Making the decision to attend college is momentous. While making a decision about what college to attend can be exciting, it can also fill many students with trepidation. Knowing that the place you choose will be formative in your life for at least four years makes you want to choose wisely and well.
There are many factors to consider as you ponder this big decision. Some of them may be highly practical, such as the school’s location and its affordability. Some of the factors may center specifically around academic concerns. For some students, however, another element may factor into their decision. They may want to find a college that will support and encourage their faith-life and challenge them to apply their faith to their studies.
Community is Huge
It’s important to remember that college can be more than just an academic experience. Especially if you decide to enroll as a residential student, college is community. While some important times of community will occur in the classroom, just as many will come in the cafeteria, dorm room, labs, theater or playing fields. While that can be true of any college, it can be especially important if you’re hoping that your college years will provide a forum for you to grow in your life of faith.
For students exploring a Christian college or university, the community aspect may be the single thing that attracts them most. Vital Christian community can help a student learn more about themselves as they worship, pray, study the Scriptures and learn to engage all they study in light of their Christian worldview.
A secular college or university may be able to provide some students with ample enough opportunities for growth in Christian community. Many secular universities have strong campus ministry programs or chapters of faith-based intercollegiate groups. However, some students would prefer to immerse themselves more fully in Christian community, experiencing it all aspects of their college life. For those students, a Christian college might be the best choice.
An Engaged Christian Faculty
Another reason to choose a Christian college is that it gives you the opportunity to learn from seasoned Christians who engage their particular field of study in the light of faith. You may want that kind of explicit Christian teaching and mentoring.
However, some students may find that they learn best when challenged by worldviews different from their own. Such students may prefer a secular university where they will receive that kind of challenge in the classroom. It’s not necessarily the case that all secular classrooms will be hostile to your faith. Even professors who hold a very different worldview from your own may welcome your own faith-based engagement with learning. Both an explicitly Christian classroom and one that’s not can be opportunities for vigorous engagement. Which you choose depends on how you learn best.
Grounding in a Certain Tradition
While most Christian colleges are open to students of various denominational backgrounds, many of them were founded within a given Christian tradition. That tradition may inform the school’s commitments and strengths to world missions, social action, the environment or the arts.
How Do You Want to Engage Your Faith?
Finally, a Christian college can provide practical settings for students to actively engage their faith within the local and global community. Part of deepening as a Christian involves active ministry to the world in light of that same faith. A Christian college can provide mission trips, internships and other opportunities that that encourage students to hone their creativity and compassion in a specifically Christian way. While a secular university may also provide plenty of those kinds of opportunities, you may not have the opportunity to receive explicit Christian mentoring or opportunities for theological reflection on your activities.
Not all Christians will choose to attend a specifically Christian college or university. Much depends on your particular learning style and on the specific ways you wish to engage your faith during your college years. If you find some of these reasons resonate with you, you may want to seek out information on Christian colleges and speak with their current students and graduates.