What will I be like 10, 20, 30 years from now? I don't know. But I hope to look back on this and smile and say, "I'm glad I was that person--so young, old, innocent and wise." Goodnight for the last time ever of being 16.
From the diary of Bethesda-Chevy Chase senior Yeva Johnson, April 29, 1982.
What's good about life? What's not good about life? I've loved it here. But we have all these choices now. We can do whatever we want. Maybe in 10 years we'll wake up and feel tired and baggy and used. But right now it's great just to get up.
B-CC senior Michael Barr, April 28, 1983.
Yeva Johnson and Michael Barr, classmates at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, shared one of the more enviable problems facing high school seniors last week. Both had been accepted at a number of the nation's most prestigious colleges and neither had decided which to attend.
Harvard called each of them a couple of times to find out whether they had any additional questions. Princeton invited them to a reception. Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Ivys sweetened their original scholarship offers to Johnson. Yale asked Barr to visit.
Two days before the May 1 deadline, Barr chose Yale over Harvard. The day before the cutoff, on her 18th birthday, Johnson enrolled in Brown's med-ed program, which guarantees her a spot in the university's medical school after three years.
It was a heady week for the two, even at B-CC, where the question of college is generally not if but where. (More than 80 percent of its graduates go on to college.)
"It was a total shock. I applied to a lot of places hoping I'd get into one," said the gentle-voiced, 17-year-old Barr, who wrote a comic essay about his machine-gun-toting Israeli grandmother and jogging lawyer-father for his entrance application. "My mother has been going into fits of joy around the house this week, shrieking every now and then."
Barr, who is ranked sixth in his class of 411, was accepted at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Amherst, Pennsylvania and Middlebury. He was placed on the waiting list at Brown.
"I wasn't expecting it at all. I went away for the weekend and I came back and there was all this mail on the table," Johnson said. "My first reaction was, 'Oh, my God, I've got to make up my mind.' "
Johnson, an accomplished flutist who ranked 19th in the class, was accepted at all seven colleges to which she applied: Harvard, Brown, Princeton, MIT, Johns Hopkins, Michigan and Oberlin.
All week long the two received encouraging calls from alumni, students and deans. Long discussions were held with parents, peers and counselors. But when it came down to choosing one college over another, Barr and Johnson, friends throughout their years at B-CC and similar in their academic and musical prowess, used selection processes as different as their backgrounds.
For Barr, the son of a Harvard-educated lawyer and a teacher, it was a question of where he would feel most comfortable--Harvard or Yale. For Johnson, the daughter of an electrical engineer and an administrator for a nonprofit public interest organization, it came down to money.
Oberlin had offered Johnson nearly $8,000 in scholarships. Brown, Harvard and the other Ivy League colleges had offered her $5,550. Last Thursday, Johnson, who had not yet heard whether her request for more money from Brown and Harvard had been granted, said she would go to Oberlin if the additional aid was denied.
"My family has been through a lot of financial hardships," said Johnson, sitting in her mother's small three-bedroom brick house. Her parents are separated. "We don't have a lot of things. We don't have a car. . . . I like Brown and I like the Harvard area, but I also like Oberlin. It will be fine."
When she learned Friday that the Ivys had come up with an extra $2,700 (their financial aid offices offer identical assistance to individuals to prevent shopping), she chose Brown because, she said, "I have wanted to be a doctor since I was four."
Johnson will pay $4,500 of Brown's $12,750 for tuition and room and board.
Barr, who visited Harvard and Yale two weekends ago, went back and forth with his parents over which to call home for the next four years. First, he said, his father wanted him to go to Harvard and his mother wanted Yale. Then they switched. Finally Barr, who plays the saxophone and scored 1,510 points out of a possible 1,600 on his college entrance exam, chose Yale because "the people and the campus seemed warmer. Harvard seemed to have more of a laissez-faire attitude, it was colder."
For Barr, whose conversation flows easily between such subjects as Rousseau and Joyce and Reagan, money has never been much of a determining factor in making educational decisions. But Barr said he is a youth concerned with poverty. Once a month, he helps prepare food for a soup kitchen for the poor in the District and he says the problems of such countries as El Salvador are not military ones but economic ones.
"My parents and I have never really talked about the costs of college. I know it will be a sacrifice for them, but they have always wanted the best for me," said Barr, seated on the lawn outside the high school building.
Tuition and room and board at Yale will total $12,980 next year. Barr has saved up about $5,000 for additional expenses from his summer's working at Britches clothing store in Georgetown.
"Both my parents did not have easy childhoods and they both worked to get where they are now," Barr said.
"My dad went to a state college in Bridgeport, Conn., before going to Harvard Law School. He has always said to me that when he arrived there it wasn't that he felt less smart but that he felt less knowledgeable. He doesn't want that to happen to me."