Everything’s…different? in Texas

I’ve very familiar with the phrase, “Everything’s Bigger in Texas.”  During my stay here, I haven’t noticed anything being much bigger (not even the steak I ordered Sunday night), but I have noticed some differences.  Here are some notable differences from Iowa:

-U-Turn lanes. Once off an interstate, Texas provides you a convienent opportunity to make an uninterrupted U-Turn.  I found this out when attempting to turn left on the first day here, and found myself going back the way I came.  See an example from my friend Wikipedia here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_U-turn

-Highway lines: While we’re talking about the highway system, lets talk about the lines on the highways.  In Iowa they’re painted on with reflective paint.  Here, the lines are painted, however they also have raised, reflective, round(or rectangle) markers on the painted lines.  These make a very interesting noise when driving over them.  I found myself doing this on occasion, just for fun.

Whataburger: I’m accustomed to Micky D’s (McDonald’s), Wendy’s, Burger King, Hardee’s (love their commercials. ex: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J73cdISF8wk)

BBQ – while on the topic of food (which I love), there are more BBQ restaurants here.  At these restaurants, it’s more of a buffet line than a regular order/sit-down restaurant.  This is kind of nice.  I ended up sitting with two older(I called them young) men who had waited in line for TCU tickets.  We had a great conversation about college football and a better lunch.  The sliced BBQ beef at Angelo’s was great(http://www.angelosbbq.com/)!

Gas stations: In Iowa we have gas stations like BP, Kum & Go, and Casey’s, but in TX they have Mobile 1, Valero, and Chevron.  Gas is gas, but nothing beats Casey’s donuts and pizza!  Haven’t had it? It’s a must-try!

Heat: It’s been Hot! for September?  I like the seasons of Iowa, and nothing screams football like the fall weather!  I made the mistake of renting a black car.  In Iowa, WI, and IL I can sit in my car and read if I make it to a high school early, but in TX?!  I’d have to leave the car running to keep cool.  I’m also a fan of the colors we have during the change in seasons.

All in all, I had a great time in TX.  I hope to return again. Until then, keep it cool (pun intended) Texas.

College Search 101: Choosing the “Perfect” Fit

My college search advice…

Between yesterday and today I’ve answered many, many questions about Iowa, our admission practices and policies, and also the college search process. Yesterday I was asked a rather unique question which I loved. It gives me a great opportunity to offer my college search advice.

A father and son approached me when the son started to ask questions about our campus. When asked how old he was, the student responded, “Only a junior.”. To this I responded, “Only a junior? That’s “only” the best time to start your college search!”

Upon my response the father then asked, “What’s your advice for a junior?”

This was a unique question I’d never fielded. For lack of a better analogy (and time to think of one), I said, “Approach the college search process like you would buying a car. You wouldnt dare buy the first car a car you looked at would would you? Nor would you spend the next 4 years at the first college you asked about.”

Therefore, going along with the car analogy, this is my advice to a junior moving into senior year.

FRIST and foremost: Junior year is a great time to start ‘car shopping.’  Before even looking at colleges, think of what you want out of a college.  I thought it funny when I asked a girl today what she was lookinng for, and she responded, “well, I don’t know.”  Everyone knows what they want out of a college institution.  While they might need a second to close their eyes and think; they know.  Large, small, contemporary, modern, urban, rural – these can all be characteristics of what you’re looking for in a college institution.  I am asked some very strange questions sometimes, and while I think they may be strange, I know that individual aspect of college is important to that individual student.  For example, I was once asked, “Do more of your students wear sweatpants or jeans.”  While this may mean nothing to one student, it may mean the world to another.  Therefore, STEP ONE; Decide what you want.  Be greedy. It’s your education.

STEP TWO: Gather information.  After determining what type of car you would like  (truck, luxury, compact, mid-size, etc) you need to find out what cars fit that type.  Same with colleges.  Search for colleges that fit the profile you’ve deemed as the “perfect” college.  Ask questions, talk to the admission counselors, talk to the students,  find an alumnus if possible.  Gather information about the college.  This includes, the following:

          1.) Academics.  (class sizes, availability of professors, academic resources, honors program opportunities, research opportunities, etc).

           2.) Cost (overall cost, how financial aid is awarded – merit vs. need,  scholarship availability, continuing year scholarships/scholarships after the first year, etc)

          3.) Atmosphere  – this is where I related the jeans v. sweatpants question (size, the #of clubs/organizations, the types of clubs/organizations, volunteer opportunities, involvement within the surrounding community, diversity of the student population, extracurricular opportunities, distance from home, facilities/buildings, etc. Again… you’re, in a sense, choosing a new home for 4 years – you should like/love it)

STEP THREE and MOST IMPORTANT:  VISIT (the test drive).  Vist the campus.  Much like test driving a car, this is your opportunity to see what the institution’s really like.  Much like a car salesman talking about every car as ‘the best,’ most college representatives will tell you they’ve got ‘excellent or great programs.’   Take a tour.  Talk to the students.  Get the ‘feel’ of campus.  You may love one institution on paper/web, but once there, you might find that it’s really not the right fit.  This is the same for a car – as a 6’2″ guy, I may think a car is sporty and cool, but once inside, I find I have no headroom and would feel more comfortable in something else. 

Most of the students I talk to at any institution, will most often say the reason they chose that institution was because they “fell in love with the campus,” “it felt right,” or “it felt like home.” 

After these three steps you should have what is (or should be) the best fit.  While not perfect in every aspect, it will be the best, and once on campus and making it your own, it WILL be PERFECT.

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to post, contact, or call!

Best of luck throughout the college search process, and more-so your college experience!

Peter Diggins, your food is ready…

“Peter Diggins, your food is ready.  Petttterrr DIIGGGINS, come. get’.chur. food.”

This is how they called out my food order at The Twisted Root Burger Company, where I ate lunch yesterday after the college fair I attended.  Every customer was given a slip of card with a different name on it.  While I was there, so was Elvis, the Texans, and Bugs Bunny among others. 

One thing I love about being on the road is getting to experience an array of different foods, and divulging in new/unique places to eat.  During my first trip out last Monday, I was at a table across from the Texas Christian University(TCU) representative.  With such a strong football program, of course we started talking sports, however with my upcoming trip to Dallas/Fort Worth (where TCU is located) we started talking Texas.  She was quick to throw out things to see and places to eat.  Among these were Angelo’s BBQ and The Twisted Root. 

The Twisted Root has won an assortment of awards for their made-from-scratch food.  Every thing’s made from scratch; their burgers, fries, ice cream, everything.  I got to enjoy their “Green Chile,Guacamole & Pepperjack Burger with Sweet Potato Chips.” 

Green Chile,Guacamole & Pepperjack Burger - http://twistedrootburgerco.com/wordpress/

Their website says “Slap-Yo-Momma Good,” and their t-shirts said “Sofa King Good,”  and let me tell you, it lived up to both.  One of the best burgers I’ve ever had.

While the burger had me walking down the street on cloud 9, I was quickly brought back to reality by the $35 parking ticket I received during the hour I was parked.  $35 dollars?!  I guess I was familiar with Iowa City’s free weekend meters, and also their $5 tickets.  I guess all good things come to an end.

Orrr maybe not.  I’ve found this gem-of-a-website to find new places to eat throughout the week: http://www.hellofortworth.com/Restaurants.Cfm

<<<<<<<Stay tuned for my ‘college search’ advice.>>>>>>>

Road Warrior v1.0

Some call us “Road Warriors;” others simply “crazy.”

And so it begins; Travel Season 2K10.

Every fall and spring our admissions staff gears up for what’s simply known as ‘travel season.’  Travel season is a time when we’re traveling from state to state, town to town visiting high schools and college fairs to speak with students intrested in The University of Iowa.

Fall travel season is a bit longer, and more chaotic (I mean busier) than spring travel.  Reason for this? Fall is the prime time for you seniors to be visiting, applying to, and narrowing down your college choices so that when you apply for financial aid in January, your decision will be between a couple schools rather than many (stay tuned for a blog post containing advice on this process). Juniors, it’s a great time for you to start seeking information on institutions as well.

This week is the week I spend easing into my travel schedule. Yesterday was my first day out of the office.  I spent the morning driving to Bloomington/Normal, IL where I attended Articulation Unplugged, a college fair for high school counselors.  This event gave high school counselors a chance to ask questions about our admissions practices and policies as well as update us on trends in their individual high schools.  For me it was a great opportunity to see the high school counselors and also my other fellow “road warriors.”  Following the fair, I made the easy 3.5 hour drive back to Iowa City.

I spend another day in Champaign tomorrow before the I consider Tom Cochran’s Life is a Highway, my fall theme song.  I say this because I fly to Dallas, Texas (or as my fellow blogger Jade says “Tejas”) on Friday, and won’t be in the office much until Nov. 1st.  While I won’t be in the office much, I will be fortunate to make it back to Iowa City on most weekends to see the Hawks play and regroup/reorganize/repack for the week out.   But that’s not it; Iowa games mean returning alumni and my house = US hostel.  So, in addition to everything I hope to get done during the weekend, pile on hosting responsibilities, laundry and cleaning.  Yet that’s one reason I love Iowa City – everyone returns to see the city they love so much – luckily I live here so I get to see the people I love so much.

For a breakdown of my time out, here are my weeks and where I’ll be traveling:

(week starting) Sept 13th – IL, TX

Sept 20th – Dallas, TX

Sept 27th – Iowa/Wisconsin

Oct. 4th – Wisconsin

Oct 11th – Wisconsin

Oct. 18th – Southern Chicago, Illinois

Oct 25th – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Stay tuned for further updates – for now, cue Tommy.  Click—> Tom Cochrane – Life Is A Highway <—Click

“through all the cities and all these towns. It’s in my blood and it’s all around.”

Friday Before Football

Friday, I can’t believe you’re here already.  At this time last week, I was celebrating my birthday in the office.  I also learned that I share a birthday with Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi.  Unfortunately, I missed Iowa’s home opener against Eastern Illinois for another wedding in my hometown of Holstein.  Sadly, this was the first game I’ve missed since 2004; time to restart the streak.  While I was sad to miss the game, the weekend was awesome.  I was able to celebrate my birthday with my parents, friends from home, and the long weekend allowed for some time with friends back here in Iowa City.  I think the long weekend is also the reason why Friday came so quickly.

During this time of year I debate: Fall & Iowa Football >= Christmas morning?   Fall means I get to celebrate my birthday (presents); the excitement of not only Iowa Football, but also all of college football, NFL, and fantasy sports season; and also the birth of (what could be) history (Bowl Game?). Sound similar to Chirstmas?

It’s 10am I’m already dreaming of the 2:36 kick-off time tomorrow at Historic Kinnick Stadium thanks to the I-Club breakfast this morning.  The Johnson County I-Club holds a breakfast every Friday morning at the Sheraton Hotel, downtown Iowa City.  The breakfast kicks off at an early 6:30am, but one is quickly awoken by the “boom” of the Iowa Hawkeye Marching Band.  Once seated, you’re greeted by a high-five from Herky as the Iowa Dance Team, Spirit Squad, Drum Major, and Golden Girl make their way around the tables.

I-Club Breakfast

See more pictures from last Friday’s breakfast here—> I-Club Breakfast

After breakfast we were introduced the the I-Club Board, a guest speaker, and finally remarks from our head coach, Kirk Ferentz!  This week was exciting because the guest speaker was our new Men’s Basketball Head Coach, Fran McCaffery.

Basketball coach Fran McCaffery being introduced and given a "Beat State" t-shirt

As always, door prizes were awarded.  While I had my “touchdown dance” prepared, I wasn’t a winner.  I’m a team player though and was happy to see fellow counselor, Sheila win a Hawkeye football signed by Kirk following the event.

Captain Kirk Signing Sheila's new Hawkeye football!

All in all, a great way to start an (early) Friday morning.  This will be great practice for tomorrow’s 5am wake up call to enjoy some eggs, some pickled herring, and other tailgate goodies on the chilly, fall morning before a show-down between our rivals to the West, the Iowa State Cyclones.



Iowa Football Entrance Vs. Michigan, Oct 10, 2009

Note the Time

Please note the time – 3:56 am.  I’m awake?  I haven’t seen 3AM since? I can’t specifically remember.  Not even at the wedding I attended this past weekend, was I up at this time.  These are the only occasions that time that quickly come to mind: The University of Iowa’s Dance Marathon, watching for shooting stars in Northern Wisconsin, and, well that’s it. I’m not upset about it; 3AM is not a time I care to see.

Regardless, now I’m awake, and can’t fall back to sleep.  I’ve started thinking about my day on campus…

Work.  Another busy day planning fall travel, in addition to the other tasks and projects needing attention. Skip thinking about work.

Campus speaker.  Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is to speak tonight at the Englert Theater, downtown Iowa City.  Coincidently, the same friend who brought this to my attention was the same friend with whom I attended the Aasif Mandvi (hilarious correspondent for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) lecture last week.  This friend rocks; as did the Mandvi lecture.  From what I’ve read, I understand Hsieh agreed to speak to one of the courses offered here on campus, titled Life Design: Building Your Future. I’d never be able to do Hsieh justice in trying to describe his accomplishments here in this short blog.  I’d rather you read all about him, the event, and the course from a UI press release at: http://news-releases.uiowa.edu/2010/august/082010zapposCEO.html.  If you’d like to read about the notes from tonight, check out the course’s website following.  It’s available here: http://www.uiowa.edu/~lifeclas/lectures/index.html.

4:14. Back to bed for 2 hours.  But first, a drink of water.  *Crossing my fingers* Please don’t wake up, Oliver (the dog and one of my roommates).

New Beginnings…

The beginning of a new school year is always exciting.  At Iowa this means the students back for classes, FOOTBALL SEASON, and of course (for us in the Admissions Office) “travel season.”  As many of you gear up for the start of the new high school year, I know you may be considering different colleges and universities.  Included in this are college fairs, campus visits, and also visits to your high school from campus representatives.   Ever wonder what those representatives are up to outside of those events?

Through this blog I hope to provide you with exactly that –  some perspective on the day to day life as an Iowa Admissions Counselor.  I will be updating you on my travel for work (high schools, and college fairs), my exciting experiences in Iowa City, and some unique/unexpected experiences that occur.

Have ideas you want to hear about?   Let me know…