Find Your Niche. Part 2

When you combine future-oriented academic programs, an experienced faculty, and an exciting learning environment, the results of an education at an institute of technology are obvious: career placement is high, access to graduate school is good, and alumni are in demand!

Bible-focused institutions

First things first: not all Christian schools are Bible schools! A Bible school or a Bible-focused school is going to have a strong foundation in biblical study and teachings. While most Christian colleges and universities offer some biblical classes, Bible schools usually require biblical course work, and the Bible’s teachings are a big part of the university experience.

 “[The Bible] is the very heart, character, purpose, and participation in the redemptive story of all creation that we get to be a part of every day; this effects who we are in our relationships, our careers, and our personal lives,” says Nikki Blakidis, a University Admissions Counselor at Tyndale University College and Seminary in Ontario, Canada. Regardless of the career path students choose, they come back to the stories and lessons of the Bible.

“In the context of faith, we believe that God lives not just in theological studies, but in how we approach all of life. It is important when considering how to do business ethically, how to approach literature contextually, how to critically study philosophy, and how the subject of human services can translate from words on a page to how one

lives, loves, and impacts the world and people around us,” she says.

“As far as the benefits of attending a Bible-focused university, there are many,” says Abby Scott, a 2009 graduate of Tyndale. However, she didn’t choose Tyndale because it is a Bible school. It was because of their applied psychology major, she says. The Bible focus was an added bonus. “It’s also great that I can take courses where subjects that are not Biblical in nature are integrated with those that are Biblical.” Of course, students interested in becoming a preacher, a career missionary—anything in the church—will find that Bible schools offer the support and resources needed to pursue that career.

Students need to ask themselves two questions before choosing a school, says Paul Presta, Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Cincinnati Christian University in Cincinnati, Ohio. “What am I passionate about, and what can I see myself doing as a career?” When you’re passionate about what you’re studying and surrounded by people with a similar passion, it’s easier to become engaged, says Presta. That’s what students will find in their peers and professors at any niche school.

There are also many ways students can engage their faith at Bible schools. Tyndale, for example, offers daily chapels, Bible studies, and all-night prayer and worship times. Service work, such as mission trips and community service, is another important part of spiritual life at a Bible school. “When you’re serving the greater good, you’re learning something that’s not taught in the classroom,” says Presta.

Liberal arts colleges

What springs to mind when you think “liberal arts college”? Scruffy poets and philosophers discussing lofty ideas under leafy trees? Artists painting “Save the Whales” signs? The reality is that you will find much more at a liberal arts college if you are willing to look closer. (And if you are, you might be a good candidate for the liberal arts!)

Liberal arts colleges come in different shapes and sizes, but they all share basic characteristics and educational philosophies, and all focus on the undergraduate. The liberal arts approach views learning as an active process of exploration rather than a passive process of absorption. Instead of simply learning someone else’s answers to life’s questions, students are empowered to find their own answers through inquiry, dialogue, and analysis. Alternately guided and challenged by their professors and peers, students discover meaning for themselves, developing critical habits of mind, which include the rare ability to unlearn as well as to learn. This approach is distinctly different from the vocational/professional preparatory model found at large comprehensive universities around the world.  

The liberal arts also demand that faculty be fully committed to teaching, to guiding rigorous class discussion, and to providing frequent and consistent feedback to help students hone vital tools of self-expression. Faculty members are not just teachers, but mentors.

In many aspects of our culture, “bigger is better,” but a smaller learning environment can be ideal because it puts everything within your reach. It is an inclusive environment where there are fewer barriers to participation and leadership opportunities in a wide variety of academic and extracurricular opportunities. To facilitate this access, the majority of liberal arts colleges are intentionally small, with most schools enrolling 1,000–2,500 undergraduates. This means low student-faculty ratios and average class sizes of 20 or fewer.

At a residential college, the vast majority of students live on campus in what is essentially a 24/7 learning environment. This environment is ideal for liberal arts study because students learn as much from each other as they do from their professors and course work. Learning from roommates, teammates, and classmates, students develop personally and socially, creating lifelong friendships in the process.   

According to Susan Lennon, President of the Women’s College Coalition, “A liberal arts education equips you with the portfolio of skills, knowledge, and hands-on experience that employers expect.” Though only about 3% of all U.S. college graduates come from liberal arts colleges, these graduates are disproportionately recognized as leaders in science and business fields, and among those who earn Ph.D.s. Liberal arts graduates are resourceful problem solvers and visionary innovators. They are uniquely prepared for today’s challenges and tomorrow’s opportunities.