)

Several states have a college like ours. If not, the work is usually done in transfer programs at community or technical colleges. Based on my understanding of your situation, I strongly encourage you to look into such a program, to help you get back on your feet and really succeed at a prestigious college in the future.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:33 AM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just start applying to places! See where you get in. I don't think you're old enough to qualify for most "non-traditional" programs yet - the ones I know about are for age 24 and up. You're still basically traditional college age, though I know you probably probably feel like you've squandered your youth (you haven't, I promise!).

I think your best bet would be to fulfill the requirements for that re-matriculation offer from University #1, maybe by doing a year at an open-access institution like hydropsyche's or a community college or University #2's continuing ed program or at Blahblahblah State College or whatever (it sounds like you might not *have* to enter a open access college; you might be able to get into a college with some level of selectivity, though I don't know if that's the case). A successful year of college under your belt will also make you more likely to be able to transfer to another program at a school you're more interested in.

tl;dr: get into some kind of college* as soon as you can.

*Any accredited non-profit that's not seriously overpriced, i.e. no for-profits, no very expensive but poorly ranked private schools.
posted by mskyle at 5:44 AM on January 29, 2012

I had several fits and starts before finally succeeding and finishing my undergrad degree. Many people do this, so don't feel like you are unusual or that it's too late.

Here's my advice - what you really want is to get a college degree. Prestige of the university matters far less to future employers than you think. Consider that you might want to set yourself up to succeed this time. Why not take some courses at a local community college and then transfer to university ? The options you listed above aren't your only options. If you get a year of solid work under your belt at a CC and apply somewhere to transfer, said college never has to know about your other fits and starts. Of course, in this scenario you'd be giving up the credits of the 3 courses you have, or apply and submit those as transfer credit. This is quite common - college admission offices will see it as a sign of growth if you apply with some proven successful track record behind you.

FWIW, I started off at UMASS, promptly failed out due to mental health issues, went to another college and dropped out, and then a yr later did a very successful year at a CC and transferred to UT Austin. I completed my BA long ago and have since gotten a MEd and am working on another Master's. It's not too late and there are more ways around this than you think. Good luck!

posted by Sal and Richard at 6:41 AM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could go to a community college and transfer-- that's the 'obvious' choice many people would suggest. It's not that bad, but a little boring, but... not that bad. You can do it; Washington State has an 'automatic transfer' policy where a state school will just take you if you're making satisfactory progress at the time.

As far as regular schools, there are a number of 'open access' places (as mentioned above); the one I'm familiar with is Washington's Evergreen State College, which is also awesome (check it out!). It is an alternative but very good school. If you apply for aid, are a resident of Washington (give it a year), and are poor, basically you should be able to get 85% in grants.

If you have an offer of re-matriculation, just take it. It's less important where you are than to start work. The whole 'it'd be free' thing is a bit of a red herring. With half-way decent financial aid, it's very easy to get an education as a non-dependent low-income young person in my experience. Once you take the idea that you're going back to school for granted, you've just accepted responsibility for the future, and the debt is a part of that responsibility. For now, just apply to places (even ones you don't think will take you) to give yourself options, and fill out a FAFSA early as well. The 'how' and the 'where' questions are mostly distractions-- it's more important to get a foot in the door with the default option (community college if nothing else) and get used to working consistently in the academic mold, and then figuring out where you want to go with your studies once you're on a roll.
posted by reenka at 9:51 AM on January 29, 2012

Response by poster: I apologize for the late response. Thank you all for the helpful advice. I really appreciate the care and consideration that went into each answer. It seems as though my biggest stumbling blocks going forward may be fear and pride. It helps to have a better idea of what's out there for me, though.
posted by panthera at 10:54 PM on February 7, 2012

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