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 . . .

Category: Psychology

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

15 Responses to “My Bizarre Academic Career”

  1. emmanuel117 says:

    So that’s why you didn’t want to testify in front of Congress…;)

  2. techy says:

    Thats Hilarious….sound much more like grade 5 white water rafting…after years of smooth sailing.

  3. Al Czervik says:

    There’s a new TV show this season called “Community” (it’s quite funny) , which takes place at a community college. One of the characters is a lawyer who returns to school after being disbarred when it came to light that he had never gone to college.

  4. DL says:

    I’m a Stony Brook grad also.

    But I never finished high school.

    (The same high school, it turns out, that Bernie Madoff graduated from).

  5. Onlooker from Troy says:

    Now that’s a great story! And the great thing about it is that you undoubtedly learned many practical life lessons through all that turmoil that you wouldn’t have learned if things had just gone smoothly. You were enriched by the experience which is what adversity does for us, so much more than having an easy go of it.

  6. danm says:

    I’ve got a similar story. Life can get quite complicated when you get out of the beaten bpath!

  7. ToNYC says:

    It’s all the same. You got the official approval the true genius never needs, but the doomed society requires to perpetuate it’s game plan to produce robots. I got a Ph.D. in a hard science, but would be way more impressed and hire someone who got most of it on their own.

  8. mgee says:

    Stony Brook Class of 2000, Fordham Law Class of 2008. Better late then never Barry.

  9. stevesliva says:

    Sounds easier than the crap women go through to change their name after marriage. (kidding!)

    My amusing academic paperwork story is this:

    My school allowed a non-recording option on electives. You could basically elect to have your grade be a “pass” if your grade was below a threshold you picked.

    For an elective my very final semester, I chose ‘B.’ Well, I got a B. And then the math worked out that that B put me 0.01 below the GPA threshold for cum laude. (Yeah, in modern colleges, a B is lower than cum laude… anyways…)

    So I asked the professor if he could kindly LOWER my grade, which would effectively remove the B and raise my GPA. He actually agreed– and was pretty amused– but the request never really made it through to the diploma printers. Oh well.

  10. HCSKnight says:

    “I switched from applied mathematics/physics to poli sci/philosophy”

    As a Physics and Mathematics guy, after ditching Engineering, and whom, by your methods of accounting, also picked up a minor in Philosophy – at a Jesuit school none the less…. I must ask.

    What drove the change?

    BR: To quote Sinatra, “Booze & Broads”

  11. Moss says:

    One can only imagine what your graduation ceremony consisted of. I am sure the rat pack would have been proud. If my parents were not around I would have done the same.

  12. Transor Z says:

    Awesome story. Think how much career success you would have enjoyed if only you had stayed on the straight-and-narrow. ;)

  13. JohnnyM says:

    Despite your many and very real accomplishments, it is a little alarming to see a person who makes his living partly on the strength of words use “matriculation” incorrectly twice in such a short space. The end of the world as we knew it.


    BR: That’s a lesson to you kids out there: Stay in school, and take a grammar course . . .

  14. WaveCatcher says:

    BR, I’m curious whether this story scenario has appeared in any of your nightmare dreams over the years since.

    This story seems like a cool variation on the classic “forgot to drop the class and not prepared for the final exam” theme that so many college grads suffer in their dreams. Even more stressful!

  15. dbowe says:

    Speaking of class f 1984 – check these guys out… http://www.classof1984.co.uk/