Have Faith – Deciding If A Christian College Is Right For You
For students looking to integrate their faith with the real world a Christian college could be the perfect fit. Forget what you’ve heard—Christian colleges are not archaic sheltering or just for those with Bible-related majors!
For many students college is a time to find yourself a time when you can (and will) discover new interests and passions that you never knew you had! There’s a reason why so many students switch their college majors by their sophomore year—college marks the start of figuring out who you are and where you want to take your life. Any college can help provide you with direction but at a Christian college you’ve got a chance to do all of that and grow in a new way: spiritually.
What is a Christian College?
In general Christian colleges offer broad-based studies from a faith-based perspective. While they may have differing traditions values and mission statements the purpose of most of these schools is to help you explore and embody Christianity throughout your college experience. It’s important to note that not all Christian schools require you to sign a statement of faith.
There are also different categories of Christian colleges. Schools that place more focus on coursework in biblical and theological studies are often referred to as “Bible colleges.” Colleges that prepare students to become ministers and priests are called “seminaries.”
So what exactly can you expect if you attended a Christian school? More often than not Bible classes and related Christian courses are a mandatory part of your college experience something that a public school could never do. Offerings might include classes on spirituality the history of religion public evangelism biblical languages and youth culture among others.
Most Christian colleges will require you to attend chapel at specific times each day or a set number of days a week. There may also be strict regulations regarding the use of tobacco or alcohol as well as other standards of personal conduct.
Christian colleges provide unique opportunities for ministering to others—with or without a religious component. Huntington University’s Joe Mertz Center for Volunteer Service helps students serve others in need both locally and globally. At San Diego Christian College students are provided opportunities to minister and serve others using six “building blocks of spiritual development.” These include involvement in chapel a local church student ministry opportunities Day of Prayer the David Jeremiah Bible Conference and the Missions Conference.
Why a Christian College?
From the outside a Christian college resembles any other higher education institution. It’s what happens on the inside that changes everything. A non-Christian school may offer Bible classes and even a major or two that relates to Christianity but at a Christian college your faith walk isn’t an afterthought; it’s usually all-encompassing.
“College is a time of change and adding religion can be tough. Anybody who wants a deeper meaning and purpose in what they do should consider a Christian college,” says Chandler Elmore, a media major at Oral Roberts University.
It doesn’t mean that a Christian college will let you coast on through or that tough questions won’t be asked. It simply means you don’t have to put your faith on the shelf when talking academics.
A Christian college will provide a well-rounded educational experience that closely compares to secular schools. Mark Weinstein, director of admissions at Cedarville University (OH) says, “You’ll be engaged in a rigorous academic program benefit from a thriving campus life and be challenged to grow spiritually in a very intentional way. That just can’t happen at secular colleges—whether state supported or not.”
Keeping Up With the Times
Outdated and old-fashioned? Not on your life! Though faith-based Christian colleges typically possess many of the same activities and events that you would find on secular college campuses.
While Bible courses and chapel time is important most Christians believe one of the key ingredients to true growth is fellowship time. You’ll experience Christian fellowship on a large scale when you attend a Christian college.
“Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) hosts several campus events like Homecoming Battle of the Dorms Concerts on the Lawn Midnight Madness Movie on the Wall night annual snowball fights varsity athletic events and intramural sports,” notes Christina Freeze, SAGU public relations coordinator. These activities aren’t just fun they also build a sense of community.
“A typical stereotype of Christian schools is that they are prudish and boring. This cannot be further from the truth. We do not sit in our dorm rooms and read Leviticus and meditate in silence. We like to have fun and do stuff!,” says Elmore.
It’s just like any other school. “First people are people so all college kids are the same in many ways. They’re learning to be on their own. How to navigate love and relationships. How to manage their time between study and activities. Christian college students deal with failures and successes just like any group of college students will,” says Cliff Smith, chief communications officer at Erskine College.
A Christian college isn’t about preventing you from experiencing real life; it’s about giving you the tools to help you handle real life! Many Christian colleges encourage community service here in the United States—and abroad! These college students get in there and help out the community.
For example at Southwestern Assemblies of God University the Missions Department launched Mission TEN (To Every Nation) in 2010 in order to express “mission-mindedness” and “participate in evangelism throughout the world.” According to Freeze “The vision of the project is to send students to 192 nations 34 Chinese provinces and 35 Indian states in the next 10 years. Last year 103 students were sent to 17 countries. Another 30 countries are slated for 2011.” Digital media students will also use these trips to gain journalistic experience.
At Wisconsin Lutheran College students have countless opportunities to volunteer. The Spiritual Outreach group ministers to institutionalized teenagers and conducts Bible studies and personal counseling for delinquent youth. Vision of Hope is a volunteer corps that provides help to the surrounding community through short-term service projects. New Friends at WLC holds events to “model a servant’s attitude” toward being a friend to the developmentally disabled.
In addition these community-based experiences and volunteer opportunities look great on a resume for what comes after college! Learning about other cultures and helping others not only benefits you but also your future employer.
Choosing a Christian College
“Think carefully about why you want a Christian college. If it’s because you want to prepare in a specific way for life after college that’s probably a good reason. But if it’s only because you (or your parents) want to avoid some things or ideas associated with college beware. Christian colleges and their students confront all the same types of things college students anywhere face,” reminds Smith.
“You’re not looking for a good Sunday school—you need serious academic preparation for the road ahead. Don’t look for a campus that is simply comfortable,” urges Mark Kahler, the associate vice president for university communications at Union University. “Look for a place that will challenge you. Find a school with the faculty and resources necessary to take you either to a good job or a respected graduate program.”
Compare colleges schedule visits and see what school is the right fit for you. A Christian college is going beyond what you’ve learned in Sunday school to truly make your faith a real part of your life. The right school can help you grow in ways you never thought possible!