I know that there have been several threads through the years on what those of us who attended the University Of Michigan did the moment we received the letter saying that we were in, but I thought I might devote a diary to the details of my own experience.
I began collecting applications and starting applications for colleges towards the end of my junior year of high school in 1995. I had my ACT and SAT results by then which, in combination with my GPA, was well above the published minimums for acceptance into Michigan at the time, but that was no guarantee in itself. There was an essay as well, not to mention the thousands of other kids doing and thinking the same thing that I was, wanting to be at the same school that I did.
During the summer of 1995, I was very explicit with my parents about my wishes – I would go to Michigan if accepted. Living 15 minutes from the campus of a world-class institution is a distinct advantage that not everyone has, and it would also allow me to feed my addiction to Michigan athletics uninterrupted for the most part. I grew up watching Michigan teams on TV and in person, and now the opportunity to attend Michigan was real and near to me.
My parents were afraid that I was limiting myself, and even though I applied to 20 different schools simply to hedge my bets (this is what happens when you grow up with statistics too), they would bring home more applications. They would bring home recommendations from co-workers. At one point, I had the application materials from perhaps three-quarters of the Division I football schools at the time, as well as Ivy League and even some European schools.
Nearly all of these applications required an essay of some sort (I steered away from a lot of schools that simply require the application and test results – I wanted to show them who I was), and here’s where I did something that probably no one should do – the essay I wrote was intended for my Michigan application. With minor alterations, I made it fit for the other schools to which I mailed applications (I still have many of them on disks actually), but everything about the application adventure was betting on my chances at getting into Michigan. In essence, if it was not Michigan, the essay was in effect a canned reply and by far the most personal form letter ever written by me.
After a flurry of application activity in August and September of 1995, there was little to do but wait. There were no electronic facilities that would have made this easier sadly, save for the essay, written on my trusty Mac Quadra. In the middle of September, replies began to roll in – I was accepted at NYU, USC, Vanderbilt, Penn State, Columbia and quite a few schools of note. Of course, my parents would not have been able to even hope to help me with the expenses if I went to the West Coast or to a place like Columbia. In reality, about 15 of the 20 applications were non-starters for financial reasons even if I had been accepted.
I waited for Michigan’s reply anxiously. A few more came in the first half of October, including one from Illinois. By the week of the 23rdof October, I was starting to think that this was not happening, and on a very cold and very damp Tuesday, I opened the mailbox as I always did on the way into the house after school, and lo and behold, there was a very large envelope from the University Of Michigan.
At that point, it was one of two things in my admittedly cynical mind – either a letter of acceptance and some welcome-type materials, or the single most detailed rejection in the history of rejections. Either way, I ran up the driveway and into the house, leaving my car idling at the end of the driveway with the driver door open in the middle of a fall shower.
Nervously, I searched for the letter opener in my dad’s desk. Failing in this search, I opened the packet with the only thing I could find – the pizza cutter. A few good, hard rolls and I was in – quite literally, as I read the letter. I was going to Michigan.
I stacked the other items in the packet on the kitchen counter, as for now, I knew what I needed to know. I ran back outside, past my car – still sitting there, blocking the driveway – and did a short celebratory run to the end of the street. I had worked hard to keep good grades and I had numerous AP classes to my credit, but I was going to a place I wanted to go. Indeed, I still have the letter as it meant that much.
By this time, my father was coming up the street, greeted by his son running around and a car blocking his driveway. I managed to get back to my car as he pulled in behind it. I still remember the exchange clearly.
“What the hell is going on?”, he said as he rolled down the window.
“I got into Michigan, dad!”, I said.
Unannounced, he gets out of the car, proceeded to hug me, and then gets right back in the car.
“So, what’s next for you?”, he asked.
“I don’t know. I have so many people I want to tell!”
“Are you going to be driving to their houses to tell them?”, he asked.
A strange question, I thought. Then it dawned on me. I got back in my now soaked car and pulled up into my normal spot in the driveway as my father wheeled into the garage.
It was a day that affected the course of my life, and even though it has now been nearly eighteen years since that day, I still remember the day I was officially told that I was accepted at Michigan as one of the happiest of my life.