Five admissions directors describe what their colleges offer for the kind of student they exist to serve.
Reading Time: 10 minutes

Calvin College

In his collection of essays entitled What are People For? Wendell Berry envisions a responsible, contemplative living ethos that connects community, sustainability and place. When we work to understand what people are for we gain insight into their relationships with and connections to the places they inhabit. We begin to understand the need to form communities of virtue and character that enables a collective flourishing.

This understanding doesn’t just happen; it takes work. Further it takes an educated mind to assist in the formation of strong communities.

Pondering what people are for often leads to the ques- tion: what is education, and more specifically, what is college for? Scholar and theologian Stanley Hauerwaas writes about college being an “extraordinary gift.” In a world wrought with deep injustice, violence, oppression and all forms of depravity there exists a place where people have been given an opportunity to spend time studying; time to question; time to research; time to discover.

Hauerwaas articulates that to be a student is a calling. As a result students need to take seriously the calling that is theirs by virtue of going to college. As Christians we believe going to college is a calling because the years spent there, just like everything else in life, are not theirs to do with as they please. The time in college doesn’t belong to the stu- dent, it belongs to Christ.

Connecting the ideas of student and calling is refresh- ing particularly when the familiar measurements of the util- ity of a college education are average debt loads, graduate school placement rates, and job acquisition. These outcomes, in isolation, threaten to minimize the “extraordinary gift” and mute the calling of being a student. Further it reduces university preparation to test placement, class rank, and cumulative grade point averages.

College readiness includes the rigorous work of un- derstanding literature, geography, natural science, math and why learning Latin is more than an advantage when taking the SAT.

Students are also prepared for college when we call forth in them an excitement for who they were created to be and when we help them to discover and connect with the idea that God has uniquely gifted them to administer shalom (God’s peace and justice) to a world in need.

At all levels we can prepare students for college when education becomes less about what it will do for them and more about what it will do to them.

Students are ready for college when they start to make room for paradoxical tensions; when they are endlessly curi- ous yet deeply convicted. Students are prepared when they are eager to be full participants in the university community and commit to not just watch college happen.

Being a responsible and informed student does require attention to outcomes and responsible lending; however, when students are educated to envision their place in God’s Kingdom, we prepare them beyond an economic “return on investment.” We prepare them to contribute to the communities, places and world to which they belong.

Grove City College

Is it all about test scores? What about the “C” I received in my AP class? How many activities do you want to see on my resume? Questions abound at this time of year from families and guidance counselors asking “what makes a qualified college candidate.” At Grove City College, we look to the heart of our students and who they want to become. As such, we look for life-long learners, Christ-centered leaders and community-driven world changers.

Life-Long Learners

Grove City College is an academically rigorous institution looking to attract students who are capable of achieving much more than they expect from themselves; therefore, we look for creative, engaged students who want to continue learning through the classical method. We seek students who have curious minds but who go beyond simply being curious to acting on that curiosity by questioning, research- ing beyond the required assignment and actively participat- ing in the learning process. Our students strive not only to earn an “A” but also to take what they have learned and apply it to their daily lives, their next class and their discus- sions with friends in a residence hall.

Christ-Centered Leaders

Our admissions counselors get to know prospective students through our interview process and our interactions with candidates, learning about what they have overcome and how focused they are in learning more about who Christ intends them to be. While not all of our students are Christ- followers, a student who attends Grove City will be faced with the inevitable question of “why do I believe what I believe” and “how do I articulate it so that I might share that belief with those who have never heard it.” Students learn at Grove City to lead within their calling as they mature in their identity. Students take on leadership roles at Grove City College that most students never face until they enter the work force. Our students are known and well-respected for their integrity and work ethic.

Community-Driven World Changers

How have students affected and changed their current sphere of influence? Grove City College seeks applicants who have started their own business, changed and impacted their neighborhood in a positive and uplifting way or who have changed one life as a result of their desire to serve others. When looking over resumes, we look to see if an applicant went above and beyond to reach a hurting world. Do you want to be a community-driven world changer? If so, Grove City College is the right place for you to continue your heart for service, and you will join others like you who also desire to live out loud what we all have been called to do – serve others and affect positive change in our world. Grove City College is a unique college that has a beautifully diverse student body. Whether you are already a life-long learner, Christ-centered leader, community-driven world changer or you want to grow into these roles, Grove City College is the right place to continue your classical learning.

Gordon College

In the later part of April (when spring weather ar- rives in New England), I discovered the purpose of higher education. My class sat in rickety metal chairs in a still-cold conference room, our copies of The Complete Stories of Flan- nery O’Connor dog-eared and underlined next to open note- books. We were in the midst of a discovery about Hulga in “Good Country People,” and as I stared in awe at my peers, I realized that the purpose of higher education is nothing less than this: to love the truth and to pursue it with wholehearted passion.

Students at a Christian liberal arts college (such as Gordon College, my alma mater) have the unique privilege of deepening their commitment to both their faith and their learning during the fleeting undergraduate years. Between the great books honors programs, the honors thesis presenta- tions, and the numerous campus lectures and discussions, the college campus is the first arena to work out how to think well and communicate well, as we learn more about the world and our calling in it. The skills of a classical educa- tion are the foundation on which all liberal arts colleges seek to build. College becomes the time to deepen those skills in pursuit of particular passions: molecular biology or modern European history, music performance or sociology. The key foundation for learning in college rests on how we think, listen and communicate with one another. We build from these skills towards our particular passions, applying how we have been taught to think and engage with the material that most intrigues and inspires us.

When I read stories about the grand vision of college during my own search process, I always wondered about what it meant for my own decision-making. If this is the purpose of higher education, what did I need to do as a high school student to find a college that was a good match? How should I express myself and my passions? Whom should I get to know?

I learned that making college visits is an integral part of the experience. I can think of few situations where one would commit to living somewhere for four years before get- ting a sense of the atmosphere and the community. Visits are structured to help you – they provide opportunities to meet professors, current students, and admissions representatives. One of the most important parts of a campus visit is actu- ally intangible: it is the “vibe” or a “feeling” you have about a place. Many colleges might meet your academic interests and offer the sport you want to play, but you will find that the more you see, the more you feel pulled one way or the other on certain college campuses.

Get to know your admissions counselor! They want to invest in you and help you discover if the college is a good fit. Whether it is at a college fair or a visit to your high school, introduce yourself and don’t be afraid to ask ques- tions. As you go through the process, stay up to date with correspondence from your counselor, whether it is over the phone, in an email, or snail mail. Colleges do a great job of keeping applicants in the know about what is needed to have a decision, scholarship opportunities, and what is hap- pening on campus. If you have the option to interview, it is best to do so. Interviews are the opportunity to express your passions and interests, and to learn from the college about where those passions and interests fit with what is happen- ing on campus. During my own interview at Gordon, my counselor told me about the Jerusalem and Athens program, and it was from that point on that I knew Gordon would be a wonderful place to deepen my faith and explore my love of history and theology.

While classes (and eventually all college experiences) must end, the love of learning inspired by a classical curricu- lum and deepened in college, remains. And long after dorms have been chosen and orientation completed, it will be the wholehearted pursuit of your passions that makes your col- lege experience truly remarkable.

Hillsdale College

Hillsdale College has thrived as a mission-centric institution since its founding, dedicated to the aims of its founders. In the original Articles of Association, the founders professed gratitude to God “for the inestimable blessings” resulting from civil and religious liberty as their impetus and claimed the belief that “the diffusion of learning is essential to the perpetuity of these blessings.” The College’s mission statement positions it as “a trustee of modern man’s intel- lectual and spiritual inheritance from the Judeo-Christian faith and Greco-Roman culture,” and sets as its goal raising up “leaders worthy of that legacy” through a liberal arts education. We believe that through study of our past, we can learn lessons necessary for a great future, and embrace the idea that there are standards for Truth, Beauty and Goodness worthy of pursuit and practice. We observe daily that learn- ing happens most fully in a community setting, as teachers and students work together in asking and attempting to answer hard questions in the pursuit of Truth.

It is easy to see, in light of these aims and this at- mosphere, why classically educated students are drawn to Hillsdale and do very well in our classically-based core curriculum. Students who have already begun to form habits of thoughtful inquiry, logical analysis and the ability to synthesize and express ideas spanning various disciplines find themselves already in a “Hillsdale frame of mind” when they arrive. Though not all students enrolling at Hillsdale have this previous experience, it certainly does give students an advantage in the realm of academic preparedness, and we are grateful for the work classical schools are doing to preserve the type of education we hold dear.

In addition to preparedness, we look for a demon- strated commitment to excellence and self-motivation in our applicants, both in academic and extracurricular pursuits. A college-preparatory curriculum strong in the humani- ties, social sciences, natural sciences and mathematics is a must, but students who have chosen to take additional or advanced courses in these areas, when available, fare well in our demanding academic climate. They often display superior thought and writing in collegiate discussion and es- says, and augment classroom learning through engagement in various academic societies or clubs. Additionally, we look for students who have found ways to put their passions and talents to use in the service of others. As Hillsdale seeks to make an impact for good in the world, we look for students who share that goal.

Hillsdale’s emphasis on intellectual development is strong, but of equal importance is the development of moral character. Students study, then seek to apply, Truth, Beauty and Goodness to every aspect of their lives. Students who have already begun asking the question, “how, then, shall we live” plunge into this process all the more deeply at Hillsdale. They are aided by the high standard of conduct they see lauded in the Hillsdale Honor Code, and the habits of excellence lived out in their peers and teachers. Student satisfaction is high at Hillsdale, and those who graduate still point to their collegiate years as some of the most fondly remembered and formative of their lives. Planting and nurturing the desire for a culture of excellence and a com- mitment to an examined life is the best preparation possible that classical schools, parents and educators can give to their college-bound students.

Patrick Henry College

Parents involved in providing a classical education for their children are naturally interested in how best to help their sons and daughters prepare for college. One way to begin formulating a plan for your student is to gather infor- mation about what college admissions offices look for when evaluating a student’s application for admission. The follow- ing is intended to give you a perspective on student prepa- ration as seen from the admissions office at Patrick Henry College.

Patrick Henry College utilizes a classical liberal arts curriculum and the apprenticeship methodology to deliver academically excellent baccalaureate level higher education with a thoroughly biblical worldview. The College seeks
to educate the best and brightest Christian young people to prepare them to lead our nation and shape our culture with timeless biblical values and fidelity to the spirit of the American founding. In order to select students with the best potential to benefit from the rigorous academic program, pervasive Christian ethos, and expectation for growth in leadership and service in our campus community, Patrick Henry College admissions officers carefully examine each applicant’s application for evidence of several kinds of preparation. The following areas are some of those described in the College’s High School Resource Guide.

There are several ways a student may prepare for PHC’s programs. The most important thing is to pursue a broad, rigorous, college-preparatory curriculum. The high school curriculum should include a robust foundation in the humanities and advanced courses in math and science. Difficult subjects will benefit the student by providing early exposure to college-level work.

Develop Excellent Writing Skills

The College has a very writing-intensive curriculum. Admissions officers will pay careful attention to the level of grammatical, logical, and rhetorical craftsmanship demonstrated in applicants’ essays. The College recommends that students use Kate Turabian’s Manual for Writers and The Ele- ments of Style by Strunk and White.

Classical Reading

One of the best ways to sharpen the mind and pre- pare for a rigorous college curriculum is by reading classical works of Western literature. Carefully reading a few works by Homer, Plato, Virgil, and the Church Fathers is far better preparation than reading dozens of titles written in the last fifty years. For the best preparation, though, students should explore a sampling of great works from each era on a variety of topics.

Leadership and Service

The College seeks students who are demonstrating commitment to servant leadership by developing their talents in their home communities. Extracurricular resumes vary greatly, reflecting each student’s interests, specific gifts, and the opportunities available. Most important is evidence that the student is seeking to faithfully honor Christ during the high school years.

Spiritual Growth and Maturity

The single most important category in a student’s preparation for PHC is the student’s own personal faith in Christ. Evidence of a strong, growing personal trust in the Savior, the Gospel, and the Scriptures is essential.