The most important factor in choosing a school should not be the academic excellence or other attributes of a college, but rather where will the student best thrive in their walk in Christ.
I chose to stay at home with my parents and go to a local university. It was the better place for me to be spiritually. Staying home and keeping my ecclesial and family life unchanged served as an anchor for me as I navigated the choppy waters of college life.
Just because I stayed at home for college does not mean it is impossible to move away to college and stay spiritually strong, but in general, I believe that moving away to an out-of-town school will be more challenging for a young person to stay strong in their faith.
The college years are an intense time of discovery where young adults come of age and learn a great deal about themselves and the world; adding in a new home away from family and the home ecclesia, surrounded by fellow college students who do not share their religious convictions and the strong spirit of humanism that pervades university life, increases the likelihood that they will lose faith.
When looking at Christadelphians I grew up with (I’m 27), it seems clear that those that moved away to college had a higher rate of leaving our community. The lure of the world pulled strong during their formative years in college. For peers of mine that did move away for school, those that have stayed part of our Christadelphian community had one common factor: they chose schools in places with a local ecclesia they could be connected to.
If a student is going to move away to go to school somewhere new, it is critical to choose somewhere that has an ecclesia that they will remain active in. They need that anchor in their life, especially when being immersed in what can be such a godless environment.
But I’ve sadly observed that many who moved away to a school with wonderful local ecclesias slowly became less active and stopped attending altogether during their college years, so it does seem that for most this path is more fraught with temptations of the world than remaining at home.
It should also be pointed out that not everyone has a good spiritual environment at home, and for those people uprooting to a new place may be beneficial. For instance, my wife left behind a spiritually challenging home life and moved to a school with a great local ecclesia and an active youth group which helped her commit to Christ.
From an academic point of view, my college education certainly was not anything impressive: I went to a local community college, followed by a local state university. Many young people strive to attend a prestigious university with a stellar academic reputation, and while that is not necessarily a bad thing, there are more important factors in what school one chooses to attend than academic superiority.
In fact, from my research, the relationship between how elite one’s school is and career/financial success is ambiguous, especially when considering the typically higher cost of attendance. The most important factor in choosing a school should not be the academic excellence or other attributes of a college, but rather where will the student best thrive in their walk in Christ.
For many people, the college years will be the most important years of their life in determining who they become as adults.
Choosing a local school that allowed me to stay at home was a great decision for me. I believe it will be the best decision for most young people. But regardless of whether the choice is made to stay at home or relocate, the most important factor should be the spiritual well-being of the college student.
Choosing to either stay at home or attend a school that has a local ecclesia that will be an anchor to the young person is critical. Don’t just consider the academic ramifications of what college to attend. Consider the spiritual impact as well.