Look Left and Right

From Robert H. Giles, Jr., Rural System, for First College Visit, a series of first college visit stories by business professionals sponsored by SmartCollegeVisit.

Bob Giles and brother at Duck Pond, VPI, 1950 My father took my brother and me to his alma mater on a Sunday when I was in high school. We drove from Lynchburg, Virginia (about a 3 hour drive then). I was imagining myself as a veterinarian and there wasn’t a local program then.

Reflecting, there was no pressure. Dad’s was my casual summer-time introduction to the university grounds when there were few students. It was a “walk-around,” a “here it is” with occasional comments about his experience in the Corps of Cadets. Strategically silent about the purpose of the visit, he “played it cool.”

I enrolled at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI) three years later (a little) less bewildered. The visit gave me an awareness, that’s all. It was not a “campus visit” as now conducted by universities but it was worthwhile in giving form to some of my young thoughts.

Bob Giles as a freshman - a "rat" - in the Corps of Cadets, 1951 As a freshman in a large first-day auditorium introduction, I was told to look left and right, and that within four years neither of the people on either side of me would be there. The likely drop-out rate impressed me; I resolved to be there. The statistic depressed others. Still, 50 years later, I am told that the same statement is made.

I took my two daughters to their first days at VPI, now Virginia Tech. They were being brave, demonstrably mature, confident, and a little superior for they had heard much about the university experience from me, a professor there, and they knew their way around the campus for I had shared that with them from their early childhood. Inside, they were fearful little girls, unsure of their vocations and selected programs of study, and confused by the flood of decisions they were forced to make so quickly with so little information.

I was delighted with their progress, proud of them, and not fearful, but my protection juices did not vaporize quickly. I turned away from the dormitory. Tears would not strengthen them a bit.


Robert H. Giles, Jr., founder of Rural System, is a Virginia Tech Professor Emeritus.  He writes High Five for Handshake 2.0.


College visits, visits to campus, planning college visitsFirst College Visit on Handshake 2.0, a series of first college visit stories by business professionals, is sponsored by SmartCollegeVisit, a college visit portal with tools and resources for planning campus visit travelcollege visit advice from parents to parents, not-to-miss college campus sites, and more. You're invited to subscribe to SmartCollegeVisit updates, to follow SmartCollegeVisit on Twitter, and to become a fan of SmartCollegeVisit on Facebook.

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  1. Bob, I think now I know how my dad felt when he brought me to VPI. Thank you for sharing your First College Visit story.

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