Making College Count

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

Kevin Strawbridg​e I was really the first person in my family to go to college. My dad had attended Memphis State University for a year before joining the Army and heading overseas back in the early ‘60s. Having grown up in various places, I was not adverse to going out of state to college, so I applied to UCLA, The University of Washington (UW), Penn State University (PSU), and The University of Texas (UT). After evaluating all of the costs associated with college, and not really knowing what I wanted to do for a career yet, I ended up choosing to stay in Austin and going to UT where I could live on campus and the total costs would be half of any other choice.

Two years later, after going to school full-time and also working full-time to pay for school, I still did not know what I wanted to do and realized I had never taken a break to really spend time to figure that out. So, I dropped down to one class per semester and began a full-time role working for Lady Bird Johnson in a personal and accounting capacity.

I spent two years working and learning about how businesses operated and determined that I was destined to be in a numbers-oriented, analytical role. Based on that, I decided it was time to go back to school but this time with a plan in mind. In early 1991, I looked at three schools in Texas that had strong accounting programs (UT, Arlington, The University of North Texas, and Texas A&M University).

I had already determined that UT was not the right fit for me personally – I was sort of shy and introverted and UT was so big that fitting in was a challenge. I visited each school and I attended an accounting class to get a feel for the environment and spent time on campus to see if there was a good feeling for achievement.

Hands down, after all the analysis, Texas A&M was the place for me. The academic advisors spent quality time with me explaining the coursework, the way the college worked, and the opportunities to get involved. The students with whom I met were outgoing and engaging. The traditions associated with Texas A&M summoned a sense of pride and belonging. So there I finally was, a student at a university that met my needs and at a place where I felt I belonged. The next three years went by quickly. I got involved immediately in several student groups and even managed to get elected president of one organization and vice president of another. Gone was the shy, introverted Kevin. Here was a confident guy that was ready to take on the world.

Toward the end of my senior year, a professor from the accounting department pulled me aside and suggested I consider joining the five year accounting program. It would require an additional year of school, but I would graduate not only with a Bachelor of Business Adminstration (BBA) degree in accounting, but also a Master of Science (MS) in accounting. I applied and was accepted and completed the program. After an amazing college experience, I achieved more than I thought possible and am blessed to have had the opportunity.

Kevin Strawbridge is president of DealTaker.com, a division of Media General. You are invited to follow him on Twitter @kstraw.

First College Visit on Handshake 2.0, a series of first college visit stories by business professionals, is sponsored by SmartCollegeVisit, a Blacksburg, Virginia-based higher-ed marketing and college visit planning portal focused on mobile app and mobile web development with a special interest in creating travel and location-based tools and services for colleges and universities.

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