Every time I have the opportunity to talk with a soon to be college freshman my heart beats a little faster. Four of the most fun and challenging years happen in college. For me, this was a time of moving to a new state, meeting people from all over the world, traveling abroad, choosing a career path, and discovering who I was as a new adult. It certainly wasn’t always easy but it was definitely worth it.
Because college is a time for many firsts, mistakes will undoubtedly be made. But being aware of some of the “biggies” (as my dad would say) will help mitigate those times and at the very least, allow you to grow from each and every experience.
- Choose friends wisely. Before college I had always attended a small school. So it took me a full semester before realizing I could actually choose my friends. If you don’t connect with a group of people, move on until you do. This is not to say that you should avoid someone who is alone or refrain from associating with people who are different than you. This is to say that your friends are some of the most influential people in your life, so be choosy.
- Go to class. Does this really need to be stated? Having taught in a couple of universities I have seen that the most successful students are the ones who show up (obviously). Be in class. Ask questions. Complete all of your work. Get help early. There is really no excuse for failing a class. Most professors are happy to help, but they must know you need it. Emailing a professor after you have earned a D and asking for extra credit will never work. Be diligent in your studies. That is, after all, the primary reason you are in college.
- Count the cost. Freshman year brings a new sense of adventure and independence. Possibly for the first time you will have the freedom to make choices without mom and dad looking over your shoulder. But the reality is, you will live with every choice you make. Forever. There is no such thing as a decision without a consequence. Some choices obviously have bigger consequences than others, but choices come with consequences nonetheless. Count the cost and take responsibility for the outcome.
- Begin with the end in mind. This can apply to college as a whole-thinking of where you want to be at graduation and planning accordingly. Or this can apply to small choices along the way such as staying out with friends instead of studying for a test. As we discussed in #3, you are responsible for your actions. So think about possible outcomes and work backwards from there. This concept applies to school, friends, dating and everything else you will encounter in college.
- Have fun! College can be 4 of the most fun years of your life! You obviously need to be responsible and disciplined but those should position you to relax when it’s time to relax. Do some traveling. Go home with friends for the weekend and get to know their families. Study abroad. Stay out late. Sleep in late. Even try to enjoy those late nights studying because there is a good chance you will be doing this with friends. It’s very unlikely you will ever be positioned again to spend so much time with friends. So enjoy it!
- Live within your means. Simply put, if you have $0 in your bank account you have $0 to spend. Accumulating thousands of dollars of debt during college eventually must be paid back, plus interest. Apply for scholarships. Get a job. Live like you are in college because you are, after all, in college. If you are unsure how to handle money, checkout Dave Ramsey. You’ll be glad you did.
- Own your faith. Whether you grew up in the church or are just hearing about Jesus for the first time, college is a great time to discover what the Christian life is all about. You cannot rely on parents, friends, or professors to do this for you. Even if you attend a Christian university, there very well may be misinformation taught about God and the Bible. Dive into God’s Word and experience it for yourself. Your soul depends on it.
College is awesome-but only if you can live with yourself afterwards. Be wise in the small things and the big things will add up to one amazing experience.
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