I recently added links to my undergrad (U.C. Irvine) and grad school (University of Miami) alma maters to the side bar on this blog.  I guess you could say I’ve had a coast-to-coast education.

It wasn’t easy though.  For those of you struggling through college or considering going back to school for another degree, I’ll tell you a little about my own background in the hopes that it’ll inspire you.  Seriously, if I can do it, anyone can.

As a fairly clueless 16-year-old California high school senior applying to colleges, I didn’t know the first thing about the higher educational system.  I didn’t know what private schools versus public schools were.  I had no loyalty to my parents’ or grandparents’ alma maters, since they didn’t have any.  No one had ever explained to me the difference between the University of California system and the California State University system.  (Short answer: The U.C. system has fewer campuses, generally more selective admissions, and tends to focus more on research.)

I almost missed my chance to take the SAT entrance exam, only hearing about it through a friend at the last minute.  I hastily registered for it the week of the test, and then showed up with #2 pencils in hand, but lacking the study guides, vocab flash cards, and cram course materials that everyone else seemed to have with them.  I took the exam one time, totally cold, with no other preparation than my high school education.

My family had no money for college, which meant that I had to work multiple jobs to put myself through school, while balancing my heavy class workload, and still trying to maintain a social life, as well as practice dance as a creative outlet.  Just figuring out how to apply for college and for financial aid was a daunting task, but I knew that I wanted to get the hell out of the southern California high desert, and I saw college as the first step in my ticket to freedom.

I ended up applying to U.C Irvine, an accessible campus where I could live at the beach while attending school.  Let me tell you, living in Newport Beach, with the sand and waves out my back door, did nothing for my study habits, but it did help to relieve stress when necessary.  I honestly had no idea at the time that UCI was such a prestigious university.

Several years after completing my bachelor’s degree, I decided once again to take the plunge and go back to school.  I also worked full time while attending graduate school at the University of Miami.  (Do you see the beach theme here?)

Ultimately, I benefited from college so much that I built “Phase I” of my career in the field of higher education and dedicated myself to making the educational process more accessible and easier for students.  I’ve had the honor of serving as an administrator and a consultant at colleges and universities across the U.S., and I strongly believe that learning, in all its many forms, is always worth the investment.


  1. Hi Lisa,

    I sure miss having you here in the OC…I can’t believe I am still here. I can’t imagine why you would want to leave the high desert though. ;o).

    Like you I was pretty clueless about college in high school. So much so that I fell into junior college just so I could figure the whole thing out and stick to the structured transfer program. I also feared the SATs and wanted to avoid that nonsense. I finally got my act together and transferred to UC Santa Cruz. Go Banana Slugs!!! I’m sure you remember all the hippies at my graduation.

    My degree was in Environmental Studies and I am still very passionate about those issues but I sold out and now work for an evil developer. I actually took this job because my degree does not mean much in southern California. I applied to dozens of science jobs before taking this one 6 months after graduating. The straw that broke the camels back was when I was turned down for an internship that paid $250/week that I was perfectly qualified for and very excited about. Well it has all turned out to be a blessing. I love commercial real estate and have been getting involved and researching green building technologies. It is the future for sure!

    I have decided to go back to school for an MBA and will be taking some prep courses for the GMAT very soon. The schools that are at the top of my list are UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC Irvine. I am also considering schools in Oregon and Washington since my wife and I would love to live up there. The idea of taking on more debt does not scare me much; it will definitely pay for itself in just a few years. I hope to have more than a financial analyst role in real estate and I am finding it hard to get over that hump. With an Environmental Studies degree and an MBA I think I should be perfectly positioned to get creative in real estate while also staying true to my passions about solving our environmental problems. I will keep you updated.

    Aren’t we blessed to have the educational opportunities we have? By the way, I am enjoying your blog and all your pictures.



  2. An English teacher told me during my Senior year of High School that I had to either go to Columbia College for screenwriting or The University of Iowa for their writing programs. Until then I had NO direction, money or support from my parents who never graduated from college (other than, you better start thinking about college! Look for scholarships!). I don’t blame them, though, the college process has changed a bit since 1972 – not to mention they were younger children in families of 5 and 6 kids, so they did everything on their own, they figured why couldn’t I?

    I looked to my left – no scholarships there. I looked to my right – no scholarships there, either. So I decided on Columbia because I could take the train & still live at home, broke. It all went really well, until we ran out of money. I had to drop out of Columbia and go to the local Community College (College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn) in the guise of “getting my requireds out of the way cheaply before I go back to film school.”

    Yeah, then I met real life, who made me get a job and move out and resent my lack of degrees (boo-hoo). My relationship with real life had its highs & lows, but ultimately led me to a family who I wouldn’t trade for the world. But on the flipside, I am degreeless on top of being out of the workforce for so long, so I better get creative!

    I can’t wait until the kids are in school, so I can go back myself. I have no idea what for yet, but I am sure that my buddy Real Life will let me know what direction to take by then.


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