Exciting. Terrifying. Liberating. Challenging. As a soon-to-be college freshman, any and all of these adjectives may describe what you expect the next four (or more!) years to be like–and your expectations may vary by the minute. Your aunt sends you $100 in Starbucks gift cards? College is going to rock! You just realized you have no idea how to use a washing machine? Maybe choosing a school five hours away from home wasn’t such a great idea . . .
The good news is that many before you have maneuvered the ups and downs of college life (and of doing their own laundry) and kept their sanity–and their faith–intact.
Whether you’re headed for Bible college, community college, a university, or even just online classes, pull up a seat as these college veterans impart knowledge they gained outside the classroom.
Alexander Graley: Marshall University, West Virginia
Advice I have for college freshmen: No matter how much time you think you have, you actually have less. So don’t put off school work, but also don’t put off family, friends, or God. Also, college is a sprint. No matter how hard it is, just buckle down and get through it. It’ll be over before you realize it. So slow down, buckle down, and enjoy the ride!
Daniela Pacheco: Odessa College, Texas
Your college career will probably be the most time-consuming, frustrating, and stressful, as well as exciting, enlightening, and rewarding, part of your entrance into adulthood.
These are just a couple of points that I would recommend to get out alive with your sanity intact: First of all, the most effective habit you can develop if you haven’t already is “listing,” which is just as simple as it sounds. Tools required: Pen and paper! Write out your goals from short term to long term including the day-to-day things that you need to get done. Having tangible evidence and reminders of the things you would like to accomplish is a great way to self-motivate, and if you would really like to light the fire, put the list somewhere that your friends or family will be able to see it. That will drive you to make sure to check off the things on the lists when the inevitable “Have you done this?” or “How is that coming along?” questions are presented.
Secondly, avoid distractions!! You are entering an environment where nearly everyone there including yourself is being introduced to a sense of independence that has not been experienced until this point; this is both a blessing and a curse. Procrastination will rear its ugly head around every corner, and it is important that you not entertain that animal because there will be very few reminders or warnings about work that is due or projects that are to be done.
While it is exciting and interesting to continually meet new people, your friendships are not decisions to be made lightly, because you will start to develop the habits of the people you spend the most time with. You should do your best to surround yourself with encouraging people who will always push you forward and not back.
Finally, the best piece of advice I could offer is to be flexible. Even the most well-thought-out plans rarely go accordingly, so in the case that you don’t register in time or don’t get into a class you’re needing, or your grades are lower than you were wanting, even to the point of having to retake a class . . . it is ok! Roll with the punches and take everything as a learning opportunity. The few years that you have left before you fully enter adulthood will likely shape the rest of your life, so enjoy every moment. Remember Matthew 6:33: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
David J. Hinkle: Urshan College, Missouri
One of the most terrifying moments of my life was the day I met my college advisor. I had just graduated from a small Christian school and was moments away from being humiliated by this community college advisor guy. After a little bit of fluffy small talk, I was asked one of the hardest questions of my young life: “What major would you like to declare?” . . . And I was stumped. The advisor stared at me, waiting for me to tell him what I was going to do with my life while I timidly looked back at him, hoping he would offer some advice. You know, since that was his job description. I mean, don’t you have to be slightly confident in something to be able to “declare” it? I later wondered if I could just whisper my major, that way I could change my mind without any trouble. Unfortunately, awkward advisor guy didn’t operate in any spiritual gifts of discernment, and I left his office majoring in General Education–which to me declared, “I have no idea what I am doing with my life!”
In all reality, I had a dream of where I wanted to end up, but I had no idea how to get there. Perhaps you are like me, and at this stage of your life you are uncertain of all the “how?”, “when?”, or “where?” questions that plague you. I come to offer you a simple thought that my advisor couldn’t give me: As long as you know the “Who,” the rest of those other questions will fall in to place.
It seems like as soon as we knock on the door of our dreams, we are abruptly welcomed by questions and adversity. For instance, Joseph had a dream that quickly turned into a nightmare. God gave him a glimpse of a successful future just moments before he lost all he had. Questions must have gone through his mind at a thousand miles per hour: What do I do now? Where am I supposed to go? How am I supposed to get there? However, it was by knowing the dream giver that he was able to make it through the nightmares. Joseph went through a long, scary process of uncertainty before his dream unfolded, but he would have never made it to the palace if he hadn’t been faithful to God through the pit and the prison.
God is the author and finisher of our faith; He won’t leave your story unfinished and life’s questions unanswered. You may transition through some of the most painful places imaginable, but it could be on the very next page that your pain is replaced with your purpose. God is our counselor and life’s greatest advisor. In His own perfect timing, He will welcome you at the door of your dream, grab your hand, and bring you in. Your most amazing promotions will come just from knowing God, Who is your most valuable resource of knowledge. Without the hand of God in your life, you will be stuck in a prison of disappointment and failure and never make it to the palace of success and power. Whether you are like I was and are seeking direction or you declared your major at your kindergarten graduation ceremony— you will always need an advisor. You may not know how, when, or where your dream will unfold, but your Advisor does, and His office is always open.
Nicole Arnold: Oakland University, Michigan
College has been an incredible experience thus far. In addition to improving my academic skills, the most important things I have learned are how to manage my time and how to connect with people who have differing religious backgrounds.
Regarding time management: Time management is a skill that is invaluable to a college-age individual. Without the ability to prioritize and allocate time efficiently, you will struggle as a college student. I know first hand how difficult it is to balance college, homework, work, church, my relationship with God and semblance of a social life. It can become so easy to either become lazy or become overly stressed. Honestly, if you don’t take time for yourself and really enjoy life throughout your college years, I promise you, you will be miserable. Do yourself a favor and go to conferences, take vacations, skip Econ class to get gelato, and just live a little. Those little, seemingly insignificant moments that you make will be the moments that you will remember 30 years from now.
Like time management, connecting with other students, including those who have various religious backgrounds, is essential to college survival. I’ve learned that in order to win someone to Christ, you must first win them to yourself. So yes, I have Muslim, Catholic and Jehovah’s Witness friends. Learning how to connect with these individuals and making them your friend is something that I do not take lightly. If I hadn’t befriended this group of Muslim students, I would never have had the opportunity to share the message of Jesus Christ with them. There is something so powerful about connection. My relationship with these people opened up a door for me to share how incredible Jesus truly is, and how He can transform their lives. Don’t underestimate the power of a friendship. Make the most out of your college years, as these years will help to shape and define your future.
Rachel Sultemeier: Tarleton State University, Texas
Be confident and get out of your comfort zone, but be yourself while doing so. Don’t lose sight of who you really are. Don’t be afraid to go out of your way and talk to new people. That’s how friends are made! If possible, get a part-time job that is related to your major. Not only will it bring in the extra income, but it will help build references for your future career. Take a class that is fun or interesting to you, even if it is not required or needed for graduation. It can give you something to look forward to each week. Last, but certainly not least, stock up on quarters for laundry day, unless of course, you bring it home on weekends. 🙂
Luke Vanderhoff: Texas Bible College, Texas
Future College Student: Don’t pay attention to the dorms; they won’t matter. Don’t think about the food; it won’t be long until you’re around your dinner table again. Don’t consider the late papers or the arguments you have with the people around you. Instead, make everyday count! In your relationships, in your studies, in your job, and most importantly, in your walk with God. Because when the books are closed, and when you eat your last meal in the cafeteria; when you move out of your dorms and when you say goodbye to your friends; all that will matter is your memory of what you made of yourself in school. Did you graduate having done your best for Christ, or will you wish for another semester to do better? How were those around you affected to go out and change their world? And above all, how much closer are you to God and fulfilling your call in His kingdom? The answer to those questions are what will matter most when you have completed your time in school. So go forth and trust God, and live with a pure heart. First the Kingdom!
Morgan Hurley: University of Charleston, West Virginia
As simple & cliché as this may sound, maintain your personal relationship with God. If you don’t truly have one now, begin growing in Him. College is a time where many decisions are made that effect the rest of your life. But beyond that, life is only about to become more busy. It won’t slow down to let you catch up.
If you live on campus like I do, a lot of simple things quickly change. I saw my parents once a week, not every day. I attended midweek service at a different church than my home church, and I truly became accountable for myself. My mom was no longer there to give me an attitude check when needed. My sisters weren’t right down the hall to surround me with godly influences at any moment. I was (and still am) the only Apostolic girl on campus. I soon realized that just sliding by wasn’t going to cut it if I really wanted to be who God had called me to be.
I made a routine to get up every morning before my first class, read the Bible, and write in my prayer journal. In it, I daily wrote three new things I was thankful for and my prayers for the day. Then I would ask God to guide my steps that day and allow me to be a reflection of Him. My prayers weren’t deep, and I didn’t necessarily intercede every single morning, but I sincerely spoke to Jesus every morning.
Then, when rough times came–because they will and they DID–I already had a grip on who He was. When everything is shaken, if your hands are searching for the foundation, they’re too busy to worship in the waiting room. Each day that you simply talk to the Lord, your roots are growing deeper and deeper.
Kameron Burgess, Indiana Bible College, Indiana
When it comes to Bible college, my message would be to realize that Bible college is more than an album, it’s more than singing a solo on a song, and it’s more than just a ministry opportunity. Bible college is a powerful tool to help train and equip students for ministry so that they can reach this world for Christ.