Combining this soft-touch Christian approach with a steadily improving academic program has made A.P.U. the kind of college that appealed to someone like Jonathan Oliva, 23, a recent premed graduate from Moreno Valley, Calif. Oliva was considering San Diego State University when he was recruited by A.P.U.'s soccer coach and won over by the college's 90% success rate for getting students into medical school. Once he arrived on campus, Oliva found the Christian environment fostered his interest in science in a particularly meaningful way, as he traveled on medical-mission trips to Mexico and India to fulfill A.P.U.'s service requirement. Working for Mother Teresa's hospice-care program in Calcutta for two summers, he says, "got me away from the books and reminded me why I made the decision to go into medicine in the first place."
Oliva has just been admitted to his first-choice medical school, Michigan State University, but he describes the process of defending his Christian college education to med-school admissions counselors as a painful one. "The questions were, 'So you're a conservative person? So you're a fundamentalist? So you come from a small school?' Well, not really. There are a lot of misconceptions about Christian schools." A.P.U.'s mission is to prove them wrong.