Because there are so many different facets of social justice, there’s no one formula for picking a school that values it. “I’m really interested in Latin America, so I focused on international issues,” says current undergraduate Luke Walsh-Mellett, who also “looked at mostly small schools, because they have more of a reputation for being socially aware.”
Here’s a road map for decision-making that starts the summer before you plan to apply:
Consider your goals (late summer). Is it most important to you to have classroom learning about social justice issues? To have your tuition go to an institution that is living out justice values? To be part of a community of students who share your faith and/or social values? Alternatively, to be part of a community—secular or Christian—that needs to hear your witness about the connections between faith and justice?
Ask around (early fall). Walsh-Mellett talked to friends and neighbors a few years older than himself about where they’d gone; he also visited a number of them at their schools and stayed overnight. “Talk to people about what they’re doing, what they’re studying” to get “a sense of what the school is about,” he advises.
Research student activism (fall). Look at the campus newspaper and the school’s student activities Web site to see what active student groups exist. Is there a chapter of Students Against Sweatshops, Amnesty International, or Pax Christi?
To assess institutional commitment to volunteerism, check out the percentage of federal work-study dollars (if it gets any) the college devotes to community service (www.learnandserve.gov/for_organizations/highered/fws.asp).