Deciding which college or university to attend is always a challenging process. There are many factors to consider. For many students, the majors offered will primarily influence their decision. Opportunities and activities are often a top consideration and location may be a factor. The cost of attendance will be a concern for many families. For Christian students, particularly conservative Christian students, there is an added decision. Should one attend a Christian college? As with any decision, there are both pros and cons.
Pro: Professors with Conservative Viewpoints
Many college professors tend to have a liberal point of view. For a conservative Christian student, this can pose difficulties. A Christian college will have teachers who are more likely to share a student’s conservative viewpoint. This may make it easier for young college students who are not prepared to defend their beliefs in classes where they are the minority.
Con: Limited Exposure to Other Points of View
For some conservative Christian parents and students, this is the desired situation. However, there are some downsides. Traditionally, college has been a time to discover a life beyond high school and the community one has grown up in. It is a chance to realize that people are different and sometimes have radically different views. As an USA Today article points out, atheist student groups are growing on many college campuses. A student who attends a college that admits only students who strictly adhere to their belief system will not have the experience of meeting those with diametric views.
Pro: Like-Minded People
Finding a spouse is often one result of the college experience. As this article in Christianity Today indicates, this may be one of the main purposes of attending college for some Christian students. Meeting a Christian husband who shares one’s values and beliefs will be much easier when the college has mostly like-minded people.
Con: More Cliquishness
One downfall to any homogeneous environment is that there is the potential for cliques to form. When everyone is somewhat similar, there may be more effort in discriminating against the slightest difference and an increased interest in fitting into a particular group. This is less likely in a diverse environment where students are free to pursue their own interests and find the groups and friends that best fit them.
Pro: Avoiding the Party Atmosphere
One complaint that serious students often have about the public universities and other schools is that there is often a party atmosphere. A Christian college is more likely to forbid alcohol and have curfews and other visitation rules that will severely limit or prevent this. It is important to note, however, that the true atmosphere of a campus can only be determined by meeting current students and trying to make casual visits unrelated to the official tour.
Con: Stricter Rules and More Regulations
Some well-known Christian colleges are known for having dress codes, separate dorms for male and female students and, in general, many other rules and regulations to which students must adhere. For students who are just learning how to be adults, living in a highly regulated atmosphere can limit this process.
Pro: Focus on Students and a Better Learning Atmosphere
Like most liberal arts schools, Christian colleges tend to have a focus on teaching undergraduate students. Classes are taught by professors and not teacher assistants. This can create an atmosphere where students can get to know their professors and avoid the possibility of being lost in the crowd. This focus also ensures that students are more likely to get an education rather than just a degree.
Con: Private College is Expensive
Because Christian colleges are private schools, they are, of course, more expensive than the local state university. Many conservative Christian parents may have prepared for this expense with adequate savings and investments. Some students may be granted generous financial aid packages. For the average student, however, attending a private Christian college may require a significant amount of student loans. It is worth considering if the value of the education received will be worth the added amount of debt.
Pro: Access to Christian Majors
Many students may wish to pursue a major that specifically pertains to their belief. Christian counseling is one such major that will only be offered at a Christian university. Pastoral studies are, of course, another path that will only be available at a Christian college. There is another consideration, however. Even with common and popular majors that are available at many schools, the slant of the education will be different. Education majors may find that the methods of teaching taught at a Christian college are based on traditional methods of education. Education programs at state universities or more liberal private colleges may focus on more progressive ideology.
Con: Limited Choice of Major
Conversely, the limited choice of major may be a downfall for some students. A large university will offer a wide range of choices that will not be available at a small Christian college. If one already has a career choice and specific major in mind, one may have to accept that a school that provides the most opportunities and best education for that major may not be a Christian school.
The decision as to whether to attend a secular college or a Christian college may be a significant factor in the college search. Regardless of what one is looking for in a college, research into specific schools will be necessary. Accessing general information will provide a starting point, but visiting campuses and talking to current students will show the bigger picture. There are definite positive and negatives associated with each choice. However, while it may not seem so at the time, the particular college that one attends need not make or break the college experience. As with anything, one’s individual outlook and choices will determine their experience. The personality of the individual student may be the best deciding factor.