Archived Voice Articles

Snowmobiles and Surfboards

By Carl E. Zylstra

Not long ago I was driving through the campus of a Christian college located literally on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Several young men stood by the side of the road hitchhiking so I picked them up. It turns out they were high school seniors making a campus visit to that college as prospective students. They just wanted a ride up the 379-foot elevation from the shore to the chapel where their next meeting was going to be held.

Dr. Carl E. Zylstra

Dr. Carl E. Zylstra

So I asked them what attracted them to that college. One young man instantly replied "Close to home." The second responded, "Christian." The answer from the third prospective student was one word, "Surf." It almost made me wonder whether Dordt College could hope to compete for the attention of prospective students whose minds seem to be so set on surf and convenient access to family and friends.

Not that I apologize for Dordt College's location. In fact, our campus amenities (bowling alleys, ice arena, updated dormitories, technologically-equipped campus and classrooms, etc.) surpassed most of the facilities on that particular campus whose surf was attracting these young men. Besides, our small town setting makes shopping, pizza, authentic Mexican and Chinese restaurants, video rental stores, and movie theatres all accessible within walking distance-something pretty unusual among the small colleges with which I'm familiar. True, our campus may be missing the surf. But on the December day that I was on that campus, no one was swimming in the ocean either. On the other hand, when I got back to campus, dozens of Dordt College students were swimming in our new aquatics facility.

Nor do I apologize for the fact that half of our students have to travel 500 miles from home to get to our campus. On a recent trip to California I met a high school coach who was trying to convince a student to consider Dordt College seriously. Although the coach didn't know much about Dordt College except by reputation, she believed this young Christian scholar-athlete actually should leave home and discover the richness of a campus where students come literally from across the continent and around the world to be part of a Christian academic community. Besides, in her case, the affordability of a Dordt College education compared to many of the coastal alternatives would leave room in the budget for the occasional trip home.

Yet what impressed me the most about the three young men was that they actually had heard about Dordt College. "We heard about your school," they told me, "when we were visiting another Christian college on the West Coast. There they told us that if we went to their college, we could also participate for a semester in off-campus programs around the world, including one run by Dordt College." By then we had arrived at their destination, and they were piling out of the car. I wanted to call out after them, "But then why not come to Dordt College in the first place where all these programs are available to you every year."

Still I was glad that these young men had included "Christian" in their list of criteria for colleges they were considering. The best statistic available from the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities is that only about ten percent of high school students who say that they want to put Jesus Christ first in their life also enroll in colleges that say they want to put Jesus Christ first on their campus. I could only commend these young guys for deliberately making themselves an exception to the rule.

After all, if that percentage were increased just slightly-to eleven or twelve percent of prospective students enrolling in evangelical colleges-the resultant ten to twenty percent rise in enrollment would swamp those colleges and probably even lead to a boom in establishing additional institutions dedicated to the honor of Christ and the glory of God.

If that were to happen, Dordt College wouldn't have to worry about those occasional Christian students who seem determined to pick ocean front colleges. There will be more than enough students to go around to all our colleges-and we'll be more than content with those dedicated Christian students, from the coast or from the heartland, who want the unique type of Reformed biblically-based education Dordt College provides (as described elsewhere in this issue of the Voice), or who maybe just prefer snowmobiles to surfboards.