The Importance Of Values When Choosing A College

The last few years we have worked into our college counseling program, a value identification exercise. What we try to do is have our students identify the values that are most important to them in relationship to their educational experience. As straightforward as that sounds, you would be surprised how difficult it is to get the students to think about the type of education they want. It is easy for them to tell me the quality of dormitory they can live in, the weather or climate they most prefer, and the quality of food they need to survive. However, none of these items are going to impact their education as much as the students, faculty and curriculum they study with. When asked about these, most students reply to me that it doesn’t matter, they can study anywhere.

Why they say this I’m unsure. Is it because they really think it doesn’t matter? Or is it because the peer pressure or parents and educators desire that they attend the highest ranked schools is too great and picking a school based on your values would eliminate so many schools? I am unsure of the reasons but I do see the results. I have noticed that most of my students of faith become non-believers. Students that believed in the laws of biological science now disregard science over personal feelings and identification when it comes to personal sexuality. I see first hand the results of their decisions, decisions usually based on rankings not values.

To really get the most out of the 250,000 USD you are going to spend on an education I really think more time and effort should be put into thinking about that education. It is easy to find out how ‘woke’ a campus is, how balanced the student body can be in terms of race, socio-economic status, and political bent, which unfortunately in America is pretty lined up with the values they possess. I don’t think sending your child to a school that is homogeneous in the moral makeup of the student body is a good idea. If you are conservative sending your child to school with conservative faculty and students isn’t going to offer the depth of questioning and reasoning, they will need to hone their intelligence and take ownership of their beliefs. However, sending them to a school with mostly progressive liberal faculty and students is like feeding them to the sharks - they will be alone and afraid and probably cave into the belief system being espoused around them.

The best advice I can give is that you must first define your own values of education. Ask yourself what it means to acquire a great education? What types of worldviews, ideals, teachers and students would it be good to study with? Are ideals like mutual respect, freedom of speech, internationalism, pursuit of absolute truth or relative truth important to you? Do you want a balanced faculty? What style of education do you prefer, classical, socratic, modern? The answer to these questions are what will shape your experience and what you should be basing your decision on what school to attend on. So first define your values and the expectations you have for education.

Secondly, you must find schools that align best with your own values and expectations. This takes some work and may even involve asking the institution themselves. It is difficult to look at a college website and really see what the value the institution espouses is. However, they are different. For example Yale allows and has had multiple protests related to the hate versus freedom of speech debate. Cornell, on the other hand, has not had as many disruptions over the last few years. A casual glance at the student section on niche can show you the possible reasons why. Cornell has a lot less progressive students and many more moderates, in effect a much more balanced student body.

Picking your college based on your values and educational expectations will produce a much better return on your investment and a deeper, more fulfilling and better education than making a choice based on arbitrary rankings.

Famous Alumni

Terrence Vance Gilliam is an American-born British filmmaker, comedian, animator, actor and former member of the Monty Python comedy troupe. Mr. Gilliam received his undergraduate degree in political science from Occidental College, a small liberal arts school in Los Angeles, California, which is the same school where Barack Obama attended.

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