College is likely the most significant personal investment you will make in your lifetime. Thus, choosing the place where you will invest these precious years is worth serious thought. Here are five suggestions for prayerfully evaluating a potential college:
- Choose a college that takes ‘general education’ seriously. General education, rightly done, is the most important part of a student’s education because it provides the broad conceptual framework upon which all other learning hangs. Choose a college that has a curriculum rather than simply a category for general education. Your freshman and sophomore classes should provide a coherent foundation for more focused studies in the remainder of your program. Get a copy of the college catalog and read the descriptions of its programs.
- Don’t make marketability the top criterion. The trend in modern higher education is to prepare people for a specific ‘job’, oftentimes at the expense of equipping students with the skills that would serve them well in any job. This is painfully ironic, given that most data indicates that college graduates now entering the workforce will occupy a number of different jobs throughout their lifetimes (unlike their parents’ generation). What is more, while the ‘good name’ of a college may get you in the door of employment, it won’t keep you there. A good college should teach you to observe accurately, understand clearly, evaluate fairly, feel intensely, apply wisely, and express helpfully what is true and valuable.1
- Know what makes a college ‘tick’. Delve deeper than the front page of a college’s website or the soundbites from its Twitter feed. What are its core convictions? On what is their pursuit of knowledge and wisdom grounded? Does it draw the connections between different fields of study? Know how a college intends to accomplish the commitments they make to prospective students.
- Examine colleges through their faculty and students. The most accurate picture of a college will emerge through the eyes of these two groups. When you visit a prospective college, pull aside a few students and ask them what their classroom experience is like. Ask them about their personal interaction with faculty. Ask them how they have been inspired or challenged, what they are reading, and they feel like their education has a direction. Corner a professor and ask about the college’s educational strategies, the big-picture vision for its graduates, and his own expectations for his students.
- Most importantly, have in view what you want to be like when you graduate. College is always about more than job preparation. Four years of lectures, discussions, readings, debates, papers, residential life and the multitude of other forces will profoundly shape you, establishing patterns of mind and heart that will impact you for life. It is vital, then, to “consider [that] the main end of [your] life and studies [is to] know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life.”2 At a ‘secular’ college, you’ll have to take more initiative. If the college cultivates wonder and intellectual freedom and creative inquiry, with the help of a solid church, some good resources, and your nose in the Bible, an experience at a secular school can be breathtaking.
We invite you to ask these questions of Bethlehem College. Our institution, our church, and our lives are built on the conviction that the Triune God of Scripture is supreme in all of reality. Our mission and vision flow out of this fundamental conviction. Our unique approach to undergraduate education aims at equipping students with the core knowledge needed to be a widely-read, well-grounded Christian who is equipped to make a difference in today’s global society, whatever major or career path they choose. Our core values, including our discipleship-focused, cohort model of undergraduate education, are shaped by our God-centered view of reality. At BCS, our aim is to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ by equipping men and women to treasure Christ above all things, to grow in wisdom and knowledge over a lifetime, and to glorify God in every sphere of life.
- ^ See John Piper’s “The Earth Is the Lord's: The Supremacy of Christ in Christian Learning” available online at http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/conference-messages/the-earth-is-the-lords-the-supremacy-of-christ-in-christian-learning
- ^ From Rule #2 in “Rules and Precepts, 1646” in the founding documents of Harvard College. The same rule is relayed elsewhere as “the main end of [your] life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ, and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.” Morison, Samuel Eliot. The Founding of Harvard College. Oxford University Press, 1935. p 333.