Why aren't teenagers choosing the right college? ACT research shows about one-third of freshmen college students
don't return for a second year at the same school. College administrator
and author, Thomas Shaw suggests one of the reasons students
do not persist is because the school is a
bad fit for them. Based on his 20 years of college
admissions experience, Shaw wrote the book, College Bound: What Christian
Parents Need to Know About Helping Their
Kids Choose a College (Moody Publishers).
Shaw's oldest son Andrew is in the process of
finalizing his own college decision. Kara
Miller, a freelance writer and TV producer in
Chicago, spoke with Dr. Shaw.
Your book mentions 4,168
degree granting higher
education institutions. That's a
lot for parents to choose from.
What would you say is the first
step for parents hoping to help
One of the easiest ways to narrow down
the decision is to have in mind some
criteriafeatures that you feel would
be a good match for your son or daughter.
Those can include things like vocational
interests for the future, extracurricular
interests, or location of the
institution. Is your child more inclined
towards a small town, or do they really like the big city? It could be the size of
the institution. Cost is certainly something
most parents are interested in
knowing. That's a deciding factor for
Your book is about what
Christian parents need to
know. Are there additional
things Christian parents
should include on that list?
A teen's faith foundation needs to be a
primary consideration when determining
where he or she goes to college. I think
Christian parents would be very comfortable
sending their teen to a Christian
college or university. But it's important
to make sure that's the right place for
their particular child. One of the editors
of my book noted that a former
boyfriend of hers went to a Christian
college, but that school wasn't a good fit
for him. So he switched to a well-known
private university and thrived there.
He's a strong Christian, and it challenged
him and gave him the opportunity to use
what he knew.
A Christian college is a place I think
every Christian parent should explore
with their kids because faith flourishes
in these settings.
What are the advantages for
parents of steering their teen
towards a faith based college?
One of the main things is that all the
administrators, the board of trustees,
and faculty at all Christ-centered colleges
are believers. They affirm the
statement of faith of their institution
annually. The spiritual dimension is
taken seriously at these schools. Students
will encounter these faculty members
in class, and it has a wonderful,
positive effect on their faith. You
have an atmosphere in the residence
halls, in life around campus, where
you're regularly worshiping together
as a body. You hear great speakers, and
are exposed to lots of things that build
Some parents may think it will
be easier for their student to
grow in his or her faith on a
Christian college campus.
What do you think about that?
In most cases I'd say that's true.
Research was done in the past decade,
and recently replicated again by Railsback
and Henderson, and it showed
about half to two-thirds of Christian
students that go to a public university or
non-Christian institution, struggle with
their faith. Whereas among students that
go to Christian colleges, only about 6
percent struggle with their faith.
Think about it. If you're going to take
your automobile in for repair, and
there's only a 25 percent to 50 percent
chance that transmission fix is going to
work, would you really invest three or
four thousand dollars to have it fixed by
that mechanic? Or if you're having
heart surgery, if your surgeon has only a
25 percent to 50 percent success rate,
would you place your life in that