My 16 Year Higher Education Diploma Odyssey

Among the requirements that I had to submit for my immigration application were my diplomas. Getting my college and graduate school diplomas was something I had yet to do. I had never really put any stock on diplomas and certificates. I don’t look for them, I don’t frame them. I don’t display them on a wall. You can imagine how I felt when I was told I needed diplomas that I had never bothered to claim.

Off I went to my undergraduate alma mater, and with a small fee and a one week waiting period, I got my diploma.

Getting my graduate school diploma would, I thought, be a breeze, since that alma mater was a private university, and supposedly, more efficient and organized. Boy, was I mistaken!

The bad news: I did not have an official transcript. The copy I had (which I had been using for employment purposes over the last 10 years) did not carry a special order number from the Commission on Higher Education. I discovered that I was not officially a graduate since, apparently, I had not submitted my final bound copies of my master’s thesis.

I knew I had submitted the 5 final copies of my thesis for binding, had paid the binding fee, and had been assured by the grad school secretary that everything was as good as done. Ten years after I had supposedly graduated, I found that (1) the bound of my thesis were never submitted; (2) the copies-bound or unbound-were lost; (3) the office had just cleaned out all their old files; and (4) the person who had received my copies had migrated 5 years ago. I knew I had no way of proving that I had submitted those copies because I distinctly remembered throwing away the little slip of paper that showed I had paid the binding fee-because I had decided a year before that I wouldn’t be needing it anymore. And even if I had that little slip, all it would get me was a discount on the binding-or free binding. I still had to produce the thesis.

For once, I was glad to be a junkie. I had kept all my thesis files including the final proofread copy which was the basis of the final copy for binding. I also found all my old diskettes containing the complete files for my thesis. Unfortunately, those were 5.25″ floppy disks-in the year 2000.

Was I glad my husband was a junkie too! He had insisted on storing my first computer-the one I had used to work on my thesis. The bad news: we couldn’t hook up the old drives to my new computer to check the diskettes. The good news: one of the service centers we frequented could do it for us, salvage the data and save them to 3.25″ disks. The bad news: certain files were completely irrecoverable. The good news: it was only a third of my paper-about 100 pages right in the middle. More good news: I had the proofread hard copy! I could easily retype the lost pages.

The graduate school office said I needed to submit 5 new copies for binding, so I zealously typed and printed 5 new copies and sent them off for submission. The bad news: I needed to pay 5 times as much as I had originally paid. More bad news: the new final copy would have to be proofread first. Still more bad news: I had to revise the style according to the 5th edition of a book that was only in its 4th edition 10 years ago. Still more bad news: there were no copies in circulation because it had not yet been released in the country. The good news: I found a grad school secretary familiar with the style from typing grad papers, who said there was really only 1 minor change that concerned me. The bad news: I needed to purchase the thesis paper; they gave me one ream free (but I’d need 3 reams). The good news: I had software that could format my thesis so that the silly little corners on the official paper could be printed. I didn’t need to buy 3 reams!

I prepared one final draft for the proofreading, which took several days because most of the faculty were on vacation. When I was ready to print my final copy, my printer died on me. It coughed ink and creaked to a painful, gut-wrenching stop. The good news: I had a friend who had a printing press who agreed to have my paper printed on a book-quality printer. And once again, off to the university to submit my final copies.

Bad news: (1) I needed a new copy of the approval sheet and other signature sheets for my front matter. (2) All but 2 of my 5 panelists had retired, my adviser included. (3) My grad school dean had died; the new dean would have to sign instead. (4) My chair had retired; the new chair would have to sign instead. (5) The sheet I had printed and gotten new signatures for had the wrong names (I couldn’t remember who all my panelists were 10 years ago!).

Good news: (1) The department secretary remembered me. (2) She found my list of panelists. (3) She offered to type a new sheet for me. (4) She offered to hunt down the signatories I needed for me. However, she could only wait for a couple of retirees to drop by the office, which they thankfully did every now and then.

And so it was finally done! It took me all of the summer of 2000, but I got all that done and finally, around July, I got the special order number from the Commission on Higher Education, a new and now official transcript of records, and my graduate school diploma. All dated 10 years ago. And since I took 6 years of part-time studying to complete my Masters, it actually took me 16 years to get that one diploma for my degree. That should be worth hanging on a wall!