Road Tripping College Firsts

From DJ Waldow for First College Visit, a series of first college visit stories by business professionals sponsored by SmartCollegeVisit. Waldow was recently a featured guest on SmartCollegeVisit's #CampusChat:

DJ Waldow I grew up in Rochester, NY. Everyone in my immediate family had attended college so there was never a question as to what I was doing after high school. I'll never forget my first college visit. I can't recall why, but I was determined to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I actually knew very little about it other than it was in the state of North Carolina and had a good basketball team. That's it.

Our high school's spring break destination was Myrtle Beach, SC. During my junior year, my buddy Greg and I made the drive from Upstate, NY to SC with his family. We stopped in Chapel Hill on the way. I still have pictures to this day of our trip. We walked all over campus for hours (took a ton of pictures) and were sold. When we returned home, we decided that we'd both apply early admission. Never mind the fact that it was nearly impossible to get into UNC from out of state and that our SAT scores were far from perfect (1600 at the time). Greg and I were certain that we'd get in. 

I can remember being shocked and bummed when the rejection letter arrived in the Fall of 1993. After a few days of sulking, I decided it was time to "pick myself back up" and restart the college search. I can remember visiting a bunch of local schools as well as places like Brown (my sister was  a sophomore at University of Rhode Island at the time), Tufts, and some "safe schools." I can't actually recall why I was interested in University of Michigan, but I do remember thinking that it was in another state (a.k.a. not NY) and had a good sports program. For those basketball fans, I was in high school during the Fab Five years. So I applied to Michigan and got in. Here's the best part: The first time I was ever in Ann Arbor or the state of Michigan for that matter was during Freshman Orientation. Yup. I never actually visited the University of Michigan before accepting. Crazy, right?

It was one of the best decisions I've made in my entire life. The 4 years I spent at Michigan are filled with incredible memories. My buddies and I attended nearly every basketball and football game. In fact, in 1997, we went to all but one game including road trips to Penn State, Michigan State, and Illinois. We even road-tripped out to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl (Michigan won the National Championship that year).

As far as UNC-Chapel Hill, it turns out that nearly a decade later, my wife and I lived in Durham, NC. I spent the last 2 years getting my MBA from…UNC-Chapel Hill. 

Go Blue!

DJ Waldow is Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory. You are invited to follow him on Twitter @djwaldow.

First 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 campus visit travel planning, college visit advice from parents to parents, not-to-miss Smart See, Smart Do college campus sites, and more. You're invited to follow SmartCollegeVisit on Twitter and to like SmartCollegeVisit on Facebook.

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  1. DJ, what an exciting journey–thank you for sharing your first college visit story with us!

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