Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Taught to the tune of a hickory stick...

Well, folks, I’m doing it – I’m taking a class.

That doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as it might have sounded back in the 30’s when people would mail order for correspondence classes on radio or the typewriter or something. But I think it’s pretty darn exciting. Or frightening. Or something. Whatever.

I’m taking BIO 121: Biology for pre-med majors. Not that I’m pre-med. Oh, no. Not that crazy. But I am pre-Certified-Nurse-Midwife. Yeah, I think I’m going to do it. I’m going to be a midwife. Just need a master’s degree, I can handle that. (I can hear it now: “But Miss Scarlett, Miss Scarlett, I don’t know nothin’ about birthin’ no babies!”) First I just have to take a few prerequisites. Like Biology. And, possibly even more difficult, I have to get through the enrollment process. Let me explain… imagine, if you will…


I walk into the admissions office of the local community college. I have my college transcripts, sealed and everything, and I hand them over. They put me in the computer as a student. No problem. Then they send me to Room 204 to register for the class I need.

I get there, and she says I need to take a placement test to get out of English 101 – because I didn’t take an English class in college. I tell her I didn’t need one because I tested out of the English gen ed credit because of my AP scores and ACT scores. She tells me if I haven’t taken a class, I need the placement test, end of story. Not like I graduated from college already or anything. Grrr. Okay, fine, I say – and she sends me to Rm 407 for the test.

I get there, ask how long the test will take (since my parents are in town and are expecting me to play tour guide), and they say that there is no time limit. Since that wasn’t quite the answer I was looking for, I ask again. Again she states that there is no time limit, and I can take as long as I like. I tell her that I have my parents in town, I need to tell them when they might be able to expect me. She resigns, tells me it may take an hour, it may take me two hours, it depends on how much time I need. I say fine, okay, that’s a good enough answer. I tell my parents I’ll meet them in two hours or so, and tell her I’ll take the test. She says I need the general test: reading, writing, and math. Wait – MATH? No, no, no – the woman earlier said I only needed English. Not math. NOT math. But the woman at the placement test counter said I needed math because I’m taking a science class, so I agreed – reluctantly – to take the math test. And I began.

I had to begin with the math test. It was a very good thing I reviewed college algebra a few weeks ago, otherwise I would have had serious problems. More serious that I already had, that is. I sped through the easy algebra, finished the fraction section, did some easy geometry, and felt I may have actually gotten the functions right (though I doubt it). Then came exponents. Not the “what is 5 squared” exponents, oh no. I’m talking about negative exponents, and exponents over exponents, and exponents of exponents . I remember seeing these before, but I definitely did a lot of guessing. Then came Trigonometry. Really now – how badly did this test have to end? I actually tried to think about the first two questions about sin-cos-tan-cot and whatever else. I recognized the types of questions, I just didn’t have a clue on how to figure them out. After the first two questions, I just picked answers. There had to have been 15 trig questions, and I guessed on all of them. An hour later, I finally finished.

I moved on to the reading section, which was easier than any standardized test in high school, and I finished it in 15 minutes. I then had to write an essay about the social pressures on me at the moment, and I wrote about getting into college (you know, if I pass the test). I then handed in my test, and was told to come back on Monday. With my high school transcript.

Wait. With my high school transcript? Are you kidding me? You mean, my college transcript isn’t enough? You don’t automatically assume that if I have a college degree that I must have also finished high school? (At this point, I’m beginning to feel a bit elitist about my college level of education.) Apparently, this isn’t the case. I need my high school transcript in order to actually register for classes. You know, to prove I’m worthy to take classes at the local community college. Grrr.

So… I call my high school. Then I get forwarded to the board of education. I ask if I can get my transcript faxed, but they don’t do that because of the confidential nature of transcripts (like I care who sees my high school transcript). She says I can pick it up, though. From Wadsworth, Ohio. Ha! Right. I ask if she can fed ex it, and she agrees, as long as I pay for the next-day-Saturday-delivery. I call fed ex, arrange for a pick up, call the friendly woman back, let her know she can get it ready, and pay $5 to the local currency exchange so I can fax my transcript release authorization to the same friendly woman. Then I finally go trotting off to the museum with my parents.

This whole weekend, I dreaded seeing my test scores. I imagine the huge fight I will undertake when I try to take a science class after not passing the math placement test. I also imagine how in the world I will get decent scores on the GRE if I can’t pass a silly little placement test. Ugh.


I go to admissions and ask for my placement test scores. She goes into the file, brings them over, and I see them – the scores. Reading: fine. Writing: fine. Math: not-so-fine. I got 91% on both arithmetic and high school algebra. But I got a 59% on the collge algebra. And a whopping 19% on the trig. Hmm. Good job, me. At least I did an okay job at guessing.

Anyway, the test score lady scribbles her instructions on my score page: go see math advisor to decide which math course to take. What? Oh, no – I’m not taking a math course. But I hold my tongue, and go to the class registration, ready for a fight. I sit down with the math advisor, tell her I want to take Biology 121, and she signs me up, no questions asked.

No math test scores needed. No high school transcript needed. I don’t ask any questions. No way am I going to second guess divine intervention.

She sends me off to the finance office to pay, and I get told to go get my student ID. I survived.

Today, I paid $190 for a large used biology text book and a flimsy little lab workbook. At least classes at the community college are cheaper than anywhere else.

Well, class starts tomorrow. I have a feeling I’ll have some good fodder for writing (and plenty of time to want to procrastinate).

Good luck to me.

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