Archive for December 2015

Sorry, juniors. Winter break is a good time to start the college search


Instead of hitting the slopes or sledding hills this Christmas break, it’s a good time for high school juniors to start seriously thinking about their college search.

We know. It’s heresy to think of such things on break. But the fact is the next year and a half is going to be a whirlwind and now is the time to develop a plan for applying to colleges if you haven’t already.

Don’t freak out if you haven’t. The heavy lifting – essays, recommendations, tests – are still a ways off. But now is the time to start a schedule and chart a to-do list and timeline for the college search.

The good news: Most of this stuff now is quick and about laying a framework for the future. You’ll have plenty of time to see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” for the fourth time.

So here’s a few easy goals for the college search during winter break.

  • Write out a schedule or timeline of the college search process. There’s tons of resources online, including one from the College Board.
  • RSVP for a campus visit day or two. Keep an eye out for special overnight visits or visit days for athletics, arts or majors. You can find plenty of interesting options on the We Are The Independents campus events schedule.
  • Make an appointment with your guidance counselor to discuss ways to improve the process and any tips s/he may have.
  • Review PSAT scores and look for areas of improvement. They typically arrive in December.
  • Sign up to take the SAT in the spring. Register online or through school. Practice books are available online at The College Board.
  • Start thinking about financial aid sources. There’s a good overview at
  • If you’re in Advance Placement Program classes, register for AP exams when you get back to school.
  • Take two minutes to enter the easiest scholarship contest you can win, the We Are The Independents monthly scholarship drawing from the Michigan Colleges Alliance.

  • That’s it. Go have fun. Sorry about the lack of snow. Or you’re welcome. Whichever applies.

    And one more thing: Start researching Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities.

    Like you, the schools are truly unique and exceptional. All prize themselves on their award-winning faculty and providing a college experience that’s unlike those at traditional big state schools.

    Class sizes are low. So students are taught by professors, rather than graduate students. They form lifelong bonds with professors, who are experts in their field and can help students discover their passions.

    It’s one of many reasons the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates. And why graduates of independents are often quicker to find jobs in their fields.

    And despite what you’ve heard, the colleges are often more affordable than state schools.

    Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Holidays are About Tradition at Michigan’s Top 15 Independent Colleges

Holidays are all about tradition. And big state schools certainly have their own. Unfortunately, they often go something like this: Cram for finals, throw dirty clothes in a bag and say hurried goodbyes to your dorm mates before hopping in a car and leaving town.

Michigan’s independent colleges and universities do things a bit different. And they’re proud of that. Built around community and cohesion, the schools embrace all the wonder and tradition the holiday season has to offer, from choir concerts and campus sing-alongs to tree decorating parties.

At Hope College, students and community members have gathered for eight decades for Christmas Vespers. The first event was held just hours before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and held every year since. That first year, 500 people came. It’s grown every year since to the point where people start inquiring in August about tickets for the choir and symphony concert.

For more than 40 years, Albion College has gathered for the Festival of Lessons and Carols, which features several choirs and intersperses carols with readings that trace Biblical history. For decades, the popular event has begun with “Once in Royal David’s City” and ended with a candlelit rendition of “Silent Night.”

For 22 years, Alma College’s Festival of Carols gathers 110 members of the Glee Club, College Chorale and Alma Choir for carols and candle lighting to commemorate both Christmas and Hanukkah.

Spring Arbor University’s Hanging of Greens has brought the campus and community together for 15 years, with an event that includes caroling, tree-lighting, hot chocolate and horse carriage rides.

A new tradition continues at the University of Detroit-Mercy, which produced a live version of holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the second time this month. The twist is the play is produced as a radio show, featuring a handful of actors playing dozens of characters in the Frank Capra classic before a live audience.

At Aquinas College, the college gathers every year to light a Christmas tree that was planted in 2010 by the Student Senate to reflect the school’s commitment to the environment.

Sound like a lot? We’re just getting started.

Kalamazoo College has celebrated BachFest Christmas, a concert of the famed composer, for every year since 1970. Calvin College has the Sleigh Ride Around the World, which combines Yuletide movies projected on the big screen with Christmas classics from the college’s Wind Ensemble.

We could go on and on.

Adrian College organizes a campus wide party. Marygrove University, Siena Heights and Olivet College host a Christmas concert. Andrews University has a tree-lighting and Christmas concert.

Madonna University puts on the “Christmas Carol” play. Hillsdale College has both a concert and annual Christmas video from its president.

Some of the events may seem similar, but what makes them different – and so special – is that they’ve become part of the fabric of the individual communities around them.

That’s because Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities are enmeshed in their cities and towns and realize that college is about experience almost as much as it is about learning.

National leaders in education, the schools emphasize community over crowds and a spirit of togetherness and cohesion that just doesn’t exist at big state schools.
With low class sizes and award-winning faculty, the schools are proud that students forge lifelong bonds with professors.

Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Hillsdale College Proves Again Traditional Education Equals Real-World Success

A funny thing happened when national test results were announced this month to become certified accountants.

Hillsdale College finished in the top 3 percent, ranking 22nd out of 776 schools whose recent graduates took the United Certified Public Accountants exam.

It’s kind of a big deal. Because Hillsdale doesn’t hide from the fact that it’s a classic liberal arts school, providing students with a well-rounded education in western civilization and great books rather than training them for a job.

“Anyone who questions the value of a liberal arts education should look at the students graduating from Hillsdale,” said David Whalen, Hillsdale College provost.

“These CPA exam results demonstrate the merits of our rigorous core curriculum and the students who rise to the challenge of it. When the liberal arts are taught well, students acquire deep learning as well as the ability to master demanding professional skills.”

More on that in a second. First, the results. Hillsdale students who study accounting and took the CPA test for the first time had a passing rate of 78 percent, with an average score of 81. That’s more than 31 percentage points ahead of the overall national pass rate of 49.5.

Now, about liberal arts. Among some schools, it’s not trendy to admit they teach liberal arts. Hillsdale is unabashed and unbowed about what it provides, standing firm in its commitment to traditional education despite the prevailing tide of conventional wisdom.

Now, the rest of the world has caught up. Study after study shows Fortune 500 companies, particularly the tech industry, prefer graduates of liberal arts schools.

That’s because the graduates not only learn valuable skills such as accounting — as the recent test results prove — but they learn how to think critically, ask questions and create.

It’s a novel concept and one embraced by Hillsdale College and Michigan’s top 14 independent colleges and universities.

The schools pride themselves on partnering award-winning faculty — who are experts in their fields — with students, forging tight bonds that allow them to chart their own path.

Class sizes are small. Community is cherished. Knowledge is king. It’s an experience that simply isn’t available at traditional universities. And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates than four-year institutions.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Spring Arbor University Brings Together Community for Christmas

The lights dim. The choir builds to a crescendo. The unmistakable smells of the season fill the air, from Christmas firs to hot cocoa and roasted almonds.

A scene from Norman Rockwell or “It’s a Wonderful Life”? Not quite.

It’s the “Hanging of the Greens,” which in 15 years has become a cherished tradition at Spring Arbor University.

Every year, the close-knit independent college in southern Michigan gathers for the free event. Every year, it gets a little bigger. But it still maintains that small-town feel that’s made it so beloved.

“It’s been incredibly successful and I’m always shocked in a wonderful way in how many people come out from the community,” Sarah Crane, special events coordinator for the president’s office of Spring Arbor, told MLive.

“It’s a huge sign of success when people are posting it on their calendars and are looking forward to it.”

This year’s event begins Friday at 7 p.m. with a Christmas concert, performed by university students, at Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church.

Afterward, University President Dr. Brent Ellis will lead a candle-lighting ceremony, Christmas carol sing-along and fireworks sponsored by American 1 Credit Union.

The event includes an 8:30 p.m. reception at the Student Life Center that includes cookie decorating, cocoa, balloon animals and a visit from Santa Claus. The night also includes horse-drawn Christmas wagon rides through campus and a biannual exhibit of the best student artwork this semester at the Ganton Art Gallery.

Bonus: It’s free.

Because you can’t put a price on community and togetherness, especially during the holidays. That’s especially true at Spring Arbor and Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities.

National leaders in education, the schools recognize that college is about experience. All emphasize community over crowds and a spirit of togetherness and cohesion that just doesn’t exist at big state schools.

With low class sizes and award-winning faculty, the schools are proud that students forge lifelong bonds with professors.

Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

University of Detroit Mercy Ranked in Top 10 by U.S. News


They’re two words that don’t always go together: Business and compassion.

But they’re guiding principles for the University of Detroit Mercy’s College of Business Administration, which believes that you don’t need to forsake your soul to succeed in business.

The vision was recognized yet again recently, when U.S. News and World Report ranked the College of Business Administration No. 10 nationally in its “Best Colleges” guide.

The Detroit-based university ranked alongside big state schools such as University of Pennsylvania, University of California-Berkeley, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Texas for the honor.

And it’s an improvement from last year, when the school was ranked 14th.

“We’re delighted to have our undergraduate Management program ranked among the top ten in the country by U.S. News & World Report” said Dr. Joseph G. Eisenhauer, Dean of the College of Business Administration.

“This achievement demonstrates that our commitment to student success, to community service, and to Jesuit and Mercy values is a winning formula that allows us to compete with any business school anywhere in the country.”

Eisenhauer said the college’s reputation was earned by adhering to three bedrock values: “competence, compassion and conscience.”

“Our students not only acquire competence through first-rate technical and evaluative skills, but they also develop their consciences by studying business ethics and practice compassion for others by undertaking service-learning and social outreach,” he said.

“This national recognition is significant because it demonstrates that students can receive a world-class business education right here in Detroit.”

The college prides itself on close bonds between faculty and students and a network of corporate executives and alumni who mentor students.

That’s because the University of Detroit Mercy is guided by another value: Community. One of Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities, it prides itself on being different than big state schools.

Their faculty teach classes, rather than relying on grad students, and help students chart their own path.

Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.