A Visit to Kalamazoo College

Very often, while taking campus tours as part of my job as an educational consultant, I find myself reminiscing about my own college search back in – well, the year isn’t of vital importance here, is it?

Last week, however, while traveling with five of my colleagues from the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), I very literally walked down memory lane as I returned to Kalamazoo College (in Kalamazoo, Michigan), a campus I last visited as a prospective student.

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Kalamazoo’s campus is known for its hills.

Kalamazoo is a nationally-recognized liberal arts college that has been educating students in its corner of western Michigan since 1833 and is most known for its unique and definitive educational structure, more affectionately referred to as “The K Plan.” More than just a series of academic classes, more than opportunities to visit and deeply explore other countries and cultures, and more than hands-on, real-world experience, the K Plan is all three of those educational items and more.

Here’s how it works:

Students who enroll in the Kalamazoo student body are instantly immersed in its traditional liberal arts curriculum – a curriculum, it must be noted, that is built around a trimester calendar, which means that students take three courses per trimester and study in intensive, 10-week sessions. The curriculum isn’t labeled as “open” the way it is at some liberal arts colleges, but Kalamazoo students are free (and encouraged!) to study across all disciplines as their education progresses. (Typical of its liberal arts brethren, Kalamazoo students normally carry multiple majors and/or minors.)

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The Upjohn Library at Kalamazoo is traditional and elegant.

Over the course of their Kalamazoo careers, students are able to individualize their educational endeavors but are also pushed to stretch themselves through experiential learning in the form of off-campus study (somewhere around 85 percent of students study abroad for at least one trimester – and very often for longer) as well as completing intern- and/or externships (two-thirds of students seize those opportunities). And before graduation, every single Kalamazoo senior completes a Senior Individualized Project (SIP) in a topic of his or her choosing. Typically the SIP is in a student’s major area, but in true liberal arts tradition, students may select any area of focus – from med school-focused students producing plays in the school’s theatre to English majors who hone in on chemistry research.

It isn’t all academic learning at Kalamazoo, however, because every student must also complete a minimum of five units of physical education in order to graduate.

Equestrians – this is important for you because, though Kalamazoo doesn’t currently field any competitive equestrian teams, taking riding lessons as part of the equestrian club fulfills this requirement. And if just riding for credit isn’t enough for you, consider taking things a step further with a horse-focused SIP as several previous students have. Kalamazoo’s location in western Michigan also allows for easy access to competitions in Chicago and Indiana (as well as the winter circuit in St. Louis if one so desires) and horse boarding is readily available near campus. Serious riders who are serious about their academics may thus easily find a home in the Kalamazoo student body.

Could Kalamazoo be the right school for you? Contact me or pick up a copy of my book to guide your search.

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