Tuesday, December 30, 2003

How I Chose My School (because it's that time of year, and because Patrick reminded me of the story):

My entire high school career, people were telling me how much I was going to love college. "It'll be so much fun!" "You'll learn so much!" "You can study whatever you want!" that sort of thing. Usually this was in response to my asking why I couldn't be studying something I was interested in, rather than doing the same busywork as everybody else. So when it came to applying for colleges, I applied the same conscientious effort that I gave to the rest of my academic career: virtually none. I test well, so I got info from a half-dozen or so colleges every week. And then there were the college fairs, yet another source of brochures.

Financial considerations made me limit my scope to Missouri schools, where I knew I could get $2,000 per year (the Bright Flight scholarship). MU sent me an invitation to come up for the weekend, so I did. They said, "would you like to attend a class?", and I did. Philosophy. 200 level as I recall. There were about 25 students in the class, and when the teacher asked a question of them, I sat back and waited to see what they'd say. Nothing. They looked at their notebooks, out the window, down at the floor, anywhere but at the instructor. Finally, I tentatively raised my hand. For the entire class, I, the high school student, was the only one participating. So MU was off my list. In fact, I put big question marks next to all the big schools on my list.

I asked around my circle of friends where they were going, but the answer I was really looking for was from a particular girl I was "just friends" with. She said "Northeast." I said, "Hmmm." My folks had heard good things about it, the price was right, and their brochures were very impressive. Lots of big words and pictures of people who looked like they were thinking very hard, but still happy (this is harder to pull off than it sounds). I sent off for an application from Northeast (BTW, Northeast is now Truman State) as well as a few other schools that made my short list. Unfortunately, deadlines aren't really my strong suit so I only made the early application deadline for one school: Northeast. A month later, I got the letter telling me I'd made it in, and that they were offering me a scholarship which, in addition to Bright Flight, would amount to a full-ride. Cha-ching! A week later, a $750 stipend. A few weeks after that, $2,000 from my dad's company. I read the fine print and, yes, I was going to be paid to go to college. What a country! Why bother even looking at other schools?

By this time it was nearly February of my senior year, and I'd never actually been to Kirksville. My parents gently suggested that a campus visit might be in order while there was still time for me to change my mind. We made the trek. It was a long drive, longer than I thought you could make and still be in Missouri. The land was flat as hell, but my grandparents lived in southeastern Kansas, so I was used to flat. The dorms stank. But the campus was fairly pretty, the people friendly, and there was a vibe there I felt fairly comfortable with. Since we were visiting on a Saturday, though, there was no chance for me to attend a class. After my experience at MU, I was just a little worried.

Our tour ended in the Administration/Humanities building. I was feeling the effects of a high fiber breakfast and lots of walking, so I left my parents to chat up the tour guide while I hunted down a restroom. I ended up in the social sciences division. The stalls were a pale off-white color that showed off graffitti quite nicely. My eyes were drawn to a column that started at about arm's reach and curved gently for almost three feet, terminating by the toilet paper. There were two handwritings and multiple pen colors in evidence as two people, apparently over the course of several days, if not weeks, debated the merits and flaws of the ontological argument for the existence of God.

The first words out of my mouth when I rejoined my parents were "I'll do fine here."

Coda: My first week at Truman I was in the library researching some damn thing or another when nature called. I sat with my pants around my ankles and perused my surrounding. Prominently featured on the inside of the door was "Buy a friend; join a frat!" and the erudite rejoinder, "You just can't hold your beer, fag!" Sort of a bait and switch thing, I guess. Oh, and the girl went to MU.

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