Does it really make a difference where you choose to go to college? What should you look for when you are selecting a school? Look for a college where the institutional mission statement talks about a “Christian” or “Christ-centered” emphasis. That statement will be found in the catalog and student handbook and the school must demonstrate to accrediting agencies that it takes specific and appropriate action to carry out its mission.
When you talk with admissions counselors or other representatives of the college, ask about the steps that are taken to make the educational experience one that is truly Christ-centered. Look for a college where quality classroom instruction is given a high priority. That concept usually expresses itself with relatively small classes taught by fully prepared professors. Large classes taught by graduate assistants generally end up being impersonal and contribute significantly to high drop-out rates. What you experience in the classroom may well be the most important part of the college experience.
The kind of faculty hired and the priority given to teaching will shape what happens in the classroom. Look for a college where the institution emphasizes high standards of morality, ethics and decency. We live in an “anything goes” society and all too often the atmosphere in colleges and universities are more mirrors of contemporary society than they are mirrors of good values.
Check out the student handbook and look at the policies that regulate campus atmosphere and living conditions. When the school stands for Christian principles of conduct, the campus atmosphere and institutional focus will offer a climate where a person can flourish. A college or university which unashamedly attempts to incorporate the highest and best of Christian thinking and behavior into its institutional life will do more to educate the whole student than one where “anything goes”. Look for a college or university where there is evidence that people will really care about students and their well-being. It’s important that you feel that you matter to the administrators and to the faculty and that they are available to answer your questions or assist you when you need help. The years you spend getting your education are too important for you. Students can find a new sense of direction when a caring Christian professor takes the time to help them with a problem or when a caring Christian administrator invests some time with a student. The atmosphere on campus has a great deal to do with whether a student stays in school and perseveres to get his or her degree within the traditional four or five years. An intentionally, unapologetically Christian college is marked by an atmosphere where the students feel that they really are valued as persons.
One of the factors that distinguishes a Christian college from a secular institution is the attention given to and the value placed on spiritual growth and development at the same time it emphasizes academic excellence. Every human being needs to grow and develop intellectually, socially, professionally, emotionally, and spiritually. In the Christian college there are no restrictions to prevent professors and the institutional climate from lifting the students’ sights to look for the highest standard in every area of development. Colleges and universities that emphasize spiritual growth and development alongside intellectual and professional growth and development will be places where a student stands the best chance of becoming all God wants him or her to be. Most colleges and universities are comfortable with the task of imparting information with the hope that the student will absorb some of it and grow intellectually.
Everyone expects also that during the college experience a student will decide on a major and begin preparing for the world of work and thus they will emphasize professional or pre-professional development. The variety of campus activities and services help to address a student’s psychological and social needs with the expectation that the student is going to mature some in his or her social skills. The area of development most often neglected is the area of spiritual growth. Wouldn’t it be tragic to invest four or five critical years of your life developing the foundations to become intellectual and professional and end up being morally and spiritually deficient because that part of your education was neglected?
A Christian campus takes a variety of approaches to emphasizing and nurturing the growth and development of the spiritual life. College sponsored chapel services, campus ministry sponsored evening worship, Bible studies and mission service projects, are typical of activities at a Christian college or university. Faculty and staff serve as mentors and encouragers to students and often help students work through their search for growing in their walk with God. Frequently God uses those faculty mentors or staff encouragers to help a student come to a deeper understanding of God’s will for his or her life vocationally. Where you choose to go to college may well be one of the most important decisions you will ever make.
A student’s chances of succeeding are greatly enhanced by choosing a school where the characteristics noted here are found. Take your search seriously. Ask the tough questions. Talk to current students as well as to the professional counselors working with you. Your future will be profoundly affected by the college you choose.
International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities
c/o Samford University
P.O. Box 293935
Birmingham, AL 35229
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