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Colleges That Encourage Character Development

College Bound Reading List

Colleges That Encourage Character Development: A Resource for Parents, Students, and Educators

Recent national studies suggest that the vast majority of Americans share a respect for a common set of core values: honesty, compassion, and personal responsibility. While those positive traits are developed over a lifetime, the college experience is critical to the formation of a moral compass. But which colleges are best for character development? Which colleges are oriented toward an ethical and civic-minded education? Will the academic environment at a particular college support the student’s values? Some answers to these questions can be found in Colleges That Encourage Character Development. This book contains profiles of 400 exemplary college programs in ten categories, 50 college presidents who emphasize character development, and 100 colleges that encourage personal and civic responsibility in all dimensions of college life. The book explores programs at both secular and religious colleges that promote honesty, volunteer service, spiritual growth, civic education, and student leadership. A glossary aids in clarifying terms that may be ambiguous such as value, virtue, and critical thinking.

Colleges That Encourage Character Development is published by the John Templeton Foundation, a philanthropic organization that works with educators, theologians, scientists and others to conduct research and publish projects in the areas of science and religion, spirituality and healing, character education and freedom. For this book, the foundation invited all four-year universities and colleges in the U.S., as well as a number of higher-education associations, to nominate character-development programs that deserved special recognition. The project’s advisory board reviewed more than 2,500 programs from 1,000 institutions, developed a set of criteria, and rated each nomination. Most of the schools they selected are private, about one-third of which have religious connections, and conservative Christian colleges are well represented. Harvard College is not included but Yale University is. Of the 100 institutions that are cited as “character-building” colleges, each is allocated one page for a description of their programs and philosophy. However, it does not provide information on accreditation, degrees offered, cost, etc.

Colleges That Encourage Character Development is a useful guide for homeschoolers seeking outstanding colleges with higher standards and better practices. However, the book was published in 1999, so it’s possible that some programs may have changed since then. Also, the image a college attempts to put forth can differ from what actually occurs on campus. For example, I know a homeschool graduate who went to Hillsdale College – a citadel of conservatism, a favorite of those nostalgic for Ronald Reagan, and well known for its refusal of government funding. However, this student was shocked at all of the drinking and promiscuity that he witnessed in the dorms (this was about ten years ago). There is another book, The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges: Students on Campus Tell You What You Really Want to Know, which looks at many other aspects of the college experience that are important to choosing the right college and being happy there such as its setting, social life and atmosphere, non-academic offerings, etc. Both books used together can provide a better idea of what a student will actually experience in terms of having their character nurtured at a particular school.

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