Off to college - Martha Carr

I started out in life being unable to state what I wanted, and then head straight for it. Instead, I'd try someone else's suggestions or demands first, and hope for the best. Maybe, they knew better.

As a result, there's really been very little of my life that happened in an orderly fashion.

I went to the college everyone else wanted me to, dropped out, and after awhile, finally enrolled somewhere else. The second go-round was at Virginia Commonwealth University and I'm an alum of the class of 1982. It would have been 1981, but I didn't have the $35 until January of the following year, so there you have it.

I also chose my first profession based on other people's vision of what I'd be good at, and for a handful of years, I was a miserable and successful stockbroker with a nice pile of cash. I took a break from that and finally started writing something, and three books, a national column and lots of words later, here I am. Not much money so far, but no regrets at all, which is worth something.

My first marriage didn't work out very well, either, except for the arrival of my son, Louie. So far, twenty years later, there's been no second marriage, but there's also been no second divorce, so I tend to think of that one as a draw. I'm still hopeful that there'll be a second marriage, but I'm not wringing my hands over it, either.

A lot of this pattern has been passed down to me through my late father, who took five years to get through high school and spent his senior year digging ditches to pay his room and board. Then, Dad started out in the world as an engineer and changed his mind when he was married and already had three children. He became an Episcopal minister at the Virginia Theological Seminary and I was born his senior year. The Carr family is not very good at having confidence in their own choices, at first, but we finish strong.

So, it's no surprise that Louie has some of the same tendencies. He tried college for awhile, has now worked for a couple of years and overcome some tough obstacles, and is ready to return and finish his degree. Just like his mother and his grandfather, he found out what life is like without a sheepskin, and wants to really do something with his life.

His grades from the first stint in college are great, so that's not an issue, but as you might imagine, we're going to have to find some money. There's already a small pile of cash saved for him, but in order to pay for college these days, it's necessary to either hit the lotto or find some scholarships, loans and financial aid. A short look at Chicago's Northwestern University's tuition for one year that includes classes, room and board and books was a little over $50,000. My first house cost $60,000 and VCU in 1982 was about $6,000 per year.

I'm now on the hunt for any niche scholarships that are out there. There's a family precedent for this as well. My dad found a grant for female descendants of Civil War soldiers who lost their land in the war, and was able to secure enough funds to send mye and two of my sisters to private school and even part of college. That has to be some kind of sign of a benevolent God.

There is lore out there about thousands of scholarships that no one applies for because eligible applicants never hear about them. I'm hoping that's true. The use of search engines on the net has turned up bupkus, so far. However, there are millions of readers out there who write to me all the time with reams of useful, or at least peculiar and interesting information. So, I'm throwing the net out there as a public service to myself and others.

If you know of any legitimate scholarships, no matter how big or small, send me the details and I'll share in future columns with everyone else as well. I already know about David Letterman's scholarship for C students who want to attend Indiana's Ball State University.

I'm feeling pretty good about Louie's chances of getting back into college and finishing successfully, because, in the long run, Carr's always turn out OK. We just take a winding road to get to our destinations. More adventures to follow.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail Martha at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.