For Those Who Are Starting College

It happens every time you move from one level of school to another. But it happens a lot when you go to college. It also happens when you get engaged and when you are about to have a baby.

Advice.

Unsolicited, sometimes solicited, sometimes accidental, it’s everywhere you go. From “God’s Little Devotional For Graduates.” to “Chicken Soup for the _____ Soul,” to the sweet lady who was ringing up your school supplies, to your mom’s friend and to your teacher. In fact, when I graduated from high school one of my teachers said to me in his uncanny and affectionate {for him} way:

“You’re going to do great in college because you’re not a knock out. You won’t intimidate people.”

What every seventeen year old girl wants to hear. That really has nothing to do with this post but in retrospect it’s funny.

This fall, quite a people I love are going to start college, many of them leaving home and venturing out into a whole new dimension of independence. Every conversation I have with them gets me all giddy because it still feels like only a few years ago when I was getting ready to leave for APU. I remember going to Costco and buying a bunch of things of which I still had left overs when I left my apartment senior year. I remember picking out bedding with Karen for our dorm room, packing the coffee pot and filling the mini fridge with spinach because she was still getting over mono.

People will tell you, these are the best years of your life. When I look back on mine, they certainly were awesome and I’d do them all over again. But these years are pretty good and someone recently told me the ones I have coming up are the best.

“The best,” is actually what you make of them and how well you steward the years you have.

For all my friends starting college, here are a few things I’ve learned {ahem… not advice}. Take it all with a grain of salt and have fun.

1. These are the years you start to question everything. You are going to be exposed to thoughts, ideas, ways of living that are different than those you have grown up with. It’s okay. Don’t freak out {I did}. And whether you freak out or not, make sure you have someone wise and trust worthy you can talk with about it. It’s important to process things to figure out where you stand.

2. These are the years you will continue to birth your own faith. If you grew up in any kind of faith community, as a result of #1, much of what you believe will be put to test. This is also a very good and natural thing. Your faith belongs to you and it’s time for you to stretch and work those muscles and see how it shapes up.

3. Truth is truth and it’s available to you. You’re mind is going to be stretched, challenged, provoked and worked. It’s going to be awesome. But don’t believe the lie, “truth is relative” or any other catchy way that phrase is couched because truth is truth and the pursuit can be hard and it’s even harder to live out with integrity at times but it is a life long and worthy thing and God has given you access to it and strength to find it.

4. Date to learn. Don’t go into school with your mind focused on finding a spouse. That is so 1990. Should the opportunity arise for you to socialize in a dating environment, don’t get immediately wrapped up in whether you’re going to marry the person or not. Take it as an opportunity to learn about yourself, learn about others and be a blessing…be honoring and be honorable.

5. Be you. This is tricky because part of these years is figuring out who you really are. Seek God in all things, take time to process, stand firm on your convictions and be teachable and don’t get all caught up comparing yourself to others.

6. Be wise. The first week of college I didn’t come home at a reasonable hour of the night and this worried my poor friend and roommate. I always had a curfew at home and lived in a somewhat controlled environment so I took my new found freedom a little too foolishly. Don’t do that. Make friends or keep in touch with friends who will still speak into your life when you are being unwise.

7. Sleep. It’s necessary to learn well, be healthy and make wise decisions {#6}

8. Don’t forget where you came from. In the process of questioning, learning who you are and birthing your own faith, you may be tempted to shun your past, your foundation, the church you grew up in the neighborhood you lived in, etc. God is intentional about every detail in our lives and where you came from is a large part of where you are headed. Of course we all have histories we would rather forget parts of, but God is One who redeems and wastes nothing, so pay attention to your story and be respectful to those who have shaped you into who you are now.

9. You don’t have to have it all figured out. Your major, your career path, graduate school, financial aid, that relationship. Take each day at a time and know that some people who major in communication become pastors, some people who go to law school become writers, some who get their teaching credentials end up becoming trainers at large banks, some people finish graduate school and then have a baby and step out of the work force to raise kids. You never know where you’ll end up and you could change careers many times. Take time to seek God for your decisions and trust Him even when you are waiting to figure it out. My summer verse has been “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today‚Äôs trouble is enough for today.” {Matthew 6:34} If you spend too much time trying to figure out stuff for tomorrow, four years from now or next spring, you might miss something great about today.

10. Work hard and steward well. You are young, you have energy and you have time. Work hard in school, take a job to help pay for school or at least your living expenses. Work as hard as you can because the next ten years are about working hard and playing hard in it’s own way. Make the most of every opportunity given to you and don’t blow off your theology classes because you think you’re never going to use them in your career {God has a funny sense of humor.} Steward your time well, don’t spend all your money on clothes, start learning how to budget and live within that budget. Work your body hard and be strong. Exercise and eat well… learn how to cook for yourself.

11. You’re never alone. I remember one night in particular my sophomore year of college walking back to The Mods {housing} and feeling very lonely. All my friends were with their boyfriends {I didn’t have one}, I wasn’t feeling well, I was stressed about paying for school and it didn’t seem to matter as much to anyone as much as it did to me. I see now and wish I saw then how surrounded I was. There were people who loved and cared for me, but better yet, God was with me. He brought me there, had a plan and has always promised to never leave me. Some of us need to remind ourselves of that daily.

Lastly… have fun. Be adventurous. Take that semester abroad, take risks and listen to others who think and feel differently than you. Listen more than you speak and stop trying to sound so smart. Enjoy it and take each day as it comes.

What did you learn in college? Would you add anything to the list?

Comments

  1. You are so wise, my friend. This is the (non) advice I would give someone, & the advice I wish I’d gotten. I guess we do the best we can with what we’re given, huh? :)

  2. I learned not to procrastinate. Missing a deadline may change your life.

  3. Lisa Athan says:

    Hi Suzie. This is Lisa Athan from Kings Harbor. I don’t think you know me, but wanted to give my name just in case. I am sitting here at APU in thd lobby of Ingstrom hall. My oldest daughter/ child is starting her freshman year here. We brought her yesterday. She is majoring in nursing. I had free time so I checked my e-mails and came across your posts. I read it all and loved it. I loved all that you had to say. Of course all summer I have been wondering to myself, “Did I teach her enough? Did I tell her enough about Jesus?” Oh so hard! But I know He has her. I know it. She is the spring bud on the vine, ready to blum and grow. I pray she weathers the seasons and produces the fruit God desires. So excited for her. Boy, being a mom just about kills ya. The heart hurst for her presence. But that’s okay. Thank you for your posts. Blessings…

    • Lisa! I do know you and I know your daughter as well! She took good care of Nathan in Children’s Ministry. I’m so excited to read your comment because being an APU alum, I’m seeing all the photos on Instagram from the first day of freshman orientation. I’ve been praying for those kids today, remembering how excited I was my first day on that campus. It’s an awesome place and I have such great memories, not to mention the crazy ways God used to shape my faith while I was there. I’ll tell you about it sometime. I’m so glad to know she is going to be there and will pray for her specifically and for you to have continued peace… He IS with her! Thank you for sharing this with me :)

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