For some students, the decision of which college to attend is based on more than just academics and extracurricular activities; it's centered on faith.
Y-Press interviewed students from Indiana Bible College, Brigham Young University and Taylor University. All had attended a public high school; they discussed their experiences at a religious college and the differences between it and a secular school.
Indiana Bible College is an Apostolic Pentecostal community on the Southside of Indianapolis. It has about 350 students. Taylor, an interdenominational evangelical "Christ-centered" campus in Upland, Ind., has about 1,900 students. Brigham Young University, in Utah, is much larger, with more than 32,500 students. It was founded by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
About half of the students interviewed chose to attend a religious-affiliated college due to a strong connection with their faith.
Vincent Runyan, a graduate of North Central High School, just finished his first year at Brigham Young. While both parents are BYU graduates, that wasn't why he chose to go there.
"I didn't apply to any other schools. The Lord told me that I'm supposed to go to BYU for at least my freshman year," he said.
Patricia Ellinger, who will be a sophomore at Indiana Bible, felt a similar call.
"I decided to come to IBC because I wanted to get closer to God. At home I wasn't learning as much as I could've been, and so I decided to come here," said the Elkridge, Md., native.
Another reason that compelled some students to choose a faith-based college was family.
"I was pretty much influenced by my parents, and they just really liked Taylor -- not particularly because it was Christian, just because it was a good school," said Rindy Schlatter, a senior from Fort Wayne.
"I chose Taylor because I have an older sister who went there. I really like the professors. I really like the spiritual aspect," said Hannah Larson, a senior from Orono, Minn.
At Indiana Bible, prospective students are asked to have a high school diploma or equivalent, preferably with a grade point average of 2.5, and their pastor's approval. No standardized test scores are required.
At Taylor, last year's freshmen had average SAT scores of 1185, average ACT scores of 26, and average GPAs of 3.6.
At Brigham Young, prospective freshmen are encouraged to apply if they have an ACT score of 27 or higher and a GPA of 3.6 or higher.
All schools' applications had religion-related questions or required essays asking students to reflect on their spirituality. The students felt this was meant not to exclude anyone but to help them decide if the school was a good fit.
"There was also a question about if you have been baptized in Jesus' name, or if you've received the gift of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. But that wasn't a requirement," said Josh O'Bannion, an Indiana Bible junior from Parma, Ohio.
Ellen Miller of Santa Maria, Calif., will graduate from Taylor later this summer.
"You don't have to be a Christian to come to this school, but there is a certain sort of community that they're trying to create here. So if you don't have the same belief system, they want to make sure that you're gonna be able to be part of the community," Miller said.
Some students believed the academic admission requirements were not as stringent as most other colleges. However, they emphasized that their academic classes were more comprehensive, because the role of faith was often brought into the classroom in all subjects.
"I'm a psychology major. Going to a religious university, we are required to study the entire span of what would be considered secular psychology as well as Christian psychology. So we're actually probably a little bit more broad in our education," Ellen said.
All the students agreed their faith-based school provided not only an education, but also a supportive environment to learn about themselves and life.
"I've learned more about being diligent as a person, responsible for my duties as far as in a work place, taking care of people's emotions, making sure that they're comfortable around me. That way I can succeed in life," said Micah Warbington, an Indiana Bible senior from Conway, Ark.
Vincent said Brigham Young provides an environment vastly different than the one he experienced in Indianapolis. The Mormon faith pervades life not only on the campus but also in the city of Provo, in which it is located.
"The Latter-day Saints have a tendency to be very close. You see them not just at church but at all the church activities that are throughout the week, and you'll see them at school. It's like a giant family of like 50,000 people," he said.
"They are so sheltered from the outside world, which is a good thing in many respects. They don't have all the pornography problems and drugs and alcohol. Like there is not a single bar in Provo," he continued.
These loving communities contrast with the students' experiences in public high schools. While all understood the challenges of public school -- dealing with large numbers of students with varied backgrounds -- they believe they perform better at institutions with like-minded individuals.
"I had grown up in a public high school setting, and I think it's because of that that I wanted to go to a Christian college. I just felt like I didn't fit in a lot of times, and I wanted a place where fellow Christians could be together and build each other up in Christ," said Darla Stults, a Taylor senior from Richmond, Ind.
"I always had a desire to preach since I was little, maybe about 3, and I grew up in church. And I went to public school my junior and senior years, and I wanted to get back into a Christian school environment just so that I knew where I stood as far as knowing the Word," said Jana Plummer, a recent Indiana Bible graduate from Washington, D.C.
While Taylor students have a variety of majors that will prepare them for secular work, such as marketing and psychology, most Indiana Bible students, such as Jana, intend to pursue the ministry.
Vincent has embarked on a two-year mission trip to Puebla, Mexico, near Mexico City, and will return to Brigham Young to continue his education. "I've always wanted to go, and really I figure the Lord's given me this whole time to be here on Earth, you know, and the least I can do is give him two years," he said.
"I really want a chance to share what I believe because it's made me happier than I've ever been before, and I just want to give other people that happiness."
ASSISTANT EDITORS: Matt Stone, 18; Alicia Strong, 17.
REPORTERS: Meagan Gardner, 11; Ethan Hetzler, 11.
Who we are
Y-Press is a nonprofit news organization with offices in The Indianapolis Star building. Stories are researched, reported and written by teams of young people ages 10 to 18. For more information, call (317) 444-2010 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Go online for more
Child abuse: If you want to read more about this topic from a child's perspective, check out www.ypress.org. Y-Press also invites students' response to a poll question and wants your comments about student-written movie and book reviews.