Dr. Mark Tarpley is the creator of the Christian education site, Living Orthodox, whose mission is to bring faith, history, and daily living into conversation. His 20 years of experience in education spans a vast range, including middle school, high school, undergraduate, master’s level, and doctoral level instruction. He has taught in private and public high schools, as well as at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and the Pappas Patristic Institute in Boston, Mass. He has also led youth and college-age Orthodox ministries at the local level and worked nationally with the Orthodox Christian Fellowship and the Office of Vocations and Ministry at Hellenic College Holy Cross. Dr. Tarpley completed his undergraduate degree at Southern Methodist University in 1999 with his thesis on the Divine Liturgy. He went on to complete his master’s degree at St. Tikhon’s Theological Seminary in 2005 and his doctorate from Southern Methodist University in 2009. His specific area of focus in his studies has centered on the Patristic tradition in relationship to family, education, and public life. His master’s thesis focused on the ascetic ethos of marriage, and his doctoral thesis considered marriage, family, and public life in the writings of St. Gregory the Theologian. In addition to his education site, Living Orthodox, Dr. Tarpley owns and operates an ACT test preparation company called TarpleyPrep and is the Director of Education for a medical education company in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Mark, his wife Sophia, and their seven children reside in Fort Worth, TX.
If you are considering college for your child, take a minute and list the top five criteria your family holds in choosing a college. Once you have written your list, continue reading below.
Alright, let’s start with an in-depth, national study. What follows is a list of the top five reasons provided by students in choosing a college:
- College has a very good academic reputation (63.8 percent)
- This college’s graduates get good jobs (55.9 percent)
- I was offered financial assistance (45.6 percent)
- The cost of attending this college (43.3 percent)
- A visit to this campus (41.8 percent)
Now, compare your list with the results of this national survey. How does your list and the list above compare? How are the lists different?
At this point, I would like to offer some points of reflection for Orthodox Christian families in building their own list of criteria for choosing a college.
- What are the goals you hold for your child as a Christian while in college? How do these goals align with the college you are considering for your child, and how will the college facilitate the accomplishment of these goals?
- How much influence does the academic reputation of the school or the job prospects the school may make possible play into the decision? Are these areas disproportionately important compared to other areas of consideration connected with being supported in the Christian life?
- Is there a vibrant Orthodox Christian community willing and able to embrace your child? Is there an OCF on campus? Do you know a local priest close to the college? How many Orthodox Christians attend the college?
- Are there families or connections you have within the town/city of the college you are considering that will be able to support your child? Is there a family that can adopt your child while at college?
At the heart of the Orthodox Christian life is community. All Orthodox Christians must struggle within the community of faith. We are not saved alone, and we certainly cannot make progress in the Christian life without the support of our brothers and sisters in Christ and the presence of Christian leadership. No doubt, when our children leave to go off to college, they find themselves in a precarious situation. They have left their faith community, and if they do not connect into a new faith community, how can we expect them to remain faithful to the Church?
As Orthodox Christians, we must prayerfully consider where we send our children to college. We must resist the priorities of this world in seeking prestige and money before the Kingdom of God. Rather, even in choosing a college for our children, we must “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
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