Ellen Sweet

Why I Chose Hillsdale: Ellen Sweet

Written by Ellen Sweet

In a lot of ways, I am the stereotype. Two of my cousins went to Hillsdale, my family receives Imprimis, and my dad listens to conservative talk radio. Even before I officially made my decision to attend Hillsdale College, part of me knew that it was my place. It was a small school with a vibrant community, rigorous academics, and from the looks of the website, a stellar English department. I was even up for moving to small-town Michigan. Braving a Midwestern winter seemed like a worthy adventure (it is).

Yet there is a depth to Hillsdale that I could not have imagined as a senior in high school. During freshman orientation, Dr. David Whalen gave a lecture in which he warned me and my fellow freshmen that college is dangerous—that, in fact, Hillsdale would change our souls. A sobering message for a bunch of kids recently transplanted from everything familiar. Listening to Dr. Whalen, I caught my first glimpse of the import of education.

Hillsdale has pulled back the surface of things and shown me new depths of beauty and grace and intellect. In my core classes, I was stretched to account for a dozen disciplines all seeking truth from their own particular viewpoint; in my English courses, I learned to encounter stories in an intelligent, charitable, honest way that has taught me more about God and human nature than anything else in my life; in my friendships, I have learned about the true companionship that comes from caring for good things together.

As he does, C.S. Lewis wrote something that startled me with its pertinence: “Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom realize the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realize it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others.”

Hillsdale expanded my tiny world. As a senior, I get both emotional and anxious when I think of leaving this place. But we are not meant to stay forever. After all, now I know. I know that the world is bigger than I could have imagined. I know about the great tradition of thinkers and writers who came before me. I know what true friendship looks like.

I know how much I do not know.

Not to mention, I have a booklist a mile long to work through for the rest of my life. After all, my own eyes are not enough for me. I will see through those of others.

Ellen SweetEllen Sweet, ’17, is an English major and French minor from the beautiful state of Oregon, where the grass is always green. She is the President of the Hillsdale College Women’s Soccer Club, a member of both the Honors Program and Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority, and a firm believer in the power of a good book.