How Attending A Christian College Can Change Your Life
By Nancy Mering
Spring is the time of year when many high school seniors are either rushing to complete college applications or waiting to hear from their college or colleges of choice, living in hope that the financial aid award will be sufficient, and moving into the final phase of the serious deliberation that leads to choosing a college.
Every part of the college search process is important, and all the information gathered is useful to gain the fullest understanding about which college fits best with a prospective student's interests and plans. Understandably, those students and their parents want to know about the rigor of academic programs, the quality and engagement of faculty, all curricular and extra-curricular options, and the campus community atmosphere. In addition, one area admissions counselors are increasingly asked about is "outcomes." How does a Christian college prepare a student for life after college? What are the benefits of attending and graduating from a Christian College versus the financial cost?
A recent Christianity Today article by Steve Henderson, President of Christian Consulting for Colleges and Ministries, Inc., addresses an outcome that should be of particular interest to Christian students and parents. In the article, titled "A Question of Price versus Cost," Henderson makes the following points: Because "the college years are one of the most significant times in a student's search for identity…the literature and the research…suggest a strong link between a young person's choice of a college and their short-term and long-term commitment to Christian faith…The results of nearly 25 years of research consistently reveal that those who do not attend a Christ-centered college will experience a decline in religious values, attitudes, and behaviors during college…More than 52 percent of incoming freshmen who identify themselves as born-again upon entering a public university will either no longer identify themselves as born-again four years later or, even if they do still claim that identification, will not have attended any religious service in over a year." And one final quote from that article, "The bottom line is this: if the past is a fair indication of the future, at least half and possibly over two-thirds of our kids will step away from their faith while attending non-Christian colleges and universities."
Based not only on research but also on Henderson's personal experience with a daughter who attended a non-Christian college and lost her way spiritually for about a decade, Henderson asks parents to consider whether they can afford not to send their child to a Christ-centered college. A college education is a big-ticket item, no matter what type of school is chosen. Henderson encourages families to look closely at and give due weight to the potentially life-long effect of whichever college community is chosen – Christian or secular. College years are a time of serious examination of personal faith. Students at colleges that aren't supportive of Christian faith can become confused, at best, or more likely, skeptical of the Christian teaching of their youth.
Henderson also emphasizes early in his article, "I neither mean to imply that Christian colleges are perfect places with perfect people, nor that Christian students can never emerge from secular schools with strong Christian faith still intact. Neither statement is true. What I do know, however, is that immersion in a Christ-centered residential, educational community is an incredible opportunity for Christian young men and women who want to learn and grow spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, etc."
Christian high school students, as well as those who know and counsel them, should give serious consideration to the benefits of living and learning in this kind of college environment. At its best, education at the collegiate level should begin an honest evaluation and infusion of both faith and scholarship. The dual influence of academic discipline that creates the ability to think critically balanced with moral and spiritual integrity help prepare Christians to positively impact a global society.
Christian college graduates attend some of the most prestigious graduate schools in the country and around the world. They go on to work in inspiring careers after graduation. At least one is in Baghdad assisting the Constitutional Drafting Committee in Iraq. Others are members of Harvard's medical school faculty or are practicing medicine. They work for the top companies or have started successful businesses of their own. Others have chosen to work to develop sustainable agriculture in developing countries, aid in humanitarian relief and poverty reduction or serve in the top levels of our country's government.
The academic rigor of the top Christian colleges is leavened by the incorporation of faith and spiritual discipline that will produce the next generation of Christ-lead and inspired servant leaders that our culture cries for.
With those potential outcomes in mind, Christian high school students should learn as much as possible about the numerous fine Christian colleges and universities throughout this country. Preliminary information is available on the web at college search sites such as CCCU.org and Christiancollege.com. Also, sign up for college mailing lists. College mailing lists are a great resource, as you only need to sign up once to start receiving helpful information throughout the year. Also, remember to schedule time to visit each campus that seems like a good fit – including an overnight stay in a resident hall. Visiting a college campus in person and sleeping over helps students solidify if a school is a good fit by finding out what it's like to live, as well as study, there.
The college years are a unique time in life for the formation of habits of the heart and mind and relationships that will shape life for years to come. Students (and their parents) should consider a college that offers serious academic and personal preparation for life – along with a framework of people and programs that nurtures and strengthens Christian understanding and commitment.
About the Author
Nancy Mering is Director of Admissions at Gordon College. Gordon College is a nationally-ranked, four-year, nondenominational Christian liberal arts college on Boston's North Shore. For more information on the programs and campus life at Gordon College, contact the Office of Admissions at 866-464-6736 or visit http://www.gordon.edu
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