Matthew Schaefer

Matthew Schaefer

UNC   |   Newtown Square, PA   |   Radnor High School

In what way has your experience as a Robertson Scholar challenged you the most?

I would summarize being a Robertson Scholar as achieving personal growth by being placed into uncomfortable situations over and over again. I am absolutely a person that depends on routine, with even the slightest unexpected events causing discomfort and stress. Even though the Robertson Program was up-front with their intention to force me out of my comfort zone, in retrospect I really dragged my feet through most of those situations and I didn't appreciate the growth experience until after it happened. Most events challenged me: the NOLS trip, community summer, switch semester, exploration summer, etc. The community summer stood out as the most challenging because it forced me into a situation where I couldn't continue making videos for my YouTube channel. That channel was my full-time job and my "claim to fame" at the time, and albeit quite successful, being forced to not work on it for a summer made me realize that I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought. During the summer, I cherished not having to make videos, and that made me realize I was only still doing it for the business side, and I can achieve that same fulfillment with other ventures that didn't involve the content production side that I lost passion for. All in all, I very much attribute my current position in life and aspirations to community summer, and I'm confident it was for the better.


Please share an example of how one of your summer experiences impacted your leadership.

Community summer also had a significant impact on my leadership. Prior to community summer, I had lived at home with my family, and spent two semesters with one of my best friends at UNC. I had never been forced to live with anybody I didn't choose to live with, and dealing with differences in preferences, experiences, and world views was unexplored territory for me. In particular, I can't overestimate the amount I learned from Divya and Hanna. I would describe community summer as a crash course in learning how to understand and empathize with people you wouldn't expect you could. Today, I credit that experience for the entirety of my ability to find common ground between myself and others that may have differing viewpoints at the surface level, but in reality have far more commonality.


If you had one piece of advice for future Robertson Scholars, what would it be?

Don't drag your feet. You won't enjoy every part of the program, but that's by design. Some of it you just have to get through, but along the way you might just make lifelong friends, learn new things, and become a better version of yourself.


Anything else you want us to know?

I'm very grateful to mention that Julian Roberson invested in my startup's seed round. Not sure if this is appropriate for the yearbook, but I figured it's worth mentioning. Whether it's Julian, any alumni, or other associated individuals, the Robertson network is incredible and every scholar should try their best to leverage it.


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