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Next week I will be receiving my Ph.D. in nuclear physics. Please muffle your laughter. I had spent much time deliberating about my decision to enroll in a Ph.D. program, as most undergraduates would. After all, earning a doctorate requires intensive study, a commitment to scholarship, five or more years of your life and often a subsequent lifetime spent searching for professorships in places other than Iowa, Kentucky and Guam. Despite the fact that I never even took physics in high school -- opting for a longer lunch period instead (yet another student slips through the cracks of American education) -- or college, I was determined to get my Ph.D. in nuclear physics no matter what. The thought made me tremble with uncontrollable excitement. It was also enough to make my parents laugh hysterically to the point of tears, recalling how in the fourth grade I had been put in a math class of four people in which I was the only native English speaker. (Yes, I'm serious.) Ironically, perhaps, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognize that my lack of math and science experience might pose a barrier to the fulfillment of my dream. Just when I began to wallow in the deepest pits of despair, lamenting my inability to add or subtract, the mellifluous ding-dong of my e-mail box receiving a message jolted me out of my unhappiness. Subject: "Dr. (Your Name) Phd." It was the answer to my prayers. God had been listening. It was time for me to get myself an edjimicashun. "Obtain a prosperous future, money earning power, and the admiration of all," it began. "Diplomas from prestigious non-accredited universities based on your present knowledge and life experience. "No required tests, classes, books, or interviews. No one is turned down. Confidentiality assured. Phd in any field you desire." Finally, I had the opportunity to get a degree from a prestigious non-accredited university! Was this program not the academic messiah I had been longing for? No work or application required? No uncertainty? And in any field I desired? As quickly as one could say supercolliding superconductor, I dialed the hotline. But something seemed awry with the prestigious non-accredited university from which I would soon garner "money earning power." The answering machine message insisted several times that I not forget to leave my area code first, rather than after my phone number. Then it reminded me to make sure that I leave my phone number, after it had told me that I needed to leave the area code first. I couldn't help but reflect for a moment. I was confused. This hardly seemed like the place that would give me a "prosperous future" and the "admiration of all." My new university could hardly create a coherent answering machine message. Even my 6-year-old cousin can do that. I felt defeated. But then, the next day, I was called back by a young man speaking broken English. "This is good time call? One registrar here, good English speaker. Hold now?" Holding now, I waited. And waited. And waited. Then I was hung up on. This is the story of my life. Sadly, the sun had seemed to set on my easy, anxiety-free Ph.D. empire. There really is no such thing as a free lunch. Or degrees free from tension, despair, hard work, blood, sweat and tears. Wishing for a Ph.D. had made me not only appreciate the dream of higher education, but also understand the reality. I am destined to actually work for my future degrees. Maybe that's not such a bad thing. In the meantime, though, I'll settle for paying my $25 and getting my doctorate in nuclear physics from another online scam. From then on, it'll be Dr. Horn, to you, bub.

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