10 Tips College Freshmen Should Know

College is an excellent learning and growing experience regardless if you choose to live on campus, commute from home, go away to school, attend an in-state university, or an out-of-state Christian college. You will be exposed to new people, experiences, and academic adventures. However, you will never be fully prepared for the dramatic difference between high school and college. But, here are some of our favorite tips to make the transition more seamless and enjoyable.

10 Tips College Freshmen Should Know1. Always Go To Class
It’s easier to skip class than to take the initiative to show up. For maybe the first time, no one is going to wake you up and force you to go to school. You have to take responsibility for your own actions and show up.

There are many benefits to attending class, the first of which is your professor may consider your presence as part of your final grade. Secondly, even if most material can be learned in a book, you’ll find your professor dropping hints that you’ll want to note for exams and papers. And, if you’re more of a numbers person, with classes costing hundreds of dollars, you are wasting money each time you opt out of attendance.

2. Backup Your Files
We all know we should back up our computer files, but how often do you actually follow this practice? Well, I can almost guarantee you will learn the hard way if you choose not to backup your files in college.

If you are writing your assignments on campus, your college may have an online server where you can save your documents. It’s also recommended to have an email backup, as well as using a portable external hard drive to protect your electronic documents. Do not be the freshman who goes crying to your English 101 professor because your computer crashed the night your paper was due. Take steps now to prevent this disaster.

3. Get Involved
You’ve made friends with your roommates and other people in your hall. You’re actually showing up to every class on time. You finally dedicated some time to do laundry. You’re nailing this college thing! Now, it’s time to have some fun!

Get involved on campus! Join student government or the science club, become a DJ at the local radio station, sign up for a co-ed indoor volleyball team, or take advantage of opting for a Christian college and nourish your faith at the local campus ministry. Getting involved is a great way to meet like-minded people, add activities to your resume, and try new experiences. You’re not taking full advantage of the college experience if you only go to college for class.

4. Get To Know Your Professors
Your professors are way cooler than you’ll expect and a great source of knowledge. They are also just people who have some fun stories to share. Do not be afraid to attend your professors’ office hours. In fact, go even if you don’t have any specific questions. Just show up and tell them you really like the class, ask for a book recommendation, or request study tips. Your professors are there for you, so absorb their knowledge. And, sometimes you’re lucky to find special connections that lead to mentorship and future letters of recommendation.

5. Bring a Small Refrigerator
If you are living in the dorms, coordinate with your roommates and get a small fridge. Yes, the meal plans are excellent and you should definitely use it as you are paying for this service, but there will be late nights, off hours, and random cravings when you will want refrigerated items. Some of the most common items found in freshmen fridges include milk, juice, yogurt, fruit, and deli meat.

6. Live in the Dorms
If you can, live in the dorms for at least one year. Yes, it can be a pricey experience, but it’s unique and can’t be replicated, especially freshman year. Everyone is new freshman year. If you know one other person in your dorm, you’ve hit the jackpot as often everyone is started life with a clean slate. If you want to reinvent yourself, this is the perfect opportunity. If you desire, you can make friends for life.

7. Reinvent Yourself
Maybe you went to high school with the same friends since elementary school. Maybe you switched schools every few years to accommodate a parent’s crazy work schedule. Either way, college is a great opportunity to learn more about yourself, as well as your studies.

For maybe the first time, you are forced into responsibility and adult-like situations. You are molding into your future self, building the life you want, but that doesn’t just mean employment. You will change, too. Do you want to learn about art? Do it! Are you looking to develop more spiritual connections and explore the limitations of your faith? This is the time and place to push boundaries. Unlike high school, no one is going to poke fun at your interests. You are free to explore everything without ridicule and are sure to find a group that welcomes you with open arms.

8. Take Advantage of Campus Resources
It’s unfortunate, but you may not even know all your college has to offer until you are walking down the graduation aisle, so do all you can to explore campus resources. Depending on your university, you may have access to free concerts, movies, and comedic performances. You will also have numerous academic tools at your disposal including free tutoring and workshops on how to master excel. Also, reach out to your school’s health center. It’s commonplace to experience stress in college; if you don’t, you’re doing it wrong. However, there are so many ways to alleviate your symptoms and professionals to speak with when the pressure exceeds your personal limitations. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Take advantage of all resources available; they are included in the price of tuition so you might as well.

9. Find a Balance
Finding a balance in life is likely something you will struggle with at various times, and college is no exception. Your life has been uprooted from normalcy and you are forced to adapt to a new place, new people, and rigorous examinations of your studies. However, it’s important to continue to do what you love and experience what the world has to offer beyond campus. Get a part-time job, volunteer in the community, read a book for fun, attend weekly church services, and exercise regularly; your mind and body will thank you.

10. Learn to Budget
Unfortunately, you have probably not developed a budget for yourself yet. No, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have any income, you still need to learn where your money is going, and college is the perfect time to learn if you haven’t yet. Start with the basics. Create an excel spreadsheet and track where each cent of your money is going each month. How much would tuition come out to this month? Did you go out to eat off-campus with friends? Did you pay for transportation to school or maybe a quick visit home? Every dollar adds up, and it adds up quickly. The faster you learn this lesson and get in the habit of tracking your money, the more prepared you will be for the real world and the better saver you will become.



Are Small Colleges Still Affordable?

Are Small Colleges Still Affordable?

Though many schools of higher education are firmly rooted in tradition—through campus life, sports, and legacy families—what higher education looks like today is quite different than it did for previous generations. With over 2,700 schools to choose from, online classes are becoming the norm and more schools are offering completely online degrees. Flexible schedules are allowing more people to earn degrees than ever before, but it comes at a cost (literally).

Tuition prices have skyrocketed in the past 20 years. Between 1995 and 2015, the average tuition at private U.S. universities rose by 179%, surpassed by out-of-state tuition for public schools’ increase of 226%, and in-state public university tuition alarming jump of 296% (note that inflation between the same years grew by just 55.1%). Collectively, the 44 million Americans saddled with student loans are $1.3 trillion in student debt. The average higher education graduate in 2016 has $37,172 in student loan debt, 6% more than students who graduated just one year before. So in short, all universities, big and small, are increasingly expensive.

Cost aside, earning your college degree is more important today than it ever has been—with one in every three people holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. With so many factors determining which career path is right for you, affordable small colleges make it easier to find your perfect fit without drowning in debt.

Why Choose a Small College?

Small colleges can be among the most affordable options for higher education and are scaled to create a strong sense of community among students and staff. Starting college can be overwhelming, but a smaller campus with fewer students can reduce reasons for anxiety.

Academically, affordable small colleges are more likely to employ instructors and professors who are there because they love to teach. Large universities often pull big-name professors who teach in order to have an institution to conduct their research. Small class sizes at small colleges facilitate one-on-one interactions and a tight-knit learning environment. With a shorter list of majors, small colleges often offer customizable degrees that cater to the career goals of each individual student.

How to Keep Small Colleges Affordable

Whether you go big or small, starting with a low base tuition is the best way to keep college affordable. Grants, loans, scholarships, and part-time jobs all make getting your degree more affordable, but first you need to determine which combination of these subsidies and payment methods is right for you:

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

During your college years, you’ll likely become quite acquainted with the acronym FAFSA—a huge factor in determining the amount and the kind of financial help you’ll receive each year. Your year in school, enrollment status, cost of attendance, and the income of your parents or guardians (unless you are an independent student, then your personal income will be a factor instead) all determine your eligibility for financial help. The tricky thing is, even if your parents or guardians do not plan to help pay for your tuition, FAFSA will take their income into account as if they are the ones picking up the check.

Government financial aid is divided among two categories. Need-based aid is financial aid that you can receive if you have financial need and meet other eligibility criteria. It includes grants, subsidized loans, and work-study opportunities. Non-need-based aid does not take Expected Family Contribution (based on household assets and income) into account, but rather is based on the other assistance a student has or will be receiving. Unsubsidized loans and minimal grants are included in non-need-based aid.


To qualify for both subsidized and unsubsidized loans, a student must be enrolled at least half-time (taking 6 credit hours of classes, for example). Subsidized loans give students a six-month post-graduation grace period until your payment obligation kicks in. Interest accumulated while the student is enrolled at least half-time is paid by the U.S. Department of Education. Interest payments for unsubsidized loans accrue throughout a student’s enrollment time and are tacked-on to the loan amount once the student graduates.  


Unlike loans, grants do not have to be paid back. Grants can be privately or governmentally funded. The Federal Pell Grant is part of FAFSA’s need-based aid and is usually awarded only to undergraduate students who have not yet earned a degree. Every student who is deemed eligible on a need-based evaluation can receive the Pell Grant. The amount allotted per student each year fluctuates and will change each academic year. Even if you do not qualify for grants through the government, there’s a good chance you can apply to some through your affordable small college’s website.


Scholarships are awarded for just about anything you could think of and though they usually require a lengthy application process, scholarships can help save thousands of dollars on college tuition. High schools, extracurriculars, and sports teams, as well as private foundations and companies, are all great resources for potential scholarship money. College websites list scholarships awarded through the school. Like grants, you don’t have to pay back scholarships.


Nearly every school offers a work-study program that provides part-time work for enrolled students with financial need as determined by FAFSA. Work-study programs are often available to both half-time and full-time students and include both on-campus jobs and jobs through select nonprofit organizations or public agencies. Work-study jobs are typically very flexible and work around class schedules. Students are paid hourly and placement is determined by a student’s skill-set and financial need, though the early worm does usually get the employment worm! Be proactive. If your FAFSA determined you eligible, apply before the semester starts to increase your chances of being placed.