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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Choosing the Perfect College (old school)





I decided, sight unseen, to go to Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The reason being, it was closest enough in profile and far enough in miles to The College of William and Mary, where my next older sister, Emily, went. Also, Brian Piccolo had gone there. I fell in love with Brian Piccolo watching a Tuesday Night Movie of the Week. Brian Piccolo was the Brian of Brian’s Song. He was a football player who, after a sobbing-on-your-sleeve battle with cancer, died in the end.

All through high school, it was a given that I’d follow in the family’s footsteps and attend a prestigious institute of higher learning. Wake Forest was a perfect fit; good enough, but not too highbrow for the lowbrow self I was carelessly creating.

It never crossed my mind that I might not get in.

When I got the rejection letter, I was heart-broken and humiliated. Though in hindsight, what did I expect? I had spent my high school years building up my social circle and breaking down my GPA. I didn’t study for SATs, I did nothing to warrant stellar teacher recommendations and I suspect I sent my college essay riddled with typos.

“Well, you better apply somewhere quick,” my pragmatic father advised. “And make sure it’s a place you know you’ll get in.”

Pennsylvania has a whole string of state colleges that my Ivy-leagued ancestors would scoff at. But, hey, they’d accept me in a minute. They had goofy names like Slippery Rock, Lock Haven, Bloomsburg, Clarion, Kutztown and Shippensburg.

I chose Shippensburg State College because Beth Holmes lived on Shippen Road and she was our class president.

As fate would have it, I loved Shippensburg. But, after two years of partying my parents $3,000 away and learning absolutely nothing more than how to have fun with my freedom, I left anyway. 

With the same out-of-the-blue reasoning that I chose Wake Forest as my dream school, I decided I was going to become a screenwriter. Since the days of Google were still a gleam in the future’s eye, I looked for screenwriting programs the old fashioned way – flipping through dozens of college catalogs in the library. It wasn’t long before I stumbled upon the perfect place – West Virginia University. Not only did it have the dubious distinction of being amongst the top party schools in the country, but it was three hours due west of Shippensburg and I could stop in and visit every time I came home.

And so, I enrolled at WVU. My parents took me to Morgantown that summer for orientation and while they were golfing at the lovely Lakeview Resort, I went off to sign up for my classes.  Well,  apparently somewhere along the line, I had gotten all those colleges I had been looking at confused. My stomach lurched as I discovered that West Virginia did not have a Screenwriting major after all. My parents would absolutely kill me, after having convinced them that this transfer was completely for academic, not arbitrary reasons. I perused the course catalog as quickly as possible, my advisor sitting across the table from me chewing on a pencil and tapping her foot. 

Accounting?
No way. I had barely passed Consumer Math. 

Advertising?
Hmm. Advertising.

And just like, that I became an Advertising major, managing to bring up my mediocre GPA and earn my degree right on time, despite all the dropped classes at Shippensburg.

Now, as my children fuss and fret (or don’t) about their college choices, I have to take a step back, recalling my own journey. Had I gone to Wake Forest I wouldn’t have my found my life-long soul-sisters at Shippensburg. I would have surely taken up residence in North Carolina after graduating and would never have worked at TV Guide magazine in Pennsylvania. If I had never worked at TV Guide, I would never have met my ever-loving spouse. And if I had never met my ever-loving spouse, I would have married some cute, but simple soul from the Fireside Inn. If I had married a simple soul I would have borne simple children and I wouldn’t have had such a full and chaotic life. And if I hadn’t had such a full and chaotic life, I’d be writing boring articles on “How to Choose the Perfect College,” instead of stories about why the perfect college is but a passing perception.

2 comments:

  1. I love the way you write, always did. Such a great story. I'm getting to know you better now than I did when we worked together.

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  2. laughing so hard that I am crying. You know me! That part about getting the schools mixed up did it to me. And then when I got to the Fireside...take me back! Then you top it off with a Buddhist twist. Good one, Betz.

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