At 6:30 am Wednesday morning, I walked into the school building to find ten slightly blurry-eyed students waiting to pile into the van I had just retrieved. We were getting ready to embark on a whirlwind tour of two colleges. The plan was to leave at 6:45 am and travel to Grace College in Winona Lake, IN, for the morning, and then spend the afternoon at Bethel College in Mishawaka, IN.
Grace College in Winona Lake
We pulled out of the school parking lot at 6:48 am. I have to say, I was pretty proud that we had gotten eleven people situated and ready to go almost on time. After a two hour drive, we arrived at the visitor center of Grace College. The visitor center and admissions office are located in a beautiful old building, complete with squeaky wood floors! The people at Grace were delightful and wonderfully friendly to 10 just-waking-up students, and 1 road-weary adult. While at Grace, we were able to take a tour of the beautiful campus, attend an awesome chapel that got us all thinking, and eat a great lunch in their very busy cafeteria. It was neat to me to be able to observe the students open up and ask questions about the college and to really start to investigate if it was a college that they would want to attend. I was able to tell that they were really interested the college visit itself and not just getting out of school for a day. :)
Bethel College in Mishawaka
After lunch at Grace, we hit the road again and traveled an hour northwest to Bethel College. The students immediately began to comment on the differences between the two campuses. Grace’s college campus is spread out, while Bethel’s is a more condensed campus. Each student had a different opinion on what campus he or she liked better. While at Bethel, we were able to find out more about the campus, take a campus tour, and eat an early dinner with Morgan Foxa (a recent Faith graduate). Early in the afternoon, many of the students wanted to stay to watch Morgan’s last volleyball game of the season, but by the time we packed up the van to hit the road, I had 10 weary, information-filled travelers with me!
So how do you choose which one is right?
As the students and I were talking about the differences and similarities between the two schools, the thought came to me that there are some decisions students need to make when choosing which school they will attend.
One of the similarities that Grace and Bethel both have is that the school is a close, tight-knit, family-like community. One of the disadvantages of a large campus with a large student body is that it can be easy to lose that sense of community among the student body.
Students also need to decide how much student/professor interaction they are looking to have. A student who struggles academically will probably benefit from attending a smaller college or university where there is a high level of student/professor interaction. At Bethel, they even talked about the professors coming out and playing intermural dodgeball with students!
Location can play a big part in the college that a student chooses. Some students will want to stay close to home and family, while others will want to experience being far, far away.
While location, community, and student/professor ratio are all important, it is very important to research the beliefs and teachings of the school and make sure that the beliefs line up with what each student is looking for. Sometimes students will end up at schools where they will have to really make sure to filter what is taught through the lens of Scripture, but that is not a bad thing! Students must realize that what they are taught at every school needs to be analyzed through the lens of Scripture, but at some schools students will need to be extra vigilant.
The other very important question to take into consideration is “does the school offer a good program in what I want to study.” Ultimately the goal of attending college is to learn a trade or skill so that a student can graduate, get a job and earn a living. The student can analyze all the other aspects, but if the college does not offer the course of study that the student is looking to pursue, it is not the right college!
Choosing a college can be a daunting task, but if students approach it by looking to answer some of the big questions, it might become a little easier!