The Conservatory of Music at Wheaton College is an entity that causes a great deal of tension among students. Approximately 10% of the undergraduate population is a student of the Conservatory. This being said, the remaining majority of the students view the music school as an academic joke. They do not believe that music students work as hard as liberal arts students, nor do they believe that they are held to the same standards. While it is true that Conservatory students do not have the same strict general education requirements, and while it is also true that they do not spend as much time in the classroom or working on homework, the thing that is not recognized is the considerable amount of time and energy that they are expected to invest in more specialized forms of educational training. The Conservatory is a vocational school that exists to train musicians for careers in the field of music. While 90% of Wheaton's student body is working to earn a bachelor of arts degree, the Conservatory of Music students are working toward a bachelor of music degree. Music students are required to participate in hours upon hours of rehearsal each week, in addition to personal pratice time for lessons. These lessons and ensembles are actually courses that student earn grades in and take for credit. While a harmonious union of the two worlds seems impossible, the fact that most liberal arts students do not take advatage of the extremely high-level (FREE) musical performances on their campus is telling of their neglect for a concerted effort to investigate what the Conservatory Students truly do with their time.
Wheaton, first of all, is gorgeous. When people come to visit, they often either come in the fall or spring; in the fall, beautiful flowers fill the potting beds, the weather is just right, and the sun shines plenty. In the spring, tulips and violets are pushing up everywhere, just about every tree manages to bloom, and even the occasional thunderstorm make the place more wonderful. The students know the truth. The winter - six of the eight months at Wheaton - is brutally cold and not all the pretty. In many ways, that's how the time at Wheaton is. At first, it's the fall - where everything that's been planted in the past years of your life seem to fit just right. And when you leave, honestly, it seems like everything is blooming and blossoming and coming out just right. But between the coming and going lies a few years of a lot of confusion. It's taking strong, conservative Christian values and learning to live a real broken, hurt and twisted world with them. It's falling in love with God while trying to forgive your roommate for hurting you in a way. It's realizing that Wheaton, with all the beauty and perfection, is full of real people who often get in the way of the beauty. Things seem almost too good to be true - a perfect college town, really built up around the college, a beautiful campus, so very close to Chicago, Professors who seem to be the best people in the world, and students who are bright and attractive. But, like always, brokenness will get in the way and lead to disenchantment. Very, very quickly. I love Wheaton.
Now I love Wheaton but that wasn't always true. My freshman year I struggled alot. I wasn't happy there and I wanted to transfer. In the end, most of that was my own fault. I'm a shy person and I didn't reach out to make friends. I had never moved far away and had to make new friends before so I didn't know what I was doing. I basically shut down and didn't let people in and just focused on getting good grades. That, ultimately, is not a fulfilling lifestyle. This year was so much better. I changed what activities I was involved in, not because my old ones were bad, just because I needed a change somewhere and that was all I could think to do. Because of this, I had more time for people and I spent this year making some great friends and really investing in them. The people at Wheaton are amazing! If you take the time to get to know them and really go deep in your conversations, you'll find incredible friends. My friends are like my family now and saying goodbye to them for the summer was really hard. We sit up late almost every night talking about life and about what we want to do. When the weather is nice we play outside. When it's not nice (sadly, most of the time), we stay inside and talk, eat, play music, or play games together. Our little group is like a little community and we really rely on each other on a daily basis. This is the kind of community I was looking for when I came to Wheaton. It took me awhile to find it but once I did it was so worth it and I wouldn't transfer for anything!
Wheaton is certainly a very unique school. It is different because while Wheaton is a rigorous academic institution, its main objective is to glorify Jesus Christ. Upon arriving at Wheaton, you see a large concrete monument reading "For Christ and His kingdom". And that is what Wheaton is about. I play football here at Wheaton and I can honestly say this program is different from every other program in the country. I get to play with 100 guys who love football, but also love God. I got recruited to play a lot of other schools. However, Wheaton is committed to much more than just wins on the football field, or academic excellence. It is committed to God, and furthering His kingdom. I love the football team because its much more than just a football team. Its a brotherhood. Guys on this team are so close, not just on the field, but in life. We have small groups on the team where we pray and read the Bible with each other, we have team worship, we eat meals together, live together. And its much more than just football. It's awesome to know, that the guy I'm lining up to every snap, I'm gonna see in eternity in Heaven. Its awesome to be part of program that is committed to winning, which we do, and is committed to its players become men of God, who will go out into the world and stand for something more, who will stand for the Lord Jesus Christ.
I would say Wheaton is worth the arm and a leg that it costs. the people the school attracts are simply some of the greatest people a student could meet. Most of my professors have been better than I could have asked for, caring for me as a person rather than just being concerned with the material (yet excelling in content as well). It also seems like the administration has thought of everything to make it the best experience possible. Other strengths include great school spirit, the nicest campus and facilities I have ever seen, and (really) great food. On a day to day basis though it is sometimes hard to connect with others. Though three are many people like oneself to connect with, it can be easy to be lost in the shuffle or not really find anyone who wants to hear what's really going on. I think my biggest concern is that there can be a lack of strong spiritual community, with students just shooting the breeze in their spare time. At the root of this is that as a committed Christian, I would say that Wheaton offers a solid spiritual atmosphere to the observers eyes, yet very little that will radically touch the heart of a young adult to change significantly. There are many on campus fighting hard to usher in an atmosphere that doesn't only sustain students and faculty spiritually, but sets them ablaze.
Wheaton's great if you like the conveniences of a nearby large city with the security and quaintness of a wealthy suburban neighborhood. Recently there has been a big controversy on campus that has made national news. The school has a policy that if a faculty or staff member is going through a divorce, they must talk about it with the administration. Well, a very popular professor on campus recently resigned because he didn't want to talk about a divorce he is going through. It's a difficult situation because no one wants him to leave, and no one thinks he should have to. In my opinion, the rule is in place because we are at a Christian institution and employees are expected to live up to or at least try to live up to Christ's standards. Now, I certainly don't think a divorce should cause someone to be fired, but I definitely think it isn't unreasonable to request that the employee talk about his divorce. How else would you know if a prof was just running away from his wife and children to marry some young, former student or something of the sort? At a Christian institution you have to have boundaries somewhere.
Wheaton is great! It's not too small - i was worried about that because my high school was pretty much the same size as Wheaton, but I actually see new faces every day. When I tell people I'm from Wheaton, they are generally nice and have good things to say about the college. Nothing weird. I spend most of my time on campus on my floor, in my dorm, or in the Beamer Center. I love being on my floor (and i assume most people do) because some of my absolute best friends were formed from the relationships made on my floor. Some of my other best friends are guys on our brother floor, so we all hang out together in the dorm. The Beamer Center is great because you can eat together, play games, study, talk, and hang out there with people from all over campus. I really respect Wheaton's administration. It must be really hard to run a school as prestigious and well-known as Wheaton, but I think the President and all of the upper-level staff are incredible. I have been very impressed by their wisdom and consideration for the students and for what would be best for the school.
The community is the greatest thing at Wheaton college. Many people criticize it for one reason or another but in my opinion, it is a good thing especially in a fallen world where nothing is perfect. Many people yell at me for criticizing chapel, but I do think it could be humanly better than it is. I will not say more than that because it is also true that you can make or break chapel with your attitude towards it. I'd say I have a very high opinion of Wheaton's administration. I love how Dr. Litfin handles problems. He is not pretentious at all but takes events in stride and manages to back almost everything he says by scripture. One event that was recently blown way out of proportion by the media was the event of a professor leaving after filing a divorce with his wife. Fact #1: he resigned (ie. he was not fired). Fact #2: Yes, Wheaton has a divorce policy but they always take these things case by case. the media seemed to totally miss all this, but then again, whenever else do they get the chance to give Wheaton really bad media coverage.
I absolutely love Wheaton. Wheaton is the best community in which I have ever been involved and the best community I will probably ever find. The people truly make this school. The winters are frigid cold which I think drives people together, when spring rolls around the campus is crawling with people playing ultimate frisbee, tanning or just studying outside, but most things are done in groups, you are rarely lonely here if you are putting the effort into relationships. The Wheaton name, especially in the evangelical community is held very high. I was sitting in McDonald's once and this old man came up to me because I was wearing Wheaton apparel and told me what a great school it was. Wheaton's administration is pretty top-down, but I think this is slowly changing. Teachers are very personal and absolutely love to connect with you whether that be over a meal or office hours, they are your advocates at the school and they want you to not only do well in their class, but do well in life.
The best thing about Wheaton is the social life and residence halls! Fischer Dorm is the best (that's the hall I'm on!) and there's so much to do on your dorm floor! My favorite thing ever is planning and experiencing a "Raid". These are themed parties the borther/sister floor thow for each other? What's so great about them? Well, they're totally top secret and you wake up your borther/sister floor at 12 am and it goes until 2 am! There's a loud raid (when you throw the party) every semester and a silent raid (when you decorate the hall at 3-4ish in the morning!!!!) every semester. All-in-all, you have a loud raid you throw, a silent raid you throw, and a loud raid for your floor, and a slient raid for your floor every single semester! They're GREAT!!!! Plus, there's a train station right outside of campus (a 5 minute walk!) that'll take you right into the city of Chicago for only $6 on weekends! It's a nice opportunity so you can get off campus and enjoy all the city has to offer!