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11 Myths About Christian College Life Here in New England
October 26, 2020
So you’re considering attending a Christian college, but maybe you don’t know anyone who has attended one, or you didn’t grow up in the church. It’s only natural to wonder what Christian college life might be like.
Although Christian colleges are not all exactly the same, you wouldn’t know it if you ask certain people (who haven’t been and don’t really know).
They’ll tell you the way they think it is. Sometimes they’re in the ballpark of the truth. Other times, they’re working on outdated information (so what if they’re a century or so off?).
Usually, the “facts” about Christian college life you hear are really just myths. Here are 12 we’ve heard many times before, and what the reality is – at least in our neck of the woods, here in New England.
Myth #1: Dorms are like monasteries.
Incoming undergraduates sometimes assume that Christian dormitories, also called residence halls, feature only humble accommodations. Simple rooms with little more than a bed, a small desk and a nightstand for your Bible. Quiet hallways where devout students nod silently to one another in passing. No time to talk, as everyone is devoted to prayer at all times.
Dorm life at a Christian college is actually a lot like anywhere else. Your dorm room is what you and your roommate make of it. You might bring in a TV, mini-fridge, microwave, whatever, and decorate it however you want to make it feel like home.
Common areas feature comfortable seating, big-screen TVs, foosball, table tennis and other games, where students come to hang out. Is that space used sometimes for Bible studies, prayer meetings and student-led worship? Sure. But also for fun. (Yes, we have that here, too.)
Myth #2: Everybody looks the same.
Ever heard the term “cookie-cutter Christian?” It comes from the idea that there’s a mold Christians are cut from. A certain way of dressing, or talking, maybe. A permanent smile on their faces. Or, let’s just say it, a certain color of skin. You may be afraid you don’t fit the mold; or, you might not want to go where there is one regardless.
It’s hard to fully describe that Christian mold, because it doesn’t exist and never has.
Are there Christian colleges that lack diversity? Of course. The same could be said of many secular colleges. But the truth is that many Christian colleges (like Eastern Nazarene College) today, especially in diverse regions like New England, value and actively promote diversity among the student body. The best way to bust this myth is to visit campus and see for yourself.
Myth #3: Christian college life is for rich people.
It’s a common myth that the “private” in “private Christian college” = expensive. Many students assume that if they don’t come from a wealthy family, they will need to work their butts off, full time, just to avoid drowning in student loan debt.
In fact, the average tuition of Christian universities in many regions – including New England – is below the average for public flagship universities (the best-known ones in the state). They also provide financial aid at around the same rate, meeting 70% of student financial needs on average.
Eastern Nazarene College is definitely not for wealthy students only. In fact, 100% of students here receive some form of financial aid. Scholarships and grants bring tuition down, while low-interest, manageable student loans often cover the rest.
“Coming from a small town, I’ve always been used to a close community, which is exactly what ENC offers. I remember on my very first tour, that was one of the first things I noticed, how close everyone was. Whether it be professors, students, employees, coaches, everyone was so close and I really love that and it’s part of the reason why I chose it.” – Halle Julian, Education, Class of 2022
Myth #4: Everybody’s studying to be a pastor or missionary.
You might think your reasons for wanting to attend a Christian college are unique. Values you agree with, a service-minded philosophy, a small, family-like campus – these can’t be reason enough. People go to do Christian ministries professionally, right?
Some, sure. But if you’re interested in psychology, biology, engineering, sports management, or a number of other career paths, Christian colleges are just as likely to offer those programs as secular schools. Ministry opportunities are there for those who feel called to them.
Myth #5: All student organizations are religious.
Surely, if you go to a Christian college, any organization you get involved with has to be tied to some type of ministry – right? Is it okay to want to get involved with student organizations to build your resume? To socialize? To explore your interests?
It’s true that ministry-focused clubs and organizations, like praise and worship teams or liturgical drama groups, are generally more active and plentiful on Christian campuses. But there are plenty of other opportunities, from academic clubs to cultural groups, student government, choir and instrumental ensembles, that allow you to seek belonging, pursue your passions and grow.
Myth #6: Sports aren’t really competitive
Christian college athletic programs don’t really care about winning, do they? Not very “godly,” you might say, to want to dominate other teams. You’re pretty sure Christian athletics aren’t seriously competitive. It’s just about having fun.
Well. We can’t speak for all Christian colleges, but there’s no doubt that our Eastern Nazarene Lions play to win, as do the other schools in the New England Collegiate Conference (NCAA Division III).
The idea that Christian college students are too “nice” to play tough, work hard and dominate until the clock runs out couldn’t be more wrong. Come see the Lions play. You’ll see.
Myth #7: There’s no dating in Christian college life.
You’ve been told that male and female students are carefully segregated on Christian campuses. The only exception to this is when a couple intends to become engaged, after which supervised courting – within reason – is allowed. If caught holding hands, however …
Okay. This is one that might be in the ballpark on some campuses that are more conservative. But for the most part, you are treated as an independent adult at Christian colleges just like anywhere else, capable of making your own decisions about your relationships. Students here date as much as anywhere else.
Myth #8: No parties.
Parties, you’re quite sure, are not allowed in Christian college life. If you wouldn’t do it during a church service, it can’t be permitted. The only gatherings you can have that are anything like a party would be student-led praise and worship.
This one is only partly true if you narrowly define a “party” as a gathering where people come together to get drunk. It’s fairly common for Christian colleges to disallow drinking on campus.
But if you believe there are no parties – no celebrations, get-togethers, holiday gatherings – you have to believe the student body isn’t human. And if you truly believe you can’t have a party without alcohol, we respectfully disagree. (We’d be delighted to prove you wrong.)
Myth #9: Listening to secular music will get you in trouble.
Surely, the music played at a Christian college party is Christian music. Anything else may have offensive lyrics or secular ideas that can corrupt the mind, and is therefore unacceptable.
This one may have been true a few years back (say, when Reagan was president?). But today, Christian colleges like Eastern Nazarene welcome students who love all kinds of music. We also recognize that our students don’t all identify as Christian.
Like many modern Christian colleges, we’re much more interested in building a relationship with you and helping you achieve your life goals than we are in policing what music you listen to. Just put in earbuds when your roommate’s trying to sleep, okay?
Myth #10: You can’t go off campus as an undergrad.
Occasionally, high schoolers hear that Christian colleges keep a tight leash on their students. If you’re ever to leave campus, you’ll have to have a good reason (like attending church services, of course). A chaperone may be required to make sure you don’t get yourself in trouble.
Again, there may be some schools out there with stricter policies that require something like a day pass to leave campus. But it’s hard to find any college – Christian or otherwise – that is interested in trying to control where you spend your free time.
We do encourage undergrads to live on campus, because living in residence halls is a great way to build relationships. We also encourage you to get off campus and explore Quincy and the Boston area, for academic reasons, cultural exploration, or just for fun. It’s all up to you.
Myth #11: You’ll be told how to vote.
You’ve almost definitely heard this one. The myth that attending a Christian college means you’ll be subject to political propaganda is a common one. Students around you will all be hardcore political activists and that you’ll be pressured to go along with it, whatever your personal opinions.
Why does this myth persist? There are complex answers to explore, but the short answer is that this is the world we live in. Most Americans today perceive everything as political, Red or Blue. Colleges and universities are no exception, and that includes Christian colleges.
In reality, Christian liberal arts colleges (liberal = broad study, not politically liberal) like Eastern Nazarene encourage open-minded, open-hearted discussion around sensitive issues. We believe there is no conflict between having the freedom to respectfully present and hear different points of view and holding fast to your faith. That’s what college is for.
Explore College Life at Eastern Nazarene College
The best way to learn what Christian college life is really like, at least here in beautiful, vibrant New England, is to come see us. Meet the students and faculty. Look around. Ask questions.
It’s the best way to make your college decision based on facts, not myths.