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Rachel Carson, continued
Her mom was determined that Rachel should go to college, even though the family did not have the money.  Rachel wanted to attend Pennsylvania College For Women.  It was founded as a Presbyterian liberal arts college for women, and was a good choice. Her mom had also gone to a women’s Presbyterian school (Washington Female Seminary, Washington, Pennsylvania).  Rachel was initially awarded a $100 scholarship, but the college president, Cora Coolidge, learned about her circumstances and persuaded private sources to pay for Rachel’s tuition her freshman year.  Rachel appreciated the confidence others had in her and was determined to prove herself worthy of such support.

Rachel was strong-willed and wasn’t easily influenced by what others said or did.  While other girls partied at school, Rachel studied.  She also landed a job with the college paper The Arrow, which published her works.  Two of these essays, “Master of the Ship’s Light” and “Cape Arrowhead” show how attracted to the ocean she was – even though she still hadn’t seen it! 

Her second year in college was a major turning point.  She had to meet the science requirement by taking Biology.  She felt surely she would not like Biology, but was quite surprised – she LOVED it!  Biology gave new meaning and understanding of the nature that she had always loved.  Biology answered many questions she had about nature, but above all, she saw beyond the difficult words to see scientists’ awe and wonder at life itself.

In her third year of college, Rachel decided to change her major.  Many people thought she was crazy – everyone knew she was a writer!!  Again – she didn’t follow what everyone else thought she should do – she followed her heart – and her heart’s desire was marine biology.  She was still looking for her ocean.

Money problems were solved her senior year when her Dad signed over several lots of the original farm to Rachel.  She used the land as collateral for the $1,600 she needed for her education.  It was also during her junior and senior years that she began to enjoy college life – joining team sports and science club and continuing to work for the newspaper.  

She graduated magna cum laude (which means “with great honor”) in June, 1929.  From there she accepted a scholarship to do graduate work at Johns Hopkins University.  She worked that summer at the famous Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts.  This was her first view of the ocean.  She later described this time as “the happiest days of my life.”  She did field work, combed beaches, waded in the surf, explored, and collected specimens.


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