Let’s Zoom: College Searching in the time of Coronavirus

As I sit in my home office (aka a desk set up in my living room), conversing electronically with students, parents, counselors, and colleagues, there is no doubt in my mind that Coronavirus has changed the landscape of college searching dramatically. I don’t need to tell you twice because each of you has felt this loss and this shift in your own ways. 

I hear so much now about Zoom-fatigue, blue light glasses, virtual this and virtual that, that I feel myself fearing a change so great that true connection is lost in this college search process. This thoughtful connection is what keeps me energized and loving the work I have the privilege of doing with students and families.

And yet, I refuse to give into that fear. I’m #KeepingHope because hope is so much stronger than fear. A whole new world of possibilities has opened up, and we must remain committed to connection. 

But how do you forge a connection when separated by a screen, physically distant, or wearing a mask? I’ve got four ideas for you!

  1. All of the questions don’t have to change. A few years ago I wrote about asking these 6 questions on college tours. I stand by that advice because not one of those questions requires your physical presence, and what’s more is that at Hope, we still offer individual virtual tours with a current student. Connection is forged by asking the deeper questions and getting to know a college through a student’s eyes. 
  2. Take advantage of the efficiency, and recognize the follow up. With so many more colleges and universities offering virtual open houses, tours, and meetings with admissions representatives, you can get a lot more of your questions answered in much less time. Just as important, though, is what happens after your virtual experience. Did you get a note from your tour guide? A call or text from your admissions representative? Connection is forged by people who reinforce the message you heard on the screen with their actions toward you in other ways.
  3. Talk about ground rules at home. When my kids shifted to remote learning in March, I wanted more than anything to be a fly on the wall during all of their class meetings. And yet, I knew that was not normal to them (in a time when we desperately wanted something, anything, to be normal) or their teachers. As part of your college search process, you’ll likely want some semblance of privacy in conversations with current students, college representatives, faculty members…and so will your family. Before a virtual event or meeting, talk about expectations you both have and work out a compromise of who is a part of which conversations. Connection is forged when thoughtful boundaries provide for open dialogue and encourage independence — things essential to college success. 
  4. Look me in the eyes. It takes practice to stare at the green dot next to the camera on my computer during virtual conversations (and I’ll admit, I’m still working on it myself), and yet when I’ve been on the receiving end of someone doing that really well, I feel that connection. Beyond the screen, we’ve restarted in-person individual visits at Hope, safely masked and physically distanced. My smile, my surprise, my intent listening (tell-tale sign is my furrowed brow) will all show in my eyes, and I know yours will too. Connection is forged by still seeing one another.

Being a connected college searcher in the time of Coronavirus takes some forethought, planning, and active participation — all very normal things in a not normal year.

Ready to forge that connection with Hope? We’re ready to see you.

Favorite Thing To Do In Holland, MI | Message from Mattie ’20

Hope College is located in one of the best towns along the lakeshore… Holland, MI! There are tons of things to do in this awesome town, including the beach, Downtown Holland, Window on the Waterfront, Kollen Park, movie theaters and more.

Downtown Holland, a.k.a. “Eighth Street”, is home to tons of incredible stores, restaurants, coffee shops, and boutiques. The best part about it is that Downtown Holland is within walking distance from campus.

Check out this video to hear more about what my friends love to do in Holland, MI:

Community Volunteerism

The welcoming front doors of the Holland Free Health Clinic (HFHC)

Growing up, I was involved in many activities in my community, one of which included my church’s youth group. Throughout the year, we helped the community by participating in tasks such as bell ringing around the holidays to help people in need, and in return, the community supported us for our annual mission trips. From experiences like these, I have come to realize the importance of giving back to communities I am involved in, and I made doing so a priority when I got to Hope College.

I searched for places in which I could volunteer and give back to the community that I knew would come to support me during my time at Hope. I specifically chose the Holland Free Health Clinic, as I am passionate about the medical field and touching lives of those who otherwise would not have received any care.

The Holland Free Health Clinic is a non-profit organization that is able to provide medical services to those that are uninsured and under the poverty line. I reached out to see if they had any opportunities for me to volunteer during my first year at Hope, and now spend a few hours per week volunteering at the clinic. There are many different services offered, some of which include vision, dental, podiatry, hearing, counseling, and diabetic education. The clinic is volunteer-based, with many of the volunteers being Hope students. I have learned that communication is crucial to make sure each volunteer is on the same page with any changes or actions the clinic is making. My role at the clinic is to make flowcharts for each program in order to make sure all programs are meeting their expectations and that everyone is on the same page. Ultimately, this best serves our patients, which is always the main goal of a healthcare setting. These flowcharts then help to discover new ways in which each program can improve to be as efficient and professional as possible.

Going beyond being passionate about the medical field and wanting to give back to the community, one of the other major reasons I chose to spend time volunteering at the Holland Free Health Clinic is because of the importance of annual appointments to manage diseases, that can lead to having effects on all systems of the body if uncontrolled, such as diabetes. Many of our patients are not aware of the effects that systemic diseases, such as diabetes, can have on the rest of your body. I enjoy being able to help educate and inform our patients of the necessary actions they should partake in, in order to best take care of themselves so diseases do not get out of hand.

Lastly, the impact we have on our patients is incredibly meaningful in their lives. The joy seen from receiving any kind of care, whether it is dental work, a new pair of glasses, or support, is displayed on their faces, and makes any hard work on our end, very worth it. I have now been a volunteer here for one year, and I look forward to continuing to make an impact and touch people’s lives in the community that has already had a large impact on me.

Studying Abroad! | Message from Mattie ’20

Students at Hope College are highly encouraged to study off-campus at some point throughout their four-year experience. With more than 300 programs in over 60 different countries, there is a program for you! Many students will study abroad for an entire semester, or there is the option to travel off-campus for a May, June or July term. If you are not interested in traveling abroad, there are also opportunities to study in a variety of cities across the country!

Check out the video below to hear a few of our students discuss their experience studying off-campus and how it impacted them:

Go here to learn more about off-campus study opportunities!

Moving Away from Home | Message from Mattie ’20

With just over three thousand students on Hope College’s campus, there are many who come from across the country and around the world. Each year, about one-third of the student body travels from outside Michigan to attend school at Hope College. There are quite a few students that come from different countries too – over 30 countries are represented by students currently studying at Hope!

Check out the video below to hear from a few of our students who moved to Hope from around the country and world:

Are you an international student looking to study at Hope College? Learn more about the Fried Center for Global Engagement here.

What Are You Involved In? | Message from Mattie ’20

At Hope College, there is always something for students to get involved in! On the last day of Orientation, students have the chance to learn all about what you can take part in during your time at Hope.

Getting involved is what helps students become rooted in a community – whether it be the Student Activities Committee (SAC for short), Student Congress, the Multicultural Student Organizations, Greek Life, the Pull and Nykerk, Small Group Bible Studies, Volunteer Services, Immersion Trips, or any of the other 70+ student organizations on campus – try something new and get involved as a student at Hope College!

Check out the video below to hear a few students share about how getting involved impacted their Hope College experience.

Interested in learning more? Check out these links to learn more about how you can get involved on campus: Student Life, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and Campus Ministries.

Where Did You Live as a Freshman? | Message from Mattie ’20

Living in the residence halls on campus is always one of the best parts of freshman year. With eleven different residence halls to choose from, ranging from traditional community, suite or cluster style living, there is a hall for everyone to call home during their first year. The Residential Life staff in each of the halls are always there for you, supporting you when you need it and hosting events for the residents to build community and connections.

Check out the video below to hear from some current Hope College students share about where they lived as a freshman and to hear why they loved it!

If you are interested in learning more about Hope College Residential Life, check out the link here.

Why Did You Choose Hope College? | Message from Mattie ’20

With over 3,000 students on campus and over 35,000 alumni across the world, each member of the Hope community made the decision to attend Hope College for a variety of reasons. There are many different reasons why each of us chooses to go to Hope College – the world-class academic programs, the one-on-one attention you receive from your professors and mentors, the vibrant faith community, all of the activities and student organizations you can get involved in, and so much more! Mattie, one of my friends, asked some fellow students why they decided to go to Hope College.

Check out the video below to hear what they said!

Student Research at Hope

As I have grown as a student in each of my classes, it is apparent to me that there is one way for the world to continue to advance – and that way is research. In order for research to happen and be successful, it is important to have many people involved, who all think in different ways. 

During my first year at Hope, I was involved in the Day 1 Phage Discovery Research Program. This is an opportunity for first year students to immerse themselves in research right away when starting at Hope College. In this program, I was able to search for phages, or viruses that infect bacteria, and attempt to isolate and characterize the phage I found. In this process I learned many skills that I knew would be useful in my future career and life in general. Through this program, I knew that research was something I wanted to continue during my time at Hope because of the valuable skills I was developing, such as communication skills, determination and perseverance, critical thinking and problem-solving, and collaboration with other students.

After my year of Phage research, I had the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C., and present my research with my mentor at a conference. Through this experience, I learned how to put together a research poster, and how to clearly communicate my research to others. I spoke with other students and faculty from all over the country. I also was able to present this research at the Celebration of Undergraduate Research at Hope College in the spring, where I learned how to present to community members who had no knowledge regarding my topic of interest. From both of these experiences, I learned how to clearly communicate my research to people who had limited understanding of science to those who are very specialized in my topic. This is important because communication skills are essential in every aspect of life, and these are two examples of how research at Hope has caused me to develop great communication.

Near the end of my year of Phage research, I contacted a professor at Hope who was looking for another student in her research lab. I was very interested, as I was learning the many benefits of research, and I really enjoy the process of researching. Everything worked out, and I started researching for her at the beginning of my second year. When I began researching for her, another student and I were assigned a new project. I was super excited to get a new project different from what the other students in her lab were working on. Little did I know the first step to this project was to purify the particular protein, and the protein has been very tricky to work with. We have tried a few different methods, all with little to no success. It is very common to fail during research, which is ultimately the way you learn what is going well and what isn’t in order to make the project better and to continue getting closer to success. In life, it is really important to be able to handle failure well, because it will happen to everybody. Will you become defeated and quit the task at hand, or pick yourself up and try again? The latter is the harder choice, but the better option, and the process of research will teach you that. Determination and perseverance are necessary characteristics to being successful in the research lab, and those skills are applicable to anything in life as well.

Getting involved in research was one of the best decisions I have made thus far at Hope College. Through this process I have learned how to effectively communicate with a variety of people, persevere through failure in the lab, critical think and problem-solve, and work independently, but still collaborate with my mentor and other students in my lab. I would highly recommend getting involved in research at Hope College, especially since we are top in the nation for undergraduate research. Hope gives undergraduate students great opportunities to research, whereas many undergraduate students at other institutions do not receive these opportunities, another benefit of Hope College.

A Thank You Letter

Dear friends and family,

In one week, two YouTube videos, and a dozen or so emails we were able to raise $550 for Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. When I started this fundraiser I had no expectation of how much I would be able to raise, but with your help I was able to surpass my goal.

It was about this time last year that I attempted a fundraiser similar to Dance Marathon, Peanut Butter With a Purpose. In this fundraiser I raised money for second and third meals for students in Ionia County. As an incentive for that fundraiser, I matched whatever money was donated. The fundraiser was successful but there were key differences from that one to this one.

To start, the situation is very different. I am in a new setting. Last year, I was a senior in high school and I knew the ins and outs of my school and community when doing the first fundraiser. However, transitioning to Hope has been smooth and a great experience, but I do not have the same knowledge or confidence as a freshman now that I had as a senior. I knew what I was fundraising for, but I did not have any idea of what to expect as I did this for the first time.

The Dance Marathon fundraiser was a great success, and the impact made as an entire group was tremendous. Our goal as a college was to raise $370,000 for Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. In total we raised $370,671.21. I was so impressed with Hope and just as impressed with my support.

I have learned a lot from this fundraiser. No matter how hard the challenge may be, I am well supported here at Hope and at home. My Arcadian brothers encourage me and challenge me to do the best that I can. The Hope faculty genuinely care about this cause. Furthermore, I know my family and community back home will always have my back.

In a matter of days I raised $550 for a $300 goal. Some of the donations came from family members. Other donations came from friends. And yet even others came from those I had only ever briefly talked to. This goes to show that small interactions, conversations, and relationships matter. Even if you don’t think it is a big deal, holding the door for someone, smiling at someone on the street, striking a conversation each have the potential to lead to additional support as you carry through life. I have also learned through fundraising how important it will be for me to support others when it is my turn to give back.

Thanks again to everyone that supported me in this fundraiser and donated to the cause. I love you all so much.