Saturday, April 24, 2010

College Questions

Blondechick and I sure had a great time visiting Wheaton College.  More accurately, she visited Wheaton; I visited with friends!

And it was probably more helpful to me than sitting on an Old Testament class, because it gave me a chance to process--out loud, which always helps me--some of the decision points we are facing in the coming months.  A big one is whether a Christian college education is worth the cost.

When I was choosing a college, it never ever crossed my mind that I might want to choose a state school or a secular private college.  I think I must have instinctively guessed that if I was going to leave the security of my church and family and become independent, it would be good to be surrounded by Christians as I first spread my wings.  I didn't think of a Christian college as shelter, but as support--like warm, friendly air currents to help me lift off.  Storms may come later on, but you want nice weather when you're first learning to fly!

Of course, I also chose the college I did because I thought the professors there would be academically excellent, and good mentors as well.  I hoped to make Christian friends there that I would have for the rest of my life--which happened!--Papa Rooster included!  I wanted to gain a Christian perspective on the world, and I read so many good books, heard so many good speakers, had so many stimulating conversations that all brought me much further along in my adult faith.

And I see Bantam19 and Blondechick17 and I think of launching them from our home...and I want, for Blondechick especially, what I received.  She wants it too, and the expense seems like a good investment.  But B19 is a more confusing case.

Because of his autism, we're not as certain that he can handle a full course load.  We're also not sure how well he will function independently--whether he can manage time, money and priorities--and we have little sense of what direction to steer him.  There is no clear area that he's gifted in or passionate about that will translate to a career, that we can identify yet.  So it seems unwise financially to start him out in a traditional college setting.  What he wants is to live at home, work and take a few classes in computers, and that seems like a good plan to us.

But are we short-selling him?  If he were able to complete a four-year degree--and surely we could find a school where he could pass classes as he's done successfully all through high school--his options after college would be greater.  He would benefit as much as Blondechick from a Christian environment while he transitions toward independence. 

And there are several potential hitches in our current plan.  One is if he's unable to get a driver's license.  Then how will he get to a job, or get to class?  There are buses, but I'd have to drive him and pick him up at the nearest (not so) bus stop.  He'll attempt to pass the driver's test in June, and God could surely smooth the way before him...but how likely is he to get a job if he can't say that he has a driver's license?  And if he doesn't have a job, what will he do all day?  He'll play around on the computer and watch reruns of Star Trek, if we let him.  So we should keep him busy taking classes, but where?  The local community college?  The local state school?  Maybe it makes more sense to have him live in a dorm and take more classes, if he doesn't have a license or a job...and we're back to the original question of whether the Christian environment is worth the cost?

Lord, you know the plans you have for him, plans to prosper him and not to harm him, plans to give him a hope and a future.  Reveal to us, Lord, what we need to know to put him on the right path.  Go before him and prepare the way--the license, the job, the education--if these are things you have planned for him, and give us the patience, the trust and the faith we need to wait for your timing on these.  And if they are not in Your plans for him, prepare the alternatives--and open our eyes to see them and our ears to hear about them.  Give him direction when he prays, Father.  Help him to hear your voice and follow it.  You made our son.  You love him and you have a future for him.  Help me trust and not be anxious.  Amen.

12 comments:

Jennifer Merck said...

Jeanne, thanks for ruminating on your blog so we can participate : ). I appreciate your thoughtful consideration of the issues. They are a good reminder of the value a Christian college education offers.

When I was making college decisions oh-so-many years ago, I applied to 8 schools. Only one was a Christian school. I didn't get in to a few. I was wait-listed at one. And I got into several, including Wheaton. In the end, the decision was crystal clear to me. And my reasons were similar to yours; I just needed to get there through the application process!

We will be praying for the decisions ahead for all of you.

SC said...

On the Christian v. Secular college aspect -- as a College Chaplain, I can't see much value in the secular arena except for engineering and maybe another super-specialty. I would not send my children to a secular school without an over-abundance of supervision.

Greg+

MomCO3 said...

Jeanne,
More advice you didn't ask for-- =)
I had ana amazing experience of Christian community at a secular school. But it was (God working through) the strong IVCF chapter that made that possible.
Blessings,
Annie

stephseef said...

Annie,

DITTO.

:)

Anonymous said...

Not like you have extra time on your hands, but I recently read a book you might be interested in...

"Sex and the Soul" by Freitas. It's a secular book, but its written by a researcher who interviewed lots and lots of studetns at both Christian and secular schools. Not surprisingly she found that kids at secular schools were much more likely to get caught up in the hook-up culture....

But the flip-side of that is that kids at Evangelical schools simply didn't date at all because dating was seen as so dead-serious. The idea of going on a date was so loaded with meaning, it was like declaring your intention to get married. She has some good insights on how this anti-dating culture is difficult for girls especially. It's probably not a good book for BC, but as someone who will be supporting her, you might find it interesting.

Jen in Seattle

At A Hen's Pace said...

Hey Everyone,

Thanks for all your comments--I REALLY appreciate hearing your insights and experiences! It's good to hear of those who found solid Christian community at secular schools, and I know of other testimonies as well. We truly are open to however God will lead and provide. But until it all unfolds and becomes clear...the discernment process is somewhat anxiety-provoking! Thanks for your prayers and encouragement.

~Jeanne

Erin said...

I have a good friend who goes to Wheaton, and it sounds amazing there. :)

Palmer said...

I've worked in college admissions for a quarter century, including more than 15 on Christian college campuses. I loved the way you phrased things related to the Christian college "bubble." You may have said it better than anyone else (I think I must have instinctively guessed that if I was going to leave the security of my church and family and become independent, it would be good to be surrounded by Christians as I first spread my wings. I didn't think of a Christian college as shelter, but as support--like warm, friendly air currents to help me lift off. Storms may come later on, but you want nice weather when you're first learning to fly!) I would love to use this quote and to be able to attribute it to you. Would you mind sending me your name? My email address is phmuntz@lincolnchristian.edu.

martha said...

I remember this stage of parenting... requires much prayer, as I guess every stage does.

As you know, our son is at Taylor U. While no school is perfect, we have been so pleased with his spiritual progress and general maturation. It seems to be a wonderful environment filled with positive kids who are seeking God.

Happy to talk with you about this anytime.

Sherry said...

As far as your son is concerned, I know this is difficult, but I would be careful what job he applies for and pray for a good work environment if does get a job. Unfortunately, I have seen several young men from Christian homes who got beginning level retail and food service jobs, and who were caught up in the work environment, made friends, and became the type of people they were working with---secular, no ambition, and worldly. The work environment is just as influential (if not more so) as the college environment.

At A Hen's Pace said...

Sherry--

Thank you for your comment! Yes, I have seen the same thing. I do have a nagging sense of doubt about the plan to have him work/take classes for the first year, and I think this is one of the reasons why (along with possibly not having a driver's license). B19's autism is a blessing in one way--he's not easily influenced by his peers--but he does need Christian models of motivation, ambition and calling because he struggles with the question of why God created him the way he is. As I've visited these colleges with Blondechick, I've felt a desire for him to receive the same benefits as she, and I think you've helped name for me the reasons he needs it too. Thank you!

Matt said...

Hi Jeanne,
I really liked what you said: "Storms may come later on, but you want nice weather when you're first learning to fly!"

This is how I feel about my experience at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. It was a great FORMATION for me, esp. not having had the best family life.

I will be praying for a door to open.