Should non-Christians go to Christian Colleges?

Christian colleges come in all shapes and sizes, from highly observant religious institutions to largely secular schools steeped in Christian history and tradition. As you seek the right school, it’s entirely possible that your search will lead you to a Christian college. But what if you aren’t Christian? Should you still consider attending a Christian college? And if so, what must you know before making this decision?

Should non-Christians go to Christian Colleges?

If you are actively searching for a Christian learning experience, jump right to our look at:

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If you’d like to learn more before enrolling at a religious college, read on…

What is a Christian college?

A Christian school is a private college or university with an affiliation to a particular church and denomination. This religious affiliation and its private status means that a Christian college is not beholden to the same rules separating church and state at public colleges and universities. This gives Christian colleges fairly wide latitude when it comes to the integration of faith and learning.

As a result, Christian college can actually come in a wide variety. Some may base their curriculum, campus life, and pedagogical approach on faith-based education whereas others may be generally secular in their approach to higher education while maintaining a historical affiliation with a church or denomination. There are also many Christian colleges that fall somewhere in the middle, offering a balance of opportunities for faith-based experiences and secular learning. The type of Christian school you attend can have a profound impact on your college experience so it’s important to choose a setting that makes sense for you.

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Why would a non-Christian enroll in a Christian school?

The primary reason a non-Christian might enroll in a Christian college is because it may be a good academic, financial, and cultural match regardless of its religious affiliation.

The primary reason a non-Christian might enroll in a Christian college is because it may be a good academic, financial, and cultural match regardless of its religious affiliation.”

Indeed, matching up with the right college or university is challenging. You must consider a lot of overlapping factors including your intended degree, academic reputation, faculty engagement, class size, campus atmosphere, cost, and access to financial assistance. It’s entirely possible that this combination of factors ultimately leads you to a school with a Christian identity or tradition.

In addition to the fact that the school in question may notch all the boxes on your checklist, attending a Christian school could provide you with access to a diversity of perspectives. This can open channels to discourse, discovery, and personal growth as you interface with a different worldview than your own.

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Do you have to be Christian to go to a Christian college?

Whether you must actually be Christian to attend a Christian college will differ from one school to the next. Some do not require their students to adhere to the Christian faith while it may be a guiding principle for other Christian colleges.

Naturally, you must first find out if the Christian schools on your list are open and accessible to non-Christians. Most Christian colleges require faculty to sign “commitment of faith” statements, but the same is not always true for the student body. Many Christian schools offer access and opportunity for secular students.

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Can you get an online degree from a Christian college?

You can get an online degree from many Christian colleges, which can be a great option for non-Christians who have chosen a Christian school for reasons other than its religious affiliation.

If your best academic and financial match is a Christian school, but you aren’t sure the campus experience is the right atmosphere for you, you may consider pursuing an online degree. Many fully accredited Christian schools offer online degrees for students who prefer remote learning to the campus setting. If you are interested in a specific Christian school because of its academic rigor, faculty, degree options, and reputation, as opposed to its faith-based approach to the college experience, the online program may give you the chance to focus on its secular educational offerings.

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What is campus life like at the Christian school on your list?

Campus life can differ substantially from one Christian school to the next. Be sure you understand exactly what kind of experience you’ll be signing up for.

Campus life can be a major determinant of whether you will feel comfortable at a Christian college. There is an extremely wide variation of approaches and levels of observance when it comes to Christian colleges. Some maintain strict codes of conduct based around the tenets of Christian faith. Regardless of your religious orientation, as a student on such a campus, it will be incumbent upon you to adhere to these codes of conduct, which may include abstention from drugs and alcohol, abstention from sexual activities, gender-specific housing, the use of certain offending language, nighttime curfews, and in some cases, even rules against facial or body piercings. Some Christian schools may make religious services compulsory as well as certain courses centering on Bible studies or Christian theology.

Campus life can be a major determinant of whether you will feel comfortable at a Christian college. There is an extremely wide variation of approaches and levels of observance when it comes to Christian colleges.”

By contrast, there are many schools with a Christian history or tradition which are otherwise secular in nature. Some schools may encourage optional church service attendance and many will include mandatory Bible studies courses but may otherwise be secular and religiously inclusive in nature. In fact, there are some Christian colleges which actually host an array of student-run organizations for Jewish, Muslim, and other religious groups.

Another core distinction may be the orientation of a given Christian school toward LGBTQ+ students. While there are some Christian schools which impose strict rules prohibiting same-sex relations, there are others which are embracive, inclusive, and provide student-run LGBTQ alliance groups.

Make sure you do your due diligence in researching campus life, the surrounding community, and formal university policies so that you can match up with the best school for you, religious or secular.

And for a closer look at how cultural orientation can shape your campus experience, take a look at Christian Colleges That Resist Political Pandering from Forbes educational writer and guest contributor Mike Nietzel, which examines the dynamics between campus religious affiliation and political orientation.

Of course, you’ll want to conduct pretty extensive research on the campus culture wherever you plan to enroll. Every school is different. Every region is different. This is true whether you plan to attend a Christian school or a secular public college. In either case, your compatibility with the culture and atmosphere will have a profound impact on your experience. You’ll most definitely want to visit every school on your list just to get a sense of the environment, to speak with real students, and, when it comes to Christian colleges, to get a better understanding of how exactly the school’s religious faith is lived out in its community, education, and identity.

To get started on your search, check out our look at The 50 Best Private Colleges and Universities of 2021. Here, you’ll find a selection of both religious and secular schools. Now, if your search yields a school with Christian affiliation, you’ll know what to look for regardless of your religious orientation.

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