When you’re a college-bound student, you’ve got a lot of decisions to make. If you’re a Christian student, you’ve got one more factor to consider: whether to go to a faith-based school or choose a secular college.
For some students, it’s a no-brainer. A Christian college is the way to go. It’s comfortable, easy, and feels much more like home in many ways. You’ll be surrounded with people who share your faith, your values and your views.
Advantages of a Christian College
There are definitely benefits to a Christian college—for starters, you’ve got the perks of a private school, with small classes, more personal attention and a collaborative spirit. In fact, you’ll find many Christian schools that share the four pillars of our Colleges of Distinction: Engaged Students, Great Teaching, Vibrant Community and Successful Outcomes.
Where a Christian college or university really shines is outside the classroom. You’ll be part of a larger campus community that’s compatible with your beliefs. From dorm life to small-group fellowships to community service, Christian colleges focus on integrating faith and learning. It’s a cliché, but often true: the friends you make in college are friends for life. So the odds are pretty good that you’ll find people you can easily relate to, and that goes for dating as well!
Another bonus of the smaller size of these Christian schools is that you’ll really get to know the faculty and staff. If you’re away from home for the first time, a cozy campus means that you’ll be less likely to “fall through the cracks.” Faculty and administrators at Christian colleges often go out of their way to ensure that first year students aren’t lost in the crowd. They offer programs to help with the transition away from home. Large Christian universities are usually a tenth of the size of a state’s public university. Abilene Christian University in Texas, with its undergraduate student body of 4,600, is considered to be among the larger Christian universities, and yet it is still relatively small compared to many public and even private institutions.
Whether in a big city or smaller town, the vibe on a Christian campus is decidedly more wholesome. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty to do! There will be just as many clubs, guest speakers and music and cultural events—they’ll just be more in line with Christian values and principles. For some students, this is exactly what they need—fewer distractions from the outside world—so they can dig down, engage in their studies, and get the most out of their college experience.
You’ll find that Christian colleges are just as highly ranked as many secular colleges. For example, in addition to being on our list of Colleges of Distinction, Taylor College in Indiana is top ranked for its affordability, low levels of debt, graduation rates and freshmen retention numbers.
Excel in Education
Of course, what really separates the Christian from the secular college is what happens in the classroom. Classes are taught from a biblical worldview—which means that God is the source of truth in mathematics, science, history, and all other disciplines. Prospective students can find out more about faculty and their research interests on each college’s website. Gordon College in Massachusetts has an online column, “Faith + Ideas =” written by faculty and administrators that offers a glimpse into their intellectual interests from a Christian perspective.
Perhaps more than most secular colleges, Christian college’s community service plays an integral part in every student’s educational experience. Both on and off campus, there are ministries to engage students in the work of Christ. At Westmont College in California, the list of student ministries runs the gamut from addressing issues of global social injustice to knitting blankets for the homeless. Putting faith into action may also include trips and missions, many of which are international. At Messiah College in Pennsylvania, more 60% of its students study abroad, with international programs on every continent. And at Calvin College in Michigan, many of their courses include a service-learning component—putting into action what you learn in the classroom. So students in a Computer Science class might help the homeless through technology, while students majoring in Education may provide ESL tutoring services.
When you choose a faith-based college or university, there won’t be a shortage of opportunities for you to grow spiritually. There are bible study groups, worship services, service projects, and even daily chapel at some schools. And while each school is affiliated with a religion, and that faith will predominate, not all students will be of a single religion. For example, at Bethel College in Kansas, the school is affiliated with the Mennonite Church USA, and although Mennonites represent the single largest denomination at the school, more than half of the students come from other backgrounds. However, if you are searching for a college that more closely follows the tenets of your faith, you’ll find it! For example, if you belong to the Church of the Nazarene, there are many schools affiliated with the Church, including Olivet Nazarene in Illinois and Northwest Nazarene in Idaho.
Faith-based colleges expand a student’s worldview with Christian principles and ideas, and prepare both your heart and your mind for success. However, not all students have the same needs, not even all Christian students. For some students, a secular college with a multi-faith community will have more appeal.
For many, though, a Christian college or university with Christ at its center will allow them to integrate their faith with the real world. Just as with secular schools, choose the Christian college or university that offers the faculty and resources to provide you with serious preparation for entry into a respected graduate program or a competitive job market.