Anxiety. Excitement. Happiness. Sadness. Dread. Fear. Expectation. Hope. The transition to college can be overwhelming, to say the least. It is that initial step out of the comfortable nest, the beginnings of adulthood, a taste of the real world beyond the previously-known smaller sphere. There are so many unknowns, so many possibilities. As you enter into this new season of life, here are a few bits of advice that can make the journey more meaningful and perhaps more manageable.
Don’t overload your first semester schedule.
Going off to college may be the most dramatic change you have been through up to this point in life; it will affect you socially, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically. While it may sound nice to get ahead and load on the credits, it will also load on the stress. It’s your first semester. You can always take more classes later, once you have acclimated to your new environment. Pace yourself and enjoy that first semester as you adjust to college.
Do take a variety of classes.
Even if you are pretty sure about your major, explore the spectrum and wet your pallet to the multiple options out there.Who knows, you may even surprise yourself! The truth is, most people are in a different career than what they first sought to study in college. Sometimes, you cannot know what you truly enjoy until you try it. Seek the Lord and He will grant you wisdom: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5-6). As for those tedious core classes, that very last course in English or Math that you cannot wait to get through, remember to do it all unto the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Don’t neglect those back at home.
Remember to call family and old friends. Remember to communicate with those who helped you reach this point. Remember the most important relationships in life and not just the new and exciting ones. Create balance and moderation in life as you prioritize your relationships. Those who helped to build your foundation might be more necessary now than ever as you seek to stand firm in that foundation. Hebrews 10:25 says, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
Do get out of your comfort zone!
Avoid that temptation to go home every weekend. The freshman that goes home every weekend, missing the social events and late-night talks with roommates, will finish the semester and wonder why he or she did not make the quality friends expected. It may be uncomfortable and awkward to sleep in a room with strangers, but those strangers may become your best friends, and you will look back on those first days and laugh together. With obedience to the Spirit, try new things, expand your horizons, and experience life to the fullest (John 10:10).These are the memories that will last a lifetime! For the Christian, college can be terrifying or it can be sanctifying. It can be draining or it can be fruitful. Let one small truth radically transform your experience…“This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged.For the Lord you God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
Don’t just make friends, make good friends.
Many a college freshman has fallen under the illusion of trying to become the kid everyone knows, but this does not lead to meaningful friendships. Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Instead, find a supporting community that will encourage and challenge you and to which you can do the same. Choose friends that are a positive influence and who promote healthy relationships. Begin to foster friendships with like-hearted people.These may become your lifelong friends.Just remember, these types of friendships take time. Many college freshmen find themselves desperately lonely, though they have never been surrounded by so many people in their lives. Good friendships rarely form in a couple of days; most take time to mature and grow. The close high school friends that you are leaving took time to develop, and the same is true of those who will be your close college friends. In fact, they just might define your college experience. “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble… Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12b).
Do focus on finding yourself rather than finding a spouse right away.
Though you may feel like you know yourself now, most people are still finding themselves in college. You will be away from home and it will be up to you to decide who you are. Where do you stand with the Lord? What are your passions in life? What convictions do you hold? Seek God, journal, learn how to express yourself, take personality tests and career tests, learn what it means to be the man or woman that God created you to be. Do not look to start dating right away your first semester. The God that created time has perfect timing and is writing a beautiful story for you if you follow Him. Avoid the hormonal hunt that consumes and confuses. First and foremost, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires” (Psalm 37:4).
Don’t get anxious about the future.
Instead, choose to trust the Lord. While the rest of the world is hectically trying to plan out their lives, fearful of making the wrong decision or missing an opportunity, find peace and freedom in the God of the universe, who has everything under control and wants you to succeed even more than you want yourself to succeed. You were created to live in the present, so live in the present with God and take each day as it comes. Matthew 6:31-33 says, “So don’t worry about these things, saying ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.”
Do take time every day to be with your Father.
College can be full of distractions and obligations. Everything and everyone else will be grabbing for your attention, and it is easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle. Psalm 90:12 teaches us to “realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.”Life is short.At the end of the day, it is all about knowing Christ and making Him known.Make your faith a priority by giving Him the first fruits of your time, energy, and resources. Do not simply place God at the top of your checklist, but center your entire life around Him. Your relationship with God will be the most important relationship of your college career and of your entire life. Your relationship with God will define all other relationships. Cultivate it, nurture it, grow it, and watch Him mature you.