April Visit Days have arrived. The swans are back in the lake and another tour group crosses the quad every five minutes. These prospective students, affectionately and occasionally derisively referred to as “prospies,” visiting campus now aren’t just any type of visitor; they’re potential members of Colgate’s class of 2011. Serving as a student host and essentially acting as a salesperson for Colgate was interesting, not because Darcy, my prospie, was a hassle, but because showing the school to someone else forced me to think about what defines Colgate. The students have read the guidebook, they’ve taken the tour, they’ve gotten the official version of life at Colgate from the administration. In order to get a real feel for our school, students need more than glossy books that are extended advertisements in highly attractive print form. I had to think about how to give Darcy the taste of not just a generic college experience, but a Colgate experience.
Dinner at Starr Rink kicked off a series of question and answer sessions between students and hosts. Figuring out what aspects of Colgate to emphasize to the visiting high schoolers resulted in some comical conversations, many involving the party scene, awkward encounters with roommates and hookups gone awry. And after taking Darcy to various school-sanctioned events like the a cappella concert in the Chapel featuring all four of Colgate’s a cappella groups, which was followed by a brief appearance by dance group Groove and Charred Goosebeak’s performance in the Edge Caf?e, I tried to show her what a typical night at Colgate is really like. So we got on the Cruiser and went to Slices. Now, being that it was a Tuesday night, the Jug was closed. Therefore on the Cruiser we did not encounter quite the same number of snazzily-clad co-eds in assorted states of sobriety, but there were enough for Darcy to get the general idea of what riding the shuttle is like at 2 a.m. on a Saturday. Sure, no one was hooking up, throwing up or starting a fight, but she did get to participate in a brief sing-a-long session. And as the local pizza parlor of choice for late-night adventures, Slices lived up to both of our expectations, and a trip there is definitely a definitive Colgate experience, one that any prospective student should have.
Defining Colgate isn’t something that can be done in one night though, as I tried to tell my prospie. It will take the entire four-year experience to even begin to come close.
What is Colgate? Obviously, Colgate is known for its academics. Between professors, classes and lectures, the school takes its academic reputation seriously. Colgate is also about the arts. We have an abundance of student dance troupes, theater activity, studio exhibits, instrumental ensembles and singing groups. Colgate is synonymous with connectivity. Some of the bonds made here will literally last a lifetime. Twenty years from now, some friendships and marriages will be traced back to origins inside the Colgate bubble. Colgate is renowned for the people you meet in classes, downtown or at a concert. We are a social networking school. Colgate is partying, with good friends and complete strangers. Colgate is drinking, all strictly legal of course, considering there are loosely 700 students turning 21 every year and many birthdays falling during scholastic terms. Colgate is the Cruiser – overworked, in danger of breaking down and constantly subjected to a stream of people preoccupied with their own agendas. Colgate is travel. Our student body can seem very transient. Most of us will only spend four years here and many will be abroad during some part of that experience. Colgate is Sunday brunch with hall-mates, some nursing hangovers, some praising God and some doing both. Colgate is awareness, of yourself and larger world issues, be it environmentalism, AIDS or the crisis in Darfur. Colgate is growth, on a personal level and a literal one as the campus expands with the new library and Ho Science Center. Colgate may have been founded by 13 men with 13 prayers, built as a city on a hill, but we have come a long way from a Baptist seminary school. There is an incredible amount this school has to offer.
And ultimately, I think Colgate is opportunity. It is what you make it to be, and nothing less.