Archive for January 2015

Basketball Rivalries Run Deep at Michigan’s Independent Colleges and Universities

Who says February is the dullest month in sports? The Super Bowl may be over and March Madness is weeks away, but hard court action is tough to beat at Michigan’s independent colleges and universities.

Small schools don’t get the attention of big programs, but their basketball action is just as fierce and traditions are just as deep. The difference: Our fans are closer to the action and don’t have to take out more student loans to fill the bleachers.

Awesome Rivalries
Calvin College and Hope College’s men’s basketball teams have been duking it for more than 80 years. The Flying Dutchmen of Hope hold a slight edge over the Knights of Calvin, with 98 wins to 91 as of January.

Don’t take our word for it. In 2007, ESPN called it one of the best-rivalries in college basketball, writing it’s “the closest thing to Duke-North Carolina as you can imagine.”

The rivalry even has its own website:

The two play in the nation’s oldest collegiate sports conference, the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association. It’s so old Grover Cleveland was president when Olivet College founded the conference in 1888.

Calvin and Hope have dominated since. Calvin won the 1992 and 2000 NCAA Division III championship, while Hope was national runner-up in 1996 and 1998.

The rivalry is so spirited that even its origins are in question. The first game was in 1917. But Calvin loyalists say it doesn’t count. That’s because a loosely organized Calvin students challenged the Hope team.

For their initiative, Calvin was trounced 55-8 and barred from commencement ceremonies by administrators. Three years later, the two schools played their first official game. Since then, it’s become one of the hottest tickets in west Michigan. How hot? A Hope College president supposedly once defined an atheist as “someone who goes to a Hope-Calvin basketball game and doesn’t care who wins.”

Kalamazoo College and Olivet College also have an intense rivalry. It grew so testy that it became national news in 2001.

It began with a buzzer beater. Kalamazoo thought they won. Refs called off the basket. The Hornets asked for a video review. Bingo: They were declared the winners.

Olivet protested to the conference, which declared the Comets the winners. Kalamazoo protested again to the NCAA, which again gave them the game.

Top-Flight Talent
Who says top talent goes to big public schools, Baby? Not Dick Vitale, the ESPN college basketball guru.

He was the University of Detroit-Mercy’s head coach for four years in the 1970s before leaving for the Detroit Pistons. Dickie V led the Detroit Titans, #DetroitsCollegeTeam, to the Sweet 16 and is such a legend that UDM named its basketball court at Calihan Hall in his honor in 2011.

Several current and former NBA players count themselves as UDM Titans, including NBA Hall of Famer Dave DeBusschere, Seattle Supersonics legend Spencer Haywood and current Sacramento Kings point guard Ray McCallum Jr.

UDM doesn’t have a monopoly on former stars: Hillsdale College, for instance, has several players who are in European leagues.

Unmatched Atmosphere
Adrian College, Hillsdale College and other colleges in recent years have invested millions of dollars in the past 15 years upgrading sports facilities, mascots and fight songs.

The result: A festive, raucous vibe that brings students and alumni together, adding to a unique sense of community that simply doesn’t exist at big state schools.

College basketball is just one difference between big public institutions and Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities, where students forge success by following their own path. The colleges are smaller and emphasize community over crowds. Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates and smaller class sizes for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Ten tips to make the jump from high school to college

Getting ready for college be overwhelming. But relax. It’s only the biggest decision of your life, right?

Don’t fret. There’s oodles of resources out there to help map out the journey. As with any monumental journey, the best bet is to bite it off in short increments and start early. You don’t need to go full-on Tracy Flick, but those who get a jump during their junior year find the process easier than dilly-dalliers.

Here are 10 tips to make your life easier.

Make a calendar
Sure, it’s a little dorky. But goals are easier to attain if they are visualized. Get a giant desk calendar and some fancy pens and highlighters. Stick it on your wall and mark it up with dates for specific tasks like taking the SAT or ACT.

Practice, practice, practice
Worried about test scores? Register for the preliminary SAT and National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. The tests are usually given in October, help you prepare and can be used to enter into scholarship competitions. Best of all: They can be taken in a classroom.

Make a list. Check it twice
Write down a list of 10-20 colleges and universities. Separate them into categories: Top choices, tier twos and fallbacks. Dream big. Do your research. Talk to counselors and teachers. Start the process of narrowing the list.

Scholarship research
Tons of money is available. Millions of dollars go unclaimed each year. Get your money’s worth from the guidance counselor, do your research and start prioritizing.

If you have an extra two minutes right now, why not enter to win the We Are The Independents monthly scholarship drawing? It’s the easiest college money you’ve ever earned.

Letters of recommendation
Most wait until the last minute. Don’t be that guy. Ask early and be OK if some teachers turn you down. Remember: Letters from last semester’s AP chemistry teacher are better than ones from your freshman introduction to metallurgy class.

Campus visits
This is where it gets fun. Campus tours are scheduled throughout the year. Absorb the tours but wander off the beaten path. Talk to students in the bookstore. Go to a coffee shop.

Is this a place you can picture yourself? So much of campus tours are about feel but it can be an overwhelming process. There’s a lot to absorb. Take lots of notes and snapshots to refresh your memory in a few months.

The nitty gritty
Senior year is typically when the search hits high gear: Taking or retaking SATs or ACTs, writing and perfecting admissions essays, scheduling interviews, exploring costs and financial aid and completing the free application for federal student aid.

Phew. Take a breath. It’s going to be OK.

If you’re not yet a senior, why wait? Start now as a junior and move the head of the class.

Refine that list
Sure, your Dad graduated from St. Ezekiel of Perpetual Sorrows. But does it have a strong program in your major? Does it offer the extracurricular curricular activities that you enjoy? Does it have a sense of community? Does it fit you? When you close your eyes, can you see yourself there?

Make a call
Decisions, decisions. At some point, fate is out of your hands. It can be an anxious time. But if you’ve done everything on the list, take a bow. Even if you haven’t but have met all the deadlines, take a bow. There’s nothing you can do about it now but wait.

And take it from us: Things are going to be OK and work themselves out. They usually do.

Follow your own path
There’s so much pressure in college admissions, it’s easy to lose perspective. This is about what is best for you and what college can help you get where you want to be.

We understand that at Michigan’s top 14 independent colleges and universities. The colleges are smaller and emphasize community over crowds. Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates and smaller class sizes for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.