Category: Noah Baldwin’s Blog Posts

What to Expect as a Rising College Freshman

From walking across a graduation stage to stepping into the world of higher education, the life of a high school graduate can change drastically leading up to the highly-anticipated — and sometimes nerve-wracking — first day of college. To hopefully ease your mind a bit, here are a few tips and tricks to simplify your transition and help you expect the unexpected during your first year.

Prepare to be independent!

As you’ll come to discover, the choice to attend a two or four-year institution comes with great freedom, and as a result, great responsibility. From scheduling, enrolling, and attending classes to making time to work, eat, and sleep, the life of a college student can be a hectic one. Though, it doesn’t have to feel that way. Setting realistic goals, creating to-do lists, planning, and eliminating procrastination are just a few ways to reduce the stress that comes with pursuing any degree or certification. 

To get the most out of college and your newfound independence, you’ll want to walk away with something learned. So, in addition to gaining the tools and knowledge needed to succeed in your chosen career path, actively strive to discover something new about yourself. You’ll be better for it.  

Prepare to walk!

No matter the size of your college, you’ll want to anticipate traveling on foot. To prepare your body and mind for this change, consider taking a walking tour of your campus and class schedule before FDOC (the first day of class). Of course, cars and on-campus transportation are available options at some institutions, but be mindful of any parking fees or costs that come with these alternatives. 

Your goal, hopefully, is to enjoy your time in college. With that in mind, familiarizing yourself with your new environment and the physical limits of your body can positively impact your on-campus experience. In other words, if you’re not traveling by car, bus, or metro, you may want to bust out those walking shoes. 

Prepare for FUN!

Now for the best part. After a long week of classes and studying, you’ll want to find ways to relax your mind and enjoy the extracurricular offerings available on campus. If possible at your school, take advantage of student clubs, volunteer opportunities, art programs, athletics, Greek life, or other ways to get outside of your dorm. Not only can participating in university activities bring you lifelong social connections but professional relationships can also be developed by putting yourself out there. So, don’t be afraid to have a good time; it’ll definitely be earned! 

Of course, everyone will experience college differently, and you’re bound to make mistakes. But, with proper preparation, dedication, and an open mind, you’ll grow to learn from your shortcomings and find that freshman year is not what you expected at all. It’s so much better.

4 Tips for Better Studying

A joy for some and an unbearable chore for others, studying is something many of us can’t avoid. However, no matter your approach to the task, there are so many ways to make studying more enjoyable. Here are a few that you might consider.

  1. Listen to Music.

Listening to music while studying is a scientifically proven way to help you focus on and remember information. Of all the study-friendly musical genres, classical seems to be a popular choice, though the possibilities are endless when it comes to crafting your studying playlist. However, if you find yourself easily distracted, try to choose sounds that don’t heavily draw focus away from your work. 

2. Form or Find a Study Group.

Let’s say you miss a day of class, and you need someone to update you on the current lesson. This is where a study group comes in handy; you’ll have a backup plan and supportive peers to help you succeed. Additionally, studying in a group setting can be fun; you’ll often learn helpful — and sometimes hilarious — ways to memorize your notes, all while enjoying the company of other students. Though, be sure that your study group will hold you accountable and push you academically. Trust me, this will save you a lot of stress come test day. 

3. Review your Notes Often.

Make it a habit to look over your notes every day. This will help prevent cramming and improve your memorization of coursework. Though sometimes difficult to do, you’ll thank yourself once exam season comes around.

4. Don’t Cram.

This one is for my procrastinators. While tempting, cramming the night before a test or presentation doesn’t seem to work for most people; studies have even shown that a good night’s sleep before an important event improves the brain’s ability to perform. So, if you think that cramming is a good idea, you may want to think again. 

Of course, no two students are alike, so finding a study style that works for you can take time. But, as long as make an honest effort, you’ll quickly find that studying isn’t as horrible as it seems. 

Are There Benefits to Applying Early?

In short, yes. Applying early to any school can serve as an important step on the road to college acceptance. Though not for every student, this choice should definitely be considered. Here’s why.

If you’re eager to hear back from a school on your list, then an early application will be your best bet. Unlike regular decision, applying early action or early decision will get you an answer from your top institutions sooner. However, it is important to understand the difference between both deadlines. Remember: early decision plans are binding, so be sure to thoroughly check your applications before clicking that submit button. For a more in-depth comparison of the early action and early decision plans, click here.

Applying early can also save you money. An early acceptance letter from your top school can result in fewer applications to other schools, eliminating additional application fees. What’s more, when applying early action, you’ll have more time to compare award letters and scholarships; this may prevent you from enrolling at a high-cost institution.

Want to increase your chances of admission? An early application may be best for you. Now more than ever, colleges want to fill up their seats sooner, resulting in higher odds of acceptance for those students who apply early on. Additionally, an early action or early decision submission may suggest that you’re eager to enroll — a trait that many college admissions boards look for when assessing prospective students.

For those who shudder at the thought of applying to college, an early application may help to reduce stress and anxiety as you near the end of your high school career. But, if you need more time to polish your applications or desire more work experience, you can never go wrong choosing the regular decision or gap year path. So, no matter when you apply, strive to put your best foot forward as you embark on your college journey.

Public vs. Private College: What’s Right for You?

So, you’re interested in applying for college but need a little guidance when it comes to comparing and contrasting public and private institutions. Both college types have their perks and drawbacks, but it ultimately boils down to who you are as a student and what you plan to get out of higher education learning in the long run. With that said, let’s breakdown the primary differences between public and private schools.

Public College

Put simply, public colleges are state government-funded institutions. NC State, UNC-Chapel Hill, App State, UNC Charlotte, and many others make up this category in North Carolina. Taxes paid by residents of the state help fund public universities, resulting in the government providing money to partly cover these institutions’ cost of attendance. Because of this statewide government assistance, tuition for in-state residents is a lot cheaper compared to out-of-state tuition. For instance, NC State — the largest public school in North Carolina — quoted an in-state tuition price of $25,636 in 2020, while their out-of-state tuition price came in at $45,755. While more affordable than most private schools, public schooling is still a big investment. As a result, applying for financial aid and scholar is an important step to take when pursuing any college.

When it comes to population sizes, public colleges will tend to have larger student bodies; these schools are typically home to the auditorium-style lecture halls that you may have seen on TV or online, with some classes holding up to 200 students! Though, there are smaller public schools available that cater to students searching for a more close-knit experience. So, when it comes to class sizes, keep in mind that large public universities may not be as intimate as private colleges. However, the wide variety of facilities available on many public campuses provide students with the tools necessary to succeed. Additionally, with larger student bodies comes a wider variety of degree options to choose from; this is especially useful for those who are unsure about their degree path. 

You’ll find a significant amount of in-state students at public schools, so you may run into someone from your hometown or surrounding area. Public schools — especially the larger varieties — are also known for the many extracurricular activities they have to offer (e.g. sports teams, greek life, etc.) These aspects are great stress reducers and create a sense of community and camaraderie among students. 

COVID-19 Message

Now more than ever, it is important to stay safe physically and mentally when attending school. For more information about the NC public school response to COVID-19 visit

Private College

Private colleges are not government-funded and receive the bulk of their money from private donors, leading to higher tuition costs compared to most public institutions. In turn, private school students must pay the full cost of attendance without state assistance. For instance, Duke University — a popular and highly sought-after private school here in NC — quoted an in-state and out-of-state tuition cost of $80,470 in 2020. Again, this is where applying for financial aid and scholarships will come in handy. 

The class and campus sizes characteristic of private colleges are noticeably smaller than public schools on average, leading to a more personalized learning experience. Because of this, students enrolled in private colleges will often have a closer relationship with their professors and will attend more discussion-based courses than public school students. While private schools tend to offer a limited variety of degree options, the ability to craft a major to fit specific interests is a common selling point for students seeking to explore their academic and personal individuality. 

Unlike public or “state” universities, private colleges — especially prestigious institutions — tend to draw in applicants from around the country, resulting in a more diverse student body. Of course, this aspect will vary depending on the college, but it is important to keep in mind that public universities largely admit in-state residents. 

COVID-19 Message

No matter where you attend college, your health and well being should be your number one priority. For more information about private school COVID-19 responses, visit


Now that you’ve made it to the end, keep in mind that these comparisons don’t cover the full scope of public and private institutions and no two schools are exactly alike. With that said, it is important to know yourself and what you desire in a college while actively researching to find the schools that suit your needs and wants. And though it may seem impossible sometimes, trust me; you’ll find the place just right for you. 

How to Choose a Major

Many of us struggle to settle on dinner plans, so when it comes down to picking a college major — a decision that has shaped the courses and career paths of numerous lives — it is no wonder that some are left feeling stumped. So, if you don’t know where to start on the road to a fulfilling college experience and possible profession, consider these five questions.

  1. Where are you applying?

As you begin to weigh your options, it’s important to note that every school may not have the major you’re looking for. With that said, try not to immediately settle on a college solely because you fell in love with the campus or the institution is popular or prestigious; these are valid reasons, but shouldn’t be the primary driving force behind why you choose to enroll somewhere. If your dream school happens to offer your major of choice, that’s great! If not, you may want to reevaluate your college list.

2. How competitive is your major?

Of course, some schools are more selective than others when it comes to certain majors. Depending on where you are applying, these majors may vary. So, if your major of choice happens to be highly competitive, remember that your applications will have to be stronger; this is where solid admissions essays, great teacher recommendations, and a robust activities resume will come in handy. On the other hand, as the demand and competition for your chosen major decreases, your chances of admission may increase.

3. What’s your career path?

This is a question that many people struggle with — even after college. So, if you are unsure about what you want to do with your degree right now, don’t worry. There are tons of resources out there to lead you in the right direction. For instance, a career aptitude test is a great place to start. The YouScience aptitude test is a favorite of mine, and you can request to take it for free through Crosby Scholars. Your hobbies and interests can additionally serve as guiding lights, shaping where you’ll end up professionally. Moreover, consulting with a counselor or advisor may clear up any uncertainty you have about the future. In short, having a career goal can make a world of difference when deciding on a major.

4. Do you like your major?

Though a bit silly on the surface, answering this question early on will save you from stress and anxiety down the line. A word of advice: try to avoid choosing a major based merely on its potential to grant you a large paycheck. Of course, financial security is important, and money is a considerable driving force for most things in life, but compromising your passion for monetary gain can be detrimental to your mental, emotional, and social well-being. However, never sell yourself short and underestimate your abilities. Reaching for goals outside of your comfort zone can be very rewarding, so consider investigating majors that both interest and challenge you.

5. Do you have a backup plan?

For those who may be indecisive, I would consider weighing a variety options when it comes to choosing what you plan to study. For instance, attending a two-year college is a great way to save money and complete general education courses as you explore your interests. Taking a gap year is another potential path if you need more time to unpack your passions or gain work experience. Additionally, try researching institutions that offer exploratory studies programs or don’t require you to declare a major freshmen year; most four-year institutions will allow you to change your mind down the line. Declaring a minor is another option to consider for those who cannot seem to settle on one area of interest.

After answering these questions, you’re hopefully one step closer to your ideal major. If not, it’s okay! With persistence and determination, you’ll surely land on your feet.

Early Decision vs. Early Action: What’s the Difference?

Picture this: you’ve created your college list, and you’re struggling to decide when to apply. You begin to think, “Should I apply early?” The short answer to your question is yes! However, like most things in life, there’s more than meets the eye. 

Early action and early decision: two deadlines you most likely have come across if you have begun or are interested in beginning your college application process. But, when deciding which deadline you want to meet, it is important to know what these terms mean for you as you start to send materials to each school on your list. If you have decided to apply early, you may be thinking, “Aren’t early action and early decision the same?” Well, I’m here to tell you that they couldn’t be more different. Here’s how. 

Early Decision

If you’re thinking about applying early decision, you must first recognize that this choice is binding. Put simply, students admitted to a school through early decision are required to enroll in that college. It should also be known that some schools only accept early or regular decision applications; Duke University, for instance, uses this approach. With that said, taking note of the application requirements of each school on your list early on can prevent future headaches and heartache down the line. Another aspect to keep in mind when applying early decision is your potential financial aid award package. Financial aid award dates and policies vary by school, so you don’t want to wait months to receive a less-than-stellar offer from a university you’re now obligated to attend. In other words, when deciding when and where to apply, you must ask yourself, “Am I, or my family, prepared to take on the financial responsibilities of each school on my list?” If the answer is no, you may want to reconsider submitting that early decision application. Here are some other quick facts to note: 

  1. The early decision deadline for most schools is early to mid-November. 
  2. Applying early decision informs the college that they are your first choice.
  3. You cannot apply early decision to more than one school at the same time.
  4. If you are not admitted to an institution, you will be rejected or deferred. 
  5. If you are deferred, your application will be considered again for regular admission, and you can then apply to other institutions.
  6. For schools that require early decision applications, you can apply early and choose to receive your admission notification during the regular decision period. 

Early Action

Unlike early decision, applying early action is a non-binding option, meaning that you are not required to enroll in a college if you are admitted. This gives you the flexibility to apply to, and if you’re accepted, weigh financial aid packages from many schools at once. Here are some things to note about early action:

  1. Deadlines: Oct. 15th for UNC-Chapel Hill and Nov. 1 for most NC schools
  2. Applying early action gives you access to scholarships and financial aid early on.
  3. Your major of choice can affect when you need to apply. For instance, some Design and Engineering programs — among others — require students to apply early action. 
  4. Don’t forget about COVID-19! Applying regular decision may affect your chance of admission, as colleges now want to fill their seats earlier. 

So, what did we learn here? For starters, assessing the strength of your application and budget is key if you’re considering applying early decision; being bound to a college you can’t afford is never a good spot to be in. And if you are still unsure when to submit your applications, applying early action is a safe and effective way to go. 

I know. I know. This probably seems like an advertisement for early action, but it’s ultimately your decision when and where you choose to apply. Just don’t apply too late, okay?