My Bizarre Academic Career

A reader recently asked me what was my undergraduate “Class of”.

That turns out to be a surprisingly long story.

The short but inaccurate answer is Class of ’83. But in my junior year, I switched from applied mathematics/physics to poli sci/philosophy, which meant I was on the 5 year plan. So I got to I hang around til ’84.

At the time, I never physically received my diploma; On graduation day, a few friends got together and, um, well, let’s just say we had our own graduation ceremony.

No pomp, lots of circumstance.

I simply assumed I graduated. I had a ton of credits courtesy of the 5 year plan — something like 136 total, when I only needed 120 credits needed to get my BA. When I went off to law school 2 years later, I never gave it a second thought.

Perhaps I should have.

Funny thing: Because I was on the equestrian team (really) for a few years I ended up with P/E credits. Many, many P/E credits. In fact, way too many. It turns out there was a cap on gym classes; back out the excess, and I had only 118 credits left to apply towards matriculation.

I only discovered this deep in my 3rd year of law school, when they had to certify that I was qualified to sit for the Bar Exam in NY.  As it turns out, one of the qualifications was having a college degree. Which, as it turned out, I didn’t have.

I scrambled to take an undergraduate class, but it was late. I went to Hunter College during the class sign up day, but students there had mostly pre-registered, and I couldn’t get into any undergrad courses.  I scrambled, calling other local schools — NYU, Fordham, City College — Sorry, it was too late.

One ray of hope: Hunter said I could take graduate level history or Pol Sci courses. So I call Stony Brook to see what the rules were about grad level course, majors, etc. It turns out you are allowed to take 12 GRADUATE credits (and I had only taken 6) towards matriculation.

But which courses? Can you take anything?

It turns out you can. A little more digging, and I discovered a loophole (Perhaps 3 years of law school weren’t wasted) It didn’t seem to matter what classes you took (but not gym!)  It could be dental school, medical school, and clever SOB that I am — even Law School.

So, I transferred 2 credits from Law School to college — that’s right, double counting. It took a few weeks to process (I was getting nervous as the Bar Exam study time approached).

When I got the call in frickin’ late May that the credits were ready to be transferred, I literally ran to the Law School from my apartment on 27th and Lexington to get the physical copy of my transcript. I bounced from Manhattan to Stony Brook with that piece of paper like I was carrying a donated kidney. I got to the SUSB registrar on campus, while the surgical team went to work on the lifesaving transplant organ (i.e., processing the paperwork). The donated tissue was not rejected, and after a brief period of convalescence (~60 minutes), I got my diploma.

That’s right, my undergraduate school turned out to be, 10 years later, a one hour diploma mill. I then raced back to law school — and got that diploma, and was certified to take the bar.

That is the bizarre footnote to my academic career: I graduated Law School about 3 hours after I graduated College — same day, same year.

Those of you considering similar career paths, I can only say this: I don’t recommend it . . .

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