March 21, 2023 | Matt Kucinski

Three individual head shots of students smiling at the camera.
Left to right: Calvin students Gabby Timmer, Yoseph Hong, and Josie Vink all graduated from South Christian High School.

On Tuesday, March 21 at 7 p.m., the South Christian and Unity Christian men’s basketball teams play for a chance to make the “Final Four” in the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s boys basketball tournament. While neither team is hosting the game on their respective campuses, they will battle it out on a not-so-unfamiliar campus.

Located just 20-30 minutes from several local Christian and public high schools, Calvin University is a natural consideration for these grads, but there are also perceptions the university must fight that are associated with it being just around the corner. A few recent grads of South Christian High School test those perceptions with their lived experience on campus.

Calvin fifth year senior Gabby Timmer said it was not uncommon for her in high school to hear her peers perceive Calvin as an extension of their high school experience. For Josie Vink, a Calvin sophomore, this “perception” was a key reason she passed on Calvin during her initial college search.

Reality replaces perception

But, it didn’t take long for Vink and Timmer to realize that perception didn’t match their reality.

“You have so many opportunities to get involved through dorm events, sporting events, clubs, where you meet new people. You put yourself out there, you can choose whether or not you hang out with your old classmates,” said Timmer.

For Vink, it took a few months being on a different path for her to reconsider her initial perception of Calvin. After one semester at another nearby private college, she decided it was time to make a change.

“I wanted Calvin to have the ‘community’ feel that I felt that Hope lacked, and when I realized it did, I was sold and decided to transfer,” said Vink.

Excitement and excellence in athletics

Vink is a two-sport athlete at Calvin and says her “favorite thing about Calvin is the support that athletics gets.” She says her professors and classmates are “just as excited about game days as us athletes are, which is both refreshing and exciting for me.”

Timmer, who is concluding her time at Calvin as the all-time leading scorer in women’s basketball history, agrees. “Calvin is such a unique DIII school, it’s super respected for its athletics and academics and for being a great school all around.”

Worth a second look

But it goes beyond athletics and academics. It’s the intentional community that students experience at Calvin that makes the difference. For Vink, it was the tipping point for her to transfer.

“I chose Calvin over other schools I was looking at because I loved the way that they brought God into everything,” said Vink. “Whether it was athletics, education, or even the small things, God seemed present and evident in each of the moments. I love the way that Calvin always makes a huge effort to make sure that their students have exposure to the Christian faith.”

This was something junior Yoseph Hong said set Calvin apart for him, besides the “free laundry.”

“Calvin really allows students to bring their maximum potential not just academically, but also spiritually. Calvin truly brings God first above all things and then the success of students as they strive to become Christ’s agents of renewal.”

Having options

Hong, Vink, and Timmer’s advice to students considering Calvin is simple: it’s your choice how big or small you want your experience to be considering there are more than 100 academic options, 60 student organizations, and students from more than 50 countries and almost every U.S. state.

“The best thing about my college experience was meeting new people and taking those opportunities to put myself out there and do new things. That’s honestly huge, and if you want that college experience, it’s 100% possible, you just have to put yourself out there,” said Timmer. “The first couple of weeks of college, everyone’s in the same boat, it’s not just you making new friends, everyone’s new here.”

“Calvin is everything you make it,” said Vink. “If you want to be friends with the same people from high school, you easily can. But if you want to create new friends and a new path for yourself, Calvin gives you amazing opportunities for that as well.”

“I’ve met so many people who I now call lifelong best friends,” said Timmer.

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