Choosing a college can be a confusing time for many high school students. There are books, databases, college fairs, school counselors, teachers, and parents, each one dispensing helpful, or not-so-helpful, advice for how to handle this next phase of your life. As a young person of faith, your choice has an added element. Should I go to a Christian college? The answer, of course, is different for each student and depends on a number of factors.
If you choose a Christian college, you will have many options to choose from. As, with any college search, the first thing you must consider is your major and the school’s reputation. The Christian College Guide is a helpful resource that profiles Christian schools, along with their majors, size, denomination and other relevant statistics.
In every school, some programs will be stronger than others, so considering the strength of the program is important. Most schools require their faculty members to be committed Christians, so no matter what program you choose, your courses will be taught from a Biblical perspective.
In general, Christian schools tend to be smaller, affecting the student-teacher ratio. Universities are notorious for large anonymous classes, and you may have a few of these in a Christian school. But as you move into higher-level courses, there is a greater opportunity to get to know the instructors and gain access to their knowledge and network.
It is important to note that not everyone that attends a Christian college is a Christian. This can for a number of reasons. Many parents refuse to pay for anything but a Christian school, and other students may have grown up in Christian homes, but are reworking their theology. Still others may attend the school solely based on receiving an athletic scholarship, or the school’s reputation in a specific program.
The size of the non-Christian population depends on the school, but in most places, Christian students are the majority. This means you will easily find friends with the same faith-related goals, ideals, and lifestyle. They will affirm your faith, pray with you, and help you with issues from a Biblical perspective. College can be a time to wrestle with those deep questions of the soul, and at a Christian school, you will find Christian peers all around to bounce off with ideas and opinions.
In many ways, dorm life is the same as secular schools. There will be late night pizza, neighbors with loud music, video-game sharing, and popcorn and movie nights. You may have dorm functions to go ice skating, bowling, the theatre, and “study parties,” during finals week. But, there are a few differences.
Most schools have single sex dorms, and may have curfews and rules against alcohol and sexual activity. Within the dorms, you may have student spiritual leaders who lead regular Bible studies, and a general aura of encouragement rather than competition exists. While the social scene varies with the community, you will typically not find the partying attributed to secular universities.
Christian colleges have a lot of clubs and activities to affirm your faith. Many schools require students to attend regular chapel services. There may also be a variety of campus ministries to get involved in, and some schools even have a missions program that sends student groups on mission trips every summer. They may also host speakers or conferences that are specific to your faith, or address issues concerning your faith in the modern world. Some schools have concerts with the latest Christian bands, or hold indie Christian festivals on campus.
No matter what college you choose, or what type of school, relax. There is a lot of pressure put on young people to decide the “right” college. In the end, it is not really the degree that matters, it is what you do with it. Enjoy your college experience, throw yourself into it, and expand your mind. But, don’t stress. It’s just college.