People ask me all the time why I came to Castleton. I’m from out-of- state and was at the top of my graduating class. For some people who grew up in Vermont, wanting to come to Castleton is insane, but I knew before I even left the open house in 2012 that this was where I wanted to be.
Until now, I never had the words to answer the question “why?” I’d just say “because of money,” or “I like Vermont,” which are true, but don’t tell the whole story. Over break, I found my answer to the question “why?”
I decided spur-of-the-moment on Monday of break to visit my best friend Devorah at Ithaca College. With my GPS set, I made the five-hour drive to Ithaca, N.Y.: a place I knew nothing about besides a little of its geology thanks to the “Ithaca is Gorges” sticker in Jeffords.
First of all, Ithaca College is significantly bigger than Castleton. Their freshmen live in what they call “the towers,” which are 14-story buildings. That’s taller than any building in Vermont (the tallest building in the state is 11 stories). They even have an underground tunnel connecting one side of campus to the other. If that isn’t enough, they have an entire school of communication, complete with a television studio, which produces nightly programs, and a school paper boasting over 10 paid editors.
While I could easily look at all this and degrade Castleton, oddly, these things made me love our small campus even more.
The main reason I love Castleton is cliché: it’s small. At Ithaca, you barely see people outside of your major. Devorah is a television-radio major with a concentration in audio at the Park School of Communication. She hardly ever leaves Park and most of her friends are of the same major.
At Castleton, you have classes with people from so many different majors. I probably know someone in every department here – something I wouldn’t be able to say at a bigger school. Knowing a geology major, a music major and an exercise science major does not only spark interesting conversations, it’s also useful.
From what I saw and heard in Ithaca, I don’t think I would feel like part of the community there. You are a matriculated student, but it’s not your school. At Castleton, you get to know your professors on a first name basis, and have the chance to be involved in clubs, sports and academic departments as much or as little as you want. As a sophomore, I got to interview President Wolk. At some schools you wouldn’t be able to do that until your senior year, if ever, and for some people, just seeing the college’s president out and about is a rare occasion.
Finally, Castleton gives you a great value for the price you pay and the classes are of the same quality. I went to the College Media Association convention in New York City last month and did not feel disadvantaged at all. There were even times I felt more prepared than students from big schools. In Ithaca, I sat in on a film music class. I took an almost identical course with professor Kafer last semester and what I learned was exactly the same. In fact, professor Kafer’s class was smaller, more interactive, and I pay a quarter of what those students do.
Our professors are incredibly accomplished, knowledgeable in their subject areas, and willing to help their students succeed. They aren’t doing it for the money or renown like professors might at other places, they’re doing it because they’re passionate and want to share what they know. If you say Castleton doesn’t teach you, then maybe you aren’t putting in the effort to learn.
Castleton might not be the biggest school, it might not be number one on every list, but it’s my school. People ask me why I come here, but I honestly can’t imagine going anywhere else. You get a personalized education on a beautiful campus for a reasonable price. I thought my spring break would be boring, but it was great because I was reminded that you don’t have to go to America’s “best” college, you have to go to the college that is best for you.