Taking that frightful first step onto a university campus has always been a huge adjustment for Arizona's small-town kids.
Sometimes the adjustment is one that can't be made and the youngster returns home to a less threatening, more structured environment.
It's been 38 years since some of the kids in Winslow High School's Class of 1961 packed their bags and left the small railroad town, bound for either the campus of University of Arizona or Arizona State University.
In the last three class reunions since, a major topic of discussion -- and, of laughter -- has been those ever-so intimidating first few weeks of college. We can laugh now, but it was panic then.
We gave up the friendly but stern teachings of Miss Oare's American Government class of about 25 for a college class called Introduction to Philosophy, which enrolled more than 300 students.
Miss Oare knew your name, face and just about everything about you, having taught at WHS for 30-plus years. The college professor and his proctor recognized you only as a seat number.
For a semester, I was called B-17.
Ditch Miss Oare's class and you were nailed. Pay a fellow college student to sit in your philosophy seat and you'd never be found out.
We also left our cozy Winslow homes and mom's cookin' for a 10x12 dorm room shared with a roommate we'd only met hours before.
Mine was from some faraway place I'd never heard of -- Pennsville, N.J. He talked funny, not at all like Winslow kids.
The bathroom and shower were at the end of the dorm hall and shared by about 40 students.
The food in the Memorial Union cafeteria -- which we worked two hours per day in the facility to earn -- was often not recognizable.
Something called S.O.S. was served almost every morning. It was nasty stuff.
We were accustomed to the Spartan-like approach of Winslow High School football coach Emil Nasser, but were shocked during our first state-mandated Reserved Officer Training Corps (ROTC) drills when we were loudly admonished for crooked gig lines.
Brasso was an unknown in Winslow, but in Tempe was an ROTC student staple.
Marching in 107-degree desert heat while wearing Air Force winter "blues," a buddy passed out. He immediately returned to Winslow and probably hasn't again stepped foot on the campus.
In small-town Winslow, Mom, Dad and adult friends were always nearby, setting curfews and watching to see that the home boys toed the line.
At ASU, there were no curfews or rules. The law of the campus for know-nothing freshmen was "do what feels good."
Winslow had a population of about 6,000 people, most of whom we had lived around our entire lives. ASU had an enrollment of about 18,000 and only a handful were known to us.
The so-called "hippies" -- Winslow had none. They were all on the campus at ASU doing whatever they did best.
Music? In Winslow we listened to the cool tunes of Fabian. At ASU it was Janis Joplin and "O Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz?".
Molly makes step
Knowing the adjustments it takes in college makes what 1998 Payson High School graduate Molly Hunt has done even more remarkable.
There have been many PHS graduates who have chosen not to succeed on the college scene, but Molly is not among them. She apparently has made the successful shift from small town to big school.
Following a full semester in college, she returned to Payson last weekend to visit her parents and gear up for her first try at college athletics.
Molly is a scholarship member of the Mesa College Thunderbird softball team that begins play this week.
Since school opened last August, she's been enrolled in classes, taking a full academic load, and practicing for the season.
Molly will be first to tell you the jump to the college classroom and playing field is a gigantic one.
She says the game is much faster, more intense and requires much more weight training and practice hours than it did in high school. She describes sessions as no-nonsense drills in which coach Dwight Byron does everything in his power to incite players to give more of themselves.
"They ride you hard -- no mistakes," Molly told me.
She's being used as a utility player but expects to settle in at third base for what she hopes could lead to a career at a four-year school.
The college academics, she says, have also been a huge challenge, but so far she's done well.
"There is a lot more freedom than in high school," she says.
Molly admits she has witnessed the new-found freedom causing problems when it's not properly reined in.
Once her freshman courses are out of the way at the end of this year, Molly expects to declare a major in Fire Science.
In summing up her first semester, Molly says, college life has been a bit unsettling but a "lot of fun."
The entire challenge is one she's glad she undertook.