Kent and Sue Taulbee's oldest daughter, Ann, had a wonderful experience at a Christian liberal arts college a few hours from their home. They thought Claire, Ann's little sister, would benefit from attending the same school. But they didn't tell their younger daughter that.
"With Claire's personality, we knew if we pushed too hard, she would choose a different school just because she would want to make the decision herself," says Sue. "So we knew we had to be diplomatic about the college search and try to guide her gently.
"We also covered the process in prayer. We believed God would lead Claire to the school he wanted her to go to, and we asked him to help us guide her in the right direction."
Starting with Test Scores
Claire actually began preparing for her college search during her sophomore year in high school. Although Claire was a good student, she wanted to attend a top-notch liberal arts college and knew that she would need good test scores along with solid grades. When she took the ACT after her sophomore year, her scores weren't as high as they needed to be. For this reason, Kent and Sue encouraged Claire to take a test-prep course early in her junior year before retaking the ACT. While she wasn't thrilled about adding another class to her packed schedule, Claire agreed to take the course.
The class paid off, and Claire received a score on her ACT test that would enable her to apply to competitive schools as a viable candidate.
Deciding What's Important
Throughout the summer after Claire's junior year, the family began discussing some of the basics that would help narrow her search. As they talked to their daughter during mealtime conversations, Kent and Sue stressed the importance of a Christian-based education. "Having our girls go to Christ-centered institutions was more important to us than anything else in the college search," says Kent.
Claire had no problem narrowing her search to only Christian colleges. After all, her older sister had enjoyed her time on a Christian campus. Claire felt certain she, too, could thrive in that kind of environment. While this narrowed her choices quite a bit, she still needed to consider factors like distance and location.
Initially, Claire didn't care where the schools were on the map. But as the family continued to talk about the realities of being far away from home, she started to have second thoughts.
"While the idea of moving halfway across the country sounds kind of cool, I realized that it would be difficult for me," admits Claire. "I really love my family, and with everything else in my life changing, I thought it would be good to be able to get home in a couple of hours if I needed to see Mom and Dad."
Claire decided to narrow her search to schools that were within a four-hour drive from home. Kent and Sue were relieved.
"We would have let her go far away, but I'm so thankful she wants to stay close," says Sue. "Ann was about two hours away from us throughout college, and we loved being able to go to her volleyball games and visit on family weekends."
"We didn't try to dissuade Claire from going far away," remembers Kent. "But we did talk openly about what it would mean for her to be far away: airplane flights, not being able to come home as often, Sue and I not being able to see her as much as we were able to see her sister."
Claire's academic interest also helped her narrow the options. Since she knew she wanted to study English, she felt a liberal arts education was the way to go. "I've had a lot of friends go to Bible colleges and love it, but I want to study English, and I felt a Christian liberal arts school would be the best place to do that."
A city girl at heart, Claire was pretty sure she wanted to be on a campus in or near a large city. Still, Kent and Sue didn't want Claire to eliminate a school just because of its location.