Our first grandchild is about to spread her wings and leave for her first semester in college.
Fifty eight years ago, I did the same. I couldn’t help but compare the excitement and anxiety she’s feeling with those I had so long ago. The anticipation is similar. From experience, I know that life for her and her family is about to shift profoundly.
She is more ready for her academic career, than I ever was. She’s already registered for her classes. She has filled out forms that have determined who her most compatible roommates will be. She has a sense of a career path. She’s spent many months visiting schools and winnowing down her choices. She was fortunate enough to get into her the college that was her first choice. She’s worked hard and I have no doubt will continue to work hard to achieve goals that I could not even dream of.
College for Women 60 Years Ago
My college registration process was a nightmarish free for all, as I remember it, that required staring at catalogues, then going into lecture halls, staring at blackboards where the classes were listed, to see if classes that you wanted or needed were still open. If you were lucky, you could complete the process in one very long day of running all over campus.
Most of my high school classmates who went on to college, went to the University of Massachusetts in nearby Amherst. I was determined to get away. U Mass just wouldn’t do as an escape plan. I chose the University of Miami because I’d visited Florida on a few occasions and found it fit in perfectly with my idea of living a hedonistic life style. If I had to summarize my hedonistic philosophy it would have been something like this: Like the beach? Spend all your free time there, then. Get a killer tan while you’re at it. Date boys with convertibles. Like clothes? Go shopping.
Visiting other schools was not a part of the college selection process back then. In fact, I’d never stepped foot on the University of Miami campus until I arrived as a freshman. My parents couldn’t afford to take me to college. They put me on a plane, one late summer morning, and said good-bye. Those were the days when my mother was able to hug me goodbye on the tarmac. I think she had tears in her eyes. Maybe they were tears of joy? I boarded that DC-7 feeling euphoric, as if I was bound for paradise.
The selection of my roommate was random. We didn’t get to know who it would be until we went into our dorm room for the first time. We had strict curfews and dress codes, now completely erased.
I had not one idea about a career. I was part of the unfortunate generation who joked about going to college to get an M.R.S. degree. Finding no suitable mate on the horizon for me, my mother urged me to become an elementary school teacher.
Instead, I became a philosophy major because a cool boyfriend at that time was one, and I was enamoured with everything he did. I held no delusions that I’d ultimately find work as a philosopher, but I liked the classes which made me THINK, and it wasn’t something everyone else, i.e. all the women were doing.
God only knows what my parents thought when they sent me off to college 1500 miles away. But they did let go, God bless them. College was to them, if not immediately to me, a definite dividing line between financial support and the expectation that after college, one would pay one’s own way. Maybe that’s why my Mother often repeated this offensive advice all through college my college years,
Remember it’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as it is to fall in love with a poor man.
I shudder to think of the response I might get, even saying that in jest, to my wise, intelligent, and savvy granddaughter. Thank the Lord for changing times.