Horned Frog Blog

Musings from the TCU Admission Office


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Ask the Counselors: When giving an information session, what are you most excited to share? (Part 1)

In our office, each of the admission counselors is responsible for providing the daily information sessions to our guests throughout the year. While the message is designed to be the same, we are given the opportunity to tailor our sessions to what we love most about TCU. Below, the counselors have shared one of their favorite parts of their information sessions and what always seems to leave an impression on our guests.

Kyle Cochran
I always love seeing how people respond to Frog Camp, one of our First Year Experience programs. As far as supplemental new student programs go, TCU is really a leading university in preparing incoming students for success outside of the classroom, in addition to inside.

 Major NCAA Division 1 sports are incredibly rare at a school the size of TCU.

Major NCAA Division 1 sports are incredibly rare at a school the size of TCU.

Heath Einstein
Much of my information session centers on our unique size. There are no other colleges that play major Division I sports with our size – medium size with an almost exclusive emphasis on the baccalaureate years.

Caitlin Provost
I get excited to talk about the Freedom of Expression page when discussing the admission process. Students are always thrilled to know that they have the opportunity to be unique and express to us something really personal or individual about themselves.

Victoria Herrera
As a parent, I like to provide short, but true stories of my boys’ TCU experiences so visitors can get some insight of “the real deal.”

Sara Sorenson
I love talking about the TCU traditions that we have on campus. It’s especially exciting when there is an alum or two in the group because you can see their faces light up and know that although campus has undergone a numerous about of changes, our traditions remain the same and unite us all.

If you see this sign at stores and restaurants around Fort Worth, you can receive discounts on Fridays in the fall simply by wearing purple!

If you see this sign at stores and restaurants around Fort Worth, you can receive discounts on Fridays in the fall simply by wearing purple!

Jill Sangl
I really like talking about the relationship between the city of Fort Worth and the university. The fine folks of Fort Worth are very proud of TCU and our students. During football season, if you wear any TCU item (or the color purple) on Fridays, you can receive a discount at various restaurants and stores.


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Student Submission: Something Loved and Something Missed

As I prepare for my semester abroad next spring, I have learned to appreciate the little things about TCU. Whether it is a gorgeous sunset behind the stadium or the late talks with my friends at four in the morning, I know that I will miss every little bit of TCU. Despite all of this, I have decided to go abroad for the third time thanks to TCU’s commitment to a global experience.

TCU BlogMy first experience abroad with TCU was Frog Camp Spain. The summer before my freshman year, I embarked on an unforgettable journey with twenty-three other incoming freshmen, four facilitators, and a few faculty members including the Chancellor. We experienced a traditional flamenco performance and got a chance to try it ourselves by taking flamenco lessons. We explored the historic city by visiting various landmarks and climbed to the top of the Cathedral’s tower to get the best view. We ventured into the city every night in search of gelato and made new memories every minute. This trip completely blew all my expectations of TCU away, and I could not have thought of a better way to begin my TCU adventure. I got to know an awesome group of people, many of whom are still some of my best friends today, through our journey in Seville.

TCU BlogTwo summers later, I had the opportunity to travel to London for one of my Honors Colloquia classes. The deal was that we would meet once a week for eight weeks to discuss various topics about today’s media then we would fly across the pond in order to finish our class in London for ten days. Once in London, we would meet twice daily. First we would meet in the morning discuss our topic for the day, which ranges from public diplomacy to communication between different cultures. Then later in the afternoon, we would go on site visits to understand first hand some of the topic we review in class. These visits included the American Embassy, the BBC, and CBS. In addition to class, we also had the chance to explore London and experience its culture. We had daily trips set up including Westminster Abbey and the London Eye and saw various theater performances. Although I had never seen a play before this trip, I saw four musicals throughout my stay including The Book of Mormon and Once. The trip was absolutely fantastic. I got to learn more about a topic that I otherwise would not according to my major, and I got to explore a new city.

My third and biggest trip is on the brim of the horizon. Next spring, I will be spending the semester in Freiburg, Germany studying the economics and politics of the European Union. As an Economics major, I have always wanted to combine my love of traveling with my love of learning and pursue an international career. The IES EU program acts as the perfect gateway for both. Not only is the program based in Freiburg, Germany, it also takes students on three trips around Europe to visit various EU institutions and member states. Europe will be my classroom, and I can see firsthand some of the policies that we learn in lectures and hear from influential people that hold my dream career. In addition, I also have the opportunity to apply everything I learn into a summer internship afterwards. This internship will give me professional insight into the intricate processes of a different governing system while understanding how different cultures can work together. This program will help me pursue my passion and experience the world.

Although I know leaving TCU will be one of the hardest things I will have to do, I know my experiences will be worth it. Traveling will allow me to understand other cultures and learn more about myself. It will push me to my limits and tests everything that I have, but it will be a once in a lifetime experience. I thank TCU for giving me this opportunity and for giving me something to miss every day when I am gone.

TCU BlogHenry Mak is a junior Economics major from Beaumont, Texas. He is involved in TCU Ambassadors, the John V. Roach Honors College, FrogTutoring, and is the curator for TEDxTCU.


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On the Road and the Quest for the Toad

The following is an excerpt from an email written by one of the freshman Admission Counselors, David Stein. David was on an admission trip this fall in West Texas and told the staff about one of his adventures in search of the elusive Horned Frog. Enjoy!

I had an option… Check into my hotel in San Angelo and watch Netflix for a while, or go on a spiritual journey through the wilderness.

TCU BlogI chose the spiritual journey. I drove from Abilene down to the San Angelo State Park, home to just one of four state parks hosting the official State of Texas Longhorn Herd, and much more importantly, about 7,500 acres of protected land for the Texas Horned Lizard (or as locals call it, the Horny Toad).

As I pulled in, I explained my quest to the park ranger, who gave me a picture of a Horned Frog and told me that was probably the best I was going to do. She seemed more enthused about me paying my $4 entry fee than the epic journey of which I was about to embark.

I started at their main trail, the Burkett. This is where I was promised to see the longhorn herd. To my disappointment, grasshoppers and a few birds were about it for wildlife, but it was absolutely beautiful nonetheless. Travel season can be a tough time to find solitude among the hundreds of eager students and emails awaiting your attention. This was the first time in weeks I was able to be alone with nature.

Though I didn’t immediately see any Horned Frogs, it was still evident the Horned Frog spirit was powerful in this place. Among the brown dirt and occasional mesquite tree sat purple flowers, and the purple buds of cacti were starting to show.

weeds TCU BlogDisappointed with the three-mile Horned Frog-less hike, I stopped back at the station to grab a map, and noticed something immediately. This ranger obviously led me to the wrong path. I hopped in my all-terrain rental car (2013 White Chevy Impala) and found the trailhead I should have been looking for all along:

TCU BlogThat’s right — the Horny Toad Trail. I would have to walk another mile-long trail just to get to this spot, and the Horny Toad Trail itself would be another few miles — but like my spirit animal itself, this little guy was brave, resilient, smart, and ready for an adventure.

About a half-mile through the trail, I came across a large hill of carpenter ants next to a bed of large rocks. It was the perfect habitat. I rustled some leaves to make myself known. I overturned a few rocks. I busted out a perfectly choreographed Riff Ram Bah Zoo — and still there were no Horned Frogs to be found. Just when I was ready to give up, a flash of brown scurried to my right. I looked over to see a small Horned Frog running into the thick grass. I pulled out my phone to take a picture, but as I drew closer, LaDainian (I’m sure was his name) hustled away, most likely to return to his group and continue their genius plan to defeat the herd of Longhorns in the park.

This brief encounter with our fearless mascot made the entire trip worth it and it made me think about the weeks we spend on the road during admissions travel season. We visit high school after high school and attend college fair after college fair and however long it may seem, one great interaction with a student makes it all worth it.


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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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