Top 5: Favorite things about summer in Spartanburg

First of all, if I were tasked to come up with a top 5 list of favorite things, in general, I just might put top 5 lists on that list. If you like top 5 lists, and music, and romance, and comedy, then I highly recommend reading High Fidelity by Nick Hornsby – it’s full of pure top 5 list gold. Secondly, I know this post may not have the most usefulness as many of you prospective students want to know everything about Wofford EXCEPT what it’s like in the summer, because you most likely won’t be here. Still, there is this thing called summer school that is very popular for Wofford students (since no one ever wants to leave!), and most if not all of the things on my list are applicable to the non-summer months as well, especially since temps typically reach the 80s in April and stay warm through most of September. So useful or not, get ready for a list (a no-particular-order list).

1. Downtown Spartanburg. If you are an aforementioned summer school student, this is a great one, because in the summer you practically get downtown to yourself. I say practically, since there are, in fact, still “townies” walking about. Townies, like me, who have been there the whole time, right through the school year – you just haven’t noticed them. Still, summer is a time when there is a lot to do downtown and not a ton of people creating clutter and lines. For starters, music on main is in full-swing every Thursday, and there is no better time than summer to listen to some live, outdoors music. Another perk is the community bike system, in which you can rent bikes for the day, or take out a month-long or annual membership. Finally, the restaurants and bars. Again, these things are here year-round, but something about the summer, the longer days, and the outdoor seating (see below), makes the whole downtown square just more fun in the summer. They even put up a Ferris Wheel downtown last summer, so maybe there will be something else this year…

2. Sitting outside to eat. There is nothing like some warm weather and the ability to finally sit outside at your favorite spots. Especially if those favorite spots have a tendency of sticking their scent on you when you sit inside. There is no excuse for going back to work smelling like a deep fryer or a sandwich press… So here are my top 3 favorite places to eat outside (again, no order):

Ikes – The best burger in Spartanburg. I don’t want to hear it, loyal Beacon-goers, or Nu-Way Redneck Cheeseburger fan club… If you want a delicious, pure, American cheeseburger, then go to Ike’s. And sit outside (seriously, this is one of those places that shares its smell). They have a great outdoor patio, with shaded areas and areas in the sun, and the menu is sharing-friendly, especially the fresh-cut fries and onion rings.

Gerhards – One of the “high-dollar” restaurants in Spartanburg, but also one of the best eats in the Upstate. Gerhards, with its European feel, has a cozy “bier garten” of sorts, with a gravel bed and several picnic tables for a casual gathering. On Tuesdays, the recommended night to go, they have team trivia, and specials on beer and wood-fire pizzas.

Willy Taco – The newest sensation in Spartanburg, Willy Taco was developed by the same people who opened Spartanburg’s most popular restaurant, Cribb’s Kitchen. Willy Taco is an authentic taco dive bar, that has a simple and delicious menu to choose from, including homemade salsas, queso, and guacamole to start, 11 unique tacos with typically two daily-featured tacos, and an extended list of entrees to choose from. The atmosphere and feel is everything you want out of a Mexican restaurant – the screened in patio helps you sit out side and still stay cool, and the food and drink is delicious and creative.

(Honorable mention: The Back Porch – A cajun-creole, hidden gem in Spartanburg, and as the name suggests, The Back Porch has a wonderful back porch that is covered and shaded, making it ideal for warmer nights. The menu is as big as the flavor, with delicious seafood and other bayou staples.)

3. Golf. With it staying light until well after 9 at the peak of summer, there is ample opportunity to go golfing, even if it means getting in 9 holes after work. As far as courses in Spartanburg go, there are the college favorites (due to cheapness of rates), and if you’re just looking to get outside and play a cheap round you really need to look no further than the Creek and Heddles Hideaway, both found off of South Pine Street. However, I recently stumbled onto a real treasure of a course in Duncan, about 15 minutes outside the city. River Falls Plantation is a Gary Player design, and has the look of a course designed by someone who has as much passion for the game as the Black Knight himself. Every hole has imagination and cleverness that makes it a fun course, yet not so difficult that you’re left debating whether or not to pawn your clubs on the drive back. It is located next to the Tyger river, so there are several holes that have beautiful, scenic views.

4. Going to the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Located just south of Charlotte, NC; this is a stretch because it’s not really “Spartanburg.” However, I discovered this place last summer and it is so incredibly worth the drive. Imagine a theme park, except instead of rollercoasters, they featured every outdoors activity you can imagine instead. Well, you have just defined the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Doubling as an Olympics training site, the USNWC opens its doors to the public every summer and features a huge, manmade rafting course in the center of their property, as well as high ropes courses, zip lining, mountain biking courses, and kayaking courses all around it. You can easily spend an entire day here without a single dull moment, and every night when the rides close down, they have live music and lots of places to get food and drink. I’m sure these kinds of places are a dime-a-dozen in Colorado, but in the Carolinas, you cannot find another place like it. If you don’t believe me, just check out their website: http://usnwc.org/.

5. More water, because summer is better with water. Drinking water is important, and I recommend you have some everyday, but the water I’m talking about here is the “body of” kind. Now is the time, May-August, to get more water in your life. And we have a lot of it around us. Whether it is a weekend trip to the beach, or a nearby lake like Lake Bowen or Lake Keowee, some of the best time spent in the summer is around water. And don’t forget about Spartanburg – there are great opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, and tubing on Lawson’s Fork Creek, as well as the Tyger River. I would go as far as to say summer is not complete without water sports, and recreational water activities.

So there is my list. You may not agree with it, but I dare you to argue it. Summer is a time to be active, enjoy yourself, and enjoy the company of others. All of these things provide great opportunities to do just that, and these are just 5 of many reasons why Spartanburg is and can be a great home. Now if you excuse me, I’m going to get ready for the official start to the weekend/summer, and hopefully partake in multiple items on this list…

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Springtime in Spartanburg

To a Wofford student, there are many associations with the spring season. SoCon tournament (NCAA tournament??), study abroad, Spring break, Easter, Spring Weekend, Spring Concert… It is a glorious season. Students are either exploring a foreign land, or on campus exploring just how busy a social calendar can possibly be.

For a Spartanburger, as I now claim to be, spring still has many great things to look forward to. Aside from Easter, there are two events in particular that make spring great. The first, and newest, is the Hub City Hog Fest. In its second year, HCHF is Spartanburg’s first and only competition Barbeque festival. Teams come from all over the state and region to set up their cooking stations, campers, friends and family, and bunker down for a night of lots of smoking (BBQ, that is), and little sleeping. In the meantime, people gather, bands play, and vendors serve food and drink to keep everyone happy and well-fed. This year, the feature competitions for Friday night were a wing-off, in which all competitors had the chance to cook wings in their own unique styles, and patrons could sample while the judges judged, and at the adjacent RJ Rockers brewery, a home-brew competition that also yielded delicious samples. All patrons were given five sample tickets with their entry fee, and each sample got you 2 wings – a lot of wings when you think about it! The home-brew competition was a separate fee, but worth the money. On Saturday, BBQ samples were ready as early as 10:30 am, and they lasted long into the afternoon, satisfying over a thousand patrons. In addition to live music all day, a bouncy castle and inflatable slide were put up for the kids, and the awards ceremony took place around 3:30 pm. Overall it was a great event, raising a lot of money for a local charity, and focusing on what the Upstate of South Carolina does best – good food, good music, and good, outdoor fun. Here is a link to the Hub City Hog Fest’s website > http://www.hubcityhogfest.com/.

The second event has become close to a household name in Spartanburg, Spring Fling. Spring Fling has been around since 1979, but has been expanded over the years and now can only be defined as a community-wide block party on steroids. On Friday night, the main event is a professional bike race, in which the bikers do a loop around the Denny’s building and other downtown buildings. Businesses and Organizations in Spartanburg can also purchase tailgate tents up against the bike track, and watch and ring their cowbells as the bikers come by. These tents will be filled with food, drink, and lots of mingling with the who’s who of Spartanburg. Saturday is more of what you’d typically think of when you think of a festival – the face-painting, the corn dogs and elephant ears, the inflatables, oh, and this year there was the addition of 4-D chalk artists, jumping and disc-grabbing K-9s, and Trampoline-jumping exhibitionists, all combining for a great (and free!) way for Spartanburgers to fling into the spring season. Although, with temperatures reaching the 90s almost every day this week, I think we may have flung so hard that we passed right over spring and into summer. Regardless, the Spring is a great season in the south, and whether you are a Wofford student or a resident of the Upstate, there is always plenty going on in Spartanburg!

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Madness

They call March the month of Madness, and it is. For many reasons. It is a month of acceptance letters, financial aid notifications, swarms of spring breakers visiting admission offices, and lots and lots of communication with high school seniors who are approaching the final month before the national decision deadline. It is a month when the weather will jump from the 70s to the 30s in the span of a couple days and with no fair warning. We had a hail storm today. I’m not even kidding, in Spartanburg, SC. Oh yeah, it is also the primary month of the NCAA Men’s and Women’s basketball tournaments, which of course is where the term madness was established. And this year, dear old Wofford was able to sneak its way back to the big dance. Our men’s team was just mad enough to survive an upset-laden SoCon tournament, make some runs when we needed them, and ultimately cut down the nets for the first time since Noah Dahlman and the “Minnesota Mafia” had taken the program to new heights in the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

The most recent trip to the dance was during my senior year at Wofford. And I cannot get through an information session without mentioning that year, that run, and that memorable appearance versus BYU and the nation’s leading scorer, Jimmer Fredette. I tell students and families that we were scheduled to play a Friday night game on the West Coast, and that no students could actually afford to take such a long trip on such short notice, so instead Wofford paid to put up an inflated screen outside of Old Main so students could watch the game together. Well that tradition was carried on this year, when we faced one of the nations’ best teams, a team that reached the final game last year, and a team that my Columbus, Ohio upbringing prevents me from speaking its name. And much like the last time, our dining hall closed its doors, and brought a cookout to the viewing party, and the next day, the student body, faculty, and staff were notified of the team’s return the day after they lost, so we could all gather to cheer their gutsy efforts and bask in the glory of being Southern Conference champions.

Though our community does not rely on winning athletics to demonstrate its closeness and camaraderie, these moments perfectly capture what it means to be a Terrier, and to be part of the Wofford family. We look after our own. Win or lose, we support each other. We do not take the bonds we share for granted, whether they be through a shared trip to the Galapagos Islands, working together on a group presentation and acing it, or watching an NCAA tournament with hundreds of peers, cheering on your peers on the TV screen. There are many ways to get an idea of what the college experience is like. You can watch movies like “Animal House,” “Revenge of the Nerds,” or “Legally Blonde;” you can read books like “This Side of Paradise,” or “My Losing Season.” But nothing compares to actually having a true college experience. Ask any Wofford graduating senior or alumni – they’d be happy to talk about their college experience.

Here is a photo taken from “This Week at Wofford” of the basketball team eagerly awaiting their second round assignment.

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Now What?

For High School seniors, their parents, college advisors, and admission counselors alike, the phrase “it’s a wonderful time of year” does not instantly insinuate  the span of time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. No, there is another wonderful time of year, and it spans from February 1 to May 1. This span of time consists of college admission offices mailing acceptance letters, high school seniors receiving them, jumping, screaming, scheduling final campus visits, and the May 1 national decision deadline, when you are expected to have notified the college of your choice of your intent to enroll, and all other colleges of your withdrawal. This is an exciting time, but after the excitement of receiving your acceptance package wears off, it is generally replaced by an anxious, panicked feeling… “Now what?”

The truth is, getting accepted to a college is really just the first part of the college decision process. You have spent a year and a half or more scouring websites, visiting campuses, meeting with college counselors, studying for standardized tests, running down teachers to ask for recommendation letters, and many other things JUST to decide where you are going to apply. NOW you must decide where you are going to spend the next four years of your life. Four years where you might figure out what you want to be “when you grow up,” where you might travel to a foreign land, meet your future spouse, oh, and where you will certainly write more papers than you can fit in a small garage… No big deal, right? Well, if you have never heard of the word stress before, and don’t know what it means, then lucky you (DO NOT look it up on google, save yourself!), because a decision like this can be one of the biggest causes for stress. But it doesn’t have to be! Keep in mind that this is your choice, and in many cases there is no wrong answer, except flipping a coin, never flip a coin to decide where you are going to spend the next four years of your life.

Whether or not you believe in “the one” as it pertains to your love life, there is no such thing as “the one” when it comes to a college. Every college is unique, with unique opportunities, characteristics, and amenities, and it is your job to find the best fit, not be worried that you have to find the one college that is meant for you. How do you do that? Obviously, the most important factor is how you feel on campus. Even if everything else is right, it is hard to be successful for four years if you do not feel comfortable or at home on the actual campus. You can get a better idea of this by returning to make a final visit. I generally recommend that students narrow their decision down to about three schools to visit. When scheduling these visits, keep an eye out for admitted student events, as these will allow for you to meet potential fellow freshman, current students, and engage in an organized program that is designed to show you what the college is like. You can also request overnight visits, class visits, and meetings with people on campus who can speak to your interests and relevant opportunities. Secondly, there is a show called “The Price Is Right.” Well, that concept is also an important factor in choosing a college.  But rather than going on a game show to guess the cost of household appliances and get the chance to win a dinette set, you should be analyzing and evaluating whether or not the final aid offered by a school will make the final cost of attendance affordable for you and your family. Admission and Financial Aid offices exist to help you determine just that. Use us as a resource – call the financial aid office to make sure you haven’t missed any important deadlines; meet with them while you’re on campus to make sure you understand everything in your financial aid package. With a combination of the right feel and right price, your decision should seem pretty easy! One final note, however, call it a personal plug if you want, is to stay in touch with your admission counselor. You will likely receive emails, notes, calls, and invitations from us – so respond if you have questions! Pick up the phone if you can! Don’t be afraid to have a conversation with us, or to ask us questions, especially questions that you wouldn’t want to ask around your parents. College is a time of completely new levels of responsibility, individualism, and dare I say freedom – so don’t be afraid to get all the information you need to make the best decision.

Oh, and, good luck!

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Cut it out!

Last Thursday I was invited to attend the Healthy Smiles “Laugh for a Child” event with a friend who had an extra ticket. The entertainment for the night was provided by Dave Coulier, who most of you will know better as Uncle Joey from the 80s/90s family sit com, Full House (See title: Cut it out, better known as Uncle Joey’s catchphrase). Anyway, this night was full of pleasant surprises. I had never heard of Healthy Smiles of Spartanburg before, but was pleased to learn about this non-profit organization that provides free dental consultations and raises money to help kids whose family cannot afford dental insurance get the care they need. Apparently, as you can see before, this was the 8th time they have put on their Laugh for a Child event, in which tickets can be purchased for an evening of food, drink, awareness, and the main event, a full stand-up comedy act by various comedians. This year, as I mentioned, Healthy Smiles lined up Dave Coulier, who was on his way to Charlotte for two nights on his comedy tour. Despite not being a die-hard Full House fan, I jumped at that chance to see Coulier because A. I have never actually been to a stand-up show, and B. Because I was curious to see how Coulier’s full stand-up routine might reflect his true personality and differ from the very specific character of Uncle Joey. We all know how Bob Saget’s true identity comes shining through his stand-up comedy (if you don’t know, watch at your own risk and not around young children), and differs about as substantially as it could from the wholesome father character of Danny Tanner.

Dave Coulier, though, has been known to focus on his own brand of “clean comedy.” Having spent most of his career doing voices for several cartoon and animated movies and shows, it’s not surprising that a lot of his routine was spent describing the “cartoon world” that Coulier supposedly lives in, or comparing real life things such as preparing for a colonoscopy with fictional things like the Tasmanian Devil. The result was a highly entertaining show that could reach a wide-audience and keep everyone laughing. Highlights we’re his slightly sarcastic description of Spartanburg as a “budding metropolis,” his defensive reaction when he referenced Dunkin’ Donuts in a joke and an audience member screamed Krispy Kreme!… (you know you’re in the south when someone corrects you on a donut reference he replied), and his final series of “harmoni-thoughts,” in which Coulier interchanged quick one-liners and quips with surprisingly talented harmonica riffs. Overall, I was impressed with not only his talent as a performer, but his natural funniness as a person.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that this event consistently receives volunteer support from Wofford students, especially the Kappa Deltas, who have made it an annual tradition to help out. Finally, I was most pleasantly surprise with the Chapman Cultural Center. It has been on my Spartanburg bucket list for awhile to attend an event at this newly developed local gem, but I finally got to explore the facilities and was very impressed with their space. If you ever have extra time in Spartanburg and want to see all that it has to offer, of course start with the main downtown square and all its shops and restaurants, but you cannot fully do so with out also stopping by the Chapman Cultural Center. Here is a link to their website to see more:  http://www.chapmanculturalcenter.org/#sthash.MB9rV9my.dpbs.

 

Photo courtesy of healthysmilesonline.org

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Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Firstly, I apologize for the long hiatus from my blog. Call it application reading season, call it having less to write about this time of year, or what have you…  but it is a new year and time for some new posts!

The snow has begun to fall in Spartanburg, which of course means that I am endangering myself by staying at work to write a blog and not scurrying to safety. In fact, as soon as the words “Inclement Weather Warning,” became associated with the Tuesday and Wednesday forecasts, several schools and businesses across Spartanburg county closed or adjusted their work schedules. I of course cannot help being slightly amused by the local reaction to inclement weather, because at the same moment my friends and family in Columbus, OH are experiencing adjusted schedules and school closings as a result of, well, the coldest January 28 since 1897… Temperatures reaching -35 with wind chill, and around 5 inches of snow still on the ground from the weekend. But hey, I’m just saying this amuses me, I’m not poking fun or saying I disagree with the decisions of the several educators and business people across the Piedmont. In fact, the decision to close must be made based on the given safety of the conditions. While Columbus gets a cold day because the weather is literally too cold for school buses to run, schools in Spartanburg may very well have to close because the county simply does not have any means to keep the roads safe if a significant amount of snow were to accumulate. Why would they? It’s not even a guarantee to get snowfall in a given year, let alone enough to create dangerous driving conditions. Therefore, when the words “Inclement Weather Warning” start popping up on people’s radars, the city starts systematically shutting down, and I love it.

Since I first got to Wofford in 2007, there seems to be one snow a year, and often times it is just enough snow for students to raid the Burwell cafeteria for trays to use sledding on the hill at Gibbs stadium. Because of the natural humidity in South Carolina, the snow is also usually the perfect packing snow for snowball fights at the Row. The nice thing about having one snow is that everyone universally loves the “first snow,” and then are tired of it by the second. The even better thing is that with mostly Southeastern students, a lot of people at Wofford have never seen snow or only experienced it a handful of times in their life. So days like this are among the most memorable due to the general and infectious excitement all over campus. I recommend for everyone to take advantage of this excitement by sledding, snowball fighting, playing snow football, or any of the other great snow-related activity. Don’t waste what most likely will be your only chance to enjoy the snow this year!

 

 

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A few thoughts…

It is crunch time for you college applicants. November 15 is generally a popular decision deadline, and with no exception, Wofford’s Early Action deadline is (usually) November 15. I say usually because this year is a little different. In case you are not a high school senior, the parents of a high school senior, a high school college counselor, or a college admissions counselor… you may not have heard that the Common App has thrown a big ‘ol wrench in many peoples’ fall application plans. Long story short, application materials were not being received by colleges, formatting issues were everywhere, and some forms, like recommendation letters, were not even accessible to users. The result was a lot of stress, possibly some blood, sweat, and tears (I hope no blood though), and many colleges, Wofford included, extending their decision deadlines. We extended the Early Decision deadline to Friday, November 8, and now the Early Action deadline to November 22, but will still accept materials through the rest of the month. So there is a little glimmer of good news in that you can still apply Early Action to Wofford if you have not done so already! Regular Decision is still an option too, the deadline not being until February 1.

Anyway, I just wanted to offer a few thoughts on the application process, whether you have already applied, are planning to apply, or are just too scared to start thinking about any of it. First, and most importantly, be yourself! What you may not realize is that admissions officers don’t have some predetermined bias that they’d rather have Eagle Scouts than captains of the Debate team, or entrepreneurs rather than hard-working lab assistants. There is no special scholarship for starting the sailing club instead of the climbing club. What we want to see is that you’re doing what you love, and love what you’re doing. The whole point of extracurricular involvement is that you’re balancing your time spent in class with things that you enjoy and things that will help you grow as a person. There is no right or wrong extracurricular involvement. Sure, there are different levels of involvement, and leadership experience is impressive, but the most impressive thing is simply doing the things you are most passionate about, and sincerely telling us why. That will be effective in any college application.

Secondly, don’t be afraid of what we are going to see in your file. If you got a detention for not tucking in your shirt, or a D in your sophomore English class, don’t be afraid that we will throw your application in the trash upon seeing it – we won’t. Rather, consider explaining to us why these things are in your application, or what you learned from them. Maybe English isn’t your cup of tea, or maybe some unforeseen crisis happened that took your attention away from the reading assignments. We can only be sympathetic if you give us a reason to be sympathetic, though that does not guarantee our sympathy, either. Still, it fits into the overall theme: be yourself, and I’ll amend to it: be transparent – tell us everything.

Finally, the essay… The essay is something all admission officers look forward to as a chance to get to hear your voice. Stats and numbers and bullet-point details are important, but what you choose to spend your 650 words talking about is what we are really curious about. And it is interesting, the thing we look forward to as an opportunity for your self-expression is the thing that causes most students to panic above all else. I think this panic comes from the notion that an essay must be perfect, and the false assumption that there are right and wrong essay topics. My point is this: write what you want to write. As admission officers, we will ultimately enjoy reading any essay that the writer enjoyed writing.  Too much effort goes into writing what you think an admission office wants to read. We get asked all the time, “what is the key to a great essay,” or, “what should we avoid doing in our essay?” The only thing that should be avoided is the thought that an admission officer can or should have any say in what you write about in your essay. No, write what you want to write. The end goal should be that you are so happy and proud of your essay, that it is an extension of your personality and concisely states something new about yourself, such that if an admissions office does not connect with that essay, you know that college might not be the best fit for you. If you can avoid some of these anxieties and write from the heart, the result will be clear, honest, and effective.

So there are my thoughts, for what they are worth. Though it has been a few years since I was stressing out about my application, and now I read them instead, I still remember what the process was like and how it felt. I may not have known it then, but the more enjoyable the process is, the better the final product will be. So good luck, and feel free to reach out to me if you’d like to discuss these things further!

 

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From Simple to Extravagant

Greetings and welcome to anyone who has found or will find this blog. October 25 in the admissions world means that travel season is almost over for most, and just ending for some. It also means less than a week until Halloween celebrations (come on, we do have lives too)! For me, the official end of travel season will actually coincide with one of the year’s best holidays. At approximately 11:30 on Thursday, October 31, I will be leaving my last Chattanooga school and hitting the road back to Spartanburg, hopefully arriving in time to see some trick-or-treaters. One of the cool things about living in a residential apartment, and not a complex, is that each year there are hundreds of kids who swarm our doorstep like any other, and like 99.2% of the population, my roommate and I will be giving out treats, rather than tricks.

It has been a long and winding travel season, but I have enjoyed the many people I’ve met, places I’ve seen, and experiences I’ve had. The second half (October) was characterized by the fall football chill settling in, later turning downright cold – thanks to our friends to the north for sending a huge cold front across the eastern United States – by actually seeing my coworkers from time to time, and by discovering a legitimate, go-to Panera order. Okay, to preface, Panera (depending on who you talk to) is the admission counselor travel restaurant staple. It is somewhat healthy, there is free wi-fi, and it is a great place to meet with prospective students, or just to crunch out some midday work emails. The pick-2 lunch combination is a given, but I have never been able to determine a specific two items to order, and always seem to be uncertain of which direction to go when I step up to the register. Until a fateful day in Lexington Kentucky, where I stumbled upon the winning combination: Butternut Squash Soup, and Thai Chicken Salad. Aside from the perfect duo of sweet and spicy, and the hot and cold, these two options are satisfyingly delicious on their own. Now, I’ve probably gone into way too much detail regarding this break-through, but it just goes to show that travel season, and the ability for an admission counselor to enjoy it, is all about the simple things.

Perks can sometimes be extravagant too, though, which is okay with me. One moment of extravagance came when I checked into my hotel last Saturday in St. Louis, MO. I was staying one night in the DoubleTree by Hilton, formerly known as the Union Station Hotel. All I knew at the time of booking was that DoubleTrees are one of the nicer amongst the Hilton brand, they give out the best cookies in the world upon arrival, and this particular DoubleTree asked for a reasonable nightly price, well within my budget. What I came to find out when I showed up on Saturday was that this DoubleTree had taken over the site and structure of a historical hotel that was adjoined to the St. Louis Union Station train hub. While it used to be a lavish resting place for train passengers passing through the city, the DoubleTree has maintained the original charm, and updated its features to include all of the usual Hilton hotel ammenities. On top of that, the old train station has become a mesh of shopping, dining, and nightlife destinations. Checking in to this hotel was by far the most pleasant surprise I’ve had in my travel career. Therefore, I’ve included a couple pictures of the place, as well as the famous St. Louis Arch, just as proof that I’m not making all of this up! Here are a couple links to some professional pictures of the Union Station hotel as well: http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/02/f2/05/aa/exterior-sept.jpghttp://handeyes.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/grand-hall-lobbytripadvisor.jpg

Now, I look forward to one more week of travel in my personal favorite destination, Chattanooga, TN. I am thrilled at the prospect of finally unpacking my suitcase completely, moving back into my apartment entirely, grocery shopping, and settling back into a normal, consistent routine. But I will continue to look back on another fun, fulfilling travel season. There are certainly aspects of the second half that I will miss. The horse racing in Kentucky, BBQ Ribs in Memphis, and World Series buzz in St. Louis, to name a few. Still, all good things must come to an end so you can look forward to them again in the future. And, I suppose those incoming applications aren’t going to read themselves!

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Some Halftime remarks

It’s been a while. My travels have taken me from Indianapolis, back through Columbus, to Detroit, Ann Arbor, Nashville, Knoxville, and now Johnson City. Most admission counselors, regional reps, and road runners probably know what I mean when I say that I have hit the mid-travel season slump. It hit me this past Sunday, after an always-busy travel week in Nashville, TN (thank you Nashville counselors for making the week packed and productive as usual, but dang you know how to wear us out!). Following the week, I returned to the motherland and to Columbus for a Big Ten opening night game against Wisconsin in the Shoe. Night games always add to the drama of college football and are welcomed and fun; however, when nursing general fatigue from living out of a suitcase, they are not exactly the best cure. I woke up Sunday tired, groggy, and in disbelief that I would need to pack everything once again into my rental car after roughly one month on the road.

The mid-travel season slump is a feeling that anyone in the admissions world experiences when they have been substantially drained from weeks of travel, jumping from hotel to hotel, rushing from appointment to appointment, and eating out meal after meal. Don’t get me wrong – hotel beds these days are unquestionably comfortable, and eating out is always a privilege, but believe me when I say that it gets to a point when all you want is a PB&J, a night in your own bed, and a day void of staring at a laptop screen. Or, as a fellow counselor so eloquently stated, you just want to be able to sit on your couch in your underwear and watch TV. So it is with much excitement that I prepare for one more high school visit tomorrow before heading back to Sparkle City.

Still, I cannot talk about being ready for a travel break without in the same breath expressing my love for the hotel life. While it lasts, there is nothing like scrounging the Hilton Honors site for hotel deals, racking up member points, and experiencing the perks of different hotels in different places. In my first month of travel this year, I have had some great highlights – two of which came this week. I started the week off by stopping in Caryville, TN; at what became evidently clear was an award-winning Hampton Inn. I woke up Monday morning in the middle of a cloud, had some fresh breakfast, and met some new animal friends (pictures below). I moved on to Knoxville and got situated in a Hilton that, due to construction, was priced the same as a Hampton Inn. It was a great excuse to stay in an elite hotel, and was made better by my first encounter with a disappearing bed, better known as a Murphy bed. I felt as though I had entered the 80s in that room, and although I did not take advantage of the added room for activities, I did take advantage of a couple nights of outstanding sleep. But now I look forward to getting back to my apartment, to my own bed, and to hitting the reset button before the second-leg of travel season. It has been good thus far, and I will continue to document the journey to the best of my ability.

 

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Another Travelin’ Song

Greetings from Indianapolis,

The first week of travel season is coming to a close, and so far it has been a Midwest adventure (making stops in Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati, and now Indi). Being from Columbus, Ohio; trips back to this land of milk and honey are really more like a homecoming, but at least I’ve gotten to branch out and explore new areas like Southern Michigan, St. Louis, and my favorite, Indianapolis. I haven’t exactly been able to pinpoint in my now 3 trips to this city what exactly makes me such a fan, but I suppose it is similar enough to Columbus to make me feel at home, yet different enough to keep me wanting more. Whether it is the unmatched Cajun kick of Yats, or the infectious, albeit Colts-crazed, atmosphere of the Blue Crew Sports Grill (sadly now closed), I have always found somewhere to feel welcomed in this town. And I know I haven’t even scratched the surface. After all, I am here to visit high schools, not sports bars and local restaurants.

Travel season is without question the most interesting time of year for an admission counselor – for better or worse. Moving from city to city, hotel to hotel; going in and out of high school college centers, classrooms, and cafeterias… you never quite know what to expect. Personally I enjoy travelling, especially because of the unexpected. The unexpected is when you walk into a high school where you expect to meet with the counselor and no students, but 15 students are waiting to see you. The unexpected is when you meet a prospective fourth-generation student or the cousin of a close friend. Or, and this happens quite often, when a student actually teaches you something or adds to your perspective about the very place in which you are supposed to be an “expert.” Almost all the time, unexpected is a good thing, and reinforces why you do this job.

On my very first day of visiting high schools, I was excited, but also anxious about getting back into the swing of things. It has been over 10 months since my last high school visit, and I never know how long it will take to regain the flow. But this year was easy. I started with a Columbus school in which four students  were waiting to meet with me. They were already well aware of Wofford and were engaging throughout the visit (check and check!). One of the students asked a question I have never before been asked, “Why is Wofford considered the best school in the state [of South Carolina]?” She had a look on her face as if to suggest that she kind of believed it, and kind of was skeptical. I had to think about it for a second (using the timeless stall-tactic, “that’s a great question”), partly because I wasn’t sure where this ranking was coming from. But it’s true. South Carolina is full of great colleges and universities, but Wofford is (allegedly) ranked number one because of the overall experience. And this is what I went on to explain, though not exactly in the same words.

The best colleges are and should be ranked by the overall experience. And true Liberal Arts schools are all about the overall experience. At Wofford you can take a class with about 12-16 other students on average, taught by nationally ranked professors, then the next day watch your classmates compete in an NCAA FCS playoff football game, or perhaps in the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament (more commonly known as March Madness), and in January you can study World War II while travelling cross-country in Europe, or learn to fly fish in the Bahamas. Few people understand what a Liberal Arts experience really means when they step foot onto campus as freshmen, but they are cherishing it and bragging about it when they are getting ready to walk out of the front gates as graduating seniors. This is what I began to learn as a student, and what I rediscovered as I tried to verbalize to these four students how Wofford could be considered “the best school in South Carolina.”

So on my first day of travel season, I added to my perspective on what exactly students take away from their four years at Wofford, and I owe it all to that well-worded, unexpected question.

 

(Title credit: Another Travelin’ Song by Bright Eyes from the album I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning)

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