Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Asking for Grace at Not Quite 40

Ok, so for those not up to speed:

Last month I applied to college.  Specifically I applied to enter the Access Program for Adults at Atlanta Christian University.  The Access Program allows working adults to obtain an Associates Degree in just 18 months, and some Bachelors Degrees in as few as 24 months.

I was pretty much scared to death to actually apply.  The last time I was in college it was 1990, I was more interested in having a good time than persuing higher education, and as the baby in my family I was in many ways ridiculously immature. I didn't leave college of my own volition.  No, I was asked to leave.  Placed on academic suspension.  Sent home with my head hung in humiliation to face the disgusted disappointment of my parents and the "Awww, that's too bad" looks and head shakes from friends.

I spoke about flunking out of college with my friend Adam, who is usually wise and full of excellent advice.  I told him that I didn't want to include my two short semesters at Tarleton State University on this entrance application.  He said I should go ahead an include it.  He'd worked in college admissions years ago and assured me that they wouldn't even include that transcript in their consideration, it wouldn't even matter.

Guess what folks?  It mattered.

ACC cannot just approve my application.  Because of my low GPA from Tarleton, 21 YEARS AGO, I have to write a "Grace Letter" to the Admission Committee.  And so I have.  But I haven't sent it in yet.  I wanted you to take a look at it and let me know your thoughts.  I refuse to grovel.  I know where real grace comes from - the Lord - and He has given me more than my fair share (as is His usual way.) At the same time, I have to do what I have to do.  I want this for myself.  I need this for myself.  Even I deserve a second chance, don't I?  So, here's the letter below.  Feel free to offer your opinions and suggestions.  It is overly wordy in many sentences and I spell out numbers, that's because the letter has to be between 500-750 words.

Dear Atlanta Christian College Admission Committee,

The purpose of this letter is to seek your grace in accepting me into your program. Once a very long time ago as a young adult who was immature for my age and who didn’t feel ready to take on college, I told a lie. I began by telling the truth. I told my parents I didn’t want to go to college immediately after high school because I was not ready. Then I caved when I saw my mother cry. I opened my mouth and told her I’d changed my mind and I took on college, with no real intention of applying myself.

That attempt at college was twenty-one years ago. I was eighteen years old, not focused on academics, and had no grasp at that time of “the future” and what bearing my actions (or non-actions) would have on it. From the age of 18 until about 22, I lived in the moment and for the moment. To be frank, I drank heavily, dabbled lightly in smoking marijuana, and slept through most of my classes. It’s not a time in my life that I am proud of. I did not maintain my grades, my GPA was too low, and I was placed on academic suspension. Flunking out of college was and still remains a deep personal failure for me as well as a huge disappointment to my family and friends.

To say it took every ounce of courage I possess and a whole lot of cheering on by friends just to go on-line and fill out the application to the Atlanta Christian College Access Program for adults would be putting it mildly. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done – and I’ve done some seriously hard things. Everyone assured me that a low grade point average twenty years ago wouldn’t matter in the least. Yet here I find myself with my past failure rearing its ugly head. Mattering.

Although it was disheartening to receive, I took the news that I’d have to submit a Grace letter as possibly being God’s way of letting me know that undertaking this endeavor of obtaining (finally) that elusive college degree is going to be a lot harder than clicking submit and showing up for classes. It’s going to be a lot harder than telling people “I just applied to college!” and having them light up and say things like “Way to go girl! I’m so proud of you! You can do it!”

Twenty-one years ago the phone call from Earl informing me that my old GPA was too low for acceptance at college would have been the thing that stopped me dead in my tracks. That phone call would have been the thing that allowed me to convince myself it’s not worth it, that I’m not capable, and that I should just give up. Twenty-one years ago I would have been too afraid of my own weaknesses versus the strength of a college institution to keep on trying. Twenty-one years ago I would have given up. But today, I am not who I was.

Today I am a woman who survived and left a physically abusive marriage. Today I am a woman who for fifteen years, all fifteen years of my daughter’s young life, has been a single-mom. Today I am a woman who has twenty years of full-time work experience under her belt, which you can peruse on the attached resume’.

It was disheartening to receive that phone call from Earl – so much so that it made my tender-hearted daughter cry to see my face when I told her I didn’t just “get in”. However today I am a new creation by God’s grace and am seeking your grace also. My belief is that God has called me to His work and I am asking you to grant me one more shot at college. There is much I believe I will learn from your school. Additionally, it will be a testimony of God’s power in my life. The life experiences I’ve had over the course of the past two decades (which I am happy to discuss in a meeting with you), being transformed and sustained by my faith in Jesus (which by His strength is how these examples came to be), give me strong reason to believe that I am now prepared to successfully navigate the challenges I will encounter in an accelerated academic program. My hope and prayer is that you’ll agree.

Melissa M. Martin
This video featuring "You are More" by 10th Avenue North sums it up about right:


  1. I love this Melissa! Made me cry!

  2. Don't make me start singing Neil Diamond to you! "Sweet Caroline...." It made me cry too. It's gonna all be good!

  3. Melissa - great letter. It's honest and sincere. I will be praying that God brings this dream to reality.

  4. Melissa-

    I posted a comment yesterday, but I guess it didn't go through. Just wanted you to know how awesome you are and how blessed we are to have you as a friend. Good luck!