1. Alex, I would love to hear how a guy goes from being a grad student at UC Berkeley (not exactly a bastion of Christian thought) to writing books to help prepare Christian young people for college? Tell us about that.
I began aspiring to Christian writing when I was in graduate school. Soon after completing my Ph.D. I got a job teaching at a Christian college. Ever since then, my days have been filled with college students. That got me writing articles, and later a book, to help them.
2. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it looks like you write primarily non-fiction books and articles. I realize you are a college professor (BTW, several of my CHS students have gone on to CBU and loved it), but I was looking at the picture of your beautiful family and three lovely children. Do you do any closet fiction writing for children (CS Lewis was also in academia, right?) or maybe not in the closet and you have a children's picture book about to release around the corner? Do your kids ever say, "Daddy, don't read us a story, TELL us a story!" And does that start awakening your creative imagination to write fiction?
I’ve read my children the first two Narnia books (among other fiction). They love stories – to read them, and to have me tell them. Mine aren’t very good, I fear. When my recently completed book, Preparing Your Teens for College, arrived in the mail, my soon-to-be eight year old daughter said to me. “Daddy, when are you going to write a book that we can read?” She then pointed to her collection and said, “Something like this.” I guess I have my marching orders!
3. What prompted you to write your newest release, Preparing Your Teens for College? Were you seeing specific problems and issues among young people coming from Christian homes at the university you teach at? What were some of those?
More people than ever are going to college today, as we’re fast becoming a skill- and knowledge-based economy. Between 1973 and 2007, 63 million jobs were added to the U.S. economy, while the number of jobs held by people with only a high school degree fell by about two million. Not only is there a growing need for a post-secondary credential of some sort, the earnings premium for those who hold an associate’s or bachelor’s degree over those who don’t continues to grow each year. It pays to have a college degree—literally.
The problem is that too many students who go to college don’t succeed. Only 56 percent of those who begin at a four-year college graduate in six years. And only 29 percent of those who begin at a two-year college graduate in three years. As recently as 2010 (the last year for which data is available) the majority of 25-34 year olds did not have an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree. Add to this the massive expense of higher education and the fact that many who don’t complete their degrees have taken on student debt. This is contributing to the lack of social mobility that many are experiencing.
So what makes a difference? More than anything, it’s the training they receive in their homes before they leave those homes. Academic and professional success flow from character and maturity. And as Christians we know that character and maturity flow from a God-mastered life, from the heart of a person who has bowed the knee to the Lord Jesus Christ. Such a person views every sphere of their life—academics, recreation, spiritual disciplines—as an expression of their worship (Rom. 12:1). It’s all about putting the glory of God’s grace on display—loving God with our whole being, and loving our neighbors as ourselves (which includes developing expertise in specific fields so that we’re competent and employable, able to feed our families and support our churches).4. Your own children are pretty young and not exactly ready to take the SAT and apply to college. When you leave your university classroom and office behind in the evening and head home, what are things you're doing now with your younger children to prepare them for college? Can you give us tease into just how parents can and ought to be preparing their teens for college?
Teaching them to love learning—to actually enjoy the exercise of their mental faculties, as they gain mastery over subjects they didn’t previously understand. And similarly, I want them to see that while learning can be difficult, it can be done. A common expression we hear from Karis (almost eight) is, “I can’t do it!” That’s what she says when a math problem is not immediately obvious to her. What I want her to learn in those moments is to push herself through that initial difficulty—to assess and categorize a problem, to develop strategies, to call upon fundamentals she’s previously learned, to ask for a hint instead of an answer. When she succeeds, I remind her that it can be done. I pray that all my children experience the thrill of learning.
It’s not that I anticipate God will gift them equally in every subject. That rarely happens. It’s that continuous learning, and joy in learning, will make them excel in wherever their God-given passions and talents lie. And that in turn will generate vocational and avocational success.
5. Preparing Your Teens for College is for parents, it sounds like from the title. What would you say to a young person who was brought to faith in Christ in high school but they don't come from a Christian home, don't have parents who would read or understand this book, and, though a real believer in Jesus and the gospel of grace, are wholly unprepared for college?
I’d encourage them to pick up a copy of Thriving at College. In that book I tell students how they can make their college years a launching pad into all that’s associated with responsible Christian adulthood. Thriving at College explores topics such as growing spiritually, embracing responsibility, loving God with all your mind, growing in character and maturity, striving for academic excellence, balancing work and recreation, finding your calling, establishing godly friendships, handling the transition from high school to college, time management, financial discipline, and honoring parents while pursuing functional/economic independence.
6. There are other books on the market on this subject; how is yours unique?
I’m not aware of another distinctively Christian book for parenting teens with a view towards preparing them for the academic and professional challenges that come with the increasingly crucial (and increasingly expensive) college years. I covered the gamut of issues that parents need to consider as they train their teens—character, faith, relationships, finances, academics, and the college decision itself (including an assessment of two-year options and skilled trades). There’s also an Appendix on how parents can plan and save for college.
7. How did you get connected with Tyndale for your publisher and what have been the best parts of that relationship between author and publisher for you?
Everyone at Tyndale has been completely supportive of the message and heartbeat of Thriving at College and Preparing Your Teens for College. That’s made for a great partnership.
8. If someone were to ask you why you go to all the trouble to write a book like this--or any of the books and articles you have written--what would you say is your purpose for writing?
To love my neighbors as myself, by imparting to them ideas and truths that I believe will change their lives for the better.
9. A question more about the writing process itself, if I may. When and where do you do most of your writing?
In my home office during the evenings, but also on my campus office on Tuesdays and Thursdays when I don’t teach as much.
10. Where can folks go to find out more about Preparing Your Teens for College and your other books?
My website, www.alexchediak.com, has lots of information about my books—you can read descriptions, excerpts, the Forewords, the endorsements, interviews I’ve done, reviews that others have written, and find related audio and video material.
THANKS, HEAPS, ALEX! I wish you well and may God richly bless your ministry to our young people, for the glory of Christ and his glorious gospel of grace.