If you are a Christian student, and you’re beginning to put together a list of potential colleges to consider, here is some advice.
First, make sure you give strong consideration to a Christian college. I am a high school counselor, and my advice to my Christian students is this: If you are serious about your faith, you should plan to attend a college that takes your faith seriously unless you feel a specific calling somewhere else. All counselors (Christian or not) encourage their students to select a college that’s a good fit. For a Christian student, a good fit will be a college that includes a spiritual perspective into its academic discussion.
We counselors also strongly recommend that our students make a campus visit to the colleges they are most serious about. This should be an overnight visit (staying in a residence hall) and should include a meal in the dining hall, attending a class, plenty of interaction with current students, and, if possible attending a Chapel service.
Why a Chapel service? Here’s why. You’re looking at finding a college where you feel you belong, and the spiritual climate is a key part of it. Each college has its own approach to its Chapel program. Some colleges require attendance at Chapel; others make attendance optional. Some Chapels are more like worship services; others may be more academic in their format. Even elements like the music, the level of student participation, and the topics and speakers will be different from one Christian college to another.
Chapel is not a replacement for involvement in a local church. But it is an important component of the college experience. To me, the Chapel “style” is not as important as the level of student engagement. I’ve attended college Chapels where attendance was required – at some, the students seemed unengaged, while at others, there was a high level of engagement. I’ve also attended colleges where Chapel is voluntary. At some, virtually the entire student body attended, with high engagement. But I also recall attending one where there were only about 50 students in attendance – a terribly small percentage of the student body. I left the service highly disappointed, because I felt that this minimal participation was an indicator of the overall level of spiritual engagement of the student body.
So make visits to the top colleges on your list. Try to make those visits as thorough and insightful as you possibly can, and this includes attending a Chapel if at all possible. It will help you find a college that’s an excellent fit.