Long ago, back before phones were smart and reality was televised, there was a thing called “mail.” Many of you probably remember it.
It was a lot like email, except it was usually hand-written, thoughtfully composed and carefully edited and had aspirations of intimacy and wisdom … so, basically, nothing like email. It also lacked instant gratification, which sounds like a bad thing, but was actually a great thing, because a lack of instant gratification often leads to long-term gratification.
I was thinking about snail mail a lot when I reported the story in this issue about student recruitment (#BellarmineBound). Specifically, I kept thinking about my own time of choosing a college, which ultimately led me to become Bellarmine-bound.
One of my jobs growing up in the boonies was to fetch the mail (sorry if you thought I was going to say “castrate the steers:” My parents were jewelers). Bringing in the mail was a highlight of my day in high school. The mailbox might contain any number of interesting things that today can be downloaded: letters from friends, magazines like Rolling Stone or Sports Illustrated, or a book or record.
When I was a senior in high school, the mailbox also contained a lot of mail from colleges. It was all very rudimentary by today’s standards and usually consisted of a letter from a dean and a tri-fold brochure or something similarly unsophisticated. I wish I’d saved some because they’d make interesting artifacts in today’s era of mobile marketing, virtual tours and Twitter hashtags. Those brochures were exciting to receive, even if they were from a school I knew I wouldn’t attend. They signified a rite of passage and they made me feel wanted.
I also remember visiting Bellarmine for the first time. My parents and sisters were along on a sweltering summer Sunday, and the then-tiny campus was utterly deserted. We hadn’t signed up for an official visit – we just snooped around. Despite the heat and stunning quiet of the place, it immediately felt like home. This was a place where I could become educated! (And by “become educated” I mean “meet girls and smoke cigarettes!”)
Compared to today’s college decision-making landscape, my college choice was blissfully simple. There were no websites, Instagrams, college fairs, PowerPoint presentations, marketing blogs, YouTube videos, FAFSAs or backward-walking teenage tour guides. My parents and I just drove around and looked at schools, read the mail and then came to a mutual decision that I’d go to whichever Catholic college they said. And I never regretted it for a minute.
What about you? Do you have an interesting college-decision story to share? Please send your stories – funny, heartbreaking or both – to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll publish a sampling in a future issue.
Jim Welp ’81 | email@example.com