The socks that sold me

I’m not arguing that I went to Beloit just because I received turtle socks in the mail from President Scott Bierman. That would be a little silly. But it reminded me of the reasons why I already loved Beloit — and still love it to this day. (Plus, the socks are awesome.)

The single most memorable moment in my decision to attend Beloit College unfolded after I came home from school on a cool late April afternoon. I gathered our mail and walked to the couch, excited to see a soft envelope addressed to me from Beloit.

Beloit was the first college I applied to back in November, as well as my first acceptance. It had climbed to the top of my list after my sleepless but wonderful overnight campus visit a few weeks prior, during which President Scott Bierman made a speech addressing his penchant for the turtle, Beloit’s unofficial mascot.

I will never forget the contents of the puffy letter, which gave me the final push to commit to Beloit and changed the course of my life forever:

A teal sock, covered in golden turtles.

Yes, one lone turtle sock, accompanied by a letter from President Bierman explaining that its singularity was, in fact, not a mistake.

Ask yourself, how might this unmatched turtle sock become a pair of turtle socks? Maybe, just maybe, if you were to follow up your visit to Beloit College with an expression of longer-run commitment, an appreciative turtle lover at that college might find a way to pair up your existing turtle sock with its lonely mate.

Aimed at skeptics, the letter continued:

Now, it would be preposterous that a college choice should be determined by a pair of socks, even turtle socks. But, this small reminder of the campus in southern Wisconsin you visited is also a not-so-small reminder of our confidence that you would make a superb, utterly turtle sock worthy Beloiter.

Maybe, to some, this tactic was hokey, silly, even frivolous or odd. To me, it was a little bit of all of those things and more. It was creative and witty, like the current and future Beloiters I met on my overnight trip. It made me laugh.

It also made me cry. I turned to my mom to show her the sock, and she pulled out her camera and snapped a photo. She understood what I didn’t have the words to say at the time. Beloit understood me. Beloit wanted me. And I wanted Beloit.

Roommates Guech Sok, Maria Elvira Lopez, and Meg Kulikowski before their graduation in May 2021. Roommates Guech Sok, Maria Elvira Lopez, and Meg Kulikowski before their graduation in May 2021.The class of 2021 was united around countless shared experiences, from late night Java Joint runs and C-Haus concerts to Sustained Dialogue and Warm Cookie Wednesdays in Commons. And, of course, a pandemic that began the spring of our junior year, interrupting the lives of both those abroad and in Beloit and characterizing our final year, which ended in a unique three-day graduation ceremony.

We were also united around wearing our turtle socks — athletes and non-athletes alike, paired with our sandals or caked in snow. We pulled them out for student events or wore them to class. Many of us eventually wore them out, made holes in their toes, and found friends to help us fix them. They symbolize the unity my class (and surely many others before us) experienced at our time at Beloit.

I am lucky to be working at the college I loved so dearly as a student and to continue to be surrounded by the people who made my Beloit experience so special — professors and mentors and coworkers and friends. Turtle socks can’t compare to the kindness and wisdom that I’ve gained from the relationships I made at Beloit, but they are pretty stinking cool.

December 20, 2021

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