It was a beautiful cool day in late September when I drove from Plymouth Rock Landing to Providence, Rhode Island. I was headed to visit Brown University, one of eight Ivy League schools.
In 1764, the “College of the Colony of Rhode Island,” the 7th college in America was established as a Baptist college with the idea of admitting students regardless of religious affiliation. Ezra Stiles, who maintained the religious freedom that Roger Williams brought into the colony, wrote, “That into this liberal and catholic institution shall never be admitted any religious tests; but, on the contrary, all the members hereof shall forever enjoy full, free, absolute, and uninterrupted liberty of conscience.”
In 1805, with a $5,000 donation, it was renamed Brown University for Nicholas Brown, Jr. one of the original founding members. During the first commencement, they debated both sides of a given issue. Today, the faculty selects two seniors to speak – they’ve never invited guest commencement speakers.
Pembroke College in Brown University was the coordinate women’s college founded in 1891 and merged into Brown in 1971. This system resembled those at Columbia University (Columbia College / Barnard College) and Harvard University (Harvard College / Radcliffe College). One of the last graduating classes from Pembroke Colleges included Susan Bennett – the voice of "Siri."
The Brown commencement has been held at the First Baptist Church in America since 1776. A replica of the church was built on the campus of Dallas Baptist University and is used as their chapel.
The mission of Brown University is to serve the community, the nation, and the world by discovering, communicating, and preserving knowledge and understanding in a spirit of free inquiry, and by educating and preparing students to discharge the offices of life with usefulness and reputation. We do this through a partnership of students and teachers in a unified community known as a university-college.
Brown offers a unique way of learning. First of all, applicants are accepted to all 80 departments and are asked to list their intended study. And Brown does not offer majors; they offer concentrations. This is key to understanding how students study and how they are graded.
 Choose How You Study
Open Curriculum – learn from everyone. The open curriculum was established in 1969 as the “New Curriculum” and brought Francis Wayland’s 1850 vision to fruition). Only ten colleges (including Grinnell College, Smith College, Amherst College) offer this type of learning.
Students choose how to study, have no rules, and lots of freedom. There are two desired outcomes.  Ensures you great freedom in directing the course of your education and  Expects you to remain open to people, ideas, experiences. The challenge for each student is to make connections between those courses. That’s what makes the open curriculum work.
 Choose How You’re Graded
Brown does not have a required core curriculum. Students take 32 courses with the option to drop a class if you fail. When registering for courses, Brown students must indicate whether they are taking a course for a grade (ABC) or satisfactory/no credit (S/NC). They don’t want learners to be intimidated by a letter grade. Students may change their grade option for a course online during the first four weeks of the semester.
 Choose What You Study
Finally, you can choose what you study. For the first two weeks of each semester, students can try out as many classes as they want. Then you’ll pick four classes to take that semester. The key to success is that after two weeks, those who want to stay will be committed to learn. In other college settings, classrooms are filled with students who have to take the required core class.
David, a Brown senior, said that he knew Brown was his is destiny when he quoted the first 14 lines of the Canterbury Tales with his freshman advisor. He has taken advantage of the open curriculum philosophy. His concentration is in physics and philosophy. He enjoys parkour, bird watching, formed the Brown Marshal Arts club, and has applied to become an American Ninja Warrior.
While computer science and biology are popular concentrations, students should know that the most popular program, engineering, was established in 1847 – first in the Ivy League and third in the country. However, it wasn’t until 2010, that Brown established the Brown School of Engineering.
Students can work with (or have a class under) Andries van Dam, the founder of the computer science program, who helped create hypertext, and whose work in computer graphics helped launch modern day animation (Pixar, etc). This is why he is the namesake for “Andy” (Toy Story). His book, Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice, appears on Andy’s bookshelf.
Another unique program is the Program in Liberal Medicine Education (PLME). This is for high achieving students who know they want to pursue medicine. This 4+4 medical concentration receives 2,500 applicants with only 100 being accepted. Less than half attend.
Accepted students average a 750 on each section of the SAT, take at least one SAT Subject Test in a science, and complete three years of the same foreign language. And since you cannot transfer in at any time, YOU must know you want to do PLME, not your Dad!
Yes, Brown is highly competitive with less than nine percent accepted. For the Class of 2021, 32,723 applied, 2,801 were admitted and 1,643 decided to attend. More than half are women, forty percent were students of color, thirteen percent are first-generation students, and sixteen percent are international.
Financial Aid advisor, Annie Cappuccino, shared that admission is not about specific students (how many X of Y were admitted). It’s about how THIS student shines among ALL applicants. What DO you bring and what WILL you bring are the questions to answer.
Brown costs $68,000 per year with no merit or athletic scholarships given. In 2003, they implemented a need-blind admission policy to eliminate the ability to pay as an admission factor. In 2018-2019, they will eliminate loans from all undergraduate financial aid packages with The Brown Promise by replacing packaged loans with grant funds that do not have to be repaid.
The financial success of their alumni (Brunonia’s) who give back will make the Brown Promise a reality. Some of the alumni include: Lee Eliot Berk (1964), president and namesake of Berklee College of Music; John Hope (1894), first African American president of Morehouse College and co-founder of the NAACP, John Seely Brown (1962) the inventor of spellcheck; Chuck Colson (1953) founder of Prison Fellowship; Horace Mann (1819) father of American public school education; Jim Axelrod (1989) Chief White House correspondent; Chris Berman (1977), ESPN host and anchor; Larry Elder (1974), radio personality and TV talk show host; John F. Kennedy, Jr. (1983), – lawyer; journalist; publisher of George magazine; son of President John F. Kennedy; Lisa Loeb (1990) alternative singer-songwriter; Emma Watson (2014) actress; Masi Oka (1997) actor; John W. Heisman (1891), namesake of the Heisman Trophy; Alicia Sacramone (2010) Olympic gymnast; Julie Bowen (1991), actress; the recently crowned Miss America 2018, Cara Mund (2016).
So if you are a student who doesn’t need structure, is ready to serve, wants a STEM and humanities focus, and is excited to explore your future, Brown might be a good fit for you. It also doesn’t hurt if you enjoy a colonial setting and cold winters.
When you are ready to start planning for college, just find a college, send in an application, select a major, and show up for class.
It's not that simple. At least not anymore. It takes planning and time to make good decisions. For this post, I wanted to share a few simple steps to get you started.
I recommend students research their career options before researching their college options. Once you have selected a few fast growing careers and identified possible majors, then you can start looking for colleges to prepare you for your future career.
Let's get started...
1. How do you handle new situations, meeting new people, and adjusting to new surroundings? You are leaving familiar surroundings and a structured education. You are moving somewhere for at least four years to prepare for an incredible career and life. Knowing how you handle changes and different people will guide your decision on where to attend college.
2. You're going to live in this environment for the next four years, so take some time to describe where you see yourself attending college. Write it down. Consider the landscape, weather, academics, distance, size, study abroad opportunities, athletics, and dining options. Then plan a visit.
3. Once you have an idea of what you are looking for, start using a college search website. There are many options! The CollegeNavigator offers a free college research tool. With CollegeData you can search for colleges, estimate your admissions changes, and track your applications.
4. Remember that God is in control. Listen to his guidance and follow his lead. When it comes to college planning, PossibilityU posted this video about what you control and can't control in to the process. Check it out!
5. Once you are ready to select a college, find out your chances of applying Early Decision or Regular Decision (Source: Jennie Kent and Jeff Levy of EducateAbroad). Then you'll be ready to submit your applications.
These are just a few things to consider when planning for college. If you want to know more, ask your question in the comment section or send me an email.
Keep reaching for your higher calling.
That's right. College athletics. Actually, it's when a few “insiders” secure deals to encourage, no, to ensure that those athletes commit to play a sport in the college the insider selects. For them, it's not about fit; it's about finances.
Speaking of insiders, [James] “Gatto is … accused of helping funnel approximately $100,000 to the family of an "All-American high school basketball player" to secure the prospect's commitment to a school which Adidas sponsors. According to court documents reviewed by CBS Sports Insider Gary Parrish, the prospect committed in June. And the only All-American high school basketball player who committed to a school Adidas sponsors in June is Brian Bowen, a five-star prospect who is now enrolled at Louisville.” (CBSSports)
Individuals like Mr. Gatto have forgotten why collegiate-level sports are the best. They are still pure. These students are future Olympians. They are highly competitive. They’re having fun.
The Goal of Postsecondary Education
For some, athletes are greater than academics. More than 480,000 of the 8,000,000 high school athletes play in college. So, if recruiting a top athlete might translate into more revenue, there are a few adults who would capitalize on this through sponsorships and television deals.
This is what make it tough for people like me.
First of all, I enjoy collegiate sports. I can’t wait for March Madness or the College World Series. My wife and I schedule our fall Saturday’s around college football. She also enjoys watching college gymnastics and cheerleading.
When athletics becomes the priority, it makes it difficult for school counselors, college planners, and college admissions officers to place prospective students in the right academic setting. While many students want to get their college degree while playing their favorite sport, it does put pressure on those teenagers who are trying to balance academics (what is necessary) with athletics (what is challenging and fun).
The mission statements of colleges focus on improving the region and world with education, innovation, health care and more. None of them talk about sports. The goal of higher education is, well, education,
Fortunately, "the likelihood of an NCAA athlete receiving a college degree is greater (than non-athletes); graduation success rates are 86% in Division 1, 71% in Division II, and 86% in Division III" (NCAA).
Unfortunately, college sports has become a form of idolatry for some.
David Wharton of the Los Angeles Times reported on why Reggie Bush, the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner, gave his trophy back.
“Investigators ultimately concluded that he had taken improper benefits from the San Diego sports marketers who hoped to represent him after he turned professional. Bush's family had lived without paying rent in a home owned by one of the marketers.”
Reggie’s athleticism was evident since high school. It had nothing to do with what was going on behind the scenes, but it did violate NCAA rules.
Nothing Has Changed in Decades
Sports scandals are nothing new. Richard Vedder and Matt Denhart (Wall Street Journal) “bemoaned the massive financial exploitation of super good college athletes” in 2009. Taylor Branch, wrote “The Shame of College Sports” in 2011 and in 2012, David Ridpath wrote Tainted Glory detailing athletic corruption, particularly during his service at Marshall University.
Vedder writes, “In short, for many years numerous commentators have outlined horrendous problems with college sports: cheating, exploitation of athletes, the debasing of academic values, the potential long run health effects of high contact sports, and so on. The sex-based scandals at Penn State shocked the nation, as did the revelations of “phantom courses” for athletes at North Carolina.”
Protect Your Children
Parents of potential collegiate athletes need to protect their students and help them make wise decisions about their future. You can’t allow yourself to get “caught up” in the accolades being doled out so you can focus on what is important – higher education.
My wife’s cousin was a high school, college, and club team pitcher who was also in a strikeout battle during the U.S. Semifinal game during the 2002 Little League World Series. There were three major Division 1 baseball programs interested in his arm. So were a few dozen major league teams who wanted to draft him in 2008.
When deciding which university to attend, he ultimately selected the college because of the education he would receive. Since he hurt his arm in college, his full-tuition scholarship was redistributed to the next freshman phenom pitcher. While he’s no longer playing baseball, his parents helped him make good decisions (and had good guidance) that helped him stay grounded.
Build a Solid Foundation
The Bible says the wise build their "foundation on the rock" (Matthew 7:25). Trusting in and applying the Word of God will solidify the building. David Roach, Baptist Press News, reported on the need for a God-focused perspective in athletics.
David Conrady, boys basketball coach at Prestonwood Christian Academy (TX) shared with his team that "it all starts with your foundation of what you believe in. Hopefully, that starts with a relationship with Jesus Christ.... Then we can use Him and His standards as our barometer."
Conrady, who has coached at the college level, said the emphasis on money and winning at all costs among some college programs tempts coaches and athletes to commit the types of ethical and legal violations alleged by the federal investigators.
I personally hate that a few foolish people are using talented high school athletes as a pawn in their personal game of life, and "building their foundation on sand" (Matthew 7:26). While these are not the life lessons we want our students to learn, it is good that those involved in the scandals are being brought to justice.
David Conrady sums this up with a great life lesson, “there's never a right way to do a wrong thing."
Combining my youth ministry and educational consulting experience, I guide students to connect higher education with God's calling.