I passed and failed at UCLA

By Levi Clancy for לוי on
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Graduating from UCLA is one of my great accomplishments, but it is also one of my greatest shames. What a cruel twist. Although I made it in just a few months after my thirteenth birthday, my progress was a stuttering on-and-off-and-on-again journey that involved me being admitted and readmitted a total of three times. Most of the time, it was just one more high-stakes (and somewhat fatalistic) undertaking on top of a life that was filled with them. It was a crumpled, messy path with a 2.585 cumulative GPA that serves as a poignant insult to various injuries. The experiences I had at UCLA are inextricable from whatever personal issues were going on at the time. The pain flows easily.

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My degree works to my advantage, to be sure, and there are lots of interesting stories in my experience. Most of these memories come when I was more than twice the age that I was when applying to UCLA. It was somewhere around 2002 when I first applied, then 2003 when I tried again, and 2004 when I started. It was 2018 when I sat down to write down much of this history.

It all started as a rebellion.

Applying and turning thirteen.

When UCLA first came on my radar, it was not necessarily my first choice. I really liked the campus at Loyola Marymount University. My first forays into university applications are a little murky in my mind, but i remember they did not go well. They would have been somewhere between 2001 and 2002. My transferable courses were not very far along and my GPA was not especially compelling. It was a kind of a non-starter.

The second time that I applied, my mother was supportive and not-supportive at the same time. I was on my own when I told her I would begin applying to UCLA again. She did not really think that I was ready. She did not support it. In essence, if I applied and got rejected then it was my own fault. It was rubbing it in her face if I mentioned my application. But when I actually worked on the application itself, then things changed. I remember sitting at the dining room table and facing the paperwork of it all – the application was not online yet. To my surprise, she came over and during the course of a few nights we completed the application quite quickly. She was so helpful in mastering the litany of fields and bubbles and things to include. I did not problematize the situation by asking what changed her attitude.

Also, she engaged a coworker at Venice High who had been on the football team there some decades before – back when the football team was all white was her go-to joke about just how many decades in the past. The idea was that he would support my application by trying to recruit me to work as a tutor for the university athletes. There was a general impression that he was going to work within the system to ensure my application had as few hurdles as possible, and that UCLA had a goal to work toward in recruiting me to be a student.

One day, my went to pick up the mail and we received my acceptance letter to the UC system. The language of rejection was not unfamiliar to me from my first round of applications a year or so prior. But this time there was none of that frivolous verbiage. I realized that it was not a rejection before I realized that it was an acceptance. We were in the parking lot of the post office and I read it right there by the daylight. She was not so interested when I opened the letter and when I told her that I had been accepted she was not worked-up about it. When she looked at the letter herself she was doubtful at best. I do not remember it turning into a very joyous or celebratory thing.

There was something strange about not getting into UCLA exactly, but getting into UC Berkeley instead. Of course, I received an admissions letter, but there may have been an issue with deadlines for entering the fall term at UCLA or something like that. Perhaps there were limited seats in my desired degree at UCLA and had simply been accepted to Berkeley instead. It was weird and honestly, I am not totally sure. But I do remember my mother called the UC applications hotline and harangued them for trying to separate a child from his mother: what the hell were they thinking? Berkeley? Also, I had the impression that her coworker gave some extra support for my application. When I started UCLA, then I already had a job lined up as a tutor for the university athletes. In the end, I would begin UCLA as a winter admit.

UCLA needed one little thing that was problematic. They requested a current SMC transcript for me to start in winter. I had not finished spring semester when I applied to UCLA, so they wanted to see the outcome of that and any other coursework. But I had failed spring. It was bad. It could derail my whole application. Could they revoke my acceptance? We did not want to find out. My mother and I went to the UCLA admissions office. I remember her going up to the counter while I stayed back a little and witnessed something incredible: the power of human persuasiveness. She talked the best bullshit that I had ever seen in my short life. It showed me that facts are tools to be used toward a goal. She told them we would not be submitting that transcript because I had already been accepted anyways and that I would just take at UCLA the calculus course that I had been enrolled that semester. No need to transfer it. No need for that final transcript.

The rest was just paperwork. There was my entrance into the Academic Advancement Program. When filling out my application she had encouraged me to not put white on the application. She had a theory that I was actually black. My father and his siblings are for the most part darker-skinned. Shizu is full Okinawan and Mary has dark features with mixed skin, but then the four youngest kids – Jeannie, David, Susan, and Johnnie – go incrementally from darker to lighter in that order. My grandfather's mother had been married to his father, but my mother was sure the marriage had been annulled and that the only legal reason for this at the time was from racial mixing. She had this impression of my great-grandmother Stella being tossed out from her own marriage after being discovered for being black (but white-passing). Her angular features, the grandchildren's skin color, the supposed annulment, all fit together into this compelling case (only in my mother's mind) that the Clancy family was black. And that meant me, too. I am not sure if me being (but actually not) black was why I was an AAP student, or if it was a household income reason, or something else. I think it is forbidden to question a student about it after their application, and AAP offered such hands-on support that it made no sense to rock the boat. There was tutoring, study space, and a very personal approach to academic advisement that seemed to have advisors who cared more. Maybe I was in AAP because of something to do with being a disabled student.

My mother made sure that I was a disabled student. This was actually ingenious. More time on exams, access to note-taking services, and other benefits were so important to me. To be honest, the feeling of support was just as important as the support. it quelled my anxiety to feel that I was not just a number.

The point of it.

I really have a mixed relationship with my degree program at all, to be honest. Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics (or MIMG for short) is now nothing more than a funny anecdote to tell at cocktail parties. Me? Here I am – a software developer, a content creator, a consultant, and a passionate expatriate – so really, what the hell has a degree in microbiology got to do with anything?

From 2004 to 2012.

I attended UCLA for twenty quarters, which can seem like a lot, but not really. There was also one quarter online on top of that. It spanned 2004 to 2012: covering every year that I was a teenger until I was legally able to drink. This seems like the worst time to go to university.


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When I entered UCLA, people I met always wanted to know what I was studying / what I wanted to do. My go-to answer was cancer research and something like a combined MD/PhD program. It was all white hallways, lab coats, breakthroughs, and positive reinforcement. Maybe that is why nowadays I crave total positive reinforcement and total countercultural shit-storming.

When my first quarter came my university aspirations were immediately put to the test. I failed calculus and I hated chemistry. Although I retook the former, the latter required a major adjustment because my major was Biochemistry. That would obviously have to change. I remember in one of my chemistry courses – I am pretty sure Chem 20 with Dr. Scerri – that we all did instructions, all of us in that big lecture hall. This young girl (Asian) introduced herself as so-and-so studying MIMG. I maybe forgot some things but I will never forget the nearly clairvoyant feeling of clarity when she said that. Over time I found out more about the major like that it was supposed to be the hardest possible program at UCLA. It was tempting to go for a degree with a reputation. The reputation would sort of reflect onto me as well. Plus it meant no more of the Chem 20 series and I could do the Chem 14 series instead.

TermCourseGrade / GPACreditsPoints

Winter 2004

Chem 20A: Chemical structure
Class dropped - Week 10

4.0

0.0

Winter 2004

Engl 95B: Intro to drama

P

5.0

Winter 2004

Math 32A: Calc of sevr var
Repeated: Excluded from GPA

F

4.0

Subtotal

0.000

5.0

0.0


TermCourseGrade / GPACreditsPoints

Spring 2004

Math 32A: Calc of sevr var
Repeated of Course Previously Taken

B

4.0

12.0

Spring 2004

Psych 15: Intro psychobiology

B

4.0

12.0

Spring 2004

Span 1: Elementary Spanish

A-

4.0

14.8

Subtotal

3.233

12.0

38.8


TermCourseGrade / GPACreditsPoints

Summer 2004

Chem 14A: Structrs & equilibria

C+

4.0

11.5

Summer 2004

Chem 14B: Thermodnmc&Kinetcs

B

4.0

12.0

Subtotal

2.650

8.0

21.2


TermCourseGrade / GPACreditsPoints

Fall 2004

Hist 13C: US & Colonl orgns-20C

C+

5.0

11.5

Fall 2004

LS2: Cells&Tissues&Orgns
Repeated: Excluded from GPA

C-

5.0

0.0

Fall 2004

Span 2: Elementary Spanish

B

4.0

12.0

Subtotal

2.611

9.0

23.5


TermCourseGrade / GPACreditsPoints

Winter 2005

Chem 14BL: Gen&Orgn Chem Lab 1

C

3.0

6.0

Winter 2005

Chem 14C: Orgnc Molec Strctrs

C+

4.0

9.2

Winter 2005

Med 99: Student Rsrch Prgrm
Honors content

P

2.0

0.0

Winter 2005

Span 3: Elementary Spanish

C+

4.0

9.2

Subtotal

2.218

13.0

24.4


TermCourseGrade / GPACreditsPoints

Spring 2005

Chem 14D: Organic reactions

I

4.0

0.0

Spring 2005

LS 1: Evolutn & ecol & biodiv

C

5.0

10.0

Spring 2005

L2 3: Intro - molecular bio

C

5.0

10.0

Spring 2005

LS89: Hnrs - Lifesci 1
Honors content

A

1.0

4.0

Spring 2005

Med 99: Student rsrch prgram
Honors content

P

2.0

0.0

Subtotal

2.182

11.0

24.0


Starting in Summer 2005 my major switched to MIMG.

TermCourseGrade / GPACreditsPoints

Summer 2005

LS 4: Genetics

C-

5.0

8.5

Summer 2005

Stats 13: Stats - Life & Hlth Sci

C+

5.0

11.5

Subtotal

2.000

10.0

20.0


TermCourseGrade / GPACreditsPoints

Fall 2005

Chem 14CL: Gen & orgn chem lab 2

C

4.0

8.0

Falll 2005

MIMG 101: Intro microbiology

C+

4.0

9.2

Fall 2005

MIMG 101L: Microbiology lab

C+

3.0

6.9

Falll 2005

Chem 14D: Organic reactions
12/16/2005 Removal of 05S I grade

C

4.0

8.0

Subtotal

2.191

11.0

24.1


TermCourseGrade / GPACreditsPoints

Winter 2006

LS 2: Cells & Tissues & Orgns
Repeat of course previously taken

C

5.0

10.0

Winter 2006

MIMG 102: Intro virology

I

4.0

0.0

Winter 2006

Physics 6A: Physic - Life Sci maj
Repeated: Excluded from GPA

D+

5.0

0.0

Winter 2006

Physics 89: Hnrs - Physics 6A

A-

1.0

3.7

Subtotal

2.283

6.0

13.7


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TermCourseGrade / GPACreditsPoints

Spring 2006

MIMG C106: Mol & Gnt-Bact Infct

C

4.0

8.0

Spring 2006

MIMG C132: Cell bio - nucleus
Repeat: Included in GPA

C-

4.0

6.8

Subtotal

1.850

8.0

14.8


TermCourseGrade / GPACreditsPoints

Summer 2006

Engl 4W: Critcl read & writing
Writing intensive

B+

5.0

16.5

Summer 2006

Hist 1A: Western civilizatn

B-

5.0

13.5

Subtotal

3.000

10.0

30.0


I was not actually in school but took an exam that I had not completed previously.

Fall 2006 was a retroactive withdrawal. If memory serves me right, I had been enrolled in the term. When it was impossible for me to afford the tuition, it required a retroactive withdrawal to have the charges removed from my account. However, there still shows up a class. This is actually incorrect. What happened was I was just taking the final exam for MIMG 102 which I had not taken the previous year.

TermCourseGrade / GPACreditsPoints

Fall 2006

MIMG 102: Intro virology
12/05/2006 removal of 06W I grade

C

4.0

8.0

Subtotal

0.000

0.0

0.0


TermCourseGrade / GPACreditsPoints

Summer 2008

Physics 6A: Physic - Life sci maj
Repeat of course previously taken

B+

5.0

16.5

Summer 2008

Pol Sci 40: Intro - Americn pltcs

B

5.0

15.0

Subtotal

3.150

10.0

31.5


This term, I was marked readmit.

TermCourseGrade / GPACreditsPoints

Fall 2008

MIMG 103L: Lab-Mdrn Microb & Imm

C

5

10.0

Fall 2008

MIMG 185A: Immunology

C

5

10.0

Fall 2008

MIMG 189: Adv Honors Seminars
Honors Content

A

1.0

4.0

Fall 2008

MIMG CM156: Human Genetics

C+

4.0

9.2

Subtotal

2.213

15.0

33.2


TermCourseGrade / GPACreditsPoints

Winter 2009

AN N EA 98T: Educ-Ancient Isrl & Mesopotamia

A+

5

20.0

Winter 2009

MCD Bio 138: Developmental Biol
Repeat: Included in GPA

D+

5

6.5

Subtotal

2.650

10.0

26.5


TermCourseGrade / GPACreditsPoints

Spring 2009

AN N EA 162: Archaeol-Ancient Israel

B+

4.0

13.2

Spring 2009

AN N EA 164B: Assyrians

B

4.0

12.0

Spring 2009

MIMG 132: Cell Bio-Nucleus
Repeat: Included in GPA

C+

4.0

9.2

Subtotal

2.867

12.0

34.4


TermCourseGrade / GPACreditsPoints

Fall 2009

AN N EA 186: Art&Dth-Ancient Egypt

B

4.0

12.0

Fall 2009

MCD BIo 138: Developmental Biology
Repeat: Included in GPA

D

5.0

5.0

Fall 2009

MIMG 168: Molec Parasitology

C-

4.0

6.8

Subtotal

1.831

13.0

23.8


Between January and April 2010, I was traveling.


TermCourseGrade / GPACreditsPoints

Summer 2010

AN N EA CM101A: Art & Arch- Anct Egypt

B

4.0

10.8

Subtotal

2.700

4.0

10.8


What did I do Fall 2010?


Winter 2011 I took two UCLA Extension course and transferred in 8.0 units worth 32.0 grade points, or two A's.


This term is marked readmit and there is also a note (Academic action: Probation ended) after the list of my coursework for the term.

TermCourseGrade / GPACreditsPoints

Spring 2011

AN N EA 10W: Jerusalem - Holy City
Writing intensive

A

5.0

20.0

Spring 2011

Biostat 100A: Intro - Biostatistics

B

4.0

12.0

Spring 2011

Chem 153A: Strct&Enzym&Metabolism

C+

4.0

9.2

Subtotal

3.169

13.0

41.2


TermCourseGrade / GPACreditsPoints

Summer 2011

Physics 6B: Physic – Life Sci Maj

C-

5.0

8.5

Summer 2011

Physics 6C: Physic - LIfe Sci Maj

B

5.0

15.0

Subtotal

2.350

10.0

23.5


I took this course online: it was expensive, but it meant continuing ahead on my degree. There are few memories to be had of it besides the video chats online and the abundant reading and writing. It was fantastic to access most/all of my reading through the web portal itself for the course. The challenging part of online courses is how anticlimactic they are when they finish.

TermCourseGrade / GPACreditsPoints

Summer 2012

Philos 3: Hist Intro to Phil

A

5.0

20.0

Subtotal

4.000

5.0

20.0


After this, I never attended more courses at UCLA. When did I walk stage? I was working at the flow cytometry lab at the time. But that was brief.


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From 2013 to 2014, and 2017

Then in 2013 and 2014 I studied also at PCC.

At that point I was pretty sure that I was done and recall visiting the transcript office at PCC but not sending over the final credit. I finally submitted my official PCC transcript in 2017 and at that point was awarded my diploma for December 2014 because I guess that was when my PCC courses had been completed.

I moved over 45 credits from SMC, and 67.5 credits from PCC. This was a total of 112.5 credits which was 7.5 over the cap. I also 213 credits of courses at UCLA, of which 9 were pass/no pass. In total: after 309 units, finally I had completed by BSc.

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