Calvin College first opened its doors in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1876 as part of the Christian Reformed Church. The Christian Reformed Church follows three principles: Its members believe in Jesus; the church is considered reformed because it evolved from the Protestant Reformation; and they are believers of God, who together in their belief have created a church.
Since its inception more than a century ago, the college has written a storied history. In its early days, it was a ministerial institution but in 1894 it became a college, expanding its curriculum and opening its doors to a wide range of learners. In 1921, the school awarded its first bachelor’s degree.
A school that started with only seven students, the population ballooned to 450 students before World War II and then to 1,270 students in 1950. Today, it is home to almost 4,000 students. As emphasized in its mission statement:
Calvin College is a comprehensive liberal arts college in the Reformed tradition of historic Christianity. Through our learning, we seek to be agents of renewal in the academy, church, and society. We pledge fidelity to Jesus Christ, offering our hearts and lives to do God’s work in God’s world.
When not participating in on-campus activities, including daily worship, students have Grand Rapids, which has been named the third best city for things to do, in their backyard. Outdoor activities – from lounging at the beach on warm days to golfing and skiing – abound in Grand Rapids while students looking for culture can opt for visits to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum or the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.
The student population is diverse, with 10 percent of students coming to Michigan from outside of the United States and 37 percent hailing from other states. There is a 12 to 1 student ratio with students having a more personal educational experience with professors, over 82 percent of whom have terminal degrees in their respective fields.
The course catalog offers more than 100 majors and minors, ranging from African Diaspora Studies and Journalism to Pre-Pharmacy and Youth Ministry. The school is also home to numerous centers and institutes, among them the Institute of Christian Worship, the Spoelhof Business Institute, and the Center for Social Research.
Students are strongly encouraged to participate in the study abroad program. Semester-long study abroad opportunities are available in China, the United Kingdom, Thailand, Hungary, the Netherlands, Peru, and Spain. Students who want to get a taste of life in another part of the U.S. might want to opt for the college’s programs in Washington DC or New Mexico. All students are also encouraged to engage in at least one internship, and more than 80 percent of the school’s students do intern at some time during their collegiate career.
Most Popular Fields of Study
The admissions office accepts applications on a rolling basis and, according to the school’s first year student profile of the middle half of accepted applicants, successful applicants typically hold a 3.3 to a 3.9 GPA and score between 1070 and 1320 on the SATs. Students who do not meet the average qualifications are evaluated on an individual basis, and an estimated 98 percent of applicants are accepted.
Applicants can fill out an online or paper application. Paper applications are available for download on the website admissions page, or applicants can contact the college to have a paper application sent to them.
In addition to the application, applicants must submit supporting material, including all academic transcripts sent directly from the educational institution, official SAT or ACT test scores, letters of recommendation, and a personal essay, between 250 and 500 words, on how the applicant’s faith plays a role in his or her academic pursuits.
Students applying for the Masters of Education program must submit, in addition to an application, professional references, all college transcripts, and a copy of their teaching certificate.
Students who want to be considered for scholarships and other forms of financial aid should apply by early February. International students can apply for mid-year entrance with applications due in mid-December if they are transferring from a college in the United States. All other international applicants can only begin study in the fall with applications due no later than the beginning of April.
Financial aid counselors assist students in applying for and receiving the aid they need to finance their college education. Ninety-two percent of all students receive financial aid in some form with over 75 percent of incoming students receiving scholarships valued at between $1,000 and $10,000. To determine eligibility for federal financial aid, students must fill out the FAFSA form annually.
Scholarships – academic, departmental, music, disability, and missionary – abound with awards ranging from $250 to $10,000 per academic year. Academic scholarships awarded by the college itself include the prestigious Trustee Scholarships. Only students in the top three percent of the incoming class are eligible for the scholarships that top out at $50,000 over the course of four years. Students can renew their scholarships, provided they maintain a minimum GPA of 3.5.
The college also awards numerous departmental scholarships for outstanding students within individual departments. The Peter D. Hoekstra Scholarship is awarded to students who will major in history. Three are awarded annually and are worth $1,700.
Those students with disabilities – whether a learning disability or physical or medical disabilities – can apply for one of 30 scholarships valued at between $1,350 and $2,500. To apply, students simply need to write a letter explaining their disability to the financial aid office and include official documentation to verify their disability.
Students interested in applying for institutional scholarships can view a full list of offerings on the official college website in the financial aid section.
In addition to federal grants, which are monetary gifts that do not have to be repaid, students may also be eligible for Michigan state grants. The Michigan Tuition Grant, for example, is available to Michigan residents who demonstrate financial need. Awards max out at $1,610 and can be renewed annually.
The school also offers its own grants to eligible students. The Calvin/Knollcrest Grant, which tops out at $14,000, is awarded to students based on financial need while the Canadian Exchange Grant is available to Canadian students. Award packages for the Canadian Exchange Grant vary according to the exchange rate.
Students can offset their college costs not covered by scholarships and grants by participating in the Federal Work Study Program and by taking out loans. The most popular loans are federal student loans, including the Federal Perkins Loan, the Federal Parent PLUS Loan, and the Federal Stafford Loan.
Alternative loans may also be available from private lenders and banks, such as Chase and Sallie Mae.
One of the most important facets of collegiate life is living on campus, and Residence Life offers students several options for campus housing: Residential halls, apartments, and free-standing houses. All freshmen and sophomore students must live in one of the three options; juniors and seniors are permitted to live off campus.
The campus features seven residential halls, all with a plethora of amenities. Each room comes with wireless and Ethernet internet access, a telephone, cable access, closets, book shelves, desks, lamps, chairs, beds, and mattresses. Each floor of a residential hall includes an extra community bathroom, and residents can go to the service closet to get toilet paper, paper towels, and cleaning supplies, all of which are free.
Residential halls typically have at least two, and sometimes three, wings: One wing is designated for men, one for women, and in select halls, one for both men and women. All residential halls share common features. Each floor has a common lounge and kitchen, with a refrigerator and microwave, where residents can hang out, eat, and study.
Students who prefer apartment living may opt for one of the campus-owned apartment communities, such as Glen Oaks, located less than two miles from campus. Residents can choose from one or two bedroom apartments in an apartment building that features a full-size swimming pool, carports, laundry facilities, wireless internet connections, and cable television. The building is secure, with visitors using an intercom to gain entrance. Apartment fees include sewer, water, and trash.
Project Neighborhood allows upperclassmen to live together in a house off-campus, building a community and sharing responsibilities such as cooking with other residents in the house. Five houses are featured in Project Neighborhood.
Calvin College places a heavy emphasis on student wellbeing and, to promote good health, it offers students ready access to on-campus facilities, such as a pool, a fitness center, and a climbing center. Students can also seek counseling through the Broene Counseling Services.
Opportunities for getting involved on campus abound with students of student organizations, ranging from the Global Business Brigades and the Renewable Energy Organization to the Dance Club and the Theology Forum welcoming new students all the time.
Students interested in developing their leadership skills might want to participate in student government, act as a resident assistant in a residential hall, or become a member of the student activities board.
Student media – CVN television and The Chimes student newspaper – keeps the campus informed of the latest goings-on.
The student activities board hosts events and activities throughout the year, with faith and music festivals, free film nights, and concert series. The college has also attracted big names to campus, most recently in 2005 when President George W. Bush gave the commencement speech to graduates.
The college celebrates its Christian roots and offers students numerous worship opportunities. Students can become worship apprentices, allowing them to sing on a worship team or show their worship through acting. Chapel services are held daily on campus and past services can be viewed online at the college’s website.
Student Enrollment Demographics
Student Graduation Demographics
The Knights, members of Division III of the NCAA, give students and the Grand Rapids community plenty to cheer about with their celebrated history. The men’s basketball team captured national titles in both 1992 and 2000; the women’s cross country team claimed national titles in 1998 and 1999 while the men’s cross country team won national titles in 2000, 2003, 2004, and 2006; and the women’s volleyball team was crowned national champions in 2010.
Swim and Diving
Track and Field
Swim and Diving
Track and Field
Students not involved in intercollegiate play may want to participate in the thriving intramurals program. The college features numerous intramural sports, among them badminton, bowling, crew, dodge ball, ping pong, sand volleyball, and ultimate Frisbee.
Recreational activities are plentiful. Students who want to sharpen their self-defense skills might opt for martial arts; runners can join the running club, and outdoor lovers might want to go rock climbing, camping, snowboarding, or fly-fishing.
Elisabeth Bailey is a freelance writer and editor with particular interests in academics, food,and sustainability . She is also the author of A Taste of the Maritimes: Local, Seasonal Recipes the Whole Year Round and writes regularly for Canadian Farmers’ Almanac and the National Wildlife Federation. Elisabeth and her family live and enjoy great local food in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.