Friday, March 02, 2012


It’s the time of year again when the media goes college-bound: articles about getting into a fancy school, how to pay for that fancy school, how to cope if your child doesn’t get into a fancy school. One would think that any child who didn’t get accepted into an Ivy should just hang up their hopes and dreams and become a crack addict. The amount of parental angst, if it could be converted into BTUs, could power Times Square. Parents hire “college consultants”, make campus visits, and write help with their little darlings’ personal statements.

I find this all very amusing, as it is the antithesis of my college experience.

When I was a girl, my father sat me down to have The Talk about college. The Talk went something like this: “You can go to any state school in Illinois”. (Actually, that was exactly The Talk). Well, that certainly cleared things up. My father had given older brother the same talk. Older brother had flirted with the idea of the priesthood, and had wanted to go to Notre Dame, but that idea was quashed pretty damn quick. As attractive it was for a good Catholic family to have a son as a priest, state tuition was more important. Older brother ended up going to a state school in Illinois, where he discovered sorority girls and immediately forgot about this priest nonsense.

So I applied to Big Ass State University (BASU), because they had an engineering department, and I was so smart, I was going to be an engineer. Not just engineering, but Engineering Physics. No, I had no idea what that was, but it sounded impressive.

Off I went to BASU, that of the low tuition and teeming hordes of students. Mom and Dad dropped me off (none of this silly orientation foolishness), and hightailed it home, where they probably cracked open the Cold Duck and planned their trip to Europe (20 countries in 21 days!)

At BASU, I cried from homesickness for about 4 months, until one morning when I woke up and realized that I could 1) do whatever I damn well pleased and 2) get into any campus bar with just my university ID. I ended up joining a sorority, got a cute frat boy boyfriend, and immediately dropped Engineering Physics because, shit, Calculus was HARD. Psychology, my new easier major, was much more relevant and I could plan on Saving the World.

BASU was a fine experience, because nobody really gave a crap about us. My psychology advisor put up a sign every semester during class enrollment time, stating that he was unavailable for advising. Our undergraduate classes were primary taught by TA’s (teaching assistants), some of who actually spoke English. The bulging, flatulent BASU bureaucracy became our obstacle course to master. BASU gave us a big taste of the real world.

Of course, I do still have recurrent nightmares in which I get my report card, which informs me that I flunked Norwegian. Oh, no! I don’t remember even signing up for Norwegian! And it’s on my permanent record!

Despite these hardships, I have such fond memories of BASU. The smell of fresh manure wafting over campus in the spring, heralding the new fertilization of the campus agriculture farms. The mind-numbing expanse of cornfields that surrounded the campus. And, of course, did I mention being able to get into campus bars with just my university ID?

My fellow BASU students and I have managed, despite these humble beginnings, to sort of succeed in the real world, in that none of us are crack addicts or are living in a storage unit. So, parents, relax. After all, if your kid goes to Fancy U to major in Medieval Musical Instruments, she’s just going to become a waitress anyway.

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