What’s Important: Spiritual Atmosphere
There are many factors that can influence your college decision. In our What’s Important series, we are unpacking seven common factors parents and students tell us are influential when they are choosing a university. This series will also provide resources for your college search based on the factors that are most important to you. Today’s factor is Spiritual Atmosphere.
Finding a school with the right spiritual atmosphere is a lot like finding a church. The right place for you will align with your core beliefs and provide an environment that will encourage you to grow in your faith. Both doctrine and a personal sense of connection are going to be important to you if spiritual atmosphere is your top factor for choosing a college or university.
Start by researching the school’s doctrine using documents readily available on the school’s website such as a statement of faith and a community life agreement. These documents will tell you what the school teaches and how they expect students to act while they are enrolled. If the school is connected to a denomination, research what that denomination believes. Many schools enroll students from any denomination, but the relationship between the school and its denomination can tell you more about the stance the school takes on issues that matter to you.
Keep in mind, though: If you plan to base your decision solely on the school’s doctrine, you are going to find that many excellent evangelical Christian schools look the same on paper. Most Christian schools consider themselves Christ-centered. Most prepare students to live out their calling, whether that is full-time ministry, business entrepreneurship, or cancer research, by providing a high-quality education. And most have a spiritual formation plan incorporated into the fabric of student life (chapel services, prayer groups, Bible studies, spiritual mentorships, etc.) to meet students where they are and encourage them to grow into who God called them to be. If Christian schools look so similar, how can you find the one that is right for you?
This is why your personal sense of connection to the school is vitally important. Like when you are finding a new church, you should visit (in person if you can), meet people, and imagine yourself actually “doing life” there in order to make a decision. Two students who have the same doctrinal beliefs may feel a strong connection to two different schools, and that is a good thing. At the end of the day, you will have to answer this question for yourself: Based on all that you have seen from this school and experienced during the admissions process, is this an environment where you — you, specifically — will thrive?
What to look for on a college website
- A statement of faith
- A description of the school’s mission and philosophy (this description often includes details about how the school applies its beliefs in practical ways)
- A community life agreement (sometimes called a covenant, this is the behavioral contract students will be expected to follow while they are enrolled)
- A connection to a church denomination (not every faith-based school has one, but it’s helpful to know one way or the other)
Example questions to ask your admissions counselor
- How does your statement of faith impact campus life?
- Are there any specific religious requirements or expectations for students?
- How do you integrate faith into academic programs?
- Are there any Bible, theology, or Christian doctrine courses included in the general education/core curriculum for all students?
- How do you support students' spiritual and personal growth?
What to look for on your college visit
- Attend a chapel service if one is available
- Ask the students and professors you meet about the spiritual atmosphere on campus and how they incorporate faith into their studies
Links to HU resources related to spiritual atmosphere
“Huntington University allowed me to build strong relationships that last for life. The professors have made a great impact on who I am and how I interact with others. My faith drastically changed in college and cultivated so much growth in my relationship with the Lord. Huntington stretched and molded me in a way that allows God to work more freely in my occupation and life.”