Despite all odds, a 63-year-old psychology major will be attending Columbia University next fall.
By Sara Almalla, Staff Writer
Marie Tramz dropped out of high school in 1972 with a GPA that was below .675. Forty years later, she plans to attend Columbia University in the Fall.
Tramz grew up in a traditional filipino household. Her parents did not encourage her to attend college or achieve a degree- their only expectations were for her to marry.
She did go to college, though it was simply to get away from home. She chose Santa Clara University because her best friend was going there, but she hardly ever attended classes or did work. She changed her major so many times, she’s not actually sure what it was in the end. Her parents had no objections so long as they could say she was doing something until she was married.
“About halfway through my Junior year, I figured I’d done everything I could there and dropped out,” explained Tramz. “I decided I would go to work. I have never worked before because my parents did not allow me to.”
Tramz went from job to job, from working at a Macy’s to being the Orange County fundraiser for the Easter Seal program, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the disabled.
“If anyone talked to me about going back to school, I would have never ever said I was going back. If anyone talked to me about tests or finals or papers, the hair on my arms would stand up and I wouldn’t want to hear about it,” said Tramz.
Ironically, a few years ago she found herself at Valley, attending a legal secretary program and actually enjoying it.
Once a professor mentioned those with some sort of degree would be paid more, she began to work towards achieving a computer applications technology degree. After graduating, she admitted she had enjoyed it so much that she wanted to do it again— from a four-year college. Tramz returned the next semester and began taking courses in order to transfer. This time, she chose a psychology major.
“I chose Psychology for a BA because I’ll be going into Internet marketing and thought that would help me in understanding people’s motivations and how best to approach them.”
Admissions counselors helped her figure out what classes she still needed to take and what she could do to help her transfer go more smoothly. Tramz emphasized the importance of having an educational plan set and personally doing research on the schools she was interested in.
“I had flunked anthropology in my first college years so I was going to take it over here, because I figured a failing grade could be replaced with a passing grade. I took my transcripts over to UC Irvine on transfer day and spoke to one of the admissions people and she told me that it would not have counted if I had done that and that I would have had to retake it at a UC because I took it at a UC the first time. The counselors here [had not] known that, so you need to do your own research and talk to the admissions people at the colleges that you want to go to.”
Tramz’s study ethic had completely changed now that she was actually motivated to succeed and doing something she enjoyed. She made study groups with classmates whenever she could, she worked on improving her writing and staying organized – and it payed off.
At first glance, it seemed her grades from her earlier years in Santa Clara would drag her 3.8 GPA down to a 2.6 – too low to apply to the schools she wanted.
Tramz continued to do her own research and learned each school takes different classes into account and she had actually been verified at the UC records department with a 3.77 GPA.
She originally intended to apply in-state only, in fact, Columbia University had not even been on her radar until a professor told her class that they should not be discounting Ivy League schools because of money and that these universities often help students with their tuition.
Tramz’s daughter attended Columbia with financial help, so Tramz began to look into it as well. Despite the somewhat discouraging requirements that she found on the university website, Tramz attended an information session and was told by an admissions person she should apply regardless—something that she would not have been able to tell from the website.
Tramz reiterated the importance in looking outside of Los Angeles and California for universities, affirming that going out of state often means having more money available through FAFSA and scholarships.
“The Columbia University tuition is a lot of money and it would deter most people, but there is financial aid available,” she said. “Don’t apply to Northridge just because it’s cheap. There are a lot of other options.”
Tramz has been studying Internet marketing and plans to make some of the money she needs for Columbia through a wide range of tactics, from starting blogs and monetizing them, to using websites like fiverr, where people do small tasks for five dollars and possibly even creating a Kickstarter fund.