How to Look at Christian Colleges and Universities

How to Look at Christian Colleges and Universities

May 19, 2015 / By : / Category : Christian Colleges

Church at Night

Christian Colleges and Universities:

Are they all the same?

The landscape of colleges and universities is far different than at the high school level. There is far more choice. In 2014, the overwhelming majority of high school students attended public schools, 88% or 14.7 million. Private schools, which are generally catholic or protestant, accounted for 9%. Nearly 3% of students were homeschooled.

Millions of students each year take advantage of private colleges.

Colleges and universities are far different in makeup. There are 629 public 4 year institutions with an enrollment of 6,837,605. There are 1,845 private institutions with an enrollment of 4,161,815. The break up of these 11 million students is 62.2% public and 37.8% private. Approximately 26% of students make a shift from public to private education.

Private colleges are both religious and secular. It is easy to spot a secular college, but what about institutions with a religious affiliation? Are they all the same in practice? The short answer is no. (When speaking of Christian colleges I am including both Protestant and Catholic.) If you are considering a Christian college it is important to understand the distinctions so that you choose a school where you’ll feel comfortable.

The Christian College Spectrum

Don’t be mistaken. All Christian colleges are not the same. For the sake of simplicity I have broken all schools into four types of Christian colleges and universities. In reality it’s more of a spectrum, and even varies from professor to professor at many schools.

The most conservative Christian Colleges and Universities require faculty, staff, and students to agree with their statement of faith. Then there are many colleges with strong religious affiliations that require professors and staff to sign a statement of faith, but the student body is a mix of both Christian and non-Christian. Everyone is welcome, but the classroom teaching will be distinctively conservative Christian. Thirdly, there are many schools that were founded by a particular denomination and now either the school or the denomination (or both) have shifted to be socially and religiously liberal. There may still be Bible classes, chapels, and references to Christianity but neither professors nor students are required to agree with a statement of faith, and some may be openly hostile to the school’s roots. Finally, there are schools that were Christian schools when they were founded but there is now no connection to God or faith on campus.

So it’s Christian, What Does that Mean?

Your goal as a prospective student is to find a school where you will feel comfortable and have a great athletic and academic experience. There are enough educational options out there that everyone can find a good fit. Take the time early to pinpoint what type of religious school you are considering and don’t be surprised later.

Here are 10 telling questions:

  1. Is the school asking you to sign a statement of faith or submit a written testimony? This seems like a no brainer, but seriously students lie about this all the time then later realize their mistake. Don’t sign your name to something you don’t believe.
  2. Look at the website. Are there Bible verses or a motto that mentions Christ featured prominently? Do you see them once or multiple times? Is there a Statement of Faith or a Mission Statement? Read it. Are you comfortable with it?
  3. Look at the mailings the school sends you. How often is faith mentioned? Don’t be fooled by one symbol or mention of a Bible verse.
  4. How does the school handle sexual diversity?
  5. Are students required to take Bible classes? Are the courses titled “New Testament Survey” and “Christian Thought”? Or are you finding “Comparative Religion” and “Christianity, Islam, and Judaism”? Do you want to sit through those Bible classes?
  6. Many religious schools still require chapel attendance, both conservative and liberal. When you visit campus ask to sit in on chapel. Look at the chapel schedule for the year, what type of speakers and topics do you see?
  7. Is there a moral code of conduct for students? Many universities, even state schools, will have a dry campus. But many conservative schools will ask you to sign a statement that you will not drink at any time, or use drugs. There may still be some that ask you not to dance – I’m not sure. Be a person of integrity. Find out early what the code of conduct is and make sure you are willing to keep it.
  8. Look at clubs on campus. On a campus visit you can usually find a list of clubs in the Student Life office. Don’t just look at the clubs you might want to join, look at every option. Are there clubs that plan mission trips? Are there advertised clubs contrary to Christian faith?
  9. What denomination is the campus associated with? Ask your admission counselor and students on campus if they know? Does it matter to them? This will give you an indication how involved the church and doctrine of the denomination are in campus life?
  10. When you sit in on a college class what do you see? Do they pray? Does the professor discuss his or her faith while teaching?

Is the Athletic program Christian?

Athletic programs range in their Christianity. You will find some college teams where faith comes first in the lives of the players. Other teams, even on Christian campuses, will be Christians in name only. You will see no evidence of faith.

There are five indicators that will help you to determine the difference.

  1. Does the team have devotions before or after practice?
  2. Does the team pray with the other team after the game?
  3. How do the players interact with each other?
  4. Does the coach mention anything about faith during your campus meeting? If it is important to the coach and the life of the team, the coach will mention it in your meeting.
  5. Do the players do service projects or mission trips?

Feel free to ask both players and coaches these questions.

Finding Where You Belong

This post is for not just for Christians. It is meant to help you no matter where you are on the spectrum of how important God is in your life. When looking at colleges, finding the right fit is important. At private Christian schools, you want to find a school that will fit your values and level of comfort.

Next, take a look at Interview With Indiana Wesleyan Softball Coach.

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Keep in the Conversation,

Bryan Drotar

  • Bryan,

    Good overview and wise advice from someone with first-hand knowledge of a variety of Christian colleges and what to look for. I’m snipping and saving this!

    Related to #1 and #2 under “Telling Questions”, students and their parents might also ask whether faculty are required to sign a statement of faith, and if so, the degree to which they are held accountable to it.

    Students and parents should also feel free to specific questions about the composition of the student body. Colleges keep statistics of almost everything these days. I would be very surprised to hear of any Christian college had absolutely no data about that. For instance, the Christian college where I did my undergrad had pie charts showing the denominations/religions represented by their student body.

    Additionally, if students and their parents know very little about the school due to distance, they might also consider calling up the pastor of a nearby church of their own or a like-minded denomination and asking him about the college. Such a person is likely to have some first-hand knowledge of what the students and faculty are like, insight that glossy flyers will never give prospective students and their parents.

    Thanks for this wise counsel to your student-athlete readers.

  • My family is very strong in the Christian church. It’s in our best interest to find out daughter a good college to go to. I’d love for her to go to a Christian college, but I don’t know anything about their programs. How can I find more information on different colleges?

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