Night At Hope Program: Offering prospective students a slice of college life

When you ask the Hope College students why they choose Hope, most state that the sense of community was a big factor in their decision-making. The Admissions Office has many programs that help recruit prospective students, such as the Night At Hope program. 

What is Night at Hope and what is its aim for prospective students?

A leader of the Night At Hope program and admissions recruiter, Laura Bainbridge, says the program used to be called Overnight Host, but because of COVID-19, they changed it to Night At Hope. The purpose of the program is to help prospective students experience the Hope College community for themselves. “We work with current college students and have them host or hang out with prospective students for a couple evenings, which gives them the opportunity to interact with students on our campus,” Bainbridge said. When asked what prompted the start of this program, Bainbridge says that they wanted prospective students to get an authentic view of what Hope College looks like outside of the academic setting. She elaborated, “We wanted prospective students to experience the unique distinctive community that differentiates us from other colleges.”

For over 25 years, the Night At Hope program used to be an overnight program where students would come in the evening, eat dinner, spend the evening with host students, stay overnight and then leave after breakfast time. In addition to the overnight stay, the prospective student would get an opportunity to participate in one of the day visit options. This changed as a result of the coronavirus. Bainbridge said, “When Covid hit we had to pivot. We realized that the program was a valuable experience for prospective students. Over half of the prospective student participants choose to enroll at Hope. So, we brainstormed and came up with Night At Hope.”  Bainbridge said that participating in campus events such as attending Coffee House and the Gathering, trying a game of intramural sports, watching athletic events, hanging out in residential halls or going to a coffee shop downtown is a valuable experience for prospective students because it allows them to get a glimpse of college life. 

“It is important to choose a college for more than one reason such as an academic program, fine arts, or an opportunity to play in a division sport,” said Bainbridge. “It is important that we introduce students to the various aspects of the Hope College community.” What differentiates the Night At Hope program from any other day-time tour is the opportunity to spend unscripted time with a host. Alongside showing the prospective students the Hope College community, the goal of this program is to make sure that there are no surprises that a student might have once they are committed to Hope. “We want them to see how the values of Hope align with campus and student life, how student life enhances the Christian dimension or how the Christian dimension enhances student life,” Bainbridge said. The Night At Hope program seeks to help students understand the Hope College community so that they can make a decision with as much information and ease as possible.

The best part about this program is that it is free for participants. Prospective students get to spend an evening with the host and enjoy the community of Hope at no cost. The Night at Hope program provides meals and other costs of entertainment on campus unless they go off campus to explore the beautiful downtown. 

In addition to Night At Hope, prospective students can also participate in Anchor Days. Photo courtesy of

What does the program look like from the point of view of the host? 

The Night At Hope program is hosted by the Admissions Office. It hires current students that are freshmen or sophomores to host the prospective students. At many other college institutions, hosts are volunteers; however, Hope believes hosts should be compensated for their time because it is a valuable role as a college student. “Typically, we invest a hundred dollars per prospective student by hosting. Usually, two students host together as roommates, which gives the student a fifty dollar compensation,” Bainbridge said.

In the past, the program allowed freshman students to apply for the position during their second semester. This is because they felt that students in their first year did not have enough experience to be able to know what Hope has to offer. The program also wanted them to become more involved on campus so that when they are hired, they have a good sense of the Hope College community. Now, the program allows students to apply at the end of their fall semester.

As a host, Erin Matheny (’25), says that her experience has been rewarding. Erin Matheny is a nursing major with a minor in Spanish. On campus, she is involved in Nykerk, intramural sports and Bible studies. Matheny says that her motivation to be a part of the program was her experience when she visited Hope. “When I first visited Hope, my tour guides did a very good job of showing me around and I felt welcomed. The community at Hope was pleasant; everybody was kind and cared for one another. I wanted to do the same for another student and show them that they belong at Hope,” she said. 

Like many other hosts, Matheny was inspired by the idea of encouraging students during a transformational period in their lives. She explained, “The program allows us to connect with students and calm their fears or join in the excitement of their journey.”

When she hosted, Matheny said that it was fun to sit down and eat dinner with a prospective student and get to know them. She also mentions that it was rewarding to show the students around Hope and have them experience what a day in the life of a college student might look like. Matheny agrees that it is important for prospective students to get the perspective of current college students. “We can relate to the same struggles that they are having, so it is important to acknowledge their concerns and assure them that all will be okay. College is more than just striving for excellence in academics,” she said.

The Night At Hope program in its entirety is meant to help students experience and observe the Hope College community. It allows students to see what life would be like as a Hope student, which is necessary for making a college decision. It is a helpful, fun, and informative program that every prospective student should consider participating in. 

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