For many students, going to college means moving to another state and cultivating a new set of friends a in a completely new community.
But some students at Hillsdale College spent their K‑12 years only minutes away at Hillsdale Academy or in the Hillsdale Public Schools. For them, college has a unique meaning.
Spending your college years only a few short miles from where you grew up is an exceptional opportunity, one which many students take full advantage of.
One such student, freshman Gretchen Birzer, said she enjoys furthering her education while still remaining closely connected with her family.
“It’s really nice having family nearby and just having come here already knowing what’s going on and where everything is,” Birzer said. “I definitely like it. It’s nice to just go home for dinner when I need to, and it really helps at the beginning of the first semester. I think the transition is a lot easier because they were so close by.”
While some students enjoy the ease with which they can visit their families, which Birzer does about once a week, others, like sophomore Nolan Sullivan, make a specific effort not to see their parents as much.
“That’s something that I talked about with my parents before I came to college,” Sullivan said. “I want to make it an independent college experience. I love my parents, but I wasn’t going to live at home and miss out on the experience of really being on campus.”
Proximity to home isn’t the only thing that makes home-grown students’ experiences at Hillsdale unique. Going through their primary education with friends who now attend Hillsdale lessens the difficulty of creating an entirely new social circle. This is especially true since Hillsdale is a small community in which the idea that “everyone knows everyone else” truly applies.
“A lot of these guys, I’ve known them and their families for as long as I can remember,” Sullivan said, “so it’s kind of funny to take my friend’s dad in a class.”
However, friendships formed before college don’t apply only to fellow students.
“Me and Dr. Calvert, we have this handshake that we’ve done with each other since I was in seventh grade,” Sullivan said. “And we still do it now and then when we see each other.”
Sullivan maintains that the Academy is an excellent school, and he credits it with forming many of the friendships he has now.
“Big thanks to the Academy. I love that school with all my heart,” Sullivan said. “They’ve given me the best friends I’ll ever have, and a lot of them are here with me at Hillsdale.”
Junior Logan Tharp said that home-grown students of Hillsdale are in a unique and wonderful situation.
“I have the best of both worlds at Hillsdale,” Tharp said. “I have the feeling of being home and remaining connected to friends and people I knew before college, but at the same time, I have everything that college has to offer.”