Academic Preparation

Most colleges expect between two and four years of foreign language, preferably Latin, and at least three years of math. Three years of science is also expected, preferably with lab work. Dr. Atwood adds, "Our students will read mountains of challenging books each year, so prospective students should develop their reading speed and comprehension."

Non-traditional Students

Some Great Books and classical schools are uniquely appropriate for students who may not have been successful in traditional academic settings. St. Johns and Gutenberg often accept students who were not greatly successful in high school, but who have a sincere desire to learn and a willingness to engage and interact over ideas. At Gutenberg College, some freshmen — says Mr. Stollar — are older students who did not do well in high school and became disillusioned with education, but later realized that they had some questions that could be answered through studies of the Bible and the classics. They are ready for a rigorous academic program after figuring out what their questions are and after a few years of maturing. St. Johns also offers a program that may appeal to a unique type of student. Students take few tests; grades are not highly emphasized; and competition with other students is not part of the culture — students work together.

Do your Homework: Visit the College

Each school strongly recommends that prospective students do careful homework as they choose which college they would like to attend. Students should visit the colleges, talk to students and professors, even sit in on classes. Dr. Atwood writes, "Don't trust all the glitzy brochures or slick advertisements. College recruiters, even Christian ones, have become as notorious as used car salesmen. Too many students and families rely on what others say or think rather than doing their own careful study." Rosemary Harty urges that students come for "an overnight visit, and a visit to a seminar and other classes. That way, prospective students can talk with faculty members and current students."

Each School is Unique

We have a brief survey here of only five colleges, each with some commonalities, but each with a very different vision. At Patrick Henry, the vision is "to train young people who, by God's grace, will lead the nation and shape the culture." Students are trained to get involved in the culture — government, policy-making, and education. At Gutenberg, the goal is to prepare students "to engage our culture and to be personally prepared to face the difficult questions that life throws our way without seeking trite, proof-texted simplistic answers. We are truly like L'Abri, except a L'Abri that has students for four years rather than two weeks or three months." New St. Andrews has a focus on community interaction and church involvement. Students are encouraged to board with Christian families or share apartments together, and student service and accountability "strengthen their Christian experience and spiritual growth in a way that cannot occur in a cloistered, age-segregated campus setting." At St. Johns, the vision has little to do with job skills and employability but rather "the ability to think critically, to write and speak clearly, to be prepared to assume the responsibilities of an educated citizen in a democracy." Hillsdale is more traditional with their vision: "A place where excellence is expected…where students are highly sought after; truth is pursued and a traditional liberal arts education is still a reality."

Pray and Do Your Best

Mr. Whalen has some great closing advice. He writes, "Applying to college is important, but not nearly so important as what happens in college. Select the right school or schools, pray, do your best on the application, then commit yourself to four years of incredible intellectual, moral and even spiritual formation. This four-year span is like no other. It will remain a great period, remembered with delight and wonder, for the rest of your life."

Each of our children is being prepared for a unique purpose, so the search for the appropriate place for college is one that requires prayer and plenty of homework. I hope that our brief peek at these five institutions gives you hope for the possibilities that are available. May God grant that we might some day be able to look back with our children on their college experiences and say, as Mr. Whalen did, that it was filled with delight and wonder.

--------------------------

John and Diane Wheeler live in beautiful El Dorado County, California where they home educate their five children. To contact them about this piece, please email Wheeler@TheHomeschoolMagazine.com.

Copyright, 2005. All rights reserved. The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Right now, $300 in free curriculum gifts for new subscribers. 19 total gifts, all free. See website for details. www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com