march anniversaries, part one
03.16.05 // 3:12 a.m.

While procrastinating, I looked through my archives and realized that it's been one year since I found out that I was admitted to Harvard and I received the letter from the Education department chair informing me that I had been admitted to the Higher Education & Organizational Change division's PhD program. In the same letter, I was also assigned to my current advisor, a woman I was told I am lucky to be working with.

I think a lot about how my life would be different these days if I had chosen Michigan, Teacher's College (Columbia) or Harvard over UCLA. I've been at UCLA for all of my adult life and I'll be here for another 4 or so years. Frankly, I'm bored of it, but my interests brought me back to this program.

I'm glad with the decision that I made, but I think a lot about the tradeoffs. What connections or personal growth did I miss out on by not putting myself in a more uncomfortable environment? Would a master's degree from an [even more] elite Ivy League institution or the top ranked higher education program in the nation benefit me more than just going straight in to the PhD? (By the way, UCLA is currently ranked number 2 in higher education) Who knows.

I do know that I had to turn down Michigan's great offer (full funding for the duration of the master's program) simply because my interests really didn't mesh with the interests of the faculty. I turned down Harvard and TC for similar reasons, but also because I knew that I didn't value a name and connections enough to go into debt more money.

Reflecting on the decisions brings back something else: a creeping and ugly feeling I got when I was admitted to the private schools and to Michigan. I knew very well that every other school I was applying to, aside from UCLA, would take my race/ethnicity into account when making a decision.

For a split second, I started to doubt myself. I wondered if a big part of the reason I had been admitted to any of the 4 institutions centered on the fact that I was a Chicana. I hated doubting myself this way, because I felt I was feeding into the beliefs of affirmative action opponents that such policies hurt rather than help the students. Some would argue that students admitted under such policies experience self-doubt and wonder if they really belong at the university.

I don't know if there is any way to accurately know that the only reason you were admitted was because you checked the right box in the race/ethnicity category. I doubt that any admissions counselor or professor will tell you, "the only reason you were admitted was because you're black" or "yeah, you're not as academically competitive as the average admitted student, but we wanted you because you're Chicano." Sure, there might be students and even faculty who will look at you sideways because your test scores were lower, but in my opinion that's their problem.

Really, should it be my problem that someone else doubts my ability? Isn't that his or her issue to deal with? Quick story: an African American student in my program attended an elite research university. She recounted a few instances of other students asking her, "what sport do you play?" Is it her fault that the other students thought she was admitted only to play basketball or run track? Hell no. Even if her ethnicity played a role in her admission, she still was qualified and deserved her seat at that university. She brought something to the table that other students couldn't bring: experience as an African American woman.

So... I quickly changed the way I was thinking about my admission to these Tier 1 universities. I knew that I was well-qualified. I was confident in my undergraduate academic profile, my test scores, my personal statement, recommendations, and past experience. (The thing about applying to grad school is that you have to build up your ego really big and convince yourself that a program is making a big loss by not admitting you.) I squashed those little bits of self doubt and instead made myself think: who cares if being a Chicana helped me out in this case. I know it's hurt me (or other women like me) in the past. If it's helping me out now, good.

[Note: I also wanted to bring this up because it has been four years since the March 14, 2001 take over of Royce Hall to demand the repeal of Standing Policies 1 and 2.]

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Me siento: unmotivated
Escuchando: "the world at large" by modest mouse

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