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Rejected! December 14, 2018

Posted by Peter Varhol in Technology and Culture.

I understand it is the college acceptance season for the high school class of 2018.  I confess I didn’t realize it, as I have no children, and my grandnephews still have a few more years in the soup that is middle/high school before they get to this point.

It was different, circa 1974-75.  Yes, Hopewell High School, 1975 (don’t laugh; my sister, six years my elder, still has an enormous amount or professional and personal energy).  Hopewell was an interesting microcosm; a decidedly blue collar environment, where most went directly into indentured servitude in the steel mill, yet some of us endeavored beyond that.

First, my sister, Hopewell class of 1969.  It was difficult to be a woman then (to be fair, not that it’s much better today).  You married at 18 to a steelworker, kept a household, and raised 3 or 4 kids.  My sister was the first of our extended family to go to college – California State Teachers’ College (now California State University of PA).  We were separated in years, so there was much I didn’t understand at the time.  Our mother told her that she had to be a teacher or a nurse; she graduated in 2.5 (Karen, correct me if I am wrong) years with a degree in French Education.

It didn’t work, she reverted to blue collar, but in her mid-life crisis, found her way to I think a successful professional career in health care.

Now, me (be patient, please).  I applied to two colleges, based on I’m not really sure what criteria.  We didn’t have that sort of world view.  I can tell you that the $25-$50 application fee at the time to yet another school might have meant the difference between our family eating for that week (up yours, James Farley), so my choices were necessarily limited.

My schools were Allegheny College, and Mansfield State.  Mansfield was on there because I met the admissions counselor as a high school junior, and he remembered me a year later.  As a teen with no discernable skills or proclivities, I gravitated toward the Air Force ROTC program at Allegheny, where should I successfully graduate, at least I had a job waiting for me.

It was slightly more convoluted than that, but I graduated in four years with a degree in psychology, from Grove City College, with a late but strong proclivity toward the life sciences.  I have three masters degrees, some work toward a PhD, and a reasonably successful professional life.

So where is all of this going?  Apparently there are teens that have their hearts set on, well, Harvard, Dartmouth, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, you name it.  They have visited these campuses and feel themselves easing into an academic lifestyle in those locations.

Quoting the Bill Murray movie Meatballs, it just doesn’t matter.  Well, on edge cases it probably does.  If you want a career in national government, particularly the State Department, you must be Ivy League. Get an East Coast law degree if you want the FBI.  Stanford or CMU in CS if you want Google.

But for the vast majority of us, it really doesn’t matter.  Get your degree.  The major doesn’t really matter.  You may do two years at Penn State Beaver (yes, that is a place) as a commuter, before moving to the main campus, or you may do four years in exile at North Adams State.  You’ll do fine.  It may not be your ideal way of starting out your journey, but it may be the best.



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