A few years ago, when I was beginning to work on my book about the American college, I came across a manuscript diary kept in the early 1850s by a student at a small Metho­dist college in southwest Virginia. One spring evening, after attending a sermon by the college president that left him troubled and apprehensive, he made the following entry: “Oh that the Lord would show me how to think and how to choose.” That sentence, poised somewhere between a wish and a plea, sounds archaic today. But even if the religious note is dissonant to some of us, it seems hard to come up with a better formulation of what a college should strive to be: an aid to reflection, a place and process whereby young people take stock of their talents and passions and begin to sort out their lives in a way that is true to themselves and responsible to others. “Show me how to think and how to choose.”