Will Your College Choice Impact Your Sexual Behavior?

Sex On (1)Once when I was speaking at a campus event at a Big Ten University, a couple approached me. He was a football player—all but worshipped in a town where the blood runs the same color as the team uniforms. Proud as could be, he stood beside his girlfriend to tell me that they were using his “celebrity” status to encourage purity on the sex-saturated campus.

“Whenever we get the chance we share our philosophy?” he beamed…with a little too much pride, I might add.

Noticing a look of distinct shame on her face, I felt the need to clarify.

“What is your philosophy?” I asked.

“We just stick to oral sex,” he said.

She burst into tears.

Let’s shoot straight. There’s a lot of sex going on out there.  And depending on where you go to college, it’s going to be harder or easier to live out your sexual convictions whatever they may be. Here are three things every college-bound high school student—and their parents—need to consider.

March Madness is not just for basketball fanatics, but also college seniors who wait with bated breath for acceptance letters…or rejections from their top picks for higher education. (I’m here to tell you that the rejections aren’t always bad news. They may be God redirecting you.)  The number one selection criteria for high school seniors? Academic reputation, followed second by career placement after graduation. I’m not sure these factors should be at the very top of the list, and I’m concerned about what isn’t considered as you decide where to spend four years being indoctrinated with worldview. What seniors aren’t considering: how an institution might impact their faith and moral convictions. Would you mind taking a moment to think about this with me? Because in all of the statistics on sexual pain and brokenness I’ve ever seen, I have one that every college-bound high school student and every parent of them must see. You see, the college or university you choose is going to impact your morality significantly more than your educational and career direction. Here are three things you need to consider when you’re college bound.

1.) No university can guarantee you’ll get a job that will require a college degree. While the quality of your education should be uncompromised, don’t get too prideful because you may not end up using it. According to the Washington Post, only 62% of college grads are using their degree. Many are accepting jobs that do not require a college degree and the massive amount of debt that comes with it. There just aren’t enough jobs to match degrees. In an ever competitive environment, the quality of your degree matters but more than that…the direction and call of God on your life is the only thing that really promises the right career placement.

2.) No university will guarantee placement in a career related to your degree. In fact, only 27% of college grads actually get placed into their field of study. So many students compromise moral climate and spiritual feasting during their college years in the name of a specific field of study. Your degree should not be just about what you study, but the character it takes to turn the tassel. The discipline, mentoring from advisors, friendships that forge character, and other things actually do matter. The college experience should not just prepare you for a career, but needs to be preparation for life. That’s something every one will use.

3.) Every university provides moral guidance. The sexual behavior of students may be the biggest indicator of the moral influence of the higher education environment. If you’re headed to a public campus, roughly 81% of the students you encounter will be sexually active.[ii] If you end up on a Catholic or private secular campus, roughly 65% admit to non-virgin status.  But what about the Christian evangelical university? Is there a difference? Yes, there is. And it’s one worth considering. On a Christian Evangelical campus, only 21% have had sexual intercourse.[iii]
SEX ON CAMPUS (2)The college campus you select is going to provide moral guidance for you. The question is: what kind? Author Donna Freitas says that public universities and private campuses have a “hook up culture”, while private Christian evangelical universities encase you in a “modesty and purity culture.” And that very well could impact you.

It’s not just the moral fabric of life that is impacted by a university choice, but more importantly the very foundation of faith. 50-80% of college students who grew up in an evangelical church, walk away from the Church their freshman or sophomore year depending on which survey you read.

Please don’t misread this blog. I’m not saying the quality of education and career placement don’t matter. I’m just saying that the impact on your faith and moral behavior should also be at the top of the list.

You can pursue an education with both high academic standards, successful post-college placement and excellent moral quality. Many Christians assume that the quality of a Christian education won’t complete. That’s simply not true. For example, my alma mater, Cedarville University, consistently outperforms national benchmarks in career placement. Is the quality of education good enough? Well, it helped to mold me into a best-selling author and national spokesperson on one of the toughest subjects being discussed today—sex. My degree prepared me to frequently and intelligently defend conservative views in forums such as CNN, FOXNews, People Magazine, and even on the TEDTalk stage.

Here’s the bottom line:  let God—not the world’s standards of higher education— guide you to where you’re supposed to be. If that’s a secular university, be wise to the risk. It is not small. Plant yourself in a micro-community of moral excellence and faith building teaching. But first and foremost, I plead with you to consider Christian liberal arts schools like Cedarville University.



Much of this blog post is excerpted from my book for college-bound and college-aged students, What Are You Waiting For: The One Thing No One Ever Tells You About Sex.

[i] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance: United States, 2005. Surveillance Summaries, 2006. MMWR 2006; 55 (No. ss-5).

[ii] Donna Freitas Sex & The Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance and Religion on America’s College Campuses (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008), page 162.

[iii] Freitas, 162

[iv] Joe S. McIlhaney Jr., MD and Freda McKissic Bush, MD, Hooked (Chicago, Northfield, 2008), page 101.

[v] American College Health Association, National College Helath Assesment (Spring 2006).


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  • My daughter is almost 12. She’s a smart girl who asks questions but I’m so afraid of giving her wrong information. As a nurse, I now a lot about the physical things but I want her to get that the spiritual consequences are so much greater than anything in the natural. I was an unmarried, teen mom and she’s seen a lot. As a believer now, our lives are very different. If we don’t win, please keep us in prayer.

    • Keeping you in prayer, Jasmine. The Lord sees the beauty of your heart. I was able to ask him for grace to guide my children in walking through their lives in purity though I did not as a teenager. He will use your heart to guide hers.

  • A real question may be WHO is that group not having sex on campus instead of where are you going to school. If the “I love Jesus more than sex” crowd is the only ones really holding back, that group may display the same characteristics on every campus. For instance 20% not having sex on a public college campus may be many times larger a group than the 80% not having sex at an evangelical campus. Looking at the numbers: Clemson University for example is 20,700 students and North Greenville University is 2,420. If we run those percentages it comes to 4140 and 1946 students respectively. More of the abstinence crowd may gravitate to an evangelical college, but that does not imply that going to a public one impacts your decision to have sex out side of marriage or not. Hopefully the student has already made certain life decisions before coming to college else, it looks like they are likely to be persuaded regardless of location.

    • Good reasoning, but that’s not how it seems to be working. There is little to no statistical difference in the percentage of Christian kids having sex on public campuses.

  • I know this isn’t related to the post, but it was on my heart to write to you tonight. I received your book “Get Lost” for my baptismal birthday today and I started it this evening. I really like the message. The only problem is I’m afraid to let go. There’s a guy (I won’t give names) who I am insanely in love with. I have completely dedicated myself to getting his attention. I dress like him, I use his quirky little phrases, I do the same things he does – everything. The only problem is that he already has a wonderful girlfriend (I found out not long ago). However, I still can’t stop wanting his attention and his only. It really stresses me out and I take it to God, but then the next day I wake up and go to school and he’s one of the first people I see and it’s like I never told God anything. (maybe your book has the answer and I’m not far enough along yet – I just started) But I’m just kinda wondering what to do. It feels so wrong to love a guy with a girlfriend, but I just can’t let go.

    • Ah, Courtney. Life stinks sometimes, doesn’t it!? Well, the good news is that God is in control of ALL THINGS…even this guy having a girlfriend. And I think it’s really cool that you say she is “wonderful.” That’s evidence that your heart is good. I do think you have to let go. 1.) The book. God put it in your hands and it encourages you to take guys off the table for ten days. You can survive ten days, right? 2.) The girl. He has someone. You don’t want to practice the work of wanting what you cannot have. You want to practice the discipline of self control. So, let go. How? Read the book! I’ll help you.

  • Get involved with your local ministries on campus, CRU, Campus Ministries, Seek God not man, Seek God to direct your life on any college campus. Personally I have been to three different college campuses and my children three different ones as well. The private college campuses that were “Christ based” had just as much drinking and parties that I am sure led to sex as the “public” schools. The difference is in the heart and the person you are seeking after. My son goes to a public school in Ohio, I prayed and prayed that he would get involved with a group, a ministry on campus. I had one request that he attend a Bible study once a week since he is in a different state and most college kids rarely get up and go to church. He did, didn’t quite change his attitude until the end of his freshman year and boy has his commitment to Christ changed his sophomore year. He has let his ambitions go and let God direct his path. He is going on a six week summer mission trip with CRU this May. If you seek God, not man, not pleasure, no matter what kind of campus you are on you can follow God and be true and pure to Him. I am quite amazed by his commitment and I am very happy he choose to go to the campus he did. I know he has real world experience with witnessing every day, every week to people that could care less about God. That you can’t get on a christian campus, because almost everyone says they are a christian. At the beginning of the year there were 1700 people that wanted to know more about Jesus and CRU has been actively seeking them out ever since. I doubt a christian campus would have such numbers. I have been to both, I see what they both have to offer. The only thing about a Christian College I like is that the professors don’t seem out to make you a “free thinking liberal” other than that it really is the individual that has to keep his or her mind and heart on God and find him and follow him to keep him “pure”. And being on two different private christian campuses, I never got to experience what my son is at a public college campus with CRU. We did not actively seek out someone to talk to on a daily or weekly basis. We asked them to come to events, “services” but to go out and talk to a person, what is the need.. they are probably a christian. See you live in a bubble on those campuses… and I admire the way he has to get out there and talk to people just like you have to in a work place later or in your family. I have great respect for CRU and any other campus ministry that strives to Win Build and Send… because they are doing it on “hostile” territory instead of oh yea i know about God I am on a christian campus aren’t I? As a mom, I think the key is for the person to get involved with a good Bible study to keep you accountable not the kind of campus you go to and PRAYER… keep on praying for your kids from the time you know they exist til you or they are no longer here. Only God can do what He has done in my son’s life… ONLY GOD.

    • I agree with a lot of things you say. Here’s the important thing: KNOW where you are going. KNOW the risk. I often eat in restaurants that have bars in them. I KNOW where the bar begins and ends. I don’t sit there with those interested in drinking and picking up each other. The same could be true of colleges. KNOW the risk. And KNOW where it begins and ends. The research I shared is credible. The risk is higher on a secular campus. It is less on a Christian campus. The researcher is not a believer as far as I know, but she says that on a secular campus a student will live in a hook up culture. In a Christian campus they will live in a modesty and purity culture. That’s significant and it impacts the way you live. After a decade and a half of sending off students from our Christian high school to both types of schools, I realize that the key is this: get into a SUB-CULTURE of modesty and purity within the first week of campus when heading to the secular schools. I have a son who graduated from Penn State. A daughter who will graduate from Cedarville in just a few weeks. I believe they were both where God wanted them. One on a secular campus. One on a Christian campus.

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