On Christian Higher Education: Pointing Prospective Students to Christ

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared at “I Am Not the Standard.”

300 miles. The only thing standing between me and my admissions counselor. As my parents and I made the five-hour trek out to Western Pennsylvania in our Maryland-plated car, the knots in my stomach only grew tighter. Destination: Grove City College. My interview with the Admissions Office was at last looming near, and the pressure was mounting. What will they ask? What if I freeze up or can’t articulate what faith and freedom mean to me? How can I authentically weave the legacy of Ronald Reagan into my responses?

As we pulled up to Crawford Hall, the nerves subsided a bit. Once I stepped into the Admissions Office, sat down by the Keurig, and heard the truth-filled lyrics of K-Love hits streaming through the Bose, I was ready. Still nervous, but ready.

“Emily? Nice to meet you! Come on back.”


Little did I know that five years later I’d be shaking the hopeful hands of prospective students before inviting them into my office to hear their stories from the other side of the desk. Having been significantly impacted by this college community as a student, I consider it an honor to walk alongside aspiring collegians and offer some guidance as the Lord directs their steps.

Stepping into the world of college admissions over the last two years, I quickly learned that good salesmanship is key. But for an admissions counselor pitching a school whose Christ-centered mission is to “equip students to pursue their unique calling” it makes a world of difference to know that God is ultimately the One calling people here and His wise plans cannot be thwarted, no matter how winsomely or weakly I engage or seek to persuade. Indeed, God is a god of means who undoubtedly uses interviews, tours, neo-Gothic red-brick buildings, scholarships, alumni connections, and other tangible things to lead people here. But any victories I enjoy are not really mine. And in loss, I can trust the Lord’s plans will come to fruition for His glory and our good.

The Christ-centeredness of Grove City College also manifests itself in the way we evaluate students—that is, holistically. Numbers are important, but they are not everything. Viewing students from multiple angles allows us to build a class based on more than mere test scores and unweighted grade point average. While it’s always thrilling to win over a stand-out student who might not feel a fit until something in our message hits home, it’s equally exciting to empower a diamond in the rough with some confidence to hone his God-given gifts excellently, despite a less-than-stellar SAT score.

Just as numbers, goals, and paperwork can be overwhelming for a high school senior pursuing admission to a variety of schools, everything that goes into crafting an incoming freshman class on our end can be daunting as well, especially considering today’s challenges in higher education. But putting faces to names breathes life into this job, and there’s something so inspiring about seeing God’s character reflected differently in the wide array of personalities, talents, strengths, abilities, and aspirations represented in all the young men and women I get to meet.

Speaking of God’s character, getting an education animated by His truth should be nothing short of transformational. Compared to a transactional approach to education, in which a degree may be earned apart from a soul being nourished or character being built, Grove City College provides each student the invaluable opportunity to invest in mind, heart, and soul in a way that leads to lifelong growth and fruitfulness. Having lived the Grover life for four years, I can certainly attest to the transformational growth that happens here. And even now on staff, the sense of purpose that permeates our office inspires me to look at each interaction as one step toward transformation—both for the student seeking wisdom and encouragement, and for the counselor who gets to be a small part of that student’s journey.

C. S. Lewis, in concluding his famous sermon The Weight of Glory, said this: “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”

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Although some days feel ordinary and some conversations dull, the promise of eternity weighs on my heart and says, “listen.” So, I do, to each soul who sits across from me. And what a gift it has been to engage with these young men and women, whose shoes I was in just a few years ago.

As they seek out answers to pursue the right path, I hope to be a resource. But at the end of the day, I hope to point them to Christ – the Wonderful Counselor, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

About Emily Rothbard

Emily Rothbard is an admissions counselor at Grove City College, where in 2016 she earned her degree in Communication Studies with minors in Spanish and Biblical & Religious Studies.

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