Centenary College of Louisiana is a very small private Liberal Arts college located in Shreveport, Louisiana. Centenary is one of the most unique places I have ever known and presents its student body with some interesting challenges on the path to a normal college experience. As a student athlete there I am sure I got the better end of the deal, but I can only imagine how strange a place Centenary can be without a built-in group of friends when beginning one’s college career. With that being said, here are ten things I wish I would have known about Centenary College before I chose to attend:
1. I wish I would have known how small Centenary truly is.
Having come from a large high school of over 3,000 students, I was shocked to find out upon enrolling at Centenary that my incoming class was comprised of only 250 students. With such a small population confined to a campus no larger than one square mile, Centenary often felt more like my high school than my choice for a college education. Rumors, relationship drama, gossip, etc. were rampant. I was told during my visit that it was a small school… I guess I should have asked how small!
2. I wish I would have known that Centenary really does offer a top-notch education.
Every school I visited told me about the great education I would receive there. Centenary was no different, so I smiled politely and nodded as my tour guide gushed about the academics there. However, I learned toward the end of my college career just how revered Centenary College of Louisiana really is. It is an extremely respected institution, especially in the south, and has earned national praise for ranking in the top ten among private schools in terms of value and for having one of the top 25 faculties in the nation. Knowing this would have made my decision that much easier.
3. I wish I would have known what kind of place Shreveport is.
Shreveport is truly a tough city for anyone who did not grow up there to embrace. On one hand there is the southern charm the city possesses, including elegant Victorian architecture, polite people and plenty of southern cooking. On the other hand, rundown buildings, gang activity and crime are incredibly common in the area, including all around Centenary’s campus.
Whoever designed the city of Shreveport years ago would turn over in their grave if they were able to see the condition much of the city is in today.
4. I wish I would have known that athletes dominate campus life.
Centenary College undoubtedly attracts many brilliant, artistic minds from all around the south, but many of the people I met and observed in my time there were incredibly strange. It is for this reason that I am thankful to have been an athlete there. The soccer team arrived on campus a couple of weeks before class began and we quickly formed a strong bond.
Having a group of 30 friends before even stepping foot in a classroom was a blessing and kept me from having to awkwardly wonder around on my own in search of companionship as I saw so many other kids do. Athletes always hung out in large groups and generally just had a better time on campus. It was a pleasant surprise, but if I would have known that going in I would have saved myself a ton of worrying about leaving my comfort zone at home.
5. I wish I would have known not to date girls in the same sorority.
As I mentioned above Centenary is an extremely small school, and this led to extreme competition on the campus dating scene. I can speak from experience as well as observation that in an environment like that, the worst often comes out in women. There are only two sororities on campus and they both had their share of eligible bachelorettes, bachelorettes who seemed to like athletes.
There are too many stories to count of athletes from the same team dating the same sorority girl and vice versa; and while the guys generally handled those types of situations amicably, many female friendships were ruined and a sorority nearly disbanded, all over disputes that stemmed from dating.
If you’re really interested in Centenary, check out Tate’s story on nightlife at the college.
6. I wish I would have known about the changes Centenary would undergo while I was there.
Because Centenary’s board turned down a number of large donations during my freshman year, radical changes would ensue that primarily affected athletics and student life. I chose Centenary because it was the closest Division 1 soccer program to my home and because of the freedom students were given in terms of campus life. Both would be compromised by the time I graduated.
To save money Centenary became the first school in the country in over 20 years to demote its entire athletics program from NCAA Division 1 to Division 3, something that no athlete should ever even have think about once he or she has made a commitment. This, along with the harsh restrictions placed on drinking and where students were allowed to live, caused a significant drop in enrollment the following year.
7. I wish I would have known how small Centenary classes are.
Part of Centenary’s academic appeal is the extremely small student-to-faculty ratio, which often resulted in full class rosters consisting of less than 15 people. I had not considered this when I chose to skip a few classes in my first semester there, resulting in quite a few embarrassing emails from my professors that quickly whipped me into shape. It’s one thing to miss class at a large university with hundreds of kids in a massive classroom, but when one person makes up 10% of the class size, it is just a bit more noticeable.
8. I wish I would have known how worthless a Centenary meal plan is.
When I first arrived on campus, I was pleased at all that “the caf” at Centenary had to offer. A decent mix of healthy and junk-food options along with unlimited soft drinks, icees and good times embarrassing my friends in front of the rest of the student body. I quickly learned, however, that the price per-meal on my meal plan was unbelievably high and after one semester I was more than happy cancelling it and getting by on groceries for the rest of my Centenary days.
9. I wish I would have known how personable Centenary professors are.
Like many students, I didn’t really have a desire to know my professors on a personal level when I first began my college career. However, after a couple of semesters I began to notice that nearly every faculty member I had interacted with was extremely down-to-earth and had plenty of non-academic related wisdom to share. I began to speak to my professors more and more outside of class and I can honestly say I gained a lot from it.
10. I wish I knew more about the study abroad opportunities Centenary offers its students.
If you can’t tell by now, I was rather naïve as I began my time at Centenary and did not want to step too far outside my comfort zone. Centenary constantly offers study abroad opportunities to all students and even requires a two week “module” where a group of students travels overseas accompanied by a professor to learn about other cultures.
I can say that my module was an eye-opening experience for me and my only regret is that it did not last longer. A study abroad semester would have afforded me extra time to learn about life outside of the U.S. and I would certainly do it if given another chance.
Tate McIntyre graduated from Centenary College of Louisiana in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Geology and is also a proud alum of Centenary Men’s Soccer.