Your college years can be a bit of a coin toss. During this unique and stretching season of life, you are given the invaluable opportunity to ask questions, discover your interests and make mistakes. When I left for college, I really had no idea where the Lord would take me in the upcoming years. I didn’t know what to expect, who I would meet or where I would do my laundry. As I think about the many people I know who either have gone or will soon be going back to school, I’m reminded of some personal realizations that I had after completing my undergraduate experience at Biola. For any of you who are getting ready for freshman year, these are a just a few words of advice.
Find a church/Christian community
Being in community with brothers and sisters in Christ is crucial in sustaining and growing our faith. Going to a Christian college, my experience with this was a little different than most, but I want to encourage you to earnestly seek out Christian community during your college years. You’ll never find ‘the perfect church,’ but as you visit different churches and identify what you like and don’t like about them, you’ll come to a greater understanding of what you truly value in a church. The process of discovering those values will deepen your understanding of your own faith.
Keep in touch with your family
You might be totally stoked to be moving out of your parents house and finally living on your own, and you should be – it’s awesome! But your time away will definitely help you find a greater appreciation for the beautiful family that God has blessed you with. Whether it’s by encountering friends with broken family situations or just by Snapchatting with your siblings, you are going to become even more thankful for your family than you are now. So make a point to keep in touch!
Make friends who encourage you to grow
This is a big one. At the beginning of college, everybody is in the same boat; everybody wants to make new friends and find their place. But some times, in the frenzy of trying to create friendships in an unfamiliar place, you can end up making compromises in the qualities that you would otherwise seek in your friends. During your college years, you will gradually learn to identify who your true friends are. The right friends are the ones who truly care about your well-being and who will challenge you to grow as a person. When you find friends like this, hold on to them.
Establish relationships with your professors
Along with building meaningful friendships with your peers, make a point to develop relationships with your professors, especially the ones in your major. Your professors will not only be specialized experts on your topics of study, but they’ll also probably have really interesting insights and life stories that they may not mention in an overcrowded lecture hall. Keeping close ties with your professors will serve you well both during college and after you graduate and are looking for work in your field.
I can’t make a college to-do list without including “Study hard!” You’re going to college to learn, so your studies definitely need to be your priority. Being teachable and mastering your chosen craft should be your focus in these coming years. The harder you study, the more capable you will be when you graduate. To make studying a little more enjoyable, find a study spot on campus where you can camp out when you are sick of being stuck in your dorm for hours on end.
Remember who you are in Christ
I find it appropriate to put this one immediately after “Study Hard.” It can be incredibly tempting to place all of your value in your grades or success, but remember that your true identity is in Christ alone: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). Remind yourself of Truth by being in the Word daily. You are Christ’s beloved, and when you are walking in Him, you are exactly where He wants you to be.
Find a subject that you are truly passionate about and stick with it
Frederick Buechner, a contemporary American theologian, writes, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.” This quote has stayed with me and it has been the driving force behind my career goals. Find a career that you are passionate about that will also allow you to help meet a need in this world.
Have study break dance parties in your dorm. Regularly.
No description needed. Just do it.
Lectures, labs and research papers all combine to make up the skeleton of your college education. In the end however, if your diploma doesn’t weigh more than a notebook full of probable theorems or a computer full of Word documents, you’ve missed out. Use these years well. They’re precious, and so are you.