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A Decision to Stay Home for College

My family, friends and ecclesia have been the biggest source of comfort and encouragement in my time in higher education.
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I’m a senior in university, with one year left for my BA and another for my teaching credential. I spent my first two years at a local community college and then transferred to my current university, which is within an hour’s drive from my home and thirty minutes from my ecclesial hall.

When deciding where I wanted to attend university, there were a few spiritual factors that were important to my choice. The first of these was a desire to minimize my debt; in my specific situation, I would have incurred more debt attending a private school than a local state-funded institution.

I also chose to attend a community college before transferring to my current university for the same reason. Community colleges can often be treated as “lesser” than universities, but this was not my experience. We had professors who taught at both local private and state-run universities, teaching the exact same classes at the community college to a smaller class for a fraction of the price.

My entire 2 years at this school cost less than a single semester at the university I transferred to—and it allowed me to continue to live at home and save more. While this might not initially seem like a spiritual consideration, I was concerned that starting my adult life with more debt than necessary would impact my spiritual health.

I wanted to have more freedom to attend ecclesial events and to not have to worry so much about repaying those loans. Debt is a distraction I wanted to live without as much as possible. For me personally, staying local and choosing schools that were less expensive but still well respected in my field was very beneficial.

The second spiritual consideration that I kept in mind when deciding whether to stay local for university or go farther away was ecclesial proximity. My parents always modelled service and connection, and I feel (and felt) very involved in my faith.

I immediately ruled out any universities that were not within a reasonable commuting distance, no matter how appealing the school was. A two-hour commute to meeting and CYC looks okay when it’s on paper, but it’s a lot harder to stick to when it’s finals season and you have work on Monday, and you could just stay home instead. I did not want to be tempted to lessen my involvement with the ecclesia.

The final spiritual factor for my decision to stay local was proximity to my family and my “spiritual support network.” I would say that this was the most important factor in my decision.

My family, friends and ecclesia have been the biggest source of comfort and encouragement in my time in higher education. In the classroom, school and worldly views can become all-consuming, all-important, and attractive. I decided to dedicate my life to following Christ, and that should always take precedence over my academic career and should impact all my choices.

It can be hard to remember that when you’re in school, and I have found that a good spiritual support network is crucial to keeping my priorities in check. Staying local kept me with that established spiritual support. My advice to young people trying to make this decision for themselves:

1) Be honest with yourself. If you know deep down that you will likely be tempted by certain things, or struggle to make that extra-long commute to an ecclesia, or be entirely away from an ecclesia, be honest about it and make decisions accordingly.

2) Remember that school is not as important as your spiritual health. It is four to eight years of your life, and no matter how fun or challenging or even career-shaping academia is, it is not the eternity promised through God’s Word.

3) Whatever you do, wherever you choose, choose somewhere where you will have a strong spiritual support system and you will grow in your faith. For some, that’s local— for others, it’s away from home. It may be different for all of us, but never underestimate the power of fellowship with like-minded people.

Kate Russell,
Verdugo Hills, CA

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