Horned Frog Blog

Musings from the TCU Admission Office


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Ask the Counselors: What is the biggest piece of advice you can give for students’ apps to stand out?

At TCU, we have what we call a “holistic” review process for each and every application. This means that no one piece of the application will make or break our decision and we definitely aim to get to know the students as best we can through the different required application materials. With this, students can stand out throughout the process in a variety of ways. Here are some things we specifically look for as we review each student’s file:

So many applications. So little time.

So many applications. So little time.

Kyle Cochran
Take AP, dual credit, IB, and honors classes. Taking a challenging schedule will not just let us know that you are a hard worker, but it will also help you knock out a bunch of Core Curriculum classes along the way.

Heath Einstein
Play to your strengths. If you’re funny, be humorous. If you’re poetic, write a poem. If you’re musical, submit an mp3 of your vocal styling.

Caitlin Provost
Be yourself when writing your essay and answering the short questions. A trained admission representative will know when a student’s writing is genuine and from the heart, as opposed to something they’ve written that is just technically correct.

Sara Sorenson
Challenge yourself. Challenge yourself in your classes, in your involvement, in your volunteering, and in your relationships. Really push the limits and think outside of the box and make sure that shines through in your application.

David Stein
Take tough classes and work hard to get good grades. It’s as simple as that. The other pieces (essay, resume, recommendations, tests scores, etc.) are all very important, but nothing is as impressive as seeing a good schedule with multiple AP, dual credit, or IB classes with good grades.

Margaret McCarthy
Students who pursue a challenging curriculum and take advantage of the academic opportunities available at their high school will stand out most to me.  In addition to impressive academics, your personality can truly shine through your essay.  Whether it is a serious or funny topic, be yourself and share something that I wouldn’t get to know from other parts of your application.

Beatriz Gutierrez
Be yourself. This means that your application should reflect your personality. If you are funny, your essay can be funny. Remember this process is about you. This is the one time that it is all about YOU!

Alexis Olympia
Spend quality time on your essay and resume. We do read ALL of them and we want to get to know you better!

John Andrew Willis
Be genuine and expressive. Be yourself, but don’t leave anything out. If you have a tendency to brag, you might need to tone it down. If you have a tendency to be humble, you may need to elaborate. Err on the side of more information, rather than less. Essays, for example, can be too long. However, more often than not, they are too short.

Also, take a look at our application checklist to find out more about what we require!


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Faculty Feature: The “C” in TCU

As professors in the Department of Religion, we are often asked by prospective students (and their parents) about the “Christian” in Texas Christian University, or the “C,” as they more often put it, in TCU. What does the C really mean? It’s an excellent question for any TCU prospect, but also a challenging one for us to answer.

Robert Carr Chapel is home to many services throughout the year on TCU's campus.

Robert Carr Chapel is home to many services throughout the year on TCU’s campus.

The short answer to the C in TCU is that the university was founded in 1873 by ministers of the Restoration (Stone-Campbell) movement, a nineteenth-century Christian effort to restore the wider church to unity by rejecting the creeds and dogmatism that separated Christians from one another. When that movement splintered in 1906, eventually forming three discrete groups or denominations, TCU affiliated with the more progressive Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), as it is officially titled. Symbolic of this new era, the university moved to its current Fort Worth location in 1910. The C in TCU, then, refers most immediately to the university’s historic connection to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), or the Disciples, as the denomination is more commonly called. However, since most prospective students (and faculty) are not Disciples, in fact TCU’s largest religious body wavers between Roman Catholic and independent Bible churches, that answer often leads to more questions. To really grasp the C in TCU, then, one must understand the heritage of the Disciples themselves and their instructive role in shaping today’s TCU campus.

Two hallmarks of the Disciples are worth highlighting here. One has been the denomination’s commitment to ecumenism, briefly translated as an openness and willingness to engage difference. Disciples have long sought unity in diversity. And since the denomination’s official founding in 1906, it has been actively and deeply engaged in facilitating dialogue among divergent faith traditions. In 1910, it became the first Protestant church in the US to fund an internal organization devoted solely to Christian unity. The Disciples were vital to the founding of both the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches, entities comparable to an ecclesiastical United Nations. It was one of the few largely white Protestant denominations to support Civil Rights, its leading officials and most prestigious ministers marching on Washington and promoting integration in their sometimes-resistant local congregations. And it was one of the first mainline Protestant traditions to ordain women to the gospel ministry. Its current president, Sharon Watkins, preached at the National Prayer Service the day after Barack Obama’s 2009 presidential inauguration. Small in number, Disciples have greatly influenced the American cultural and religious landscape by championing social justice causes. But their commitment to inclusivity has not been easy. It has invoked not only the natural tensions that come with difference but required serious study of and learning about the “other.”

The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life sponsors religious services and organizations throughout the year for all faiths.

The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life sponsors religious services and organizations throughout the year for all faiths.

The second hallmark, which we see as related to the first, is the academic rigor of the Disciples tradition. Alexander Campbell, father of the Restoration movement, was simultaneously a revivalist preacher and an ardent scholar of the Scottish Enlightenment. The denomination’s prominent twentieth-century ministers were deeply reflective theologians who wrestled with the prevailing philosophical theories of their day and combined the study of religion with the emerging disciplines that currently inform the Academy. As TCU grew, its largely Disciples administration and faculty dedicated themselves to what we might now call a thinking faith or a believing intelligence. Viewing their religious devotion in tandem with the study of the social and biological sciences, the fine arts, medicine, and theories of education, they established departments and colleges in these related fields. And from its start, during a time when higher education was primarily for males, or sex-segregated, TCU felt that female students could participate in and contribute to such a crucible of ideas alongside and as equals to males.

While we are not Disciples (one of us is a born and bred Baptist and the other a convert to Catholicism), neither is the vast majority of the current administration or faculty. However, the Disciples heritage is everywhere present at TCU. This is particularly apparent for us as professors in the Department of Religion. Not surprising, religion, as variations in biblical literature, ethics, systematic theology, and church history, was interwoven into the early curriculum, and still, today, every TCU student is required to take a religion course.

One of the aims of the Department of Religion is to cultivate an understanding of the similarities and dissimilarities of religious people and their varied traditions, doctrines, values, and activities. We offer an array of courses at the introductory level, all of which carry in the first part of their title the words “Understanding Religion,” followed by a colon. The diversity of what follows that colon represents the legacy of the Disciples. One of us, for example, teaches Understanding Religion: World Religions in America; the other Understanding Religion: The Bible. Our colleagues teach classes on religion and the visual arts, theology and literature, the black church, and the Latino/a religious experience(s). We have scholars in Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and African traditions, as well as American evangelicalism and Catholicism. Some religion professors practice the faith tradition that they study; others do not.

Ignite is one of the most prominent student-led services that occurs on campus.

Ignite is one of the most prominent student-led services that occurs on campus.

Like most scholars in our discipline, we share the conviction that the study of religion inevitably prompts, dare we say inspires, undergraduate students to ask Life’s Big Questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose? After all, religion is part of the human search for ultimate meaning, which has led students, we hope, to pursue an undergraduate education. But our Disciples forebears, whose thoughtful faith and principled ecumenism both established our department and shaped its respectful ethos, push us further to encourage students to find a sense of commonality in that search even as they encounter unnerving variances in the answers. It can prove disquieting for an eighteen- or nineteen-year old who understands the Transcendent or the Divine experientially, through spontaneous worship or prayer, to encounter a reading or peer for whom ritual or ethics takes precedent. And there are not many religion departments who, like ours, devote a weekly lunch to faculty-student conversation concerning such apparent dissimilarities and discomforts. Our goal, though, is never to convert a student to our or any particular way of looking at life. Rather, we hope to see them travel to different worlds, in their minds’ eyes, and learn to appreciate a passion or possibility that they do not share; to make sense of a conviction that might initially seem outmoded, far-fetched and crazy; and to see their own religious commitments or spiritual practices through another’s eyes. By requiring students to take religion, and usually in their first year, TCU prepares students for the manifold and often conflicting viewpoints they will encounter in every TCU classroom, and in what’s often referred to as the “real world.”

The Muslim Student Association is one of many religious student organizations on campus.

The Muslim Student Association is one of many religious student organizations on campus.

Further, if our religion courses are a model for an expansive TCU liberal arts education, they instantiate the wider campus experience. Unlike many traditionally Christian colleges and universities, from its early years, TCU has welcomed and attracted a variety of religious groups and expressions. As a result, students of numerous faith traditions can find a home here. Evangelical students can choose from a plethora of organizations, from evangelical sororities and fraternities to gospel choirs and dance troupes. There is also Campus Crusade, Young Life opportunities, and the traditional denominational affiliates. Under the guidance of Fr. Charlie Calabrese, Catholic students can attend weekly Mass, participate in spiritual retreats, and serve on numerous social and community justice projects. Muslim students will appreciate a thriving Muslim Student Association, which promotes a common fast day for world hunger and addresses common misunderstandings about Islam with Islam Awareness Week. Jewish students can meet, socialize and observe the High Holidays under the auspices of Hillel. Even more secular, agnostic and/or atheist students can find like-minded peers in Free Thinking Frogs. Perhaps one of the most daunting tasks for these groups is not recruiting members but working together cohesively, an assignment that TCU’s Office of Religious and Spiritual Life seeks to complete with the Interfaith Initiative and programs such as Better Together and This I Believe.

The answer to “What is the C in TCU?” is never quite what any potential student anticipates. And as those who see the C as too confusing, and even misleading, might indicate, we are not a traditionally Christian university; nor are we connected to the Disciples with the same strong institutional ties of the past. But the fertile history and heritage of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) explains the diversity of people and ideas as well as the intellectual rigor that TCU offers. And in the end, the twin hallmarks that we highlight come together to provide students with operational tools to better navigate our increasingly complex world. At TCU, we are the Academy of Tomorrow because of the vision of our Disciples’ founders and a long loyalty to that vision has passed through generations of this university’s administrators, faculty, and students, Disciples and non-Disciples, Christians and non-Christians. Living in the TCU community has never been about the ease of sameness but about the challenge of embodying unity within diversity. This is the first, bold step in becoming “ethical leaders and responsible citizens in the global community,” an urgent task to which all TCU faculty and staff are profoundly committed, and to which we invite you to play your part.

TCU BlogTCU BlogDr. Elizabeth H. Flowers is an Associate Professor of Religion and Dr. Darren J. N. Middleton is the Honors Faculty Fellow and a Professor of Religion at TCU.


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Student Submission: The Best Place to Grow

TCU Blog“In what ways do you think you’ll grow in college?” I asked this question ten times throughout the summer to the new freshman class of TCU. I heard typical responses like gaining domestic skills, i.e. laundry, or how they would grow academically. However, one response grabbed my attention, “How are we supposed to know how we’ll grow?” I remember pausing for a moment after the student asked me the question. I had to think about it myself. I responded with, “You’re right. You cannot truly know how you will grow, but I can promise you this; it happens quickly.

I had the pleasure of working with the First Year Experience staff as a 2014 Orientation Leader. I gained so many new skills, experiences, and connections. In the midst of the busy days, I looked forward to small group session time. Especially FROGS debrief. During this time, we asked the incoming students questions about their dreams and fears for their first year at TCU. I think many of the students thought we were teaching and reassuring them. Little did they know they were teaching and reassuring me.

I cannot pinpoint an exact time when my “college growth” began to happen. It occurred, and continues to occur, through a series of small events. It happens when a professor challenges you to think beyond the pages of a textbook. It happens between sips of coffee and discussions with friends. It happens when you realize it is okay to reach out and ask for help.

All of these instances make TCU a unique place. I could be in the happiest of moods or I could feel pretty crummy. Through any emotion, I know someone will always be there to support me. During one of the hardest days of my first semester, my roommate made me a canvas painting, my RA took me to lunch, and my English professor wrote me a note with words of encouragement. The support does not stop there. Those people continue to be an active part of my life.

The TCU community has fostered such an enriching and compassionate place of growth. It is inspiring. In fact, it is so inspiring; I continue to apply for positions that will enable me to act as a support system for others. This is what makes me proud to be a Horned Frog. I am constantly growing and changing. I’m grateful four years of my growth will occur at TCU.

TCU BlogMadeline Peña is a sophomore Journalism major and Spanish minor from Decatur, TX. She is involved with TCU Wesley, University Singers, Society of Professional Journalists and is the Associate Editor of the student publication, “The Skiff.”


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Student Submission: Something for Everyone

Homecoming was definitely a time when the TCU spirit came alive!

Homecoming was definitely a time when the TCU spirit came alive!

TCU… The land of the Frogs. The Horned Frogs that is. Yes, we are the only college in the United States to have this as our mascot. This is one of many stats I know because I am part of the Student Foundation here at this amazing place called Texas Christian University. I’m also involved in Frog Aides, John V. Roach Honors College, Honors Cabinet, Beta Theta Pi, Cultural Routes 6, and BNSF Next Generation Leadership. My name is Taven Sparks, and I am a sophomore business major from Colorado. As I think back over the last year, it was by far one of the most fulfilling years of my life. As you can see from above, TCU provides so many opportunities for students to get involved, which is just one of the many things I love about this school.  Let me take you back to how I ended up at what I believe to be the best college in the country.

Frog Aides was a fantatsic way to get involved right at the beginning of freshman year.

Frog Aides was a fantatsic way to get involved right at the beginning of freshman year.

As a prospective student you may be reading this wondering what college is like, or you may be sitting here with no idea what you even want in a college. I know how you feel. I started looking as a sophomore in high school in order to try to find the right fit. I traveled as far east and as far west in the US as possible and 27 colleges later, I landed here. After seeing some of the most prestigious schools in the country and looking at schools both large and very small, I found TCU to be the perfect balance of what I was looking for. Was I nervous about making such a big decision? Yes! Was I excited about going to a school filled with strong school spirit, friendly people, great class sizes, beautiful facilities and a community passionate about being Horned Frogs? Yes! Looking back, after seeing many colleges, knowing the positives and negatives of each, I can enthusiastically say TCU is perfect. Okay, maybe nothing is perfect, but TCU is pretty darn close, and I think you would hear that from almost all of the students who attend this great school.

Exploring Europe during Cultural Routes was definitely a highlight of freshman year.

Exploring Europe during Cultural Routes was definitely a highlight of freshman year.

Of course there are a few complaints. For example, sometimes it is hard to find a parking spot… which for some reason seems to be a big deal for some students. However, Chancellor Boschini reaches the “needs” (wants) of students and listens to them. Therefore, he is currently having a parking garage constructed on campus to solve this issue. Honestly, when the biggest thing to complain about is that parking is sometimes difficult, or the BLUU (student union) ran out of cinnamon rolls for late night swipes in the cafeteria, then TCU must be doing something right…very right! TCU is the rare quintessential college experience offered at a medium-sized school with excellent professors, huge school spirit, great D1 sports programs, Greek life, and just about anything else you can think of. Come on down to the Fort, become a Horned Frog, and get involved. There’s something for everyone here! Welcome!

Taven Spark is a sophomore Business major from Centennial, Colorado. He is involved in the John V. Roach Honors College, Beta Theta Pi fraternity, Student Foundation, Frog Aides, and the BNSF Next Generation Leadership Program.


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Faculty Feature: Summer Study Abroad in London

A distinctive feature of a TCU undergraduate experience is the international and intercultural learning of global citizenship. One summer study abroad course, Coming of Age as a Global Citizen, combines rigorous academics with experiential learning to explore the historical and cultural dimensions of growing up in an increasingly diverse, globalized world.

In the gardens of the Geffrye Museum, students recorded their observations of Victorian domestic interiors and reflected on Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.

In the gardens of the Geffrye Museum, students recorded their observations of Victorian domestic interiors and reflected on Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.

Students enrolled in Coming of Age as a Global Citizen earn credit in writing (WCO2 or WEM), while living in London, one of the world’s most international cities. As students adjust to living in the vibrant, ever-changing atmosphere of London, they investigate the interplay of books, museums, and monuments about “coming of age” (growing up) as a global citizen. Students analyze five classics of British fiction, including Jane Eyre and Atonement, and explore both legendary and little-known sites in London and its vicinity.

An important feature of this study abroad course is that the classroom changes daily, sometimes hourly, because we are always on the move. We enjoy behind-the-scenes tours of exalted, well-known sites, such as Hampton Court and Eltham Palaces, Christ Church at University of Oxford, and the British Library. We also investigate many hidden gems, such as the Geffrye, a museum of domestic interiors through the ages, and the John Soane Museum, which documents in stunning detail the collecting habits and tastes of an influential eighteenth-century gentleman on the Grand Tour.

During our day trip to Oxford, where students studied the privileged and changing lives of Oxford students following the Great War in Brideshead Revisited, we toured Oxford’s wealthiest college, Christ Church, and tried out the summer delight of punting.

During our day trip to Oxford, where students studied the privileged and changing lives of Oxford students following the Great War in Brideshead Revisited, we toured Oxford’s wealthiest college, Christ Church, and tried out the summer delight of punting.

Students find that the experiences and challenges of living and studying in London prompt a remarkable amount of growing up on their own, too. It becomes second nature to ride the Tube, rush out at night to take in a West End show, and give directions to Japanese or Italian tourists trying to find the British Museum. Indeed, many students find that this summer experience studying abroad is so transformative that they return to London again and again, to work at the Imperial War Museum, to attend graduate school at the London School of Economics, or simply to guide family and friends on their own private tours of the Swinging City.

TCU BlogDr. Karen Steele is a professor and the department chair for the English Department at TCU.


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Ask the Counselors: What is your favorite Freedom of Expression page you have received?

As an optional piece of our application, we have something called the Freedom of Expression page. With this, students are asked to submit an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper with whatever they want on it. Students will often submit a collage, a drawing, or a poem, but sometimes students think a little outside of the box… Check out some of our office’s favorite submissions!

TCU BlogKyle Cochran
A student from Nashville sent me a giant purple guitar in the mail, decked out with TCU gear and some of her artwork. I’m excited that she also joined our freshman class!

Caitlin Provost
It’s so hard to choose! I had a great TCU puzzle made for me last year. On it, the student listed every reason why TCU would benefit them, and also what they would bring to the university. It was beautiful and very personal.

Victoria Herrera
I receive a simple purple T-shirt with a sewn pocket and a sewn TCU logo from a student.

David SteinTCU Blog
In my office, I have a candy jar that a student designed in art class out of blown glass. The lid is an awesome purple horned frog!

Alexis Olympia
When thinking about what to do for your Freedom of Expression, my best advice is to showcase your strengths! My favorite freedom of expression page was a water color painting of a student overlooking a pond, and the reflection in the water was of a horned frog. This student was an amazing artist! This is one of my favorites because it is such a simple idea, but it definitely helped make this student stand out in the review process!

John Andrew Willis
A TCU-themed ginger bread house. It was a bit over-the-top, but I suppose that’s kind of the point. It was certainly an outlier, rather than par for the course.

Heath Einstein
A talented painter submitted a time-lapse YouTube video of her work set to music. It was both impressive and inspirational.

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