I remember what it was like preparing for my freshman year at Patrick Henry College. I was, of course, excited and nervous at the same time. Knowing that God had called me to PHC, I felt confident that He would see me through. I had asked most of the questions that came to mind regarding the community, academic rigor, and affording tuition. However, deep down, I still had a few questions that I thought could not be answered until I was on campus and experiencing everything PHC had to offer.
I had heard all about the faculty, the community, and the academic rigor from alumni I knew, but would PHC actually be everything I had hoped it would be? After the first three weeks, I found the answers to my question: yes, and so much more!
As I entered my sophomore year, I still continued to question whether the answers would stay the same each year. Now, I am entering my junior year, and I can say with absolute confidence: yes, they do!
If you are in the same shoes, I want to help you by answering the questions I had. Ready?
I keep hearing that a biblical worldview is one of PHC's three distinctives. Is the Bible really brought into every class?
Yes! Many professors begin each class with a prayer, either silently or out loud. I distinctly remember Dr. Cory Grewell asking God to help us forge meaning and understanding so that we could more fully participate in His Being before every class. Dr. Douglas Favelo always opens his prayers with “Good morning, Lord” or “Good afternoon, Jesus.” Without fail, the Bible is brought into every class, whether it is Dr. Robert Spinney calling us to be good Christian historians or Dr. Darrel Cox constantly pointing us back to the Word to test the veracity of what he is teaching us. Ultimately, each professor shows us what it means to be godly men and women who walk in the ways of the Lord.
Besides prayer, the Bible is constantly used as a measuring stick of the good, the true, and the beautiful. As students, we are constantly asked to connect it to our own beliefs about God, whether explicitly or implicitly.
Sometimes it comes in during the most unexpected times. I remember how Dr. Mark Mitchell, during Freedom’s Foundation II, spent an entire class on several passages of Scripture to counter, point by point, what we had read from Fredrich Nietzsche in previous classes. In Euclidean Geometry, Dr. Marissa Walraven constantly pointed us back to Christ as we explored the beauty and order of mathematics.
I noticed that I am registered for Theology of the Bible I; does this theology course follow a certain denomination's beliefs? Tangentially, does PHC have a denominational affiliation?
No. Theology of the Bible I and II are introductive Bible classes where students learn the literary and historical contexts of Scripture from a redemptive-historical viewpoint. The class emphasizes the unifying theme of the covenant and the revelation of the promised Messiah.
If you are like me, you might find the word “theology” a bit daunting or are perhaps concerned about denominational preferences interfering with class. There are students from all different Christian backgrounds, but we all come together under PHC’s statement of faith. Of course, there are some differences in church liturgy, but the focus of all teaching is on the truth of God’s being and His Word.
According to PHC’s Distinctives and Nonnegotiable Principles page, “The institution is non-denominational, but is grounded in all areas on the Lordship of Jesus Christ and a high view of the Word of God. Trustees, administrators, faculty, staff, and students share this faith commitment.” Faculty and students must sign the Statement of Faith to teach or attend classes at PHC.
Is the community as tight-knit as I've heard?
Yes! When I first walked on campus as a freshman, I wondered how my class would become bonded like I had heard several alumni discuss. It didn’t take long! Besides the well-rounded education that the 63 core credits offer us, it also provides the side benefit of binding us together through common experiences. The first round of midterms will not only challenge you academically, but you will also find community through them.
Personally, I think the class that binds us together the most is Dr. Spinney’s U.S. History classes. You will probably hear about him around midterm season from the sophomores (it is a challenge, but everyone loves Dr. Spinney!). It is through this challenging course that my class grew stronger together as we discussed study tips, study guides, and shared essay outlines. The shared experiences of all the classes unite us together, as the seniors help juniors and the juniors help sophomores… you get the picture!
Besides the academic challenges, participating in campus events also helps bond us together. From Eden Troupe to the Baseball Club to the Shall We Dance Society, there are a plethora of opportunities to make new friends.
I've heard a lot about the faculty at PHC. What are they like? Do they really talk to you about anything and everything?
The faculty are truly incredible. Besides being experts in their fields and passionate for the Lord, they are godly men and women who set examples before us of what it is like to live like Jesus did. You won’t be able to walk by a classroom without hearing a roar of laughter from the students. You will hear stories about their families and learn about their pets and favorite things. (Ask Dr. Favelo about the Friday chicken tenders and Dr. Roberts about Tucker!)
Yes! They truly want to get to know you as a person and not just as a student. They don’t remember your GPAs or the last paper they graded. Instead, they remember that you were sick last week and ask if you are feeling better. They remember the exciting news you shared with them. They remember what you were struggling with and pray for you before you leave their office.
I often went to a professor to talk about a specific assignment, and we would end up talking about life. There was never a moment when I walked out of the faculty suite without some piece of life advice to put in my pocket for future use. If you can, go to your professors’ offices to introduce yourself and ask any initial questions you have during the first or second week of classes. It will be truly beneficial!
I've read through the dress code, but how do students typically dress? Is it more business professional?
Students have a variety of styles, and it is really up to you! As long as its within the dress code, you could dress professionally one day and slightly more casually the next day. Here’s a tip: instead of figuring out your entire wardrobe prior to coming to campus, have two weeks’ worth of business casual clothing and then go thrifting after you know what works best for you.
During the first two weeks, everyone tends to dress up a little more, and then you will see each student’s personal style a bit more as midterms arrive for different classes.
What is corporate chapel like? Is it like a church service?
Corporate chapel happens every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It is not like a church service, but it does have similar elements. Chapel usually begins with some sort of announcement about campus events, followed by several worship songs led by members of the Chapel Guild. These songs can vary from contemporary Christian songs to traditional hymns.
A Scripture passage is read before the speaker comes to deliver a message. These speakers could be from the community, alumni, faculty or staff. During the spring semester, seniors have the opportunity speak at Chapel about what the Lord has done in their lives during their four years at PHC. After the message, a benediction from Scripture is read and everyone is dismissed.
I have found it to be a wonderful opportunity to just sit with my peers and worship the Lord together. It is a time to reflect on the goodness of God despite what might be going on in our lives. Students are given nine chapel skips (for Corporate Chapel or Wing Chapel) for the semester, so don’t worry if you have an exam right after!
What do PHC students do for fun?
We do a lot of different activities for fun! For starters, there are three dances that happen in the fall semester and two in the spring. The Shall We Dance Society recently began hosting Swing Dance Competitions in between dances as well. All these activities are run by students based on the ticket money they earned from the previous dances. These dances are great ways to bond and make new friends!
Different student organizations also host events throughout the year, so be sure to check your student email!
Sometimes we will make late-night food runs or plan a worship night. You can always find someone to go with for a quick caffeine run! Students have started book clubs and devotional groups. You may even start a group text to go do things together.
One of my go-to ways to get together with people is texting some friends that I’m going to go study at a coffee shop and ask them if they want to join me. While you are there to study, there will be points where you end up just talking.
As a parting word of advice, your academics do not matter as much as your walk with the Lord or the friendships you form. There were many times when I spent time talking with a friend or helping someone through a difficult time instead of studying like I had wanted to do. Despite the lack of studying, God always redeemed the time and helped me achieve the grade I wanted.
One of the most important lessons you’ll learn during your freshman year is how to balance life, academics, and your walk with the Lord. Yes, your GPA does matter to an extent, but beyond graduate school or your first job, people don’t care about it. What they see in you, how you live your life, and how you care for others is what matters. So live it to the fullest!
If you haven't already, take some time to explore the Fall Orientation page!
Learn how PHC stands apart from other Christian liberal arts programs.
Patrick Henry College exists to glorify God by challenging the status quo in higher education, lifting high both faith and reason within a rigorous academic environment; thereby preserving for posterity the ideals behind the "noble experiment in ordered liberty" that is the foundation of America.