No one makes movies about how crazy or out of the box a small, religious, private college experience is. Christian colleges are sort of the underappreciated and under-acknowledged sibling in the family of higher education; most people don’t really know what they’re like because they just slide under the radar. Needless to say, they are a world apart from state schools.
Here’s what it’s like to attend a Christian college.
No one has ever heard of your school.
When you tell people where you go to school, the resounding response is often, “Oh, where is that?” And so begins the practiced conversation of explaining where your school is in relation to larger cities in your state. You might as well just accept that no one will respond with recognition, but think of your school as esoteric rather than obscure.
It’s small. Like, really small.
My college class is smaller than my high school class was, and because of the size, everybody knows everybody. Even if you don’t know someone personally, you at least know of him or her from secondary conversations.
But even though college is supposed to be a step away from the drama of high school, secrets still spread like wildfire since the campus is so small. So if an RA wrote you up or you got a little too toasty on campus, expect everyone to know about it the next day. But hey, maybe it’s not all bad. Start an edgy rumor about yourself and watch your popularity grow by the hour. Big fish, small pond.
Relationships are weird.
Everyone pretty much falls into two categories when it comes to relationships: People who make it painfully clear that they’re single, or people that are engaged or well on their way to it, regardless of the amount of time they’ve been dating. I’ve never been in a place where people were so amped for “Singles Awareness Day.”
Since this culture exists, it’s also hard to have any friends of the opposite gender without everyone thinking you’re dating—and that makes things weird. Once you do find yourself with a partner on your arm, it’ll likely be expected that you’ll get engaged before your one-year anniversary. And speaking of engagements…
“Ring by spring”
It has come to my attention through discussions with my state school friends that the term “ring by spring” is actually not widely used. If you’re unfamiliar, this fun phrase, also referred to as the MRS degree, refers to the phenomenon of people specifically using college to find a significant other and get a ring by the time they graduate in the spring.
There are so many terrible implications to this term, like stereotyping engaged women as only going to college to find a man, and men not really being implicated in the whole mess, since it’s a “MRS” degree. And I truly wish I didn’t have to hear it every waking day. Get ready to be booked solid with wedding invites every summer.
Chapel credits are no joke.
Depending on the Christian college you attend, chapel credits are likely mandatory, though the requirements may range from “lax” to “devoted worshipper.” Some schools even kick you out if you don’t fulfill the amount of credits, but if you make a dedicated schedule and plan out just how many you can skip while still getting by, you can work with the system.
All special events are family-friendly, even though your family isn’t around.
If your school hosts a movie night, be expecting an animated Disney film as the feature. Also, any keg will be filled with root beer and the “bumping” soundtrack will probably be contemporary Christian music. That is, unless you’re at a school-sponsored dance; then, you can probably hear the top forty, but be wary of dancing too close to the opposite gender.
There is a certain look.
If you don’t strum your ukulele in a hammock while your Chaco-clad feet dangle over the edge, do you even go here?
Integrate your faith and learning.
Every course has a written description in the syllabus of the goals and ways in which the professor hopes to influence your faith through the course material. Sometimes this can be really lame and forced, like in my business statistics class when the professor made us write a paper during our probability unit on how gambling and Christianity clash.
But sometimes, professors integrate world events and literature with a Christian viewpoint that pushes you to question and solidify your own beliefs. And other professors just say a prayer before class every day and figure that’s gotta count for something.
The rules really don’t work in your favor.
Much like how every event needs to be family-friendly, going to a Christian college can sometimes feel like you’re just being babysat while you’re away from home. Open and closed dorm hours affect when you can hang out with the opposite gender, and being on a dry campus has its pros, but also lots of cons. However, these rules can be great when it comes to helping people get creative in their free time. A few things that are done at my school when people get bored include climbing buildings, playing unofficial mini golf through all the dorms, cardboard and duct tape battles and stealing all of the silverware from the campus cafeteria.
Christian colleges are truly weird places, and most people don’t really understand the intricacies of the culture unless they’ve experienced them. The size and lack of activities can be hard to deal with, but in the end, going to a small Christian school has unique benefits that can’t be matched anywhere else. So even if everyone gets married before they turn twenty-five or you lose an extra half-hour of sleep because of chapel, the perks make it worth the quirks.