as college students descend upon campuses across the country, 18-year-old Jim Tibble will join the ranks of freshmen at the
Tibble, who graduated in May from
“I’m really excited to get out to
Tibble says he chose
“I was looking for a small school and continuing my Catholic education,” he says. “My older brother and sister graduated from there, so I had a feel for it. It has a really nice campus and I liked the admissions process — the people were friendly and made it easy. It just seemed right.”
His mother, Kathy Tibble, helped guide Jim’s decision. “You know your children,” she says. “Putting out options you think they might want to pursue will help them decide.”
Catholic families like the Tibbles help their teenage children make this important decision every year.
family is accustomed to this process. Five of their children have graduated
from Catholic universities, while one is currently attending the University of Notre Dame, and Jim is off to
Family support is vital in
choosing wisely, notes Art Bennett, director of the Alpha Omega Clinic, a
Catholic counseling center in
Trudy Rigney, director of guidance at Tibble’s high school, St. Francis, agrees. “Be a really good coach and cheerleader,” she advises. “Parents need to let the child take responsibility for going through the process. With the student about to be going off to college on his own, where he’ll have to do things himself, this serves as a lifestyle learning process.”
Jim Tibble says touring schools helped him decide. “Campus tours gave me a good feel for how I’d fit in at the school.”
Rigney recommends visits to students. “The college visit is one of the most important factors in the decision,” she says. “When they go visit, they can see if it really is the right match for them — or if it’s not quite what they expected.”
Evaluating the teen’s personality and goals can help narrow down a student’s school choices, Rigney says. “I help them to identify their interests and other things that are critical to their college decision — geographical location, size, and other requirements, such as playing a sport,” she says.
Adds Bennett, who co-wrote The Temperament God Gave You (Sophia Press, 2005) with his wife, Laraine, “Help them realize their strengths and weaknesses. Ask, ‘What do you see yourself doing?’”
Rick Sarkisian, PhD, author of Life Work: Finding Your Purpose in Life (Ignatius, 1997), recommends an introduction to the working world through jobs or volunteerism.
“All of that helps a young man or woman test and apply their skills in the real world,” he says. “That has a direct link to making a wise college choice.”
Many Catholic families send their children to non-Catholic schools. According to the Cincinnati-based Catholic Campus Ministry Association, 90% of Catholic college students — a head count of roughly 4.5 million — attend non-Catholic schools and are ministered to at about 700 Catholic campus ministries across the country.
According to the ministry
association, St. Mary’s
“Sending your child to a good secular, state school with a good Catholic ministry will give your child the opportunity to grow in faith while in college,” says Father David Konderla, pastor of St. Mary’s. “We have lots of programs students can get involved in, to make good friendships and grow in faith.”
Father Thomas Holloway, assistant
“When the message of the Gospel is something challenging, they respond,” he says.
He also says the community atmosphere is important. “We have a full-time community with the hall. It’s not just a building you come to for activities, but a built-in faith community,” he says. “That attracts young people.”
The Fellowship of Catholic University Students is also a positive force at colleges, present on nearly 30 secular and Catholic campuses in 15 states.
The bottom line for Catholic families? Always discern God’s will.
“Don’t put college first,” Sarkisian says. “By having an eternal perspective, with our sights on God’s will, not ours, we’ll make wise choices.”
Amy Smith writes from