All of the following FAQs are taken from past issues of a weekly online newsletter, The Chronicler, and are answered by former Admissions Director (now VP Enrollment) Tom McFadden.
What makes Christendom different than other schools, specifically, different from Thomas Aquinas College, Franciscan University of Steubenville, and Ave Maria University?
Wow. That’s probably the hardest question I’ve gotten all year long. Let me see what I can do to answer you, without making all the other colleges mad at me. First of all, the biggest difference is, of course, that we are the best… Just kidding, sort of. There are a couple major differences between us and these other schools, so I will simply list some of them.
Christendom and Thomas Aquinas College (TAC): Christendom is in Virginia, TAC is in California. That’s a big difference. We teach using the scholastic method (that is, we teach subject matter, utilizing original texts, commentaries, textbooks, and the great wisdom of our knowledgeable faculty in a lecture format in classes of around 22 students). TAC uses the Socratic method (that is, they teach particular Great Books – original texts – without the use of commentaries or textbooks, and their faculty lead discussions of these works in small classes of about 17 students in a seminar). Christendom has a great focus on history. TAC does not teach history, but they do have more math and science requirements in their curriculum. Christendom offers 2.5 years of a core curriculum, then offers 7 majors to its students. TAC has 4 years of a core curriculum with one major. Christendom has inter-collegiate sports teams. TAC does not. Christendom has a semester in Rome program. TAC does not.
Christendom and Franciscan University of Steubenville (FUS): Christendom is in rural Virginia, FUS is in a more city setting. Christendom has about 440 students, FUS has about 2000 students. Christendom has family-friendly student life policies (such as no alcohol on campus, curfew for freshmen and sophomores under 21, no intervisitation between men and women in residence halls, no internet or TV hook ups in dormitories, and a professional dress code for classes and Mass), FUS does not have these policies. Christendom tends to be more traditional in its liturgical celebrations. FUS tends to be more contemporary, sometimes even charismatic. Christendom has the 2.5 year core curriculum and 6 majors. FUS has a pretty decent sized core curriculum (newly revised fall 2013), and over 40 majors. Christendom has inter-collegiate sports teams and is in the USCAA. FUS has inter-collegiate sports teams and is in the NCAA III for some of them. Christendom has a semester in Rome, FUS has a semester in Austria.
Christendom and Ave Maria University (AMU): Christendom is in rural Virginia, AMU is in south Florida. Christendom has about 440 students and plans on staying around this size forever. AMU has a little over 1000 right now, but hopes to be at 1200 or so in the very near future. Christendom has family-friendly student life policies (see above). AMU does not have these policies (they have room intervisitation). Christendom has been steadily and consistently offering the same high academic, deeply Catholic educational experience for about 36 years. AMU, because it is trying to grow at a rapid pace, seems to be in a constant state of change (many changes in the administration, changes to academic offerings, changes to sports programs, etc). Christendom has the 2.5 years (86 credits) of core curriculum and 7 majors. AMU has a (I think –based on reading the catalog) 48 credit core curriculum with 21 different majors.
There are a lot of good colleges out there, from what I can tell, and sometimes it is very difficult to tell the differences between them. I mean, I want to go to a college that is in line with the Church and does not have any heretical or anti-Catholic groups on campus, but other than that, I am unsure of what I want. Is there some easy way to figure out which college I should go to?
You are on the right track in that you have at least figured out one “must-have” and one “can’t have” item for your future college. Your future college “must have” fidelity to the Magisterium and “can’t have” any of these crazy groups. Again, good start, but there is still much work to be done.
You need to figure out more of these “must haves” and “can’t haves” in order to create your short list of colleges to look at. You can do this in a number of ways. Think about all the things that you might want in college: certain location, certain price, certain majors, certain extra-curriculars, certain regulations, certain opportunities, etc. Then, figure out which wants are “must-haves” versus “wants.” Then go ahead and make a list of things you don’t want in a college: certain groups, certain policies, certain types of students/teachers, certain location, certain price, certain size, etc. Then, again, figure out which ones are “can’t haves” and which ones are just preferences that won’t make or break a deal.
So, once you have your Musts and your Cants, come up with your “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” list too.
How do you even begin this type of process? Well, ask some friends, family, priests, and others, then look at the websites of these schools. Read the “About” section and mission statements. See what they are all about and determine if these schools have the same goal in mind as you do. Look over all the aspects of the website to see what kind of “feel” you get for the place.
If you like what you see initially, then maybe formulate some questions and see if any have been answered in the Frequently Asked Questions section of the site. If not, then contact an admissions office representative and ask them as many questions as you want. If it seems to still be meeting your needs, then the next step would be to schedule a visit to the college. You can get a real sense of a place by walking around campus and meeting the students and faculty, staying in the residence halls, and even seeing how the students spend their leisure time. All very important to the “college search” process, I think.
If, after visiting, you’ve narrowed your search down to three or four colleges, maybe then ask the admissions representatives why they think that people choose their school over the others. I know that I am personally very knowledgeable about the differences between Christendom and many other faithful Catholic colleges and universities. Although most admissions counselors (and Directors) are generally biased toward the place where they work, most are doing their best to help students understand what their particular college offers and how it might differ from others. That is, they are simply trying to give you as much information as they can so that you can make a fully informed decision. Some, though, unfortunately, act like used car salesmen and do or say just about anything to get you to come to their school. You will not find that kind of attitude in the Admissions Office at Christendom, I promise.
And finally, you must pray about it. Going to this or that college will change your life forever, either for good or for bad. Many Catholic leave the faith during their college years; some “survive college” and keep the faith; others grow and mature in their faith. Much of this depends on where you go to school, who you hang out with, and what you are studying. Is it more important for you to be in a place that offers a particular degree in a not-so-Catholic environment, or are you more concerned with being in a Catholic environment with maybe a limited number of degrees? Do you want to get out of college debt-free with the having paid the least amount out of pocket, even if it means sacrificing a Catholic education, or are you willing to accumulate some debt and pay some money out of pocket to get the education you want?
These are questions only you and your family can answer. And they are very hard questions, for sure. So, in short,
Figure out what you are looking for in a college education;
Ask your trusted friends, priests, and relatives their opinions;
Look up the colleges/universities on the internet and give a thorough review of their mission, programs, and overall purpose;
Ask questions of the Admissions Office;
Visit your short list of schools; and
Pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance to make the right decision!
Good luck and let me know if I can be of any further help!
I have been looking at a number of small Catholic colleges and am a little worried that, although they seem to be great educational institutions, they may not be too financially stable. Is Christendom College financially stable?
Christendom has been around for 36 years and we have grown quite a bit since our first class of 26 students, 5 faculty members, and a rented facility with $50,000 in the bank. We now have 440 undergraduate students, 100 graduate students, 35+ faculty members, four beautiful campuses (Front Royal, Alexandria, Donegal, and Rome), and a decent sized endowment of about $15M. Our campus is worth about $35M and we have paid for it all but about $1M. We do not rely on any Federal funds or financial assistance so we raise money from generous benefactors each year to aid our day-to-day operational needs, our future building campaigns, our financial aid fund, and all other expenses.
All this being said, in today’s crazy financial climate, you can never truly say that you are “too big to fail.” But at the same time, we can honestly say that by staying the size that we are, leveraging technology, and managing our income, expenses, and donations properly, we can foresee a long and prosperous future, by the Grace of God.
Christendom, again, by the Grace of God and the benevolence of our most faithful and generous benefactors, is in great financial health and will hopefully continue on this road so that we can continue to offer one of the most rigorous, Catholic liberal arts educations in the world, thus helping to prepare our graduates to go out into today’s culture to work to “restore all things in Christ.”
I think Christendom is a great school, but when I tell my kids about it, they say that they would rather go to a larger, big-name school, not some seemingly no-name place like Christendom? Do you have any suggestions on what I could tell them in response?”
First of all, I think this may be a very common “objection” given by high school students to their parents, and sometimes, unfortunately, even given by parents to their high school aged students. I guess the theory is that if you go to a big name university, then people will think that you are smart, employable, affluent, and all that, and upon graduation, because they can put down Princeton, Yale, Brown, Amherst, Dartmouth, etc., then it will further their careers and their chances of financial success.
I am not going to say that this is not true. In fact, I am sure that it is true that if a person attends a well-known, big-name, highly-ranked college or university, it will benefit them after graduation in helping them land jobs, network amongst alumni, and become financially secure.
I cannot, though, say that it will necessarily do anything to aid them in their pursuit of wisdom, truth, beauty, holiness, virtue, character, integrity, good friends, or attaining eternal life. Of course, these things are all possible to achieve while attending a big-name school, but these benefits are not the ones that are normally associated with going to big-name colleges, or given as reasons to attend such a prestigious institution. Normally, as I stated above, it is all about getting ahead in this world.
Although some may refer to Christendom as a no-name small college, I would disagree. I guess it all depends on who you ask, right? I mean, is it more important to have the backing and endorsement of US News, Princeton Review, Forbes, Peterson’s, Barron’s, etc., over people such as Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, Fr. Groeschel, Cardinal Arinze, Cardinal Pell, George Weigel, and Bishop Bruskewitz? I would say not, unless your goal is simply to attain an academic education and learn how to win friends and influence people. But if you are hoping to grow in virtue, knowledge, and holiness, then it seems that Christendom may actually be one of the biggest-named, most-prestigious, and highly-ranked colleges in the world.
It all depends how you look at it. Although we have been ranked by US News, Peterson’s Barron’s, ISI, Newsmax, Young America’s Foundation, Free Congress Foundation, Kiplinger’s and other secular organizations, we are much more proud of the endorsements from the many Catholic luminaries who have visited our campus or expressed great admiration for our unique mission in the world of Catholic higher education:
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Pope St. John Paul II, Francis Cardinal Arinze, George Cardinal Pell, Raymond Cardinal Burke, Sean Cardinal O’Malley, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Edward Cardinal Egan, Francis Cardinal George, Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua, James Francis Cardinal Stafford, Justin Francis Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, Archbishop Charles Chaput, Bishop Thomas Doran, Bishop James Conley, Bishop Paul Loverde, Bishop Robert Morlino, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Fr. George Rutler, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, Fr. John Hardon, Fr. C. John McCloskey, Dr. Scott Hahn, Dr. Peter Kreeft, Dr. John Haas, Pat Buchanan, Henry Hyde, Chris Smith, George Weigel, Patrick Madrid, Curtis Martin, Jeff Cavins, Raymond Arroyo, Ray Guarendi, Sam Brownback, Rick Santorum, Kate O’Beirne, Alan Keyes, Marcus Grodi, and so many others.
And, to top it all off, we are able to see the results of our educational experience in our alumni in, not only in what they do, but, how they live. Our alumni are represented in just about every profession. We have alumni who are doctors, lawyers, physical therapists, accountants, managers, nurses, educators, salesmen, graphic artists, editors, entrepreneurs, project managers, tradesmen, builders, carpenters, priests, religious, music teachers, art directors, drama teachers, missionaries, real estate agents, insurance salesmen, architects, dentists, college professors, Montessori teachers, computer scientists, and everything in between.
But more important than simply having a good job and career, the alumni are living their Catholic faith on a daily basis and affecting the culture and working to restore all things in Christ. They are bringing the “Catholic air” which they breathed for four years on our campus, out to today’s culture which is, unfortunately, inhaling “toxic fumes.” Our alumni are making a difference in today’s culture and, as time goes by, Christendom’s name will be one with which to be associated.
I want to end with a quote from former US President Ronald Reagan, from his book, An American Life.
“In later life, I visited some of the most famous universities in the world. As governor of California, I presided over a university system regarded as one of the best. But if I had to do it over again, I’d go back to Eureka or another small college like it in a second.
At big universities, relatively few students get involved in extra-curricular activities: They go to class, go to their living quarters, go to the library, then go back to their classes. There may be a lot to be said for those large universities, but I think too many young people overlook the value of a small college and the tremendous influence that participation in student activities can have during the years from adolescence to adulthood.
If I had gone to one of those larger schools, I think I would have fallen back in the crowd and never discovered things about myself that I did at Eureka. My life would have been different.
There were fewer than 250 students when I was at Eureka, roughly divided between men and women, and everyone knew one another by their first name.
As in a small town, you couldn’t remain anonymous at a small college. Everybody was needed. Whether it’s the glee club or helping to edit the school yearbook, there’s a job for everyone, and everybody gets a chance to shine at something and build their sense of self-confidence. You get to discover things about yourself that you might never learn if you were lost in the crowd of a larger school.”
I heard that Christendom College was recently ranked as one of the ten best colleges in the US. Why do you think you made the list when none of your competitors (other small Catholic colleges in particular) did? Congratulations, by the way. What a great list to be on!
Thanks for the congratulations! We were also very excited to be ranked as highly as we were, among some other great schools. I believe we made the top ten list for a number of reasons, but primarily for the following three reasons:
We have an excellent integrated core curriculum.
We focus on the liberal arts and pursuit of truth.
We have a campus culture that is reflective of our Christian principles.
As far as none of our competitors making it, well, I can’t really say much about that. From what I have heard, the writers and editors of the report thought highly of a lot of other schools, but since there were only ten slots to fill, not everyone could make it. I am sure glad that we did because it shows a wider audience the caliber of our institution and the academic prowess of our faculty and students.
Top Ten Exceptional Schools
Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)
University of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
The University of the South (Sewanee, TN)
The United States Military Academy (West Point, NY)
Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA)
Baylor University (Waco, TX)
Providence College (Providence, RI)
Texas A&M (College Station, TX)
Gordon College (Wenham, MA)
Christendom College (Front Royal, VA)
The report, entitled Ranking America’s Colleges, judged the schools on how well they provided “the classic ‘liberal education’ suited to a free citizen and a well-rounded adult.” The report hopes to inform consumers, educators, and donors to the best and worst trends in American education.
In the assessment of the schools the report asked:
Are [students] being challenged to stretch their cognitive abilities in different fields, so they’ll be intellectually and professionally versatile adults? Are they learning the basics of core disciplines such as American history, democratic government, English literature, and the market economy? Are they engaging with a wide range of freely expressed opinions on key ethical and political issues they will face as individuals and as citizens? Are they living in safe and sober residences where academic work is encouraged, not inhibited?
The report also emphasizes the importance of a liberal arts education in today’s economy. Citing the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it says that workers go through an average of eleven different jobs by the time they reach age forty-four.
“Many workers must change careers, as industries decline or are transformed by technology and outsourcing,” the report says. “The cognitive flexibility and intellectual curiosity developed by a true liberal arts education is the central prerequisite for a full, productive, and satisfying life.”
The report described Christendom students as “intellectually and morally serious” that enjoy class discussions, which typically spill over into “long conversations over coffee.”
All students complete a rigorous Catholic core curriculum covering Western civilization before choosing a major in classical and early Christian studies, English, history, philosophy, political science and economics, or theology. The school sticks to its specialties, so each of these majors is strong,” the report continues. “Instead of political correctness, there is an absolute expectation of Catholic orthodoxy.