[sometimes I read my own sent email and I just like it]
My name is [$NAME] and I am a high school senior. Two days a week I volunteer at the local public library and am very interested in making a career out of the library field. I read your blog (librarian.net) whenever google reader tells me that you have updated. Today I found out that you attended Hampshire College, the school which I shall be attending next fall. I was wondering if you could tell me about your experiences there.
With immense appreciation, [$NAME]
I went to Hampshire sort of a million years ago [1986-1990] and Helaine Selin from Hampshire was my librarian role model because she could find things online [when online was fancy services you had to *subscribe* to mainly] that I had no idea existed. I was there when Adele Simmons was president. I lived in Merill dorms, then Prescott, then Dakin dorms, then Prescott again. Over the summer I lived on campus two out of three summers. I only lived about an hour and a half away so I could go home often if I wanted or needed to, but didn’t go home that much.
I studies linguistics with Steve Weisler and a few other people in the CCS school which I think is called something else now, and creative writing with Lynne Hanley. I took (well, passed) 16 classes the whole four years I was there. I graduated in four straight years which is unusual. I took classes at Amherst, UMass and Mount Holyoke as well. I got to take a writing class at Amherst from David Foster Wallace who is actually not much older than I am.
I always felt like Hampshire was where all the weird kids from every high school wound up and some of them decided to outweird everyone else and some of them decided that since they were now in a group of weirdos, they could just be themselves. I was part of the latter group. It was a strange time. There were a lot of protests over political correctness types of things. There was a takeover of one of the science buildings. It was the year after Andy Hermann killed himself live on public access TV which was a long time ago but still seems like a big deal. You can read more history from about that time at this link. Tim Shary and I went to Hampshire together.
I did some extracurricular things. I was part of a film and video club. I was on the volleyball team. I was an artist’s model. I worked at the Farm Center. I threw parties and helped bring bands to campus. I was part of the motorcycle collective. I sort of fit in at Hampshire and liked it there. I am still in touch with MOST of the people I lived with my senior year there and I’m always surprised when I run into other Hampshire people my own age in different places that they are interesting and have done interesting things with their lives. Despite my having enjoyed college well enough, it was in no way the “best times of my life” which I think is entirely okay.
As far as academics, I was pretty self-motivated and this was in my favor. I saw a lot of people drop out because they just couldn’t keep doing work when there weren’t grades or professors hounding them. I think some of those people were better off not being in college but for some of them Hampshire just wasn’t the right place and maybe another school would have been.
It’s an interesting place filled with interesting people. This is the good news and the bed news. There are a lot of people with a lot on their minds. Creative arty types but also just moody melancholy types, or both. There was a suicide or a suicide attempt every year i was there and a lot of drug-and-alcohol fuelled drama that may be typical for colleges but hasn’t been part of my life since.
I went on to library school at the University of Washington at the school they now call the iSchool. It was less of a big deal then, but I was able to get in with nothing but my GRE scores and that stack of recommendations that they call a transcript. I didn’t have any trouble segueing to graduate school. If anything, I felt it was LESS rigorous than Hampshire and all the focus on GPA seemed silly and missing the point of education. I have a weird collection of jobs now that make me pretty happy and I live in rural Vermont in a place not unlike Amherst and rural Massachusetts where I grew up before college.
Lastly, you know those scary dreams about being in some school hallway and realizing you have a test you haven’t prepared for, or a speech you have to give that you didn’t write yet? I never, ever, have them. I think that alone makes me feel that I made the right decision about college.