Going to college is like shipping off to a brand-new planet. Everything is fresh and exciting-and the beauty of it all is that you get to decide what kind of setting you want to spend your time in for the next four years.
Not only are academics an important consideration when selecting a school, but there are a variety of other elements that make up the whole of college life. Of course, no one can predict the type of life you'll lead once you're happily settled in your new dorm room, but there is something to say about the type of environment you place yourself in.
Since different people thrive in different settings, a good bit of self-awareness can take you a long way as you consider if a Christian college is right for you.
As I considered the type of university I wanted to attend, I found that while classes and studies were incredibly important to me, there were also several other elements that tied for precedence as I narrowed down my school options. As I toured various college campuses, I kept these things in mind.
Now, years later, as I reflect back on my experience at a Christian university, I can't help but notice the enormous impact these components had on my life.
1 A community that cares
I remember the thing that really sealed the deal for me, as I considered which school to choose, was the potential I saw for a deep, thriving community at one of the Christian campuses I toured. As a high school student, I valued academics, but I also cherished relationships. I recollect noticing that the students on the campus I was touring that sunny day as a junior in high school, actually waved at our group, and the tour guide asked me questions about my life and my plans for the future. This was different from my experience touring at other schools, and it made me feel seen, heard, and cared about.
Looking back, I see that, yes, this college could have simply had a stellar Admissions Department, but I know now that their approach to students was built on a much deeper philosophy. As a body of believers, they believed that people mattered, and it showed in everything they did. While you can't foretell the types of people you'll meet and become friends with at school, it's definitely helpful to place yourself in an environment that draws in people who are also interested in relationships built on a foundation of trust, character, and genuine care.
Making friends with depth, integrity, and a belief in Christ will not only affect the decisions you make in your life for the better, but a culture that truly loves and cares for you will be an emotionally healthy option all the way around. Humans were not created to live without community, and Christian friends can support you during the tough times, lovingly correct you during rebellious seasons, and celebrate with you in your successes and victories.
2 An atmosphere that supports faith in Christ
You certainly don't have to attend a Christian college to find Christian community, or to believe in Jesus. Many feel that secular colleges are where they'll thrive, and they find support at a local church or among other Christian students on campus. I knew that for myself, I wanted to be in an environment for the next four years that readied me academically, but also emotionally and spiritually, for the life ahead of me.
The university I attended was great about fostering an environment where I could make my faith my own yet still seek wisdom and resources when necessary. I never felt like anything was pushed upon me, but I felt like I had options to ask questions, dig deeper, and seek mentorship, if I wanted it.
My school empowered me to get involved with serving others, it taught me about God's character and His grace, and it helped shape my approach to understanding people and how to care for them in an emotionally healthy way. My faith was supported and flourished, and I really value the firm foundation that attending a Christian college provided me.
3 A myriad of opportunities Attending a Christian university doesn't mean you have to give up your hopes and dreams of being involved in intermural sports, the theater department, or evening clubs. If having access to a variety of extracurricular opportunities or unique classes is important to you, consider the size of the schools you're looking at.
Christian colleges often have just as many academic and extracurricular options as secular schools, and some provide a certain collection of opportunities that may not be found elsewhere. Many Christian schools place a heavy emphasis on leadership, mentorship, service, ministry, and a host of other opportunities that can help you grow both your mind and your heart. Consider your values and the type of person you hope to become someday.
It could change your life! There's no right or wrong answer in where you decide to go to school. Simply ask yourself the following question: "Which option will nurture my faith in God the most?
You might find that a secular college will allow you to lean into the Lord more-or you might find that a Christian college will mature your faith to a really healthy place.
It's good to recognize that your experiences do shape you, and your time in college is a really neat season where you can learn a lot about yourself, the Lord, and life. It's important to set the stage for success emotionally, academically, and spiritually.