Remember how I mentioned in a previous post that I love going back to schools I’ve seen before because I find new information and insight with each repeat visit? It isn’t just true for taking a second trip to a particular campus, but also for the third trip, as I was pleased to learn when I made my way to the campus of Randolph College for my second visit in 2015 and my third trip there overall. (True confession: I have a very warm place in my heart for this tiny school and have been fortunate to make many friends there.)
A women’s college until 2007 (when it was known as Randolph-Macon Women’s College), Randolph has made a very successful transition into co-education over the last eight years and now matches the national average for male-female ratio (approximately 40 percent male and 60 percent female). One of the things that has helped make the school such a great fit for both young women and men is the unique “Randolph Plan,” a four-year program that helps students discern their short and long-term goals and then map out the path they’ll need to follow in order to achieve those goals as Randolph students. In the first year, students are required to take courses from four different disciplines in each semester so that they’re exposed to a broad range of topics and ideas and can truly determine where their interests lie. As sophomores, students declare their majors and begin to explore career opportunities so that as juniors, they can begin to seize the opportunities (internships, independent research, etc.) that will make them marketable either as employees or to their chosen graduate programs. Finally, Randolph College seniors engage in a capstone year wherein they put into play the plan they’ve assembled over their first three years and lay the foundation for their post-graduate lives.
Aiding Randolph students in the process of executing the four-year plan is another unique facet of the school: the RISE grant. An acronym for Randolph’s Innovative Student Experience (RISE), the program gives each sophomore, junior, or senior a $2,000 grant to help fund research, creative work, or other scholarly activities. So, for example, a student who wants to research Queen Victoria’s reign for a final history project can use the grant to travel to England or a student who will complete a senior art portfolio in photography can purchase a state-of-the-art camera or some much-needed photo editing equipment. In short, the restrictions are few and the possibilities great.
What’s more, if you’re an equestrian, Randolph is home to its own equestrian center, a varsity equestrian team, and an equine studies minor for those who seek a career in the horse industry. Under the guidance of riding director and head coach Chris Mitchell, who arrived at Randolph in 2012 after a long stint at Cornell University, the program has gained in strength and prominence in the last few years and attracts students from across the country and around the world. Students can bring their own horses to board at the riding center if they wish or can practice aboard one of the 30 or so school horses available. One other unique facet of Randolph’s riding facility is the huge (huge) jumping amphitheatre out front that has an impeccable view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.