My professor told me I wrote like Jamaica Kincaid…
…that’s what made me love this essay. Pretty much fictional…wanted to experiment with second person narration. I just found this on my computer.
Cinema and Modernity
The Private University
When you turned one, your parents received a $100 savings bond in a Hallmark card: “It’s never too early to start saving for education. Can’t believe she’s already a year old. Love Auntie Giuli.” You turned two, and then three, and received a few more. Four, five, six. Your parents naively believed that between their sporadic deposits into your “college” account and your annual birthday bonds, paying for college might be manageable.
[Eighteen years later they’ll look back and realize that they didn’t research the inflation rate of college tuition. They didn’t calculate exactly how much they would have to save to even pay for half of your education if rates continued to increase at that percentage.]
Shortly after your 16th birthday and your 16th birthday bond, you began touring schools. The first one looked nice, but the campus was too small. You decided to apply to the second one because of the international business major. The third one’s freshmen dorms were too cramped for your liking, but your SAT scores were right on point with their median number. You definitely applied to all your “reach” schools. You wanted to go the “best” school you possibly could. Plus, you wanted to go to a better school than your best friend. Actually the main reason was to go to a better school than your best friend. Your parents surely seemed excited about the “Middlebury” sticker for the van and not so much about the “UMass Lowell” one. “Honey imagine? The guys at work will ask me where you go to school and I will tell them ‘Oh my daughter goes to Middlebury.’ Ha! They won’t believe it.”
[Eight years later you’ll look back and wish you didn’t get vacuumed into the petty high school competition of who could go to the best school. You’ll wish that you didn’t care so much about what your dorm room could look like on your Facebook page.]
You applied to few “safeties,” too, but only for peace of mind. So help you God, you were going to go to a “top school.” That is, a top school in accordance with US News and World Report rankings. Who writes the US News and World Report rankings? I could Google it, but I couldn’t tell you offhand.
You got into Middlebury. You got into Bates. You got into Brandeis. Insignificantly, you also got into UMass Lowell and Worcester State. Decisions, decisions! You toiled day and night that spring, deliberating with your parents at the kitchen table about which was the “best school” for you.
You chose a “top school.” Classes didn’t start until 10AM, your dad was impressed with the top-of-the-line athletic facility, and your mother thought it sounded like a supportive environment. Seemed like the best “education.”
[Four years later you’ll look back and realize that it didn’t occur to you to look up the professors in your program and their level of scholarship and publication in their field. You didn’t look up the academic databases available to you in the library. You didn’t ask about internship opportunities in your field. You never actually paid attention to the “education” part of your education.]
You went to the school bookstore and went nuts: sweatshirts, car decals, the works. The next Monday morning, you went to your high school English class sporting a T-shirt with the college’s name and mascot. Your teachers said “Good for you, that’s a great school.” Your friends said “Oh wow, I can’t believe you got in there!!”
As the first semester approached, you received your financial award letter. Only a grant for $1000. The rest of your “awards” were loans with a 7% interest rate. Your older brother had just gotten a car loan with an interest rate of 2%.
In a matter of days, you were $50,000 in debt. Wait a second, that’s a lot of money. And wait, you have to do this for four years. Your mom reassured you, “Honey, everybody ends up in debt after school. But a four year degree is important for your future. Have you ever seen The Chart?” She showed you The Chart demonstrating how, on average, college grads with a four year degree earn up to $20,000 more per year than just a high school graduate.
[Five years later, the painfully obvious factoid that UMass Lowell would have given a four-year BA just as Middlebury did will deeply sink into your brain. You’ll realize that the difference between Middlebury and UMass Lowell was $140,000--not the quality of your education. You’ll barely remember the last names of the hometown people you wanted to impress with what schools you got into. You’ll be one year graduated and waitressing double shifts. You’ll owe the equivalent of a handsome mortgage payment in school loans every month. You’ll sit down in your bedroom, located in your parents’ house, and find the T-shirt with your college’s name and mascot that you wore to English class that day in highschool. You’ll have no choice but to come to terms with the paradox that is your life: you went to college to make more money and get a “real” job, and have instead ended up back at square one, in the financial red, serving soup, salad, and breadsticks with a curfew at age 22. You’ll remember that day that you sported your university fashion to high school English class and realize: that was one expensive T-shirt.]