When I walked onto Hope’s campus the summer before my senior year of high school, I could feel it was different than the other schools I’d toured. Despite my wonderful visit, it took me until spring break of my senior year to officially commit to Hope. When I finally came to this decision, my mom told me she’d known I would pick Hope all along. “I could tell by the way your eyes lit up on the first tour,” she said, “that this would be it for you.” Still, it had taken me eight months to officially make the decision. I didn’t want to choose my college based just on a feeling, after all; I wanted to make the most informed choice I could. Here are three factors that helped me decide that HOPE was the place for me.

a photo from my first visit to Hope in August 2021

1. Class Environment

My experience with COVID and online schooling in sophomore and junior year of high school helped me realize how much I value the traditional classroom experience. Knowing my classmates and teacher by name, and being known in the same way, impacts the way I engage in the learning process. Knowing this about myself helped me narrow down the 5 colleges I’d applied to as I realized that I didn’t want to go to a school where I’d always be a number in a lecture hall. I wanted to be at a school where my professors would notice (and care!) if I wasn’t in class. I chose well – in every class I’ve been in, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with the professor on some personal level. I’ve had professors send emails just to check in on me, or say hi to me when I walk past them in the dining hall or downtown. It’s very clear that Hope faculty are holistically engaged in their students, and that’s something that I’ve been grateful for through my time here. I want to know and be known, and academics are set up in such a way that this is not only possible, but also the norm.

2. Size and Location

My decision to come to Hope was also influenced by its location and size. To me, Hope isn’t too small or too big. If I go somewhere on campus or downtown, I typically run into a few people I know and a few I don’t. I’ve found this in-between to be perfect. I don’t just blend in, but I also don’t know everyone. Every semester so far, I’ve made new friends in classes or clubs.

I also love the location of Hope. It’s about an hour away from my house (not too close and not too far). Even for my friends that have come here from farther away, the small-town feel of Holland became home much quicker than a large and unfamiliar city might. Hope’s size and Holland’s location and feel were a huge factor in my decision making process.

3. Faith Formation

Coming from a public high school education, I’d always been surrounded by nonbelievers in the academic setting. Some moments of my education were definitely difficult for me because my values didn’t align with everyone else’s. Still, I didn’t exclusively apply to Christian colleges.

When I visited Hope, I was enthralled, imagining what it would be like to worship in chapel alongside classmates and professors. I loved the thought of having a faith community at my school, and I also loved that absolutely nothing was required. Every student personally chooses to be involved in Campus Ministries, the Gathering, or Bible Studies, which means that spaces of intentionality are cultivated. I knew that college would be a formative time for my faith, so I chose this people of Hope that would commit to running towards God alongside of me.

If you’re a senior right now, I feel you. The college decision making process is daunting and even burdensome. To me, Hope felt right… yet it took me months to say it out loud and actually commit to it. My hope is that considering aspects such as classroom environment, location, and faith formation will help you feel more confident in your decision making process. I’m so deeply grateful that God brought me here, to this school, and I’m confident that He can and will lead you to the right place as well.

Published by Audrey Wells

Class of 2026 Hometown: Portage, MI Majors: Communications & Spanish Minor: Social Witness Ministry & Global Health

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