Leaving for college doesn’t mean you have to leave your faith behind at home. And, choosing a faith-centered college over a public university doesn’t automatically mean your faith during college will strengthen.
Everyone knows that college has many distractions. Studying. Parties. Events. Travel. Relationships. It is easy to push aside the faith community of your youth. The years spent in college are a perfect opportunity for you to explore your faith and continue to grow spiritually. In fact, some students who did not grow up in a faith-centered family seek out spirituality and decide to join a faith group.
Faith During College
Within faith-centered groups you often will find students who share similar values such as helping others. This could lead to a community service project that is fun and a learning experience. Or, perhaps you like the idea of your peers praying for you when you are experiencing a lot of stress. Speaking of prayer, you just might find that you cherish those moments of quiet solitude and reflection that prayer offers.
As a Jewish student at a Catholic university Carlin Coffey writes in her article for the ReformJudiasm.org blog that she has discovered how to grow as a Jew while attending Loyola University Chicago. “Possessing a viewpoint that differs from the majority paves the way for me to teach others about Judaism and Jewish values. … Learning about another religion can be a pathway to deepening your relationship with your own faith,” she writes. “These days, when I’m asked what it is like to attend a Jesuit university as a Jew, I respond, ‘It is more Jewish than I ever would have imagined.’ Sure, there are crosses instead of mezuzot on the doors. But I’ve grown as a Jew by finding common ground in religious values, promoting interfaith harmony, and teaching others what I cherish in my own tradition.”
Finding Your Way
• In his book Faith At State (InterVarsity Press), author Rick Kennedy describes the big state university as more like a small town than a big city. He advises Christian students to seek out a campus fellowship group and a local church. Kennedy offers thoughts to help guide you in faith during college.
• A great resource for students and parents is the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding’s College Transition Initiative. The focus is encouraging and inviting students, parents and youth workers to have more meaningful conversations about life after high school — even during a gap year. Find blogs, articles, expert interviews, conferences and events, books and more on the website. Go to www.collegetransitioninitiative.com.
• The Christian College Guide offers a number of suggestions in its article, “How to Grow Spiritually in College”. Whether you are visiting campuses as part of your search or in college, learn what faith-based community groups are on campus. Ask students where they go to church or practice their faith during college. Get involved as soon as possible. “I think the most important thing for students to do when they first get to college is to find fellowship groups. That peer support is crucial in fostering spiritual accountability and growth,” said Stan Keehlwetter, dean of the chapel at Grove City College in Grove City, Penn.
More and more families are relying on positive and solid advise as they start on the college search. Practicing faith during college is a concern to students and parents as well. Independent college consultants (IECs), sometimes called college coaches, are in a unique position to guide families in a comprehensive college search–finding colleges that truly fit your student in academic goals, social connection, career guidance, and faith values. It can be vastly helpful to turn to an IEC to learn what colleges will likely provide the balance of challenge and support you seek in developing your faith during college. Visit us at MyCollegePlanningTeam.com for an introduction.