College-bound students take a variety of things into consideration when deciding where they want to go to school. Cost is a major factor, as are location and size. Many students know they want to attend a Christian college or religious college. Some non-secular schools are affiliated with particular faiths while others place a very heavy emphasis on faith and religion.
It’s not uncommon for students to transfer colleges after realizing the school just wasn’t a good fit after all. Here are five things to think about if you’re on the fence about enrolling at a religious school:
Accreditation helps ensure academic quality and accountability. Schools must meet the standards that are determined by accrediting organizations. Colleges and universities as a whole are generally by regional or national accrediting boards, such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Programs or degrees offered at the schools are usually accredited by licensing boards, such as the National Association of Schools of Music.
Not all accreditation is equal. Regionally accredited colleges generally accept transfer credits from other regionally accredited schools, but many do not recognize credits earned at nationally accredited colleges. It’s important to learn about any potential college’s accreditation. Would credits transfer elsewhere if you wound up leaving the school?
Just how strong are your spiritual beliefs? Are they an incredibly important aspect of your life? If you’re considering an education that places emphasis on religion only because your parents are encouraging it, this type of school may not be right for you.
American culture has changed dramatically over the past few decades. More LGBT students are “out” than ever before but many religious colleges consider homosexuality wrong or immoral. Some deny students access to birth control as a method of promoting abstinence.
Do you accept these things? You might think you do now, but college is usually a time of change. A 2012 Huffington Post article reports that many college students and graduates place less emphasis on religion now than they did before college because their spiritual outlooks changed during school.
Christian colleges are often known for their rather strict codes of conduct. Alcohol and tobacco are commonly forbidden, even for students of legal age. Males and females might not be allowed in one another’s dorm rooms after a certain hour, if they are allowed at all.
In addition to policies regarding drinking and sex, many religious colleges also enforce dress codes on campus. You may not be allowed to wear certain types of clothing in public or in your own dorm room. Certain types of music, movies, TV shows and books may be forbidden. Church attendance and community service might be required; your grades could suffer if you do not attend or participate per school policies.
Most religious colleges are much smaller than a large state university, which means smaller class sizes. If the college has just a few hundred students and offers a limited number of majors, there’s a good chance you will be interacting and living with the same core group of people on a daily basis.
It’s not to say that students don’t have fun during college, but keep in mind that many behaviors are not tolerated and can lead to suspension or expulsion.
Websites, brochures, admissions representatives and campus tour guides have a tendency to glorify colleges. After all, the school wants you! While organized tours are a great way to see and learn more about the colleges that you’re interested in attending, be sure to do some exploring on your own. Sit in on a class or two and speak with current students.
The cafeteria or other common areas are great places to meet “regular” people rather than students who work in the admissions office. Chat with someone and tell him or her that you’re considering the college and want to know more.
If your faith is important to you but you feel a secular college is the better choice, consider joining a religious organization on campus or forming a new one.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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