Why I Chose Hillsdale: Isabelle Parell

Written by Isabelle Parell

I came into my freshman year at Hillsdale College expecting failure. A great way to start off a major life change, I know. I’d never attended college before; I had no idea how it was supposed to go. I actually planned on learning from failure: failure to turn a paper in would result in a poor grade, failure to attend a class would lead to embarrassment as I would try to explain why I slept through my alarm, and these things would compel me to do better. I had the notion that failure must transpire before I could succeed. Hillsdale College destroyed that assumption.

Throughout the seminars given during freshman orientation, I was hit with the reality that Hillsdale College will not accept failure. Of course, there has been a student or two who have in fact “failed” to turn in a paper, or who have “failed” to attend a class (my sister can attest to this – sorry Cecily) and are still in good standing. But these things do not exemplify Hillsdale’s definition of failure. At Hillsdale, failure is the lack of trying, the absence of caring. A student does not (from what I know) simply decide not to write the paper, and thus fails to turn it in. Instead, a student works unyieldingly on writing it, and perhaps in the last few minutes before it is expected to be turned in he or she realizes that the work is not exactly what it should be and so informs the professor that it will be late because it is not yet good. The students have high standards and will settle for nothing less.

The honor code that is signed by new students upon arrival at Hillsdale college is not just a sheet of paper that you sign without realizing what it is challenging you to do. Not only do we understand what is being asked of us, but we also strive to embody the honor code and apply it to everything we do. The students here certainly aren’t robots, perfect at everything, committed one hundred percent of the time, and defeated by nothing. However, they are different from the average college student. Students here at Hillsdale care not only about studies, but about each other and about their professors. Students do work, not just to get the grade, but also to show their immense respect for the professors. I am not sure whether they come in this way or whether their character is forged here, but in any case, the respect that Hillsdale College receives from professors, parents, and especially students makes it clear that this college is doing something good. I think I chose the right place.


Isabelle Parell is a freshman at Hillsdale College. This post is part of our “Freshmen Journey” series in which current freshmen write about their academic and student life experiences, and give their perspective on Hillsdale College.