What is it Like to Attend Hillsdale College?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Claire is a Phoenix tutor who graduated from Hillsdale College in 2011 with a Bachelor’s degree in French and Sociology. She specializes in many subjects including GRE prep tutoring, Grammar and Mechanics tutoring, and French tutoring. See what she had to say about Hillsdale:

VT:  Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Claire: It’s very safe. Hillsdale is a town of about 9000 people, and the college relationship with the town is pretty easygoing. People feel safe walking around town at night, even late. No transportation is necessary if you live in the dorms, since everything is close together – you can get from one end of the campus to the other in about ten minutes. If you live off-campus, you need a car or bike, but you’re required to live on-campus for at least the first two years of college unless you’re a local resident. 

VT:  How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Claire: Professors are very accessible. Since it’s such a small campus, personal relationships with your professors are encouraged and you often get to know professors within your majors and minors really well. Even my professors in core classes encouraged me to ask questions or talk to them about assignments on a regular basis, so I went into their offices all the time and felt comfortable expressing myself. The classes are pretty small, so professors are able to identify you personally.

Academic advisors are also full-time professors; Hillsdale tries to match students with advisors in their major, though of course that can change over the course of your time in college. Because you’re taking some classes from your advisor, you naturally develop a personal relationship with that person.

VT: How would you describe the dorm life - rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Claire: Dorms vary in size and spaciousness, both for the rooms and the actual buildings. All dorms are single-sex, and there are visitation hours outside of which the opposite sex is not allowed in the dorm. There are single rooms and double rooms, depending on your preference, as well as suite bathrooms and community bathrooms. There is a lot of variety in that regard, and you can request which kind of experience you want in your application.

There is one dining hall, which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You’re required to purchase a meal plan through all four years at college unless you meet certain stipulations. The food in the dining hall is unlimited and includes vegetarian cuisine, hamburgers, Asian, American, etc. There’s also a student-run coffee stand in the main classroom building that is open during the morning and early afternoon.

Numerous opportunities are provided for socialization, particularly for freshmen. There are dorm activities as well as class activities. There aren’t as many social events as there could be, but that has a lot to do with the smallness of the school.

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?

Claire: Hillsdale is a liberal arts college; its major strength lies in history, English literature, and political science department. When I first started attending, I thought I would major in English literature, and indeed their English department is strong. However, I ultimately decided to major in French and Sociology, with a minor in German. Although all three departments are small, all of my professors were outstanding, and I was able to develop personal relationships with each of them. Additionally, I wrote an honors thesis for sociology on the topic of linguistic anthropology, and was primarily able to do so because of the close guidance of the sociology department. It was certainly an advantage at that time to have such a small group of people to work with. 

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Claire: I think it would have been easier if I hadn’t been so shy; I also didn’t have a roommate, so my roommate couldn’t introduce me to anyone! Freshman dorms have double rooms almost exclusively as I recall, which definitely helps with the social aspect. Also, as I mentioned, Hillsdale definitely makes an effort to bring freshmen into the fold, with various activities to help you get to know your peers.

Greek life is somewhat significant but not overpowering. There are three sororities and three fraternities on campus, and they hold multiple events throughout the year. There is no pressure to go Greek, though, and most people (something like 65% or 70%) are not members of a fraternity or sorority.

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Claire: The Career Center is primarily useful to business majors. They have many contacts in the business world, including businesses that hire Hillsdale alumni on a regular basis. The Career Center is also helpful if you want to practice interview skills, get advice on your resume, or check out GRE books. There are career fairs, and again those are mostly helpful if you’re in business, economics or accounting.

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, student union, and dorm lounges?  Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Claire: The student union was built about five years ago, and it has a lot of space. Around exam time it can be hard to get a private room in the library or a booth in the café, but you can always get a classroom to yourself. It’s easy to get space to yourself for studying in the library, union, or dorm areas, wherever you prefer to study.  

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus? 

Claire: The town is small, and the area around the college is pretty much completely residential. All the entertainment and things to do are located either at the college or farther away by car. If you want to get to a restaurant or bar, you have to drive. The downtown area isn’t much to speak of, so in general students either stay on-campus or drive to a bigger college town such as Ann Arbor. Hillsdale doesn’t have much to offer as a town besides the college itself.

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes? 

Claire: There were about 1,500 students attending Hillsdale while I was there, and about 340 in my class. It’s a good size, because you get to know a lot of people and recognize most people’s faces at the very least. The core classes that everyone had to take naturally had the most people in them, and the largest class was Science 101, which had about 30 students in the lecture and 20 in the lab. The rest of my classes were significantly smaller, so the professor was able to give us individualized attention. I even had a German class that had only three people in it. Most of my classes had about 10 to 15 people in them.

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Claire: At the end of my sophomore year, I got to go to Germany with some of my classmates and my favorite German professor, Dr. Geyer, for a month for academic credit. We studied history and culture, and of course spoke a lot of German. We stayed in southern Germany but traveled around to various cities including Berlin, Munich, and Rothenberg-ob-der-Tauber. It was a fantastic experience.

Check out Claire’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.