Why I Chose Hillsdale: Josh Bailey

Why I Chose Hillsdale: Josh Bailey

Written by Josh Bailey

Ambitious and dedicated to serving my country, I had no thought of Hillsdale College as a seventeen-year-old senior in high school. No, I was going to the US Naval Academy. I loved sports, I loved a challenge, and I loved my country. I had jumped through every hoop, from the fitness test to the physical examination to the congressional nomination. On top of that, my grandfather was a graduate of Annapolis and a Navy aviator. It was my destiny, and nothing was going to get in my way.

Then it happened. One weeknight I received a letter from the US Navy. My parents gathered around as I opened it and read, “Candidate Bailey, Thank you for applying to the United States Naval Academy. Unfortunately, …”

That was all that I needed to read. It did not hit me at first, but my dream of the previous two years died that night. I did not get depressed or have an existential crisis like some, but I did begin to question what I wanted to do, and unfortunately, the few schools I had looked at and applied to did not interest me.

Still unsure of my future, I decided to take a gap year after graduation. I earned my certification in welding and started work for a local manufacturing company. It gave me time to reassess my interests and goals. While it was a priceless experience, I knew that I wanted to go to school. As a result, I began the college search for a second time.

I had heard of a small conservative college in Michigan through family connections. It was supposed to be academically rigorous, and my mom encouraged me to look at it. I decided to visit it along with a handful of other small schools.

On the drive up, I remember thinking, Wow, this place is in the middle of nowhere. But when I arrived on campus, I was immediately impressed with the beautiful and scholarly environment. From the students to the architecture, it struck me as a place focused on excellence in all areas. As the visit continued, I became more and more impressed.

First, the College’s reverence of history spoke to my desire for a school strongly rooted in tradition. The statues representing historical events and figures around campus showed me the College’s respect for, and the desire to learn from, great thinkers. I was shocked by the abundance of high caliber individuals willing to invest in others. Students were dedicated and humble to learn, and professors were experienced and passionate to teach. This left me with a similar desire to be poured into.

But what surprised and excited me most was the realization that a private college could challenge me in a way that I thought only the service academies would. Students who strove to excel had to put in maximum effort. Leaders on campus were the cream of the crop. The visit left me more excited than I had been since pursuing the academy.

I began my application. In the fall I was accepted, and in the spring I was invited to a scholarship weekend. Still deciding between Hillsdale and another school, I accepted the invitation, hoping that the weekend would inform my decision. It did. A whirlwind of listening to lectures, shaking hands, and working on projects, the four-day visit left me invigorated and hungry for more. Never before had I been challenged to learn and lead in the same degree as that weekend. The impact settled my decision to attend.

After a year at Hillsdale, I have recognized not only the truth of those first impressions, but also how many things I would have missed had I attended an academy—the biggest of which are the rich friendships with likeminded individuals I would have foregone. I doubt that anywhere else I could have found the same quantity and quality of people dedicated to investing in my future.

Although I set out to attend an academy, I was drawn to a small school in Michigan by its genuine warmth and liberal arts education. In the words of Robert Frost, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –/I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference.”


Josh Bailey, ’19, is a marketing major from the back roads of Iowa. A volunteer program leader, intramural athlete, and dedicated student, he can usually be found either busy with a project, sweating in the gym or buried in a book in the corner of the library. In his free time he enjoys adventurous shenanigans with the guys in his dorm.