A BLUE APPLICATION TO COLLEGE
During the summer of 1948 I achieved the age of 17. I realized I had to start thinking about college. The natural choice or the easiest one was to go to City College (CCNY) which was close to home and free.
Somehow though, I realized I had to get away. I found a copy of the World Almanac and within its covers was a list of the major American universities, and I saw such names as Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Columbia. I knew I could not afford those, let alone get in. The listing included mailing addresses, which prompted me to buy 50 postcards, which at that time cost only a dollar.
I sent them off, one by one to the 50 most obvious and popular names, including Harvard, Princeton and Yale, just to get information and applications. In a few days I received a torrent of mail, including thick books of curricula and applications. Sure enough, the fancy colleges had expensive application fees, so those were quickly trashed.
The first school to respond was the University of Michigan. It was almost by return mail and there was no application fee. Unlike the others, the application was an attractive blue. I filled it out and brought it the first day of classes to my high school academic counsellor, and he wrote in his recommendation and my grades.
He must have sent it off right away, because in return mail I had my first acceptance in my hand, before the end of the first week of classes of my senior year. So for a day I was a sensation, the first class member to have a college acceptance.
That prompted a bunch of others to apply to the University of Michigan, a school I knew nothing about. When I asked around, people told me it had a great football team. That was of no interest to me, but I also learned it had a fine medical school. That settled it--- I would be going to Ann Arbor, Michigan, a foreign country to me, born and raised as I was in the Bronx, New York, and a senior in the Bronx High School of Science.
As it turned out a contingent of 12 left the Bronx for Michigan the end of January 1949, and I read my yearbook for the first time on the Wolverine train which went clickety-clack all through the night, carrying me far away from home. The distance seemed so great that I worried if I would ever go home again. They say you can't go home again, and it is true.
The train arrived at Detroit at dawn and so in the hour from Detroit to Ann Arbor, with the rising sun, I could see nothing but white, as if I were in Alaska or the arctic. This bleakness caused me to doubt my decision. I could not imagine a place without block after block of multi-story buildings. Where was civilization?
When the Wolverine pulled into Ann Arbor station I could see out the window a large impressive, multi-storied structure gleaming in the sun. Asking what it was I learned it was University Hospital, connected to the medical school. That was reassuring; now the problem was how to get in there. I was out of state, only a B+ student and Jewish, so my chances were next to nil. Still, I would try to get all A's because my deepest wish and most ardent goal was to become a physician and heal the sick, maybe do my part in healing the world.
Four years later, after a series of small miracles, I was accepted to the University of Michigan Medical School and actually completed my studies in 1957. With some help from my parents and scholarships and with part-time jobs I had worked and studied my way to achieving my goal.
Now, fifty years later I am a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst living and working in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. I'm retired from teaching at Detroit's local university, Wayne State University School of Medicine, where I became associate professor in the psychiatry department.
I married a Michigan girl and have lived my adult life here, all because of a decision made at age 17 to look at the World Almanac, buy 50 postcards and pick the first school to respond with a unique blue application and no fee for applying.
In retrospect I see that what I accomplished was a major turning point in my life, my first serious act of self-reliance. Since then I have read Ralph Waldo Emerson's famous essay "On Self-Reliance" and recommend it highly to others as a way to become your own person, fulfilling your destiny and gaining independence and self-respect.