On my tour of Pennsylvania liberal arts colleges last week, Messiah College was our last stop. It is a Christian college located in central Pennsylvania about 10 minutes from Harrisburg and two hours from Washington DC or Philadelphia. The campus sits on a hill and the Yellow Breeches Creek flows along one side, providing a very scenic location for a covered bridge and, according to one admissions counselor, great fishing.
A Christian Campus:
Of all the liberal arts colleges I visited on this trip, Messiah may be more limited in appeal because it is so strongly tied to Christian ideals. Messiah is home to 2800 students from a variety of Christian faiths. Many students come from non-denominational Christian backgrounds, but all students share the belief that we are all created for service. The school’s mission statement guides most of their practices:
“Our mission is to educate men and women toward maturity of intellect, character, and Christian faith in preparation for lives of service, leadership, and reconciliation in church and society.”
I’ve visited many colleges with religious affiliations, but sometimes the association is in name only. Messiah is NOT one of these schools. Messiah is not affiliated with one denomination, but the tone of the campus is overwhelmingly Christian. While I believe students of other backgrounds would be respected and welcomed at Messiah, I don’t think they would feel very comfortable.
In accordance with its strongly Christian mission, Messiah structures the campus to reflect these values:
- Professors and staff sign a statement of faith affirming commitment to the mission of the college.
- Students are required to attend weekly chapel. Chapel combines varying worship styles with guest speakers on an array of topics.
- Students are encouraged to keep their minds and bodies pure. Messiah is an alcohol-free campus and students are strongly encouraged to abstain from sexual activity.
Messiah students like the campus environment and many said they have learned as much about themselves and their own faith as they have about their particular fields of study.
Yes, Messiah College is more of a regional school, but it is well recognized as a regional liberal arts college. Here are some facts you may not know:
- Messiah is ranked as #4 in U. S. News for Best Regional College in the northeast.
- According to the Institute of International Education, Messiah ranks 14th in the nation among undergraduate institutions that send students to study abroad.
- Messiah students volunteer more than 124,000 hours to community service each year.
- Men’s and women’s soccer won the NCAA Division III championships in 2005, 2008, and 2009.
- Messiah is recognized as an active campus offering an excellent education for Christian Colleges of Distinction.
- Messiah is ranked in the top 100 for best undergraduate engineering programs by U. S. News. (A new major in civil engineering will be offered fall 2013.)
Clearly, Messiah appeals to students seeking a strong Christian environment, but there are other factors that make it an attractive school. Like most small liberal arts schools, Messiah provides an atmosphere in which students are encouraged to work closely with professors. Undergraduates who were good students in high school are pushed to be great students at Messiah.
Messiah is recognized for its study abroad and internship programs. When students opt to study abroad, Messiah pays their airfare and most students can spend a semester or year abroad for no additional cost.
I was able to see the exterior of the new Center for Worship and Performing Arts. It is impressive and will house programs such as a recording studio and a choir loft seating 160. Messiah offers a new major in musical theater and all students are encouraged to participate in theater performances or any of the choirs (including a gospel choir.)
The campus is home to the Oakes Museum of Natural History that provides students and members of the community with learning opportunities. Messiah students in the education department help work with visiting students from area schools to develop curriculum related to a museum visit and students in the natural sciences can learn more with hands on opportunities to study the exhibits.
- 74% of students graduate in 4 years.
- 39% of students are male; 61% female.
- 87% of students live on campus.
- Average test scores are 1135 SAT and 25 ACT.
- 86% of students return to Messiah for their sophomore year. (This is a good rate of retention. Compare it with other schools on your list.)
- 41% of students are from out-of-state—primarily from Maryland, New Jersey, and New York.
- 13% of students are either non-white or international.
- 75% of admitted students were in the top 30% of their high school class.
- Admission is rolling, but students should apply by Jan 15 to be considered for scholarships or the honors program.
- 64% of students who applied were admitted.
Who Would Like Messiah College?:
Messiah is a beautiful and unapologetically Christian campus. I would recommend it for the student seeking a Christian environment with recognized academic programs. Student looking for a school specific to their denomination (Catholic school, Baptist school, etc.) may not fit here. For students who live in or around Pennsylvania, I think it is a great option. Students from other parts of the country may want to consider Messiah if it fits their other college search criteria.