Choices - Part 3
Starting college was a choice I almost failed to make. Neither Mom nor my step-dad had even gone to high school and I don’t remember O’Dea giving any guidance on how to start college. I had won a scholarship to Carroll College in Montana, but I quickly chose not to take it because the almanac told me Montana had winter temperatures well below zero. I suppose I assumed college would mean Seattle University, for the continuation of my Catholic education, but I had no idea of the mechanics of enrollment.
John from Phoenix [currently headed for a European tour during which he will not be commenting on Sense], had graduated from O'Dea with me and stopped by my house one day to verify I was going to register at Seattle U the next week. I did not even know registration was taking place and it was John who gave me the information on where and when to go. I often wonder if John had not stopped by that day, how my life might have been different.
There was not much to read in our house growing up, but once I reached teen years I talked Mom into subscribing to Life and Look magazines. I loved the articles with accompanying photos, particularly in Look which had longer stories. I dreamed of being a photojournalist. With the launching of Sputnik, the Russians had taken the lead in the space race and there was much urging of American students to study math and science. Should I major in English or math, I wondered as I entered the Seattle U orientation room. I did not see John, but I did notice Denny from O’Dea. Perhaps knowing John was going to major in math, I was leaning that way when Denny asked what major I was choosing. When I said math, Denny, who was not the scientific type, audibly registered disgust and then told me of his clever choice. He was going to be a pre-major, taking a little taste of various areas before having to declare his choice in a couple years. That sounded good to me, so I chose to postpone having to choose.
College year one zipped by without much actual choice of classes, though I did choose to avoid getting started in math. Logic class was appealing, religion boring and English literature stimulating. The only book from college that I still have is that first year literature book covering the pre-romantics to modern times. I was finished with classes by noon and would go home and read my literature assignments while listening to classical radio, which I had just discovered seemed to complement the readings.
Enter John again. Tuition for the second year was going up a whopping $20 per quarter, from $140 to $160 and John had decided to switch to the University of Washington, where tuition was still only $71, the math program was better and the Huskies were in the Rose Bowl for the first time in the modern era. I chose John’s choice, to save money, get Husky tickets and go to a non-Catholic school for the first time since kindergarten. I didn't care about the UW math program because after a year without any math classes, I found I did not miss them. If John had not suggested the transfer, I wonder if I would have just stayed on at Seattle U and again how my life would be different.
At the UW, a nice young man was my counselor, but I only remember our first brief meeting when I told him I was a pre-major and understood I could delay choosing until the end of the sophomore year. He said why waste another year and possibly have some second year classes not count toward my eventual major. He suggested I consider pre-law, which would count everything I had already taken and would give me a good variety of classes, all of which would count toward a pre-law degree. As a bonus, if I did well enough in the program, I could take the law school entrance test after my third year and if I scored high enough on that, I could start law school a year early, with the first year of law school counting as my last year of college. Classes would concentrate on political science and English, with minimal physical science and no math. If I failed to gain admission to law school or if I chose not to continue in that direction, I could always take a fourth year of college and get a degree in political science. I chose to pursue the pre-law program because I wanted to feel I had a more defined direction, law school sounded prestigious and exciting, and though the entire program could mean five years at the UW, I could actually be saving one year if I did go to law school.
Transferring to the UW was an exciting choice. It literally represented a change of direction. For thirteen years I had gone to Catholic schools, all in the Central Area, located west of my home. Now I was going to a public university, heading north across the Ship Canal. As a kid I had sometimes walked through the Arboretum, across the Montlake Bridge, past Husky Stadium and onto the UW campus. Now I was going to be a student there. Crossing the Montlake Bridge twice a day symbolically reminded me how I had now made the choice to take the direction of my life in my own hands.