The next time you’re at the ice cream shop feeling stumped about which of the 31 flavors to order, consider this: There are nearly 3,000 four-year colleges and universities in the United States. Three thousand — each offering a different location, a different team of professors, a different academic climate, a different future. With so many options and so many possible outcomes, how is any high school student supposed to decide which school is the right one for them?

Here at Biola University, we like to ask new students how they made their decision. What attracted them to Biola? Which factors were the most important to them as they prayerfully considered where to spend their college years? Interestingly enough, the responses tend to contain a couple of recurring themes.

For one, today’s students say they choose Biola because they’re looking for a premier academic experience that also has a personal touch; they want a rigorous education that a nationally ranked university like Biola provides, and they also value personal friendship and guidance from professors who genuinely care about them and their futures.

But these students also choose Biola because they want their education and careers to mean something in the scope of eternity; they want to learn to think biblically, to grow spiritually and to be prepared to make an impact for God’s kingdom — wherever and however he has called them to serve.

With this issue’s cover story, we introduce you to four students and four faculty members who help to demonstrate what this Biola experience is all about. Each of the students featured here have benefited from personal interaction with their professors, and together, they have sought to create a college experience that truly matters. For the article, we sat each pair down and asked them simply to talk about life, faith and education. The conversations stretched far beyond what we’re able to present in this space, but these excerpts offer a small glimpse into the kind of thing that happens here at Biola every day.

The story is also our chance to give you a visual introduction to the university’s new marketing efforts to recruit future students. The designs you see here utilize some of the same features — including elaborate construction paper models of campus landmarks — that you’ll find in mailers, websites, advertisements and billboards over the coming years. It’s a one-of-a-kind visual approach, designed by some of my talented colleagues here in Metzger Hall, and you can see more of it by checking out Biola’s undergraduate admissions website at www.biola.edu/undergrad.

And, of course, if you know anyone who is trying to narrow down their 3,000 options, feel free to send them there as well.