Keeping the Faith when Transitioning from Christian High School to Secular College

Guest Author: Linda Forshaw

Linda Forshaw is a Business Information Systems graduate from Lancaster University in the UK. A frequent contributor to college review site Degree, she is a full time writer and blogger specializing in education, social media, and entrepreneurship. Contact her on Twitter @seelindaplay


Keeping the Faith when Transitioning from Christian High School to Secular College

With such a diverse range of college and university options available to high school seniors, choosing which institution to attend can be daunting at best. When the desire to maintain a faith in Christianity is added into the mix alongside such factors as cost, location, and career prospects, the choice can often become bewildering. 

Many faithful students will automatically believe that their most attractive option will be to attend a private Christian college or university, automatically discounting all other options as unrealistic or simply not for them. The importance of staying in the fold of a college where religion is at the core of teaching is a viewpoint that can be seen to be supported by the likes of Abby Nye, whose book “Fish Out of Water: Surviving and Thriving as a Christian on a Secular Campus” suggests that students for whom faith plays a major part in their lives will be under some sort of liberalist assault from day one. Still other surveys, and what is considered “conventional wisdom,” appear to prophesize that significant numbers of high school Christians have ceased active practice of their faith by the end of college. 

As with any opinion, there is always a counter argument; in this case it is perhaps best provided in an article entitled Finding Jesus at College (The Chronicle Review, March 7, 2010). As a result of his study of students of Christian faith in the Netherlands, author Edward Dutton believes that a college environment where everyone holds similar views such as at Bible college or other religious school is not necessarily conducive to keeping faith alive. Dutton also points to the work of Phillip Hammond and James Hunter whose own research led them to the conclusion that students of a Christian faith who attend a secular institution tend to leave those institutions with a stronger faith than when they started. 

It does seem that unless a student is particularly drawn to a religion-centric institution, their options pertaining to higher education are just as broad as their peers who choose not to walk a faithful path. It’s not as if Christian students head off to secular college and instantly dive headlong into a world where sexual promiscuity, alcohol and drugs are the only paths to take. On the contrary, support for students attempting the transition between a Christian high school and a secular education is widespread and easily accessible.

Resources for Christian students in secular education

 - Faith at State: A Handbook for Christians at Secular Universities (Rick Kennedy, 1995)
 - How to Stay Christian in College (J. Budziszewski, 2004)
 - Live Above (Online Christian community)
 - InterVarsity(Evangelical Campus Mission)
 - Emerging Scholars Blog (Program of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship)
 - Youth Transition Network(Nonprofit organizations aimed at decreasing the loss of youth from the church)

Tests and temptations are a natural part of life for everyone; Christian or otherwise. How the faithful student addresses such challenges will make all the difference.