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The Christian College Code

Considering a Christian college or university but not really sure what it's like? Keep reading...

Considering a Christian college or university but not really sure what it’s like? Keep reading...

Choosing a college is one of the biggest decisions a young person can make. In many cases, it can determine your future career, friends, and even family. There is no shortage of good schools to choose from, and this can make the process overwhelming at times. How do you know which one is right for you?

One of the first choices for high school students to consider is whether they want to attend a Christian college or a secular school. Prioritizing what is most important to you can help determine whether a Christian college is the right fit. And while many factors go into selecting a college or university, there are a few that make Christian schools stand out.

Related: The Advantages of Choosing a Christian College

Christian-specific majors

Even at a young age, students can feel called into the ministry. If this is the case for you, then a Christian college is the way to go. If you want to become a pastor or attend seminary after college, only Christian colleges can offer you majors specific to those fields of study.

Maddi Sullivan just finished her freshman year at Missouri Baptist University (MBU). She wants to be a worship leader after she graduates, so she is majoring in Worship Leadership.

Originally she wasn’t planning to go to college and considered moving to Nashville to try to make it as a songwriter. But after she toured Missouri Baptist’s campus the summer before her senior year of high school, all of that changed. “I just felt like that was what I needed at that point in my life,” Sullivan says. “I prayed about it and felt like it was where God wanted me right now; it was a gateway into what’s next.”

Sullivan has already led worship at several camps over the summer and does the same for churches in the St. Louis area on the weekends during the school year. “There’s always an opportunity to get hands-on experience in whatever you want to do,” Sullivan says. “Your talents don’t go to waste.”

Sometimes a specific academic interest can only be explored at a Christian school, even if you aren’t necessarily looking to go into a full-time Christian vocation. Senior Matt Williams, a Communication Studies major, took two semesters of Biblical Greek at MBU to help enhance his study of scripture.

“I realize that’s not something I would be able to do at a secular school,” Williams says. “It matured how I learned, if nothing else, and if I picked up a Greek Old Testament, I could still work my way through it.”

Spiritual environment

The idea of going to college with a group of like-minded students with a shared belief system may be very attractive to you. It can make a scary, uncertain time in life a little more comforting to know that you’re going into the situation with some common ground.

“Everyone at MBU views everything through the lens of the gospel,” Williams says. “As a Christian you need to be loving, but they don’t force the message; you just tend to respond to it if you are a believer.”

Christian Robinson is a senior Public Relations major at Missouri Baptist. He was looking for a Christian university and transferred in as a junior. Both of his sisters and his brother-in-law attended the school, and his parents met and married while they were both students at another Christian school.

Robinson’s father is a youth pastor, and his parents made lifelong friends during their time in college. Their positive experience at a Christian college helped lead him to his decision to attend one as well. “[It’s] just a close-knit community that really cares about your personal and spiritual development and academics—when college is an easy time to stray away from your faith,” Robinson says.

Smaller size

Most Christian schools are smaller than secular colleges. The smaller size can help students get the personal attention and support they need, which can be especially helpful if they are from a small town or went to a smaller high school.

But even though the schools may be small, you’ll also find Christian colleges and universities near large cities and/or large secular schools, which can add diversity and opportunity to the college experience. In the case of Missouri Baptist, students are able to live in a major city like St. Louis but still have the small community feel of being in a group of like-minded believers on campus. Only about 400 of Missouri Baptist’s students live on campus.

Williams first fell in love with the city of St. Louis when he was a nine-year-old cancer patient being treated at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. He grew up in a Christian family in a small town in southern Illinois a little more than two hours away from his college. “It was just a beautiful match, pairing St. Louis with Christian studies,” says Williams, who is now a 10-year cancer survivor.

Smaller schools also mean smaller class sizes. And smaller class sizes have definite advantages. Williams’ favorite thing about going to a small school is how accessible the professors are. He is friends with a couple of Communication professors on Facebook and can message them knowing he will get a response.

“I can pop into their office to see them at any time,” Williams says. “I get the advantage of their connections, education, expertise, and experience, and that is invaluable. I greatly benefit from that.

“It’s cliché,” Williams adds. “But they really do care.”

Similarly, since Robinson transferred, he has had the same two professors for most of his major course work and has been able to develop bonds and relationships with them. Both of those professors are also helping him develop professionally.

“I enjoy working with professors and other students who really have a focus,” Robinson says. “They are interested in personal development—not just interested in getting us in and out of their class. I don’t believe I would have had that experience at a bigger university.”

Is it time to decide?

If you are in the process of choosing a college, or if you plan on making that major decision soon, remember that it doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Take the time to sit down and prioritize what is most important to you in a school.

Are you seriously considering a Christian vocation? Do you want to spend your four years of college learning and growing in a spiritual environment? Or are you simply someone who would benefit from smaller class sizes and direct access to professors? If so, a Christian college may be the best fit for you.

Related: How to Find the Christian College for You

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