Grove City College Summer Orientation Tour for John Michael and Mom
As I attended the 40th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (where my friend and RTS alumnus, Dr. Michael Ross, was elected Moderator and did a tremendous job), my wife and son made a solo trip to Grove City College. This is the first major visit since his acceptance back in December of 2011. He had visited Washington and Lee, Vanderbilt, VMI, Davidson, Princeton and Grove City. He was blessed with some really humbling offers, but he never hesitated: he went the Early Decision route and applied to Grove City College, thereby committing himself to the college if accepted. By December 15th he was. And we have been rejoicing ever since.
The process of selecting a college for your child is a family experience that can open up the glory of God’s handiwork as in Ephesians 2:10, “created in Christ Jesus for good works prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Discovering that divinely ordained creativity in your child, matching that with your values, your interests and his or hers, and researching higher education (or other alternatives, which I surely support, like enlistment in the military or trade schools or apprenticing for a trade) is an exercise in parenting stewardship. And what is good for one, in our case the choice of Grove City College, may not be the best for another. That is the joy and excitement of it all. I hope these personal thoughts on our little summer orientation will open up some thoughts and questions with some others who are beginning to pray their way to this point.
I was interested in several things about this summer orientation trip and the Lord gave us clarity on each. It was better that I was not there and allowed my beloved Midwestern wife to handle the practical objectives that needed tending. It also allowed John Michael to explore and express himself without his helicopter father hovering over each and every detail of the visit. OK. Here are the results (and I share this, not out of a narcissistic interest [I trust], but to help other parents who are about to walk this journey themselves).
1. Were the first impressions (from our earlier visits and research) still ringing true, not only with John Michael but with Mae?
I know it is hard for some to fully grasp that a Presbyterian minister is concerned about intuiion and impressions, but the older I get the greater value I place on intuiion (actually John Calvin did too but that is another Ph.D. dissertation). Our research (and I cannot commend Choosing the Right College by the ISI Publications enough—if you are a parent beginning to think through the college selection process for your child, subscribe to this annual publication now) had culminated in a very positive first impression and even second impression, as we made two different visits. So how would this one go? All of the research was behind us and the admissions and Christmas sweatshirt with Grove City Wolverines had been opened and worn (and worn and worn). But would he (and Mom) still have that “fire in the gut?” Well, my son’s response to me, on our cellular conversation, seemed unambiguous: “Dad, there is no doubt This is the place for me.” A long drive back home, time for more reflection and prayer, and a thorough cross examination by old Pappy when we were reunited. I am satisfied that both mother and son remain not only convinced about our son’s place at Grove City but excited and truly humbled to be at such a fine institution. Barons and Princeton Review and other well-known ranking guides listed Grove City as among the most difficult colleges to get into and the most selective among Christian colleges but I really liked Consumer Digest which listed them as number one in educational value in private liberal arts colleges in America. I was also impressed by the Young America’s Foundation assessment of the college. Getting great academics in a top tiered college that is not just Christian but Reformed in tradition and commitments and offering what my friend Dr. Albert Mohler said of Grove City College: “…the complete collegiate experience in a Christian setting.” Good. Check that one off. He is still pumped and that is good. No, that is a blessing! “Thank you Lord for Thy guidence.”
2. How about the academic scheduling for the first year?
John Michael has chosen English as a major. As Steve Doocy of Fox News’ “Fox and Friends” morning show wrote John Michael when he made Eagle Scout (Steve is a fellow Kansas Jayhawk supporter and really a great sport to take the time to write our boy [who once wore a KU t-shirt and stood outside of the Fox News studio until Steve came out!), “That’s my favorite language!” Well, John Michael likes English too! But English, that is the study of English Literature, especially through a Great Books curriculum, along with the Grove City required Western Civ core, fit well into our model of the best college, as the quadrennium following the trivium of classical education.     Dr. James Dixon is the department chairman and John Michael was greatly assisted by the senior professor at GCC and felt, again, that this was the right way to go. He wants to minor in the political science department in national security. He is also going to take Chinese and Asian literature to focus on Pacific rim studies during his time there. So his academic scheduling time confirmed our research and answered our prayers that this major and minor was the path to take, at least for now. Again, “Thank you Lord.” Now we pray. The work is daunting! But the joy of learning is there. You can feel it. And he has returned with that zeal that we prayed for. Oh that it does not prove effervescent!
3. How about distance? Grove City College is an eight and a half hour drive from our home in Matthews, North Carolina. Clearly, if a need arose, we would need to fly. Is this too far?
This may not be a big deal to you. It has always been our son’s response that distance is an issue for us and not for him. While Mom finally got him to admit that there will be some homesickness, both felt that the distance would not be an issue. We will plan on driving up for certain events (he is in theater and is in choir and will have some special performances coming up, as well as parents’ days and pick up times for semester breaks) and will use good old US Airways as needed. Grove City did cover the issue of homesickness and child at college and not with me sickness, too! We will all have some inevitable growing in grace and leaning on the Lord to do. And that is good.
Summer Orientation supported my wife’s and my opinion that Grove City College was not only a top flight, well run, strong academic and Christian college but a college that seems as perfectly matched for our son as possible. It is important for me to quickly add that I am well acquainted with other outstanding Christian and secular colleges and universities that would be a possible good fit for our son and most assuredly a perfect fit for other young adults. This is not our assessment of other colleges but our experience offered through reflection.
Next? Confirm roommates with the roommate finder software that GCC has and drop off on August 23rd. Until then, he has Boy Scout Camp (this year as an “adult leader” Eagle Scout), working at RTS Charlotte, and a senior trip/family vacation to Britain. That should give me enough time to get “prayed up” for drop off time at Grove City College.
If you and your family are reading this and thinking through colleges, I pray that you will spend time in prayer, approach the project as a family, study, study and study some more, and then drill down into the departments where your child will find his or her mentors in their subject/field of choice. If it is a state school or private, secular based college, research the Christian discipleship ministries (like Reformed University Fellowship and Campus Outreach) and local churches. If it is a Christian college, don’t bypass the issue of investigating the departments and the core requirements. The idea of undergraduate education is a broad liberal arts, Western Civilization foundation. Make sure the Christian college is maintaining that committment. Then, draw down the choices to about four or five. Having 20 is not helpful. You simply cannot visit that many campuses and talk to that many professors and presidents (and doing that is essential). Once you have your list, do your visits. Go to the scheduled times of visits, like the senior high days that most colleges and universites offer, but also plan on visiting during “normal” times. Schedule visits in the middle of the semester and do so by seeking an interview with, not only admissions, but a professor from the department that interests your child, the dean of that department or college, another administrator (the president or the provost is good if you can schedule far enough out), and, this is most important, other students: freshmen and upperclassmen.
Enjoy the years the Lord is giving you. Don’t weep for what you have been rearing them for, even though you may cry with joy for the blessings of good memory and just plain missing them (do that before drop off day if you can! It helps everyone!). Parenthood is always changing, but it can also grow deeper and even stronger as you transition into a parent of a young adult.
But if you must have a good old fashioned, sit-down and miss-’em crying spell:
Go with your intuition.
 Edwards, Lee. Freedom’s college: the history of Grove City College. Regnery Publishing, 2000.
 Jessica, L, and Gohari Omid. Grove City College. College Prowler Inc, 2005.
 McGrath, Alister E. A Life of John Calvin: A Study in the Shaping of Western Culture. Wiley-Blackwell, 1993.
 Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Choosing the Right College, 2012: the whole truth about America’s top schools. Isi Books, 2012.
 From a personal conversation.
 Denby, David. Great books: My adventures with Homer, Rousseau, Woolf, and other indestructible writers of the Western world. Simon and Schuster, 1997.
 Bauer, Susan Wise, and Jessie Wise. The Well-Trained mind: A guide to classical education at home. WW Norton & Company, 2009.
 Sayers, Dorothy Leigh, and Dan Russ. “The lost tools of learning.” 1948.
 Farris, Michael P, and Scott A Woodruff. “The future of home schooling.” Peabody Journal of Education 75.1-2 (2000): 233-255.
 Wilson, Douglas. The case for classical Christian education. Crossway, 2002.
 Leithart, Peter J. “The new classical schooling.” The Intercollegiate Review (2008): 3-12.