June 7th, 2001

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inadequate...again.

Here we are again.

Life has a way of marching around in circles, and the historian's mantra is "Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it." Although I'm not a practicing member of the Guild of Historians, it is my training, and thus I identify with them. And tonight is a night in which I feel all my old failures tickling the edge of my mind, stuff that nobody else would look at as a failure, but...that I take one look at and see how it proves my shortcomings. Depression is fickle.

What triggered this latest round is poking through the webpages. Basically, I want to go to graduate school. But...at the same time, I begin to wonder if graduate school wants me. I can't articulate a firm reason why I want to do something beyond "it looks like fun", and that just doesn't cut it. Especially with my grade point average.

People keep telling me, a 3.2 at Berkeley isn't nothing to sneeze at, given all the major obstacles that cluttered my course. And my grades did dramatically improve once the manic depression was diagnosed and all the side effects were. Before, I fought, with problems about probation and my scholarship, to maintain a 3.0. Once I could start safely putting ground between me and it, my grades started improving, and after I filed a fateful petition with the deans office about harassment that wiped a C off my record, I never once again fell below the fateful 3.0 mark. After that awful break, here's how my grades broke down:

BeforeAfter
0 A1 A
1 A-4 A-
2 B+2 B+
2 B2 B
1 B-1 B-
1 C+1 C+
13 units of P/NP10 units of P/NP
1 frozen I1 frozen I
42 units completed54 units completed

And it all works out to a 3.199, which works out to a 3.2 in my book. :)

In other words, it's nothing to be ashamed of, but I'm afraid it's not going to be ENOUGH. It's this common feeling that no matter what I do, no matter what I have to do...I'm always DOOMED. And here's the requirements I was reading (from http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/academics/applying/masters_req.html):
Berkeley Campus Requirements:
A bachelor's degree or its recognized equivalent from an accredited institution; (done, from Berkeley no less.)
Sufficient undergraduate training to undertake graduate study in the chosen field; (close enough, there's not much in the way of undergrad stuff that was offered when I was there.)
A satisfactory scholastic average, usually a minimum 3.0 (B) grade-point average in bachelor's degree work completed after the first two years; (well, you can see I've got this...but whether its good enough is not known at this time.)
Results of the General Test of the Graduate Record Examination; (the tricky part)
In the case of international applicants whose academic work has been in a language other than English, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). (not applicable)

Okay, so I pretty much meet Campus Requirements. Good. Now for SIMS specific requirements:
Superior scholastic record, normally well above the 3.0 GPA; (here's the worry I was voicing above)
Evidence of potential success as indicated by GRE scores and letters of reference; (eek, I burned a TON of bridges with the manic-depression)
Clear indication of professional career goals and reasons for seeking the degree described in the Statement of Purpose section of the application;(whee..."Sounds like fun" doesn't unfortunately cut it.)
Computer competency and proficiency sufficient for successfully completing SIMS course work. For further guidance on the competency requirement, see the Computer Competency Entrance Requirement section; (the one thing that is MOSTLY not a problem. But I'll get to this.)
Evidence of relevant work experience; (work experience? *gulp*)
Particular consideration will be given to: knowledge of qualitative and quantitative research skills; socioeconomic background; unusual aptitude as reflected in high GRE scores; advanced preparation in related fields as evidenced by successful graduate study; successful work experience in relevant fields. We anticipate students from a diverse set of backgrounds; some will be technically educated, some educated in the humanities and social sciences. The purpose of the core curriculum offered in the first semester is to bring these diverse students to a common level of knowledge and prepare them for the electives. (And this is where I hope my shortcomings are overlooked. Anyway...onward.)

Computer stuffle to know.:
A. Basic Level Competency
At the most basic level we expect entering students to be able to use personal computers and be familiar with the use of typical microcomputer applications and processes including:
Word processing (e.g., WordPerfect, Microsoft Word); (check)
Spreadsheets (e.g., Excel); (check)
Data communication (e.g., E-mail, Telnet, FTP);(check)
Network browsers (e.g., Netscape Communicator, Internet Explorer);(check)
Database management (e.g., Microsoft Access, FileMaker Pro) (a bit iffy here, been meaning to start my SQL project...)
HTML tagging and editors for creating Web documents (not a problem!)

Familiarity with the basics of Unix and a Unix text editor such as vi or Emacs is also highly recommended. (woo, easy. I live with linux....I need to put gvim in 'doze.)

B. Programming Competency
Students graduating from the School will be leaders in organizing, accessing, and managing information. We expect all students enrolling in the program to understand the basics of programming in order to enhance their understanding of computing and to build on that understanding through coursework in the degree program.
Computer skills at a level comparable to those obtained in a college-level course on computer programming in a high-level language will be expected. This is the minimal requirement; additional course work and/or experience with computers, and familiarity with a scripting language is highly recommended.
Recommended high-level programming languages are C, C++, and Java. (err, does Scheme and Assembler count?)
Recommended scripting languages are Perl, Tcl/Tk, and Python. (I know a smattering of Perl, just enough to be dangerous, not enough to be useful. *sigh*)

And now you can see why the low-level depression. More to rant on tomorrow, like the EVIL ETS, and stuff of that magnitude.

But now I need to sleep, maybe.

  • Current Music
    Hans Zimmer - Duduk of the North
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more rantings on grad skewl and things of that magnitude.

Anyway...I promised I'd rant s'more on the Evil ETS and stuff, so here goes.

Educational Testing Services, aka ETS, is a pretty big name in the educational testing business. They're the ones that administer the SAT and the Advanced Placement Exams. Lesser known to people is what's known as the GRE or Graduate Record Examination (affectionately called the "Jerry" by stressed college students). The GRE is a test most graduate schools require, and I've had it explained to me as the SAT of grad school.

Anyway. The GRE, like most exams of its magnitude, has provisions for disabled students. I figure, no problem, I've been with the disabled students program at Berkeley since Nov 21, 1997, and it's not gonna be problematic for me to get extended time on this monster. Helen, the swell person at DSP who's been looking after my case, filed the appropriate letters, and I thought, well, no problem.

Wrong.

About February, I get this call from ETS. They need "further documentation" of my disability. As I talked to the lady on the other end of the phone, it became clear they wanted my complete medical records. This stinks of illegality, but I have nowhere really to complain to, besides DoJ, and well, I should have filed the appeal months ago. At least they haven't bothered me since calling at 6 AM one fine morning.

But it's just another worry in the grad skewl sweepstakes.
  • Current Music
    Bob Dylan - Buckets Of Rain