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College Tour Time March 18, 2011

Posted by Fritz in Yachts and other things that float.
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An annual right of spring just occurred in our household—the obligatory college visits during Spring Break in your Junior year. Earlier this week we set out for visits to the two rival state schools; FSU and UF.

For this trip Tallahassee was our first stop. We arrived mid-day on Tuesday and spent the first 30 minutes driving around getting our bearings. The capital of Florida is a medium sized town of just over 170,000— including the 40,000 students at FSU. Not only our state capital, Tallahassee is also home to Florida A & M University and Tallahassee Community College.

FSU is literally down the hill from the state capital—both the original building and the new high rise that houses our state government. The original building was open for tours so we decided to become tourists and checked it out.

A very cool old building built in stages beginning in 1845. Restored to its 1902 appearance, the Historic Capitol stands as an icon at the center of Florida’s Capitol complex; the modern-day nerve center of Sunshine State government.

A private collection of vintage campaign buttons and banners was on exhibit in one of the old capital’s rooms and I couldn’t help take note of the nasty tone of political campaigning even back in the 60’s.

We finished our history lessons and grabbed some lunch at an outdoor café which allowed for plenty of people watching. Sidewalks filled with men and women in business suits were a striking difference from south Florida. Downtown Tallahassee was all about lawyers and lobbyists.

We started the campus tour the next morning at 9 at the visitor’s center. While waiting in the lobby for the program to begin we were met and chatted with Mike Meleney, an admissions director who covered south Florida high schools and would actually review our daughter’s application. There were about 80 or so in our group and after a brief introduction by Mr. Meleney we were split into several smaller groups for our tour of campus.

The main campus is compact—just 452 acres. It is nestled among century oaks covered in Spanish moss and lots of hills. Our two student guides, Jaclyn and Ijen, did a wonderful job of informing us about the school as well as imparting a true love for their alma mater and all things Seminole. Throughout the day at every meeting and event we were greeted with a genuine warmness that can only be generated by a true passion. We had lunch on campus and even saw the inside of a dorm when my daughter caught up with a neighbor friend who started school there this Fall.

We were interested in the Honors College and as luck would have it Jaclyn was a member so we were able to get the inside scoop. Florida State’s academic requirements for admission are tough, especially the Honors College. In 2010, the middle 50%  GPA range of entering freshman was 4.1-4.4 and the SAT’s were 1950-2090.

The following day we did Gainsville. The University of Florida was two hours south and east of Tallahassee. We again started our day at 9 with an orientation. Student guides split our group of several hundred into three and we set about the campus for our 90 minute tour.

From the beginning the feel of the school was much different. UF was a much larger campus—2000 acres with 50,000 total students enrolled. Our tour was lead by two young ladies who were very good and certainly loved their school. We saw the outside of lots of buildings and heard how great it was to be a part of ‘The Gator Nation’. We also heard a lot about all the national championships and how cool it was to be a ‘Gator’.

They finished off the tour with a visit to the Swamp—the Gator football stadium. I will say I was impressed as there is no holier ground for a college football fan in Florida.

Since moving to Florida in ’88 and well before my daughter was born I had always leaned towards all things Gators. They always seemed to command the sporting world and ‘The Gator Nation’ was omnipresent wherever you went in the state.

Over the years my predilection towards the orange and blue grew as they racked up national football titles and seemed to establish themselves as the academic powerhouse among state schools. GPA and SAT entry requirements for freshman are absurdly high—actually ranking the school as the tenth most difficult state school in the country.

I wanted the best for my daughter and thought she simply had to attend UF.

It was one of the UF guides who actually helped us make up our minds. During her closing remarks she said you had to feel the school ‘telling you’ if it was the right choice.

By the end of tour in Gainsville all three of us felt the same message. It would be Garnet and Gold in this household!

 

 

 

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