It's the million dollar question … with a million different answers.
As part of the NCAA's annual Division III Week celebration, we asked different pockets of Heidelberg students about their decision to come to Heidelberg and their experience at the university. Join us for D3 Conversations.
I play two sports ...
I used to play, but I'm still involved …
I came from a big high school …
I came from a small high school …
I transferred to Heidelberg …
I'm from out of state …
One of the biggest advantages Heidelberg provides for some students is the opportunity to play two sports. Some of the most highly decorated student-athletes in recent years were two-sport stars, including Greg Tyson and Nate Davis -- both of whom won national championships in track and played basketball.
SAVANNAH SUTHERLAND, Volleyball and Track & Field: Heidelberg gave me the opportunity to continue playing two sports I loved. This was definitely a big reason I chose Heidelberg.
MAXIMILLIAN HATTY, Football and Men's Lacrosse: It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. This was a big positive for Heidelberg.
Other students find the opportunity to compete in an additional sport once they arrive on campus. This introduces them to new teammates and new opportunities while helping maintain a level of fitness year round.
MACY ZACHARY, Soccer and Women's Lacrosse, with two years as a cheerleader: Coming into Heidelberg, I had planned to participate in two collegiate sports, though they are not the sports I ended up in! In high school, I played on five varsity teams along with club soccer, so staying very busy and active was very important to me. Going to a small school that was able to provide me the opportunity to play multiple sports was extremely appealing and one of the many reasons that I felt Heidelberg was the school for me.
DIMITRI PENICK, Football and Track & Field: I came to Heidelberg because of the football coaching staff and their players … it just felt like family to me, and that was important to me if I was going to go far from home [North Carolina]. I decided to run track my sophomore year as another way to compete and get better. I'm glad I did.
Juggling two sports along with academics is no small feat, though. Current multi-sport athletes rely on good time management skills, often honed in Heidelberg's HYPE Career Ready program.
ZACHARY: Being on multiple teams can amount to a lot of work and a crazy schedule, all on top of the school work already being assigned to us. I would say that the hardest part for me is typically when there are conflicts and I have to choose which sport I will meet with. I hate having to miss out on anything and feeling like I am letting my team down in that way, although those are decisions that sometimes have to be made when playing on multiple teams. My coaches understand.
PENICK: Managing time and taking care of my body are big challenges. But I remind myself that being a student still comes first, because if I don't take care of my grades, I won't be able to play any sports.
Whereas coaches at some schools discourage their recruits from playing in others, Heidelberg's staff works tirelessly behind the scenes -- communicating with each other about practices, training schedules and other necessary information. It's very much a "What's best for the student-athlete?" approach, rather than a "What's best for my team?" mindset.
SUTHERLAND: My coaches [Jason Miller and Brian Grime] communicate very well. My schedule, injuries and progress are shared.
PENICK: The communication between the coaches [Scott Donaldson and Grime] gets better and better every year.
ZACHARY: Especially with my sports playing at the same time because of COVID, my coaches [Nick Spell and Becky Smith] have made sure that I am getting adequate off days and have been super lenient with scheduling conflicts, allowing me to take care of the issues.
The result? Highly engaged student-athletes who create connections between two teams, uniting the Student Princes.
HATTY: I love being a part of both families and representing Heidelberg in two seasons.
ZACHARY: My best memories in college come from sports, and being on multiple teams only multiplies the good times. My teammates have become my best friends and family at Heidelberg. No matter how much we have had to run, or how many wins and losses we have gone through together, my teammates and I are going to go through the rest of our lives reflecting on the fun that we had on and off the field.
SUTHERLAND: Now I have double the amount of amazing teammates, double the amount of amazing coaches, and double the support in everything I do on campus!
PENICK: I try to cherish every practice, every game and every moment with my teammates … none of it lasts forever. Go Berg!
The transition from high school athlete to college athlete often seems like a logical progression. At Heidelberg, more than half of each incoming freshman class plans to be on a varsity roster at the time of their enrollment. However, sometimes life has other plans.
Some students stop playing sports by choice, while others are forced to because of injury. The decision to hang up the cleats, though, is never an easy one.
COURTNEY TEMPLE, former women's soccer player, now student assistant coach: It was an extremely difficult choice to stop playing as I suffered from a career-ending injury and was forced to give up playing the sport I love.
ZACK DILLON, former football player, now video production coordinator for the Office of Athletic Marketing & Information: I had a knee injury so I was forced to stop playing. It was the hardest decision I've ever had to make.
ALYSSA EDMOND, former volleyball player, now student worker at Saurwein Health & Wellness Center: It was extremely difficult to choose to stop playing. I had been an athlete my entire life and had always centered my schedules around athletics. Playing volleyball was largely a part of who I was and it was very very hard to choose to end that instead of having it reach a forced end. I had hip surgery my freshman year of college and choosing to walk away at the end my junior year after fighting tooth and nail to get back to playing was an unexplainable mental battle. I ultimately ended up walking away because in order to graduate with three majors and participate in internship and fellowship programs I was unable to give my whole ability and effort into the team - and I refused to only be half in a sport I had given my whole young life to.
Leaving a varsity team does not mean that athletic involvement has to end. Some students take an active role within the team they just left.
BROCK CONNER, former baseball player, now student coach and graduate assistant in intramurals: In 2018 I approached Head Coach Chad Fitzgerald with the intention of leaving the team. I had experienced arm injuries that would not allow me to play baseball at the level that I desired. Coach Fitz and staff saw something in me that they believed brought value to the team and asked me to stay. It was at that time that Fitz offered me the first-ever student coach position with the program. I will be forever grateful to him for having the trust and confidence in me to give me the opportunity.
TEMPLE: By helping out with the coaches and being someone players on the team can come to if they need to talk.
Other students maintain involvement with a wide range of athletics in very practical ways.
STEPHANIE DRAPP, former softball player, now member of the stat crew in the Office of Athletic Marketing & Information: I have been fortunate enough to be one of the game day staff members that is responsible for play-by-play and statistics for the year. Helping with statistics is a really unique way of seeing the world of sports.
KAMMIE MEMMER, former soccer player, now staff photographer with the Offices of Athletic Marketing & Information and Marketing & Communication Services: I take photographs at a lot of games, as well as other events across campus. This has given me the opportunity to try new things and learn new skills in the photography field.
Do they miss playing? Of course.
DRAPP: It pains me to realize my softball career is over and I will never be able to pick up a softball in the same way I used to. Something that has consumed my entire life up until this point and influenced me in ways I may not be aware of has come to an end. Like every athlete, those who finish out their career entirely or those who had to step away early, saying goodbye to the sport in any fashion takes a toll on your mental and your identity as the sport has always been a piece of you and your character.
EDMOND: The hardest part about not playing is right there - not playing. Not having dark bus rides home with your best friends and not having that tough competition always pushing you further than you thought you could go. As a D3 player, everyone knows their career will end soon when they enter college. Very, very rarely do D3 players continue their sport after college, and I was obviously not an exception. I thought I had mentally prepared to not be an athlete, but the realistic truth is that I will never not be an athlete. It sculpted who I was from the age of eight. But - there will always be a lack of that caliber competition, and that drive just has to be redirected and rewired to a professional setting as we mature out of our sports.
It's not all bad, though.
DILLON: I get paid to watch the sports that I love.
MEMMER: I think one of the best parts is being able to have some free time in my schedule. When playing a sport your schedule gets busy real quick.
DRAPP: The best part is allowing myself to step back from the competitive side of sports and focus more on myself and the competition of graduate school and the workforce. I also have been able to broaden my involvement in organizations on campus as well as volunteering off campus.
TEMPLE: It is still awesome being a part of a great team and being able to make life-long friendships.
The lifelong benefits of their post-playing involvement remain important.
DRAPP: When stepping away from softball, the decision was based on academics. I didn't lose my love for the sport, but gained a new growing passion for my studies and future career. This time away has helped me dive deeper into clubs and organizations on campus, specifically tailored to my major and my future career. I believe that my non-playing involvement will help me strengthen my academics, conduct independent research, prepare for graduate school, study for future pre-professional exams, and create more time for me to improve my resume and complete internships and shadowing.
CONNER: The relationships I've built will be some that I cherish for the rest of my life. That is including players and coaches. I've also learned quite a bit about myself in the process. I would like to hold a leadership position once I graduate with my MBA, and this coaching experience has helped me enhance my leadership style and problem solving skills. It has also helped me to recognize opportunities for growth.
DILLON: I plan to go into sports broadcasting, so this is direct training for my future career. I used to take reps on the practice field … but now I feel like the reps take place in the press box or in the editing room.
Heidelberg University is a lot of things … student-focused, hands-on, welcoming, dedicated to the individual success of each student.
The one thing it's not? Big.
It's no secret. We are a small school in Tiffin, Ohio. While some people might see that as a disadvantage, our students do not -- even ones who graduated from giant high schools. They relish the opportunities, the attention, and the community that a small university provides.
MADELEINE SZAWRANSKYJ, volleyball player and Westerville North High School.alum: I chose Heidelberg because of the kind and welcoming atmosphere all over campus, having the chance to play volleyball at the next level, and the opportunities I knew I'd get to experience with my major (early childhood education) and what Heidelberg had to offer.
MITCH LUKEN, distance runner with cross country and track & field and Oak Hills High School graduate: I read about the National Center for Water Quality Research in a pamphlet during a college night at my high school. After visiting to check out the environmental science program I quickly felt at home and comfortable on campus, as all coaches and professors I talked to walked me through any concerns I had.
CAITLIN DEMS, softball player and graduate of Mentor High School: I chose HU because of the beautiful campus. Everyone was super nice. I loved the softball team and coaches. I really wanted a more one-on-one experience with professors ... I didn't want to be overlooked. And I loved the atmosphere.
AUDREY KAUFMAN, soccer player and Hilliard Davidson High School alum: I knew I wanted to play soccer in college, and I wanted a smaller D3 college where I felt that I could fit in skill-wise the best. I then looked at distance and location and felt Heidelberg was just the perfect distance (little under 2 hours), plus it wasn't right in the middle of a big town like some of the D3 schools near Columbus. I wanted to get away from a large city, and Heidelberg also had an amazing education program.
That doesn't mean they didn't hold some reservations before choosing Heidelberg and Tiffin, Ohio.
DEAUNTE FLEMING, baseball player and graduate of Kettering Fairmont High School: I did have some slight concerns about if I was going to like it because Heidelberg is smaller than my high school and I didn't want it to feel like high school.
LUKEN: I was mostly worried there wouldn't be enough things to do on campus. My high school had dozens of clubs and groups outside of sports, and being 3 hours from home I was nervous about making friends.
Like a lot of things, however, perception didn't meet reality.
FLEMING: I didn't feel as overwhelmed like I did my freshman year of high school. I don't think I would have adapted well at a bigger university.
LUKEN: I find it very difficult to be bored on campus. There are clubs and groups for all kinds of interests even outside of all the sports teams. Tiffin also has a surprising amount of restaurants and parks to check out even if there aren't any events currently on campus.
ZANE LEITWEIN, basketball player and Gahanna Lincoln High School alum: Meeting other people is really easy. Players on all the sports teams hang out together and you meet plenty of people in class and in your residence hall. You're able to make plenty of friends.
SZAWRANSKYJ: Heidelberg is home and home is family and I couldn't be more proud to be a part of this community. The people here truly do care and it speaks volumes. You won't regret coming here.
The more you put into your experience at Heidelberg, the more you can take away. Taking an active role in your education and your collegiate endeavors can pay big dividends.
NATE STAIB, basketball player and Gahanna Lincoln High School grad: Columbus might have more stuff going on than Tiffin, but the more you live here and the more you see how easy it is to keep yourself active outside of your sport. Once you meet new people and professors, Heidelberg will start feeling like home to you.
SZAWRANSKYJ: The opportunities and chances you get here at Heidelberg is something you'll never forget. I was put into a classroom for field experience for my education major my first semester being here, getting hands-on experience and field study right from the start. This helped me in a way that ensured me that teaching is what I wanted to do. The support at a small school is tremendous, whether that's through academics, sports, or any other extra-curricular activities, Heidelberg is truly a family.
LUKEN: All the professors in my area of study know my name and I can have full conversations with all of them. It's much easier to get in contact with them and schedule meetings. I never feel like I have to go out of my way to get help.
FLEMING: The best thing about being at a small school is that it feels like a family, everyone knows each other and it is very easy to get to know people and become closer with them.
KAUFMAN: I love how close I am with my professors. The fact that so many of them remember me from a class I had with them one semester makes me feel special and like the staff here truly cares about me! I also love that I'm not surrounded by strangers in my classes and I make a lot of real friends here.
LUKEN: Don't worry too much about not making friends or finding your place, even though Heidelberg and Tiffin might be smaller than back home. You can pretty much find a group for everything here.
DEMS: Don't be afraid to look into small schools. If you are looking for a community feel, small schools are amazing for that. They quickly make you feel at home.
SZAWRANSKYJ: There are many benefits to going to a small school like Heidelberg that outweigh those of a larger school. You feel noticed and cared for ... and that's vital when moving onto your college years.
Depictions of high school and college life in movies often glamorizes everything that is "big." Big lecture halls, big groups of people socializing … big, big, big. For many students at small high schools, the allure of this can be tantalizing. Some of those students are drawn to big schools in big cities because they desire a new, different experience.
But many others prefer to choose small schools like Heidelberg. They appreciate the community feel and the personalized attention. Choosing a small school does come with a fair amount of trepidation, though.
ADRIAN BARMAN, volleyball player and Monroeville High School graduate: My main concern was that I wouldn't get the same "college experience" as those going to a larger school.
DYLAN WIECHART, cross country and track & field runner and graduate of Fort Jennings High School: I was concerned about getting involved and making friends on campus.
LEAH BOUILLON, softball and basketball player, and graduate of New Riegel High School: My biggest concern was the class size and lecture styles, compared to what I was used to.
The decision to attend Heidelberg was the right one, however.
BARMAN: I believe I am getting the same, if not a better college experience than anyone who chose a larger school. There are so many benefits to going to a small college. Everything at Heidelberg is so much more personal and connected. Having the advantage of knowing everyone creates a family-like community.
WIECHART: I was able to get involved right away as a freshman and make friends -- not only on the team but also in classes.
LEANNDRA PRICE, cross country and track & field runner and Columbus Grove High School alum: I chose Heidelberg because my parents actually both went here and when i came on my visit, I immediately fell in love. I met with the head cross country/track coach and some of the athletes and they were all so nice and welcomed me like I was already part of the team.
ALEC ZOELLER, baseball player and New Riegel High School grad: I chose Heidelberg because I was very familiar with the school ever since I was little. I would come here for the summer season baseball camps and Heidelberg is a big reason why I started playing baseball more seriously in my life. When I was approached to become a part of this school and baseball program I couldn't turn that down.
Our students find that the transition from high school to college is daunting, no matter the size of the institution.
PRICE: I'd say the hardest adjustment I had to make was just being able to find all of my classes in the many different buildings. I'm in my second semester and I still find new places on campus.
ZOELLER: The toughest adjustment I had to make was getting used to the new schedule of life and socializing. For the first time I could remember, I did not have anyone around me I really knew.
BARMAN: The hardest adjustment I had to make was learning that college classes are more time-demanding than they were in high school. I had to learn that I wouldn't pass without spending lots of time outside of class. I had to start allotting time to study for each class, do homework, take quizzes, etc.
Their advice to incoming students from small high schools?
WIECHART: You really get to know your professors on a first name basis and you get to know a lot of people on campus. Go to all the events you possibly can.
PRICE: My advice would be to give a small college a try. I know many people want to escape the small-town feeling, but being at a small school is the best because everyone is so kind to everyone else.
BARMAN: Don't be afraid to go to a small college, you still get the same opportunities, get to meet new people, and have more chances to get involved. Professors are so understanding and willing to help out their students. It's so easy to reach out and talk with your professor one on one, rather than trying to connect with them from a distance.
BOUILLON: The word small should not be considered a negative thing because a small thing can lead to big memories and accomplishments.
Making a decision on where to attend college is, to many, the biggest one of their lives at that point. And, try as they might, not every gets it right on the first try. Each semester, many students complete the transfer process and decide to attend Heidelberg.
The decision to transfer is a difficult one, and each student has their own reason why.
SETH SCOVILLE, baseball player: When transferring I really liked the smaller size of Heidelberg and really felt like the baseball coaching staff was great.
BAILEE FAULKNER, softball player: I made the decision to transfer after my sophomore year because I needed a more hands-on learning style. Most of my classes were online and I preferred to be in the classroom.
ROSS THOMPSON, baseball player: I didn't enjoy the culture of the baseball team. The culture that I have come into particularly on the baseball team is the very thing I was looking for and I've experienced as warm of a welcome as I could have ever asked for.
The acclimation process at the new school does present some hurdles.
THOMPSON: It has been a challenge getting to know people outside of my sport because of the pandemic and all the restrictions in place due to it.
SCOVILLE: Transferring in after my freshman year was difficult because I had to recreate friendships and build relationships with new teammates.
FAULKNER: Coming from a D2 school, I had to get used to a few changes. At the D2 level, we practiced all the time from August until about Thanksgiving break. Here, we were allowed 14 practice days in the fall (pre-COVID 19). It was different having more free time on my hands, but it allowed me to get involved and even join a sorority.
In the end, though, the process is worth it.
SCOVILLE: It was a great decision. I've met new teammates and people from all over. I wouldn't have gotten to know so many of these people who I consider to be forever friends if I had not transferred.
FAULKNER: Meeting new people and being able to network with others that I never would have known had I stayed at my previous school has been a great joy.
Their words of wisdom?
FAULKNER: Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and get involved because there are endless opportunities for everyone.
THOMPSON: If you're thinking of transferring, you need to know what the most important thing you want to get out of the transfer is. Personally, I wanted to find a good school where the baseball team took the game as seriously as I do. And the boxes have certainly been checked here which is why I'm very happy with my decision.
SCOVILLE: If you are considering transferring, just know that there are plenty of other schools out there that could be a better fit for you, whether that be academically, athletically, or socially.
The State of Ohio fancies itself as "the heart of it all," but a considerable percentage of the Heidelberg student body resides beyond the Buckeye State borders. Whether they are from across the state line, or across the country, our out-of-staters find their home here at Heidelberg.
VICTORIA PEREZ, soccer player from Wildomar, California: The campus was beautiful and located in a small town that reminded me of home. I also felt very wanted and welcomed by my coach and the academic administrators that were contacting me throughout my recruitment process. It felt like they really cared about me as a person, rather than just another number on campus.
MACEO MATTHEWS, JR., football player from Miami, Florida: I wanted to experience something new. I figured if I came to Heidelberg this will be a great home. It definitely lived up to my expectations.
DANA DUDLEY, lacrosse player from Olney, Maryland: I enjoyed the small campus and class size. I also enjoyed that the professors wanted the best for everyone and were always there to help. The environment on campus is great too! It's why I wanted to come back for my masters.
ROBERT HUNT, baseball player from Chicago, Illinois: The education program was a big reason why I chose Heidelberg. Baseball here also won me over. I really liked how competitive they were on the field and how close the team was off the field.
KAT BRADY, softball player from Plymouth, Michigan: I chose Heidelberg because it felt like home the second I stepped on campus. I was drawn to the tight knit and supportive community that Heidelberg has established. I have the opportunity to play the sport I love and earn a great education. Heidelberg's PlusOneAdvantage MBA program was also a contributing factor in my decision to attend.
No matter the distance, leaving home is never an easy thing.
DUDLEY: Being far from home and not being able to see my family every day was a concern.
JAMES ERVIN II, track & field runner and native of Glen Burnie, Maryland: Not having to hear my mom everyday took some getting used to.
BRADY: The hardest adjustment that I had to make coming to Heidelberg was living two hours away from my family. At first it was a bit intimidating coming to a school knowing no one. My professors, peers, and coaches quickly established the fact that they were always here for me, and they've all proven that time and time again. It gave me peace of mind knowing that I had support from them while away from home. Adjusting to life at Heidelberg was a smooth and exciting transition!
MATTHEWS, JR.: One tough adjustment that I still haven't gotten used to is the cold weather. Secondly, being far from home. Going through a season not seeing family in the stands for YEARS is a different feeling. I'm so used to looking into the stands and seeing my mother cheering me on. The toughest adjustment out there is being on your own.
Choosing a school in Northwest Ohio can make some nervous, but in a short time, Heidelberg becomes home.
DUDLEY: I was worried that I would have a hard time making friends and getting used to a small town. But I made friends very easily because of lacrosse and I am thankful. I also became used to the small town scene which made it easier to come back.
MATTHEWS, JR.: I thought, "Will they love this young black man who's from all the way down in Miami?" But Heidelberg welcomed me with open arms. Between my coaches, teammates, athletic trainers, professors, and faculty and staff, the love is love everywhere. Coming to this University literally changed my life. I am surrounded by people who believe in me. It's hard to describe what that did to my confidence on and off the field.
ERVIN II: There are not a lot of distractions on campus. It's easy to concentrate on the things that matter to you.
How did they make it work?
PEREZ: Come in ready for anything that is going to be thrown at you! It is important that you use the resources around you when you need it. Your teammates are going to be the people you are around the most and they are going to be there for you when you need it. While it might be hard to be away from home, Heidelberg and your team are going to become a second home to you that you will come to love!
HUNT: You have to be okay with not being able to go home whenever you want to … Especially when you're in season. It's an adjustment, but it makes me even more grateful for my teammates and coaches.
BRADY: My advice for a prospective student from out of state is to not be afraid to say "yes". For the longest time, I thought I wanted to stay home or close to home for college. When it came time to decide, I said yes to Heidelberg, and it has been the best decision of my life up to this point. I have found my home away from home, second family, and have had the opportunity to experience so many things that have shaped me into the person I am today. Take every chance you get to step out of your comfort zone and get involved, because it will make you realize you are capable of so many things. As I am nearing the end of my college career in the next couple years, I know that Heidelberg has prepped me for what lies ahead.