Choosing a college can be a daunting task. You can go to every open house that schools offer and schedule multiple visits and still not know which college to attend. Each school has its own unique qualities and characteristics. While academic interests should be first and foremost, you mustn’t ignore your personal interests. You will, most likely, be attending this school for four years, so you need to select a school that piques your interests and feels like a “home away from home.”
Some colleges offer beach and city life while others offer quaint, small town charm. Some colleges offer exciting sports and music venues while others offer enriching museums and galleries. So what does Western Kentucky University (WKU) offer? Where is Bowling Green, Kentucky? What is so special about “The Hill?” If you are undecided concerning which college to attend, I assure you WKU has something for everyone…including you!
1. For the nature lover
Where do I even begin?
WKU was recently named Tree Campus USA for the sixth consecutive year. Simply put, WKU’s campus is beautiful. During warm weather, students will hang their hammocks and read, relax, take a nap, or study for class. For me, I loved walking down the hill to see rows of trees with their fresh pink and white blossoms: like something found in a Monet.
For the explorer wishing to venture away from campus, the area is home to remarkable karst landscapes. Lost River Cave is a seven-mile cave system with a river running through it and is only a five-minute drive from campus. If you want to travel a little further, Mammoth Cave National Park (home to the longest cave system known in the world), is a thirty-minute drive from campus.
With Barren River and Drakes Creek located in Bowling Green, the kayaker and fisherman will find themselves in their element. If you do not mind the distance from campus, you can drive forty-five minutes to Barren River Lake. For a little bit of everything – fishing, hiking, a waterfall, rock climbing, canoeing, etc. – drive seventeen miles to Shanty Hallow Lake.
2. For the music enthusiast
Often, we imagine the music scene as being located in large cities. What could a small city like Bowling Green know about music?
Groups such as Cage the Elephant, Nappy Roots, and Buffalo Rodeo all hail from Bowling Green. Although the groups do not strictly play in Bowling Green, they do make an appearance every so often. Tidball’s is the place to be to catch those local big-timers and out-of-towners, such as The Weeks, take the stage. The following video is of Cage the Elephant performing on WKU’s South Lawn:
Big name artists and groups pass through WKU and Bowling Green, as well. For every football homecoming, WKU snags a nationally-known act to perform in Diddle Arena. Previous concerts include Hunter Hayes, Eli Young Band, Dierks Bentley, Justin Moore with Corey Smith and Chris Stapleton, Luke Bryan, Keri Hilson, and so on. Two years ago, Florida Georgia Line and Nelly performed at the Bowling Green Ballpark.
And have no fear, there are always concerts in Nashville and Louisville. Nashville is a quick 1-hour drive and Louisville is a 1.75-hour drive.
3. For the sports fan
The 2015 WKU Football team was ranked #24 in the nation. For five consecutive seasons, the team has maintained a winning record. Since 2012, WKU has three bowl appearances, two bowl wins, and one conference championship. Some notable coaches include Jimmy Feix, Jack Harbaugh, and current head coach Jeff Brohm. Some notable alumni, currently in the NFL, include Bobby Rainey, Antonio Andrews, Jack Doyle, Jonathan Dowling, and Quanterus Smith. Brandon Doughty and Tyler Higbee were invited to the 2016 NFL Combine (Higbee did not fully participate due to injury); both are expected to go pro.
Men’s Basketball has one Final Four appearance, two Elite Eight appearances, seven Sweet Sixteen appearances, eight Round of 32 appearances, twenty-three NCAA Tournament appearances, thirty-two conference tournament championships, twenty-eight conference regular season championships, and six conference division season championships. E.A. Diddle – the legend behind the Red Towel – was the team’s first head coach. Notable alumni include but are not limited to, Jeremy Evans, Courtney Lee, Ty Rogers ("The Shot"), and Jim McDaniels.
Women’s Basketball has one NCAA Tournament runner-up, three Final Four appearances, three Elite Eight appearances, six Sweet Sixteen appearances, eighteen tournament appearances, ten conference tournament championships, and eight regular season championships. Kendall Noble was recently named CUSA Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. Head coach Michelle Clark-Heard just reached 100 wins since she became the coach in 2012.
I could go on and on with statistics and facts. The awesome thing about WKU’s home games… they are free for students who show their Student ID!
Also, WKU offers intramural sports for students, faculty, and staff. Activities for 2015-2016 include flag football, basketball, volleyball, soccer, softball, handball, and many more. Intramurals are a great way to play a sport you love or would like to try while competing against students, faculty, and staff within the university.
For those who would like to get off campus for a while, you can go to one of the many parks in Bowling Green. From basketball courts to soccer fields, Bowling Green parks have it all. To check out what each park has to offer, visit Bowling Green Parks and Recreation. And for the golfer, Bowling Green has numerous courses including Paul Walker, Riverview, Crosswinds, Bowling Green Country Club, and so on. Even the WKU Agriculture Farm has a two-hole (may be more now) golf course for those wishing to practice and perfect their swing.
If you have a favorite professional team, Bowling Green is conveniently located 1 hour from Nashville (Titans and Predators), 4 hours from Indianapolis (Colts and Pacers), 4.25 hours from St. Louis (Cardinals and Blues), 3.5 hours from Cincinnati (Bengals and Reds), 4.25 hours from Memphis (Grizzlies), and 5.25 hours from Atlanta (Falcons, Hawks, and Braves). Oh! And Bowling Green has as minor league baseball team: The Bowling Green Hot Rods.
4. For the food connoisseur
If there is one thing Bowling Green does not lack, it is dining options. Once you merge off of I-65 onto Scottsville Road, you will become overwhelmed with choices. While Bowling Green has tons of chain restaurants, our local restaurants are just as delicious (if not better). Here are some of my favorite local restaurants:
- Although a chain, Rafferty’s originated in Bowling Green.
- 643 is a personal favorite of mine. If WKU, UK, or Louisville is playing on tv, 643 offers deals like 15 wings for $5!
- Mariah’s is Bowling Green’s gem. Try the Hot Brown, you will not regret it.
- Tea Bayou is a New Orleans style café and tea bar. This is definitely worth the try if you are looking for something a little different.
- Hilligans is a student favorite and within walking distance of campus. Although a bar, Hilligans has some mouth-watering pizza wings, and sandwiches.
- The Lunch Pail is up there on my favorites list. TLP is attached to Montana Grille (another great local place), and serves some tasty burgers and BBQ. Every meal comes with a scoop of strawberry ice cream.
- White Squirrel Brewery is Bowling Green’s own microbrewery and pub grub. The interior has so much charm: reflecting the love of WKU’s white squirrels. Like the Tea Bayou, White Squirrel is a delightful change from the typical burger and fries.
If you are looking for something on campus, WKU does not disappoint. Some chains include Panda Express, Subway, Popeyes, Chik-fil-A, Steak & Shake, and Papa Johns. WKU’s own eateries include Fresh Food Co. (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), Red Zone, the brand new Topper Grill and Pub, and many more!
5. For the fitness fanatic
WKU is not nicknamed the “Hilltoppers” for nothing! The campus rests on a deceiving hill: merciless, grand, and beautiful. You cannot fathom the grandeur that is the hill until you walk from the bottom to the top in 15 minutes flat. For the fitness fanatic, the hill is not your enemy, it is your exercise. I am still not sure how cyclists are able to ride up the hill.
Aside from the hill, WKU has an awesome fitness center. The Raymond B. Preston Health and Activities Center is available for student, faculty, and staff use. Some classes offered at Preston include yoga, Zumba, kickboxing, aqua fit, cycling, cardio, and many more. If you would prefer to workout off campus, Bowling Green has many gyms including Planet Fitness, Workout Anytime, Bowling Green Athletic Club, and Total Fitness Connection. Also off campus, Bowling Green provides a Greenway (sidewalk) for cyclists and those who would like to run or walk.
6. For the performing arts junkie
If you enjoy music, dance, and theater, you are in for a treat! WKU students and locals work tirelessly to put together entertaining and inspiring concerts, recitals, and productions. Coming up: Guys and Dolls, It’s Time to Sing!, and Evening of Dance 2016.
Take a very quick trip down the hill and into downtown, and you will find the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center (SKyPAC). SKyPac hosts a variety of events: concerts, comedy tours, game shows, and plays. Also, SKyPAC is home to galleries that focus on art exhibitions and educational programs which allow patrons access to local and national artists.
7. For #friendshipgoals
I do not think anyone goes to college with the sole purpose of making friends, but it is a bonus!
WKU’s student organizations are second to none. The organizations provide students the opportunity to meet new people, network, and build leadership skills. WKU is home to over 300 student organizations. WKU Student Activities says it best:
“This involvement can provide students a foundation for success, a passion for learning and a commitment to responsible global citizenship, while fostering creativity and service to others. Organizations can not only provide membership, but a safe home from which students can pursue their passions.”
Student organizations include campus ministries, fraternities, sororities, intramural sports, honors, departmental, service, and so on. However, friendships can be made anywhere. During my undergrad, I made friends through my classes and on-campus part-time job.
8. For the change of scenery
Whether you are from a small town or large city, WKU and Bowling Green are the perfect escape. The city has characteristics of cities and small towns. With a city population of 62,000 (surrounding areas make it 165,000) and a campus of 19,000, WKU and Bowling Green are neither too large nor too small. You will find quaint, small town charm and the entertainment, shopping, and dining of city life.
WKU and Bowling Green are the epitomes of “Location, Location, Location!”
If you wish to getaway for a weekend, Bowling Green is nestled in the most central location. As I mentioned before, Nashville is 1 hour away, Louisville is 1.75 hours away, and Lexington is 2.5 hours away. For the fall breakers, Gatlinburg is 4.5 hours away.
In hindsight, I suppose I am trying to promote WKU and Bowling Green. Nonetheless, you will not feel like a fish out of water around. The campus and city are welcoming and inviting to all. And while I mentioned numerous places, activities, and opportunities within this post, there is much I left out. It is up to you to discover WKU and what it has to offer!
Good luck and Go Tops!