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Because everyone loves a farce

Saturday, June 19   1:53 PM

"Not a butterfly!" cried Eckels.

So I've been cleaning my room, which to my surprise is filled with ghosts. A lot of memories here, everywhere I look.

I threw away most of the stuff from the box I filled by applying to colleges, but in sorting through everything I realized how arbitrary the decision to go to Lawrence was for me.

I mean, I applied to a dozen colleges. I don't think it was a bad choice, but I just wonder at my audacity, to just choose one college for some spurious reasons.

I think this is the feeling they call "punch-drunk."

In some cases, my hand was forced. Duke, Harvard, Cornell and Northwestern all rejected my application. Rice waitlisted me. Macalaster took the hint after I failed to send the whole application, as did Sarah Lawrence.

I worry that it would be pretentious of me to list the colleges I was accepted to, the colleges I could have lived completely different lives at.

But I'm going to do it anyway. Lawrence is a good school, the equal to most of these as far as my department is concerned, and I'm not trying to self-aggrandize by claiming I could've gone to some better college. I'm just feeling… not regret, but bewilderment.

I just found a list, for instance, of about forty schools, one of my first efforts at narrowing down. Lawrence is crossed off, with the marginal note "Appleton, WI: suburb." Only Sarah Lawrence and Hamline are circled.

Let's see… there were the state schools. I didn't apply to any in-state, figuring that if I was going to go to some huge state school I should at least get to live outside of Minnesota and be anonymous somewhere interesting.

I applied to the University of Houston and the University of Arizona. Maybe others. I actually visited the University of Arizona Honors College, one of the three campus visits I made before deciding and the only visit for which I stayed overnight.

The campus is beautiful, the students were friendly nerds (though the guy who hosted me was antisocial), and for anyone with a high enough PSAT score tuition was free. My parents offered to help pay for my graduate education if I opted for free college there.

I know that Katie Lykins, another Lowell Elementary school alum, accepted that smug guy in admissions' offer. Never seeing snow would have been but one of the many other perks.

I'm not sure it would've been the best decision, even with the aid, but I no longer respect the reasons I had when I rejected Arizona.

Then there were the "good" schools. Vanderbilt, Colgate, Carleton, Gustavus, and Boston College. So many potentialities reduced to dead cats.

Lawrence may fashion itself the "Carleton of the Midwest" but only Carleton College could be said to truly hold that title.

I visited Cahrleton and was put off by the conceited prospies talking about Chaucer (and, I should note, deriding his writing) outside of the class I sat in on.

Also, T.A.s teach some of the classes, which is unacceptable. And our evil valedictorian went there. But none of these should be what they call a "deciding factor."

The stupidiest things put me off of some colleges and on to others. Prof Spurgin, who interviewed me at Lawrence, had an extensive Dickens collection. I hadn't read A Handful of Dust back then. Also, Lawrence sent me an ill-fitting T-shirt and an eraser.

If I'd opened that Vanderbilt letter, ignored because I'd already decided, and seen the bumper sticker? Would my life have changed, forever, because of some 25 cent piece of plastic?

I'm being a bit unfair. These colleges are all good choices, and the only place I could make a decision with any certainty was the realm of the arbitrary.

But still, still…

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