Ellen (ennienyc) wrote,

College woes in 1969

sdn asked: Please tell me a story about yourself as a child that sheds light on the person you have become.

I posted the following as a comment. I haven't told this story before, and it's one of the major traumas of my life. Thankfully, with a happy ending.
* * * *

I went to pre-kindergarten at a private school, and since I could already read my parents wanted me to skip kindergarten and go directly to first grade the next year.

We had to get this approved by the headmaster. My mother joined me in his office. He took a children's book off the shelf and asked me to read it, which I did. Then just in case I might have memorized that book, he threw the day's copy of the New York Times at me. "Read this!" And I did (too bad I couldn't do the crossword yet - that would have really wowed him). I went right to first grade.

When I entered public school in third grade, I was a year younger than my classmates and was put on probation to possibly be put back with my peers if I didn't measure up. The teacher took me off probation almost immediately, and I continued to excel academically.

Fast-forward to senior year in high school, almost exactly 40 years ago. We were limited to 4 college applications to ease the load on the guidance counselors. I was 4th in the class and trying to settle on a "safe" choice, when Yale announced it was going co-ed. So I threw caution to the winds and applied. The other schools were Harvard, Swarthmore, and Cornell Arts & Sciences six-year PhD program: talk about non-safe!

Being yet another Long Island Jewish female applicant didn't help, and although by now I did crosswords, I had no idea I'd be a future champion, so I had no real "hook." My birthday (April 15th) brought 4 rejection letters.

This was a crisis situation, and although it was spring vacation we again found ourselves in a principal's office. This principal didn't ask me to read the NY Times, but explored possible options. How could a top student not go to college? He knew officials at Kenyon and Lafayette, excellent small liberal arts colleges, but middle-of-nowhere was not what I had in mind.

Then my neighbor mentioned that the sister of my third grade teacher - the one who immediately took me off probation - was director of admissions of Barnard. We contacted them, and they agreed to see me even though acceptances of their admissions offers were running higher than usual. I truly believe if I had not been so smart in third grade, they would not have considered me at that late date.

I went for the interview, was accepted, went, loved it, and especially learned to love New York City. I am still very grateful I was given the opportunity. My sister applied early decision the following year (she beat me, and was #3 in her class) and also attended.

I went to Harvard for grad school and hated it.

  • Post a new comment


    Comments allowed for friends only

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded