A Trip Back to Gainesville and the University of Florida

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I recently took a trip back to the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL with my wife and two daughters. My youngest daughter, Kaelyn (11) had a weekend soccer tournament there, so my wife and I decided to take our oldest, Kendall (a 14-yr-old 9th grader), to tour the campus while in town. We thought that by showing Kendall a little bit of what college life is all about at this age might be a great way to begin getting her excited about it- to keep her motivated and pursuing this goal with passion and effort. Kendall was definitely stoked on the experience! Over the weekend, we also enjoyed a tour of the Gator athletic facilities with Kaelyn’s soccer team, which was also pretty cool.

I know all about life at UF well- probably too well! I spent 4 years there earning about 2 year’s worth of credit, before later completing my degree at UCF in Orlando. Even though I graduated from UCF, I’ll still always be a Gator and don’t mind splitting my loyalties between the two schools. I really loved, and do still love them both!

The UF campus is more beautiful today than ever, and the services they provide to students continue to be amazing. Everything a student might need is available including multiple housing types (private, semi-private; shared; etc.); a variety of food programs; free transportation anywhere- on or off-campus, at almost any time of the day or night; medical care, including one doctor assigned to individual students over the full length of their time at UF; intramural sports; athletic facilities; reduced price game tickets; free computer repairs; fraternities & sororities; and more!

The academic standards are extremely rigorous. I thought they were tough when I attended, and they’ve only become even more so, since then. I probably wouldn’t make it in today. The average SAT score for incoming freshmen in this year’s class (February, 2014) was 1967, and the average high school GPA was 4.3! We learned that about 50% of UF’s admissions grading is based upon these kinds of academic metrics. The remaining 50% is based upon other qualities that help administrators to understand what kinds of people freshmen applicants truly are. All applicants must write essays that describe what kind of people they are- significant life events, what they might have overcome in their lives, or are passionate about, etc.  It also includes consideration of involvement in activities like athletics, clubs, volunteer and civic organizations, etc.

On Sunday evening, we went out to eat at The Swamp restaurant in the heart of campus. Even on a chilly “school night”, students were out, of course, and we ate to the sounds of Nirvana and 90’s grunge music. I think Kendall got a kick out of the whole scene and Gretchen and I enjoyed the nostalgia of college life (although I actually met Gretchen at UCF, not UF).

Speaking of nostalgia, we stayed at a place called the Paramount Plaza. As it turns out, the Plaza used to be The Hilton, which used to be the only decent place in town to stay (now there are many choices). Interestingly, I used to work there in the restaurant waiting tables. I had no idea that we were staying at the old Hilton, but recognized it immediately upon pulling into the hotel. I told the manager I used to wait tables there years ago. He confirmed that it used to be the Hilton, then provided me with a couple of complimentary breakfast buffet passes! Alas, the service in the restaurant was only marginal, but I appreciated the gracious gesture and was just stoked to see some of today’s college students (presumably) working and doing what it takes to get through school, get a degree and see where it takes them, following graduation. Their futures are wide open! It is a wonderful time in life that will stay with them forever, no matter where their paths may lead.

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