The Advantages of a Christian (or faith-based) College Education
If your faith is an active part of your life, religious institutions of higher learning can help you to foster your spirituality by surrounding you with like minded individuals (many also offer majors such as ministry if you are looking to create a career of faith). A religiously affiliated college can help you to adhere to the type of lifestyle you want to live by surrounding you with a positive cultural environment. This can prove to be a wonderful source of community while you are on campus. On the other hand, part of what makes the college years so transformational is the opportunity afforded to you to interact with people with ideas, backgrounds, and beliefs different from your own. Christian colleges are certainly not homogenous, but you are going to find more people there who come from a background similar to your own sharing many of the same views of the world as you do. It's a delicate balance between pushing yourself to grow and learn from people whose ideas you have never encountered and finding the sense of community that will make you feel at home on campus.
How do I Know if a Christian College is Right For Me?
The best advice about whether any school is a good fit for you is the same, whether we are considering a religious component or not. Get on campus. Talk to students. Visit the centers of worship, youth groups, or Bible studies. If you know you want to be a part of a community of faith in college, check out the options the college offers to fulfill that need. But here's something else to consider: most schools, whether they are religious or not, will have communities of faith within them. Don't rule a school out just because it isn't religious--check out the options for pursuing your faith first and then decide if those options are what you are looking for. Furthermore, don't assume a religiously affiliated school will have what you are looking for in a religious community. Different schools integrate religion into their academics, student life, and other services in different ways. Start by checking a school's mission statement. This will give you an idea of just how much religion is incorporated into the school's culture, academics, athletics, and social life. Then get on campus and spend some quality time checking out the vibe to be sure it's what you are looking for (or not looking for).
What is College Like at a Faith-Based Institution?
As with most things college-related, the answer to this question is a resounding "it depends". Some schools will heavily integrate religious beliefs into their academia. Your papers, midterms, and presentations may require you to consider what you have learned from a Christian point of view. For example, my sister is pursuing a Master of Nursing from Azusa Pacific University in California. She just wrote a paper about providing care for patients in a way that honors her Christian faith, according to the guidelines of the assignment. But not all Christian colleges bring faith into the classroom and instead provide student services which foster spiritual growth.
For example, here's what Baylor says about it's commitment to religion: "At Baylor, we celebrate our distinctive place in higher education - where research, scholarship and faith guide the mind in understanding the complex diversity of God's creation and prepare the whole person for service and leadership."
You'll notice that is quite different than the information Southern Methodist University provides about the role it gives religion on campus: "SMU was founded by what is now The United Methodist Church, in partnership with civic leaders, and was shaped by the entrepreneurial spirit of the region. The University is nonsectarian in its teaching and committed to academic freedom and open inquiry."
The way schools incorporate religion is unique to each institution, which is a great thing because it means there's a school out there that offers you the experience you are looking for. You just have to find it! We can help with that part, because we know that finding the right fit in a school makes all the difference in your college experience and beyond.
Want More Information? Try These.
- http://www.cccu.org/: Council for Christian Colleges and Universities
- http://www.hillel.org/: Hillel guide to Jewish life on campus
- www.ajcunet.edu/areas/ji/members.asp: Association of Jesuit Catholic Colleges and Universities
- http://www.lutherancolleges.org/: Lutheran Educational Conference of North America
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