Posted March 19, 2015 by
Tags: Leadership Student Programs
by Rachael Cyrus '14
If I had to describe my Wheaton College experience in one word I would choose: FORMATIONAL. Three days before graduation, May 8th, 2014, the last day of finals, I sat in my favorite room on campus, Gold Star Chapel, reflecting on my Wheaton Experience in a tangle of sentimentality and a confusing web of emotions that ranged from utter sadness to overwhelming excitement. I wrote in my journal:
"Lord, you have been good to me here in this place. I don't ever want to forget how you have formed me here; forming my heart through this place, with this community. Lord, give me the grace to remember, for, as Job humbly proclaimed, standing in your mighty presence, 'my ears had heard of you, but now, my eyes have seen you.'"
The four years I spent at Wheaton were the most challenging four years of my life, but I saw and experienced God in innumerable ways as He used Wheaton College to form and transform my heart in His likeness.
Since 1961, Wheaton College has been conducting Wheaton Passage, one of the oldest and largest first year college orientation programs in the United States. The move to college is a major life transition.
Research has shown that how college starts has a major impact on how college goes. Colleges and universities have responded to this growing awareness by developing adventure based orientation programs, like Wheaton Passage, to ease the transition to college.
Now a graduate student in Christian Formation at HoneyRock, I have spent a lot of time pondering and reflecting on the specific ways that I was formed by my Wheaton College experience. In my role as the Passage Coordinator, I have been challenged to think about what it actually means to ‘be formed’ and how can I facilitate “formation” for incoming freshman.
From what I have discovered, the key to maximizing opportunities for formation and transformation is intentionality in transitions. A well-managed transition provides a framework for academic success and a sense of community for each student. When transitions are not managed well, the potential for change (i.e. formation) is lessened by the shock of the change and the unproductive tools used to navigate through the landscape of change.
Conducted through HoneyRock, the Outdoor Center for Leadership Development of Wheaton College, Wheaton Passage is designed to be intentional about the transition to Wheaton College. Passage provides opportunities to help students form friendships, connect with faculty and build foundations for spiritual formation.
The percentage of incoming students participating in Wheaton College increases every year, with 43% of the 2014 freshman class participating. During the first phase, students spend 3-8 days in small groups at HoneyRock, in the Wilderness, or in downtown Chicago (students get to choose their adventure) with a Wheaton upperclassman or alumni staff. During the second phase, all tracks come together at HoneyRock to be mentored, participate in spiritual formation discussions and engage in large group activities with Wheaton faculty before heading back to Wheaton for Freshman Orientation.
To get a true view to the transforming power of Passage, listen to this year's students describe their experience:
"It was a great way to be exposed to different ministries, making it feel like God is working in Chicago. It was also a good way to bond with my group and be able to share those experiences."
"Wheaton Passage challenged me in ways I'd never expected ...spiritually, physically, and socially. It was the best experience of my life. It gave me a new perspective on life and helped smooth the transition to college."
"Being immersed in nature was an incredible experience. I had never been physically and spiritually challenged in that way before. It was so much easier to connect to God and others in an environment where it didn't matter what I wore or looked like or what kind of cell phone I had; we were all on the same page."
If you are a new Wheaton student or know someone that is coming to Wheaton this fall, check out for registration details or to get more information.
Join us for Wheaton Passage to maximize your Wheaton College experience!