Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Graduation Countdown

Image: Frank (the human) sits in a plastic chair wearing a tie and a graduation toga, feels the top of his head and looks to his right, startled. In the background –tiptoeing away– is Sis, also wearing a graduation toga and a medal in the shape of a concave eight-point-star. She has just slipped off Frank’s mortarboard hat and is sticking her tongue out at him.

I had it all figured out. I only had Statistics, my thesis, and community service (required by a local law – or was it an ordinance?) and then I could graduate. I would do statistics during the summer of 2010, community service during the summer of 2011, and my thesis throughout the 2011 calendar year. There was plenty of leeway if anything went wrong. The plan was flawless!

…or so I thought.

The first thing that shocked me was that the Department of Theory of Computation had recently decided that they would never again offer Statistics as a summer course. “No problem,” I thought, “I’ll take it in April, 2011.” To my surprise, it wasn’t offered in April either.

I came up with a community service project of my own, but when I went to present it, they told me that –while proposing your own projects is encouraged– that one in particular didn’t count. “The law explicitly states that the community serviced cannot be your fellow students,” they said.
“But if this works, it’ll not only help the students, it’ll also help the teachers and the workers and–”
“No can-do.”
“But I’ve taken it to practically every other office in the organizational chart, and none of them will let me do it. How else am I supposed to bring this up?”
“That’s not my problem.”
So I was forced to check all the community service projects at the last minute (which meant a lot of walking since the information isn’t all in one place) only to discover that 80% of them require owning a car (which I don’t). Of the ones that remain, only one can be done in its entirety during the summer, and I’m not eligible for it. This means that, while I do have a community service project I’m already working in¸ when the term starts I’ll still be stuck with it; which means that I won’t have time to work on my thesis, which I need to put it off until the term after that.

Obviously, this means I won’t be able to graduate when I had planned, which means I have to reset the Graduation Countdown. (You have seen the graduation countdown, haven’t you? Please say yes or I’ll feel very, very sad)

It was counting down to February 16, 2012, at 4 PM. Graduations are usually 6 weeks after the epiphany (January 6) and always on a Thursday or Friday. I know because I always have test close to those dates, and I'm hoping to leave campus late to get home early to continue studying, and I always have to deal with the traffic created by the people leaving the ceremony in a celebratory mood.

This is actually the fourth time I’ve pushed back my graduation date. I created the graduation countdown because I thought that after having had to move it three times, I had learned enough to affix a good date, and wouldn’t have to move again. Of course, I wasn’t counting on the fact that things could change, that information I didn’t have could invalidate the plans of a low-income student like me, and that all this would leave me unable to finish my thesis –the single most important thing you’re ever assigned in college– in time.

Ironically, my little sister was able to graduate on schedule, which was what inspired the drawing at the top. Sis graduated from high school last week (so, yes, the real-world counterpart is older than the drawing), and they had changed the date of the ceremony so many times that it took me by surprise when she came up to me and said, “It’s tomorrow. You’re coming or what?” (Of course, when they changed the date of the ceremony, it was from one week to another, not from one year to another)

A pleasant surprise was awaiting us during the ceremony: Sis was given a medal for Outstanding Academic Achievement. Congratulations, Sis! You earned it! Yes, I know you never read this blog, but I’m proud enough to shout it out to the whole world.


  1. Well I guess you're lucky graduation is only a few weeks later, and not a few months. Or years.

  2. No, no. Her graduation was the one changed "from one week to another"; not mine

  3. But the image of our old counter says 6 months and 11 days, and your active counter says 6 months and 24 days. So isn't that a delay of only 13 days?

  4. That's actually the immediately next graduation. But the one I may actually end up graduating on could be that one, or the one after that (which is about 3 months later) depending on what the Graduation office says.

    Also, you forgot to add the 8 days that elapsed between the day I posted this, and the day of the comment

  5. So, today I found out there was a bit of small-print I had overlooked; looks like it will be "three" months later after all.

    Now counting down to June 28, 2012 :(