Deciding which college to attend can be a tough choice. In fact, when the time arrives to begin thinking of potential schools, you’ll have dozens of factors to consider: the cost of tuition, room, and board; the distance from home; the availability of majors; and the size of the school are just a few of many things to think about!
There are several types of educational institutions out there— you’ve most likely heard of community colleges, research universities, Ivy League schools, and tech schools— but religious colleges are another type of school that plenty of students consider. Many people decide to attend a religious college because they grew up attending a private religious school and would prefer to stay in a similar environment once they reach the college level; others simply choose to attend religious colleges for various personal reasons.
In the United States, Christian colleges are the most common type of religious college. They typically integrate the faith associated with the school—for example, the Catholic faith or the Lutheran faith—into their curriculum. Aside from religious courses, such as those dealing with the history of the religion itself, the majority of regular academic classes also have some sort of religious direction involved.
Religious colleges are typically more conservative than traditional colleges and universities. They often have policies or standards in place in regards to things such as abstinence, alcohol consumption, and participation in church services. Students must agree to follow these rules.
Student organizations on the campus of religious colleges often include missionary groups, community service groups, and various worship groups. It doesn’t mean that other types of student groups cease to exist; there are just a lot more religion-centered activities which take place at religious colleges—Notre Dame is a religious college and it’s certainly known for its football team! Some religious schools do not allow co-ed dorm buildings, and most have restrictions as to when members of the opposite sex can visit one another in their dorms. Some enforce dress codes.
Although some religious colleges are rather small, large and medium-sized religious schools do exist: Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah has over 30,000 students and Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana has approximately 8,000 undergraduates.
The decision to attend any college or university is a personal one, but students decide to attend religious schools for multiple reasons. A lot of Christian colleges are small in size, and some students simply prefer the smaller class sizes and individual instruction that they’ll be able to receive, as opposed to the common auditorium-size classes that are found at most state schools. Many students who grew up attending religious schools admit that they would feel overwhelmed at a larger college.
Students often enjoy being around others who share their beliefs and opinions on religious matters. Spirituality is often a very large part of some students’ lives, and they just prefer to attend a school which is religion-centered.
Students also decide on religious colleges for the same reasons that students decide to attend schools that are not affiliated with a particular religion: it is close to home, it is the school where a family member attended, or perhaps the school offered them a scholarship!
With the popularity of online education, it’s no surprise that many Christian colleges have begun offering online degree programs. A recent USA Today article claims that Christian colleges are flourishing in the distance education arena: The question facing universities looking to compete in the booming market for online higher education is not so much how to do it, but how to distinguish themselves from the rest. In this, Christian universities appear to have a built-in advantage. And many are seizing the opportunity to expand their footprint.
A big question that people are asking is whether or not a Christian university can actually provide the same “religious character” in its online students as it can in its residential students. Most online colleges feel that they can, and many of them even provide live streams of their chapel services over the internet so students can view from the comfort of their own home.
Contrary to popular belief, non-Christians can attend Christian colleges, but they would have to complete the same academic programs as every other student—including those which deal with religion. If religion-centered courses would make someone feel uncomfortable, it might wind up being an awkward situation for them.
Choosing the college or university which is right for you is a personal decision—whether or not your spiritual beliefs play a part in your decision is entirely up to you!
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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