Keeping Your Faith Strong in College


Christian students in the world of college are often faced with a variety of unique challenges as they progress on their educational journey. Yes, college is first and foremost a place in which to receive an education; however, the opportunity it represents also comes with some interesting social and spiritual situations with which Christian students must be able to engage. In other words, it can be an eye-opening, and sometimes shocking, experience.

As you go through your college experience, sitting in lectures, eating at the food court, working out in the student center, and socializing during the weekends, take a moment to consider the following tips to help you keep your faith in college.

Walk With Christ In All That You Do

The most important part of maintaining your faith in college is that you continue your daily walk with Christ. In everything you do, you should somehow involve God, whether you are taking care of the laundry or preparing for a big exam. If you can continue your routine of faith, then you will have the benefits of your faith with you all throughout your college experience. This means praying routinely, attending services, and taking other daily faithful steps on your journey through college.

In my case, I made sure to run with Christ. I went to a small liberal arts college and joined the cross country and track teams. My being a member of the distance squad meant that, unlike my freshman year roommate, I had to wake up early every day, especially in the hotter months, in order to get to morning practice. Some of my favorite memories of college consist of my early morning wakeup ritual; I had a comfortable chair that I had purchased from a thrift store, and each morning as I put on my running shoes and tied the laces, I said a quick prayer of thanks and asked for Christ to bless my day and accompany me on my morning run, whether it was to be a long, steady ten miler or a track workout.

Seek Fellowship With Other Christians

In addition to maintaining your own personal faith routines, you should strive to seek out fellowship with other Christians on campus who can support you. Join a local church or religious group on campus. Attend a Bible study or other fellowship activity. It’s important to surround yourself with a core of friends who can also help you grow in your faith. Together, you can form a core to which you can turn during the inevitable storms.

In fact, this idea of fellowship led me to meet my best friend. Through a mutual acquaintance, we both met each other in a Friday morning fellowship at a local Christian coffee shop. The theme of that semester’s fellowship was to challenge ourselves to find closure to some past troubling aspect of our lives; it was to be something we could not imagine doing without Christ’s help. In my case, I was to contact my ex-boyfriend from high school, whom I had not spoken to in over a year, in order to make things right. In my roommate’s case, she was to write an essay about her father, who had died in a car accident when she was in high school. Through that fellowship program, we met each other, supported each other, and eventually became lifelong friends. I was able to make amends with my ex, and she eventually wrote a short story about her father. Without our fellowship, we each would not have grown to become better and stronger Christians.

Participate In Community Service

While college campuses are great reflections of the diversity of the real world, they can also be a little disconnected from that real world, the world in which your faith will do its work one day. Therefore, in order to also educate yourself about the world beyond college, you should consider engaging in community service. By getting out and helping the community beyond school, you can interact with people beyond simply college students and professors and begin to understand how others experience life. Furthermore, your actions can help others who are in greater need.

I engaged with the local community by volunteering at a soup kitchen for a project in an English class devoted to reading and writing about the marginalized figures of our society. At the soup kitchen, I met a man who called himself Red; he had been homeless for fifteen years. We spent a few days talking about his past, and while I never outright tried to impress my beliefs upon him, since he already considered himself to be a Christian, I do believe that my caring for him and speaking with him helped him. I felt as though Christ was working through me in those conversations, however minutely.

I found each of these activities helpful to keep my faith strong in college. Which ones have worked best for you?

—Lauren Bailey is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email Id:

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Best Sellers in Philosophy

Library Journal lists the top 20 current best sellers in philosophy.  These are the top 10:

1) Cruelty: Human Evil and the Human Brain
Taylor, Kathleen E.
Oxford University Press
2009. ISBN 0199552622 [9780199552627]. $34.95

2) Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists
Neiman, Susan
Princeton University Press
2009. ISBN 0691143897 [9780691143897]. $24.95

3) Plato’s Philosophers: The Coherence of the Dialogues
Zuckert, Catherine H.
University of Chicago Press
2009. ISBN 0226993353 [9780226993355]. $45

4) Staring: How We Look
Thomson, Rosemarie Garland
Oxford University Press
2009. ISBN 0195326792 [9780195326796]. $99

5) Morality Without God?
Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter
Oxford University Press
2009. ISBN 0195337638 [9780195337631]. $24.95

6) On Philosophy in American Law
Mootz, Francis J.
Cambridge University Press
2009. ISBN 0521883687 [9780521883689]. $85

7) Legend of the Middle Ages: Philosophical Explorations of Medieval Christianity, Judaism, and Islam
Brague, Remi
University of Chicago Press
2009. ISBN 0226070808 [9780226070803]. $35

8) Why Socrates Died: Dispelling the Myths
Waterfield, Robin
W.W. Norton
2009. ISBN 0393065278 [9780393065275]. $27.95

9) Beauvoir and Sartre: The Riddle of Influence
Daigle, Christine
Indiana University Press
2009. ISBN 0253352657 [9780253352651]. $65

10) Beauty
Scruton, Roger
Oxford University Press
2009. ISBN 019955952X [9780199559527]. $19.95

(Continue list)

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Most Want Alternatives to Evolution in the Classroom

According to an international poll released by the British Council, the majority of Americans — 60% — support teaching alternatives to evolution in the science classroom. The percentage is the same for Britons, despite the fact that both countries have been inundated with pro-Darwin media coverage in this super-mega Darwin Year.

Across the board, most respondents from the ten countries polled thought that “other perspectives on the origins of species” “such as intelligent design and creationism” should be taught in science class*. When the poll is weighted to include only those respondents who have heard of Charles Darwin and know something about his theory of evolution, the percentage supporting alternate theories increases, from 60% to 66% in Britain and 60% to 64% in the U.S.

The correlation appears again when we consider which countries have more knowledge of Darwin’s theory. The highest numbers of those in support of alternative theories in the classroom correspond to the highest numbers of those familiar with Charles Darwin — 60% in Britain, 65% in Mexico, 61% in China, 66% in Russia, and 60% in the U.S. It appears that the more people know about Darwin’s theory, the more they want to see alternatives in science class.

*This takes both those who select “other perspectives” only and those who select “other perspectives” together with “evolutionary theories.” It should be noted that Discovery Institute opposes efforts to mandate teaching alternative theories in the science classroom — we’d rather have the whole picture of evolution, the scientific arguments both for and against the theory, presented instead.

(Excerpted from Evolution News & Views)

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Harvard Philosopher on the Today Show

Harvard philosophy professor Michael Sandel appeared on the Today Show this morning, and got four minutes to make the case for philosophy. If you’re not familiar with him, Sandel is a very popular Harvard professor. Some 15,000 students have taken his courses over 30 years, and to get a feel for his teaching, you can watch his 30-minute lecture online. It’s called Justice: A Journey into Moral Reasoning, and it’s one of the very few open lectures that Harvard has put online. (A disappointment, I must say.) The lecture also otherwise appears in our collection of Free University Courses.

(Via Open Culture)

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Seminary Scholarship Available from Logos Bible Software

I received this email from Ryan at Logos.  As we all know, seminarians need all the financial help they can get!

As a new seminary semester begins, I wanted to send you a quick note regarding a new seminary scholarship open to your students.

Three times a year we will be awarding one seminarian a $1,000.00 scholarship and a copy of Logos Bible Software Scholar’s Library, which contains over 330 titles that will aid them in their seminary studies.

The scholarship is open to all seminary students and I thought it would be something you’d like to pass along to them. Feel free to share this link with them in your syllabus, on your website, Twitter, facebook or email.


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Working in Small Philosophy Departments

Andrew Mills blogs at Small Philosophy Departments and discusses issues related to teaching in that environment.

This blog is dedicated to issues arising for those faculty who teach in small philosophy departments. The first set of posts to the blog are the results of a survey conducted in 2008 which asked faculty working in small philosophy departments (defined as departments with three or fewer full-time philosophy faculty) to comment on the challenges and advantages of such a work environment.

He makes these interesting observations on the kind of instructor who tends to thrive in a small department.

If you want to succeed in a small department, you should be the kind of person who…

…is happy putting teaching ahead of scholarship on your priority list

…can handle a heavy teaching load

…is content to be in a department that may not enjoy prestige on campus

…is content to be a member of a “service” department–i.e., a dept. that serves other majors.

…enjoys forming close mentoring relationships with undergraduates

…can teach a wide variety of courses

…is content to be the only person on your campus who works in your field

…can be happy without much, if any, intellectual engagement with campus colleagues

…can find intellectual stimulation interacting with people from different disciplines

…is able to recruit majors, primarily through teaching engaging and interesting courses

…is willing to advise a philosophy club or honorary society

…is willing and able to serve on college committees and in other service capacities

…derives satisfaction from seeing students learn

…doesn’t require professional accolades or prominence in the discipline

…enjoys learning about areas of philosophy you’ve never studied before

…enjoys the freedom to create new courses

…enjoys seeing the same students in multiple courses

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On the Job Market in Philosophy

It’s apparently a tough job market out there in academia.  Philosopher Eric Silverman answers this question on the job prospects for teaching philosophy at Ask Philosophers.

Question: Imagine I have a phD in philosophy; nothing special, just your run-of-the-mill doctorate in philosophy from a University with a decent philosophy program. How difficult would I find it to land any lectureship at any University, even if I am willing to move to anywhere in North America or Europe?
I would like the same question with regard to community colleges and liberal arts colleges (whatever they are???) as well. For instance, is it a lot easier to get a professorship at a Community College than a University?

Response from: Eric Silverman

If you come out of an ‘average’ decent Ph.D. program, there is no guarantee that you would receive a professorship anywhere. Remember, your application will probably be in a stack of 100+ applications representing similarly qualified applicants. The critical step to getting a job (which many Ph.D. students fail to realize) is to distinguish yourself in some way during graduate school beyond simply getting a Ph.D. Graduating from a top program is one way to distinguish yourself… studying with a top professor within a specialty is another way (even if not at a top program)… producing a couple of articles for good journals is a third way…. impressing your professors in grad school so much that they say you are their best student in years is another way… getting good teaching credentials and experience might be another way… some combination of distinctions from this list is probably the ideal. Just remember that you need to focus on more than merely graduating from the Ph.D. program….you have to be able to provide search committees with a compelling reason to hire you rather than the other 100 applicants to the position.

Generally, the jobs at Community Colleges and liberal arts colleges are easier to get than research university jobs, but none of them are easy to get. If you distinguish yourself during graduate school (especially through publications and presentations at selective conferences) and position yourself wisely on the market (by writing your dissertation with the best professors you have access to, writing on an interesting topic, and getting a specialization that is less flooded than others) you will maximize your chances of landing a good (or any) job when you are on the market.

So, studying at an average Ph.D. program neither guarantees nor destroys your chances of landing any of those professorships (though you would have to be very successful at publishing to land a professorship at a research university).

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New Kindle Aims to Replace Textbooks

Amazon Kindle with carrying cover, Open.
Image via Wikipedia

GalleyCat reports on this interesting development with the Kindle.

Six universities will join in a new digital textbook experiment with Inc., including: Case Western Reserve, Pace, Princeton, Reed, Darden School at the University of Virginia, and Arizona State. The Wall Street Journal reports that the program will utilize large-screen Amazon Kindles, a device that many speculate will be revealed at a press conference.

GalleyCat will report live from that Amazon event tomorrow. In the meantime, the University of Michigan Press recently announced they will publish primary digital editions of at least 50 of the more than 60 monographs they produce each year–a shift that will become more common in the publishing recession.

Here’s more from the WSJ: “Beginning this fall, some students at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland will be given large-screen Kindles with textbooks for chemistry, computer science and a freshman seminar already installed, said Lev Gonick, the school’s chief information officer.” (Via Publishers Lunch)

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The Best Way to Study for an Exam

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Day 23 - Exam hall

Image by jackhynes via Flickr

Here’s an interesting snippet of news from The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The best way to study for an exam? Don’t just reread chapters and review notes — put everything away and then try to write down, or describe out loud, what you know. That’s the conclusion of two papers recently published in psychology journals. “After you’ve read something once, you’ve gotten what you’re going to get out of it,” one professor says, “and then you need to go out and start applying the information.”

The link to the article is here, but it’s only accessible with a subscription.

Update: Thanks to Mr. C. for providing a link to the article.

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Learning Physics Through Open Courses

The Large Hadron Collider/ATLAS at CERN
Image by Image Editor via Flickr

If you have an interest in physics or would like to learn what it’s all about, some of its history, and its current cutting-edge theories, Open Culture gives a nice summary of the best online audio and video resources.

At Stanford, we’re putting together a six course sequence called Modern Physics: The Theoretical Minimum. Taught by Leonard Susskind, one of America’s leading physics minds, this course traces the development of modern physics, moving from Newton to Einstein to Black Holes. So far, we’ve made five of the six courses available online (get them here), which amounts to 100 hours of free classroom footage. Hard to beat. (And, in case you’re wondering, the sixth course is being taped right now, and it will be coming online during the months to come.)

Another program that has received a fair amount of attention is Walter Lewin’s series of courses at MIT. As The New York Times has noted, Lewin has long had a cult following at MIT, and now, thanks to his physics courses, he’s achieved a minor degree of fame on the internet. His lectures, delivered with panache, can be found here:

A third course to call your attention to is Richard Muller’s Physics for Future Presidents (FeedMP3sYouTube).  The course comes out of UC Berkeley, where it’s an undergraduate favorite. (It’s also the basis of a recent book by the same name.) And the whole point here is to give citizens the scientific knowledge they need to understand critical issues facing our society.

Finally, another course worth reviewing is Fundamentals of Physics, which is taught by Ramamurti Shankar and it’s part of Yale’s Open Course initiative.

All of these physics courses, and many more, can be found in our Free University Course collection.

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