18. Preparing for College

Academically I was doing fine for my junior and senior years at Tabor.  It wasn’t the easy excellence that I had known in elementary school, but I was never really in danger of not passing a subject, except maybe French.  By my senior year I had taken 4 years of French 1 and I hadn’t passed any of them.  There was every possibility that I wouldn’t graduate if I couldn’t get through this class, and ultimately I was successful, barely.

The two years of living at home while attending Tabor were outstanding.  While the winters were harsh for me since I had lived in Florida, the summers on Cape Cod were wonderful.  One of the friends I had made from the Rifle team was Michael.  His father was a teacher and he worked in New Bedford during the summer as I did.  Art was off to college during our senior year but the three of us went everywhere together.  One of us was sure to have a car available and we had the whole of Cape Cod as a playground.  I was getting along with my new stepmother and my two stepsisters and while this huge new family was often confusing to me, they were an eclectic mixture of old world Armenia and modern 60’s America.  Life was good.

As I got older my father’s influence became stronger.  It was clear that he had grand plans for me and he made it his mission to prepare me for what he thought I should do as a career.  For my part, I had no idea at all what I wanted to do.  Like most of us then, the one thing that was foremost in my mind was Viet Nam.  Those were the days of a conscripted Army and I had a Selective Service card, also known as a draft card.  Because of the war, the Government had instituted a lottery system to determine who would be drafted and who would not.  They put 365 pieces of paper in a barrel, each one with a date on it and they picked them out of the barrel until they were all picked.  The order in which it was picked determined the draft order.  The 66th pick was my birthday.  The Government was drafting up to around the 100th pick so I needed to stay in school with my II-S (college) deferment or I was going to get drafted.

At the time, I truly was ambivalent about the war.  I understood the whole domino theory and I understood trying to help a country (South Viet Nam) remain free from communism.  At the same time I had very fresh memories of the 2 years I had already spent in an Army military school  and I couldn’t bear the thought of doing that again.  That left me with only one choice, get into college and stay there.  But I wasn’t ready.

At the beginning of my senior year, I was required to go to the Senior Advisor, James Gowing for help in my choice of college.  He gave me a large book with the names and terse descriptions of over 10,000 colleges and universities from which I could choose and then asked me where I would like to go.  I had no idea at all.  His reply, tried and true, was “well pick some and let me know which ones you want to apply to.”  And that was the end of the “help” I would get.  I would never get to meet with him again and would have to come up with my own list of schools.

My father’s ideas were, again, based on his experiences in the 1930’s and the types of people that he hired in his profession.  Unfortunately there was a world of difference between the 1930’s and the late 1960’s and almost none of his suggestions were accurate.  I didn’t know that then and I had to bend to his strong will as I tried to make my decision about college.

For my part, I had better success in small situations.  That is, small schools, small classes, and small groups.  I was easily lost in large groups and was very happy with how Tabor was set up.  To me this meant that I needed to go to a small school that had dormitories for all of its students and a culture where teachers and students knew each other.  My guiding thought was that I needed to be in school until the military draft ended and that if I was going to be in school that long, I might as well graduate.

Once again I had to compromise with my future.  I did as much manual research as I could and came up with 6 applications for schools.  My father insisted that large schools provided the name recognition that hiring managers desired and so I had selected 3 large schools that the book of colleges said I could get into.  I was insistent that I needed to be in a small school and so I had selected 3 small schools that I could get into.  Of the 6 applications I made, I got into 5, 3 small and 2 large.  That’s when the serious arguing began.

There were few times that my father could be dissuaded and this was not one of them.  Every night the arguing continued.  It was hard to disprove anything he said and his final argument was that he was paying for my education and therefore he should have something to say about it.  My argument was simply that this was my education, not his and therefore it should be my choice.  The final decision then became his, not mine.  I had gotten into Northeastern University in Boston and my father thought that was an excellent choice.  It had a ‘work-study’ program he thought was of great value.  In addition, it was based on the quarter system instead of the normal semester system.  I would go to classes full-time freshman year and then beginning in the sophomore year I would work for 3 months (quarter) and then go to school for 3 months.  This would increase the graduation time from 4 years to 5 years and I would graduate with a year of experience.  The only parts I liked about it were the extra year that I would have a II-S deferment and they had a Rifle Team that we had just beaten at a tournament.

There was so much wrong with this decision.  When I arrived at the dorm I found out that I had 4 roommates.  Then I found out that this was a school that had 38,000 students that were spread out all over the city because there really wasn’t a campus.  Years later I would find out that schools with a ‘quarter’ system can’t transfer credits to schools with the more normal ‘semester’ system.  The next thing was that the so-called ‘work’ part of the work-study program was completely dependent on whether you could get a job or not.  Most of us either couldn’t get a job in our field or, in many cases, any job at all.  So the graduating with a year of experience part was largely fictitious.  Lastly, they only had dormitories for freshman.  After that you were on your own to find an apartment somewhere in Boston.  This was my first day in Boston and already I was getting that old ‘fear of everything’ feeling again.

© J T Weaver

About J T Weaver

The author of "Uphill Both Ways," a thought provoking series of stories about life, family, and growing up.
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3 Responses to 18. Preparing for College

  1. Sorry to hear about this wrestling. Likely, quite common. Regretfully, Father doesn’t know best. I found the advice of my first college counselor and of my parents to be no help at all. My father would offer absolutely no financial support for college. As a stay-at-home mother, my mom was not drawing a paycheck. Also, she did not drive. She feared it. My father would not even pay the $40 for me to secure a drivers license in high school. Funny though, it was not a problem when my slightly younger brother wanted this. Gender bias. So, I got the drivers license on my own, with a professor’s help at college, and bought an old beater Ford Fiesta for about $400. Crazy. The only reason I even went to college (Praise God!) is because I won a writing scholarship my Junior year in hgh school. So, I was a messed up issolated Mormon girl bound for Texas Lutheran. I secured grants, took out loans, and got jobs besides. Best and worst experience of my life….college.

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  2. sophiebowns says:

    I really didn’t enjoy college, I think it was a shock coming from a good school to quite a poor Sixth Form. Some of the classes were far too overcrowded and there seemed to be a lack of organisation in some of them. I must remember to leave you comments in future!

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