I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts today, “His & Hers” on ESPN Pod Center and the hosts were discussing how they chose their respective colleges. It got me to thinking about my journey to college. While most students had a list of schools they were interested in, I really only had had one – The University of Michigan.
I’ve been a Michigan fan ever since I can remember. Despite the fact that both my parents graduated from Eastern Michigan University, I was always a Michigan fan. I mean, let’s face it, when you grow up in the state of Michigan, you have to choose your team early on. And there are really only two teams to choose from – The University of Michigan and that school in East Lansing. I’ve always been a winner, so I went with the winning team.
During the application process, I briefly entertained the idea of attending Duke University. Their brochure quickly extinguished that idea. My parents didn’t have anywhere near $80K to send me to school. Also, I wasn’t quite as adventurous then as I am now. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be that far away from home all alone. So I saved the $45 application fee and moved right along. I applied to three schools: University of Michigan, Wayne State University (I knew my grades and test scores would guarantee me a Presidential Scholarship) and one HBCU (Historically Black Colleges & Universities). During my sophomore & junior years in high school, I attended the annual HBCU College Tour. Despite my high GPA and standardized test scores, I received extremely negative feedback from the only two HBCUs I might have considered attending. Meanwhile, I had a private school in Illinois, which I’d never heard of, recruit me because of the same. But I digress. The one HBCU I actually applied to was one I’d never considered attending. The only reason I applied was because I was attending an HBCU fair with some friends and one of my friends stopped at their booth to apply. All evening, I’d been standing idly by as my friends completed applications. I completed this application because the admissions counselor was very friendly. He also waived our application fees because we were completing the applications on-site. The school requested our transcripts from our high school, after we’d signed agreeing to the release, and the admissions process was underway. I’d actually forgotten that I applied until the day I received a letter from them in the mail. It was a rejection letter. My feelings were hurt. Here I was an almost straight A student, salutatorian of my class and college student at the University of Michigan – Dearborn (yes, I attended high school and college simultaneously) and this school had rejected me. To add insult to injury, the school had struggled with accreditation and was certainly no academic powerhouse. To make matters even worse, the friend who applied with me was accepted. This student’s GPA was almost a full 2 points lower than mine. My mother tried to console me by telling me, “They know you have other options. They can’t risk allowing you to block a space, when you’re most likely not going to attend, when there are students who can’t get in anyplace else, who need that spot.” Nice try, Mom!
Then there were two. Wayne State University accepted me pretty quickly and I received a Presidential Scholarship which provided for full tuition. Wayne State, while an excellent school, is no Michigan. But then again, no place is Michigan. I applied to Wayne State for four reasons: 1) I knew I’d get in, 2) I knew I’d get a full ride, or very close to it, 3) The University of Michigan is HIGHLY competitive and I wasn’t quite sure I’d make the cut, and 4) Michigan was #1 . . . as in at the time, they were the most expensive public school in the country. I said earlier that my parents didn’t have $80K to send me to school. Well, Michigan wasn’t much cheaper at around $60K and my parents didn’t have that either. They had, or came up with, about a third of that. Because I stayed in-state, I received a scholarship from the state, based on my standardized test scores, that earned me 10 semesters of (partial) tuition. I had several other smaller scholarships. I chipped in a third of my college costs through scholarships I’d earned. My parents had their third. And grants & loans made up the final third. I was all set. All I needed was an acceptance letter.
Although the acceptance letter came relatively quickly, it seemed like years between the time I mailed my application and the time I received the letter. As the holidays approached, I hadn’t heard back. I knew that once the holidays were in full swing, it would probably be February, or later, before I heard anything. I’ve never checked the mail so much in my life as I did during those couple of months. Finally, I received an envelope with the University of Michigan seal on it. It was a big envelope. I immediately knew what that meant.
I have absolutely no idea what I got for Christmas that year. I don’t remember who came to our annual Christmas dinner (although I can probably guess). I don’t even remember what I got for my birthday that year. All I remember is that I officially became a Wolverine on Friday, December 24, 1993.