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    Destination: The Right College

    What's your job in their college search?

    Kara Miller, a freelance writer and TV producer in Chicago spoke with Thomas A. Shaw about his book, College Bound: What Christian Parents Need to Know About Helping Their Kids Choose a College.

    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 their teenager?

    One of the easiest ways to narrow down the decision is to have in mind some criteria—features 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 many families.

    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 up faith.

    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 person's hands?

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