It was always a foregone conclusion in my house. I mean, it was just understood. We never really even talked about it. As my high school career wound down, the college years lying on the horizon, the next phase in my rigorous pursuit of academic excellence was to take place on the shores of Lake Michigan in Evanston, Illinois.
I was a legacy. I was a triple legacy, actually, if you count the fact that my dad, my aunt, and my uncle all received degrees from Northwestern University. They were all Wildcats, and a Wildcat, too, was I to be. I even went there for summer school as a junior to partake in the National High School Institute’s journalism program. Yes, I was one of the Cherubs, as we were affectionately known.
I applied to Northwestern for early admission, a program designed for cocksure high school seniors to broadcast this message: “I want you, and only you, to shape my young mind in your forge.” I started buying purple clothes and reading the Chicago Tribune
. After all, Northwestern was my alma mater–to-be, and the fact that NU had the Medill School of Journalism was, for me, a journalist-to-be, just icing on my legacy cake. I had no contingency plan.
But then, something happened. Something unimaginable. Unfathomable. Unconscionable. As I stopped by my mailbox on a winter day, I received a thin envelope with a single sheet of paper inside. “Thank you for applying to Northwestern University,” it began. “Unfortunately, we were unable to …”
To this day, I never have read the entire letter. My Wildcat dreams were dashed by a nondescript 8.5" by 11" sheet of paper. That very evening, I took every ridiculous piece of purple clothing out of my closet and gave it a Viking funeral. It made me feel a little bit better, but there was another problem looming — the education of Adam Pitluk. What now?
The scramble was on. I feverishly researched journalism schools and applied to a handful of them. The more inquiring I did into the world of college media, the more one school’s name continued to rise to the top: the University of Missouri.
I was accepted, which was fine and good, but college is not just about teachers and books. Even though by then I hated everything about Northwestern, the hard truth was that it was the most beautiful campus I’d ever seen. And having downtown Chicago only a train ride away as a working laboratory was nothing to sneeze at. Columbia, Missouri, on the other hand, was different.
It took only 30 minutes and one game of pickup ultimate Frisbee on the university’s quadrangle for me to make up my mind. A Missouri Tiger I would be.
It was the best decision I’d ever made. Had I not attended Mizzou, I would not have met some of my best friends. I would not have received such a sound journalism education, and most of all, I would not have met my wife. Still, I wish I’d had some CliffsNotes about choosing the right college, the kind of information that we present to you on page 32. For those readers whose children aren’t quite ready to leave the nest, we considered you as well; take a look back at 40 years of Sesame Street on page 22. Maybe if I had spent more time on Sesame Street
, I’d have been a Wildcat.
But I’m glad I wasn’t. Things worked out well. My closet, after all, is purple free. Still, to the admissions committee at Northwestern, I have but one thing to say: Go Tigers!