now that my long nightmare is mostly over I feel I can step back and recount the events of the past 3 or so months leading up to my enrollment in NCSU masters in aeronautical engineering program.
We begin our tale with my being laid off from my employment of 2 years and moving back in with my parents. The job market wasn't getting any better, mind you this was at the crescendo of bank failures, the credit crunch, and skyrocketing unemployment. It was agreed upon amongst my close family members that secondary options, such as continuing education, needed to be explored. On what was basically a whim I registered for my GRE to be taken in early november. Since then I began to piece together the process for applying to NC State's graduate programs.
The week before my GRE test was scheduled I made a trip out to the school (roughly 4hr drive one way from my parents home in the mountains) to discuss entrance requirements and financial aid. Skipping forward to just after my GRE's were taken I began the process of getting recommendations, filling out requisite forms and applications and preparing for the late November (the week before thanksgiving) deadline for applications. Come that day I had all my documents in for the application and the very next day in the mail all (based on what I was told when I visited the aid office) the documents I would need to apply for a Stafford loan.
It is now the second week or so in December and I receive notification by email that I have been recommended for admission by the engineering department. This was good news but by no means a guarantee of enrollment. I promptly contact my loan officer at the university to check on the status of my loan papers. I am told that there is nothing to be done until I am fully accepted by the university. To give some idea of the time-line, the first day of classes for the second semester is January the 11th.
We move now to the week before Christmas, I receive notification via email that I have indeed been accepted by the university as a potential full time student, pending my enrollment of course. Hurrah says I as I contact my loan officer once again to get the ball rolling. There is news on this front thankfully but it is not good. Apparently there are other forms that I needed to fill out, three to be specific, a independent status verification worksheet, additional tax information worksheet, and the Graduate Benefits and enrollment form. The first 2 are quickly filled out by me and prepared for delivery on the 21st. The latter form is more complicated; there is a section for me to fill out then the form must be delivered to my graduate program office, filled out and signed, then forwarded to the financial aid office.
It is on the 21st that I am informed that the university and all its offices will be closed beginning the 23rd and ending on January the 4th. Faxing these forms seems to be the best bet. The tax forms get to the financial aid office promptly and are entered into the system. I am unfortunately unable to get confirmation of receipt by the graduate office before they close so I had a very relaxing Christmas.
Let us not forget that during all this time I need to find a place in Raleigh (4hrs away from home) to live and to arrange for my move.
Try as I might there is nothing I can do to move forward on my loan and without my loan I wont be able to register for any classes as there is a tuition hold on my account. So come the 4th I have a slew of phone calls, emails, and even campus visits to nail down the particulars of my enrollment 1 week before classes are scheduled to begin.
Bad news, it is Monday the 4th of January and the graduate office doesn't have the fax of my form yet! The silver lining to this cloud is that it usually takes 24 hrs for faxes to the office to be delivered (>.>). On Tuesday my father and I make a trek out to Raleigh with the primary intention of securing living quarters for myself. Along the way I am plastered to my phone making sure the form issues are dealt with. By the end of the day I have an apartment to live in (come later that week of course) and assurance that the form has been filled out by the graduate office and sent to the financial aid office.
Wednesday the 6th comes and goes and the financial aid office sees hide nor hair of the form. This is because the graduate office chose to deliver the form via the campus mail system, a process that can take upwards of 3 days. I am running out of time and well if I'm honest I broke down a little over the course of the next few days. Resolved was it that I was to move out to Raleigh 1 day early, coming out with the items taken to my parents home on Thursday with the hope of resolving my enrollment that day in person. On my way out I encouraged the graduate office to take a copy they had made of the form (and not informed me of the availability of said copy) and fax it to the financial aid office. I arrive on campus at 12:30 PM and seek out the graduate office secretary, who wouldn't return to her office till 1:15. As it turns out the form was not faxed so a second copy was made, to be delivered by me directly to the financial aid office.
That afternoon, roughly at 3:30 pm I received an email that my loan had been awarded in the full amount and that the tuition hold had been removed from my account. I made my way over to the library to register for my classes online, relief pouring over me.
But I was not done. Every graduate level MAE (mechanical and aerospace engineering) course available to me was full or on waiting list as well as a math course required by my degree. Allow me to put this problem in perspective; it is in my estimation not a very common occurrence for graduate students to be dropping classes especially in the second semester. Were I not to be enrolled for 9+ credits (that's 3 full classes) I would not receive my full loan award. Without my loan I would be unable to live on my own in Raleigh and thus unable to attend whatever classes I did get into. I would be forced to defer enrollment to a later semester and everything that I had done in the past 3 months would have been completely nullified.
There is, however, a happy ending to this terrible tale. As of this posting the class cap for all engineering classes has been raised, allowing me to enroll in 3 MAE courses, 1 MAE seminar (1 credit) and remain on the waiting list for my Math course.
By my own admission I am not an optimist. I like to consider my self an objective realist. My very nature precludes me from looking on the bright side when there remains obstacles in my path. Throughout this whole ordeal I was in a terribly foul and doom-saying mood. Never did I consider giving up, however, and in the end, it worked out.
Now I can get on to the important task of worrying myself to death about my academics and finances :)