Monday, August 17, 2009

Advice for College Freshmen (Part 1)

Multiple books have been written on the subject of transitioning from high school to college, so I shall not try to cover all of the issues in this one series! However, as Miriam left for college, I realized that there were things I wanted to share with her about adjusting to college. And, since there are probably others of you going to college for the first time this year, I thought it might be helpful for you to read my thoughts as well.

I am no expert on this subject. I only went to college for 2 semesters, and I could be seen as a "failure" to some because I'm not going back. However, I learned many things through the college experience last year, and the lessons I learned and things I stuck to helped me do well. My hope is that at least some of this will be of help to you - whether you are in college or not.

Please don't take these as a legalistic set of rules that everyone must follow. Ask the Lord to guide you in His ways, and I pray that these will be an encouragement to start you on the right path.

Also, please note that I went to a Christian college away from home, so that naturally shapes the way I write and the experiences I had.

Make the Lord your Priority
This time is one of the best times in your life for growing in the Lord. When you are away from friends, family, and your home, the Lord is still right there with you. When you find yourself surrounded by everything that is new, our Savior is the only One who hasn't changed. When it seems that everyone you knew is far away and loneliness sets in, you must run to your loving Father, for He is the One Who is still close beside you, who will never leave or forsake you.

My time at college last year was one of the best times of spiritual growth. There were times when I longed for home and everyone there, but instead of giving into despair, I went to my Father for comfort. God taught me to trust Him like never before, through all of the ups and downs. Away from some of the distractions and busyness of home life, you have so much time to seek and learn about our Awesome God! Establish this practice from the beginning, for it will be one that you will want to follow in all of life. It will also give you the right mindset and attitude from which to do the other things you are called to.

Have Daily Devotions
I have blogged before about the importance of daily devotions. College life is a busy time, and it will sometimes be hard to fit in devotions on top of all of the other school work that you have to do. However, this should be your priority - even above getting other school work done. Taking time to tune your heart to the Lord and learn more about Him through His Word will give you such a better focus and attitude for what you have to do.

Instead of trying to fit in devotions if you happen to have extra time that day (you will find you rarely have "extra" time!), have a certain time set aside each day to have devotions, and stick to it. For me, it worked best to do it first thing in the morning, before breakfast and classes and all of the other crazy events of the day. Form this good habit now, but at the same time don't let it become a mindless habit! Apply yourself diligently and purpose to learn all that God has for you.

Don't loose heart if you miss a day either! Unexpected things will happen, and circumstances may be beyond your control. However, even if you miss your usual time (sleeping past your alarm, having an unexpected crisis, etc.), take at least a few minutes to sit down and tune your heart to the Lord. And if you miss a day, just pick up where you left off before. God is not a taskmaster who will punish you if you don't do a certain thing for a certain time every single day. We should seek Him out of love, and He is delighted to reveal Himself to those that earnestly seek Him.

Connect to a Local Church
Even if your college has great chapel every week or even every weekday, don't miss out on fellowship with a local church. Unless your college has an on-campus Sunday service that is mandatory to attend, you will be in the position to chose a church in the area. It's good to look around and find one that best suits you, but it's also important that you not be too picky. No church is perfect! What is important is that it teaches the Bible accurately and that its members are growing. Once you have found the right church (hopefully sooner rather than later), stick with it and attend each week! If you plan to be there for four years, you may even want to pray about joining the church while you are there.

It will be tempting to sleep in on Sunday mornings, especially when you have late nights and busy days. However, don't get in the habit of sleeping till noon and missing the Sunday service! Even when I had to stay up until 2 AM to help with strike after a theatre show, I still got up to go to church the next day. It was so refreshing and far better for me than sleep. Worship, prayer, and solid Bible-teaching are nourishment that we crucially need!

Just getting off campus and seeing families after spending all week with those mainly your own age is a blessing! It keeps you mindful of what is going on outside of the college bubble. Depending on your schedule, you may not be able to go to church aside from Sunday mornings, but connect in ways as best you can. Depending on what's available, attend a good Sunday school, join a small group, get to know the others who attend, and invite other friends to go with you. Get to know families in the church as well. They may be more than happy to "adopt" you, and you will be blessed through their generosity and home-cooked food. These relationships may also turn out to be life-long ones that help shape and mature you.

Feel free to leave your thoughts and advice as well! To be continued...


Anonymous said...

Some fantastic advice here Anna; you may say that you're a 'failure' for only having attended 2 semesters of college, but I've been there for 3 years and will be starting my 4th this autumn, and would have offered EXACTLY the same advice to anyone who is just starting out on that route.

My faith has grown so much since I started at university, and I hope and pray that this will be the case for all the other people who will be starting there this year!


Clare Marie-Therese Duroc said...

Anna, thanks so much for this. I'm leaving for college later this week, and I appreciate your advice. Fortunately it's a small Catholic college that I'm going to, so it has a very strong faith community and Masses are offered several times daily in the chapel as well as many devotionals. I know I'll have friends there to keep me on my toes.

Rachel said...

Very good advice! I am looking forward to reading the rest of your "advice for college freshmen."

If there was one thing that I learned during my freshman year, it was that I could make it past every challenge or struggle through God's help. Although there were many good things about my first year of college, there were many unexpected challenges. There were several days when I thought that I would not be able to make it through. However, God used my struggles during those months away from home to strengthen my faith and trust in Him. With the growth of the past year, it is hard to imagine how much I will grow during the remaining three years.

Grace said...

Excellent advice, Anna. My sister is starting college this year, and I showed it to her, too.

Stacy Elise said...

All great advice, Anna! I also have some advice about finding a good church to attend while living at college: look into good churches BEFORE you leave! This is actually not as hard to do as you might think. Look up all the churches that are in your college area, rule out the ones that you know you would not want to attend, and then email/call the Pastor of all the churches that interest you. Also, a lot of churches post their sermons online, so you can find out more about them that way. Then, when you arrive at college, you aren't faced with having to do numerous church-searches every Sunday! :-)

Anna Naomi said...

Glad you all are enjoying it!

Stacy Elise: Yes, good advice to research churches before you get there. My Dad actually did that for me. We wanted to find a church that had a lot of families, for I love children. =) He actually contacted the homeschooling association in MS to ask where a lot of their families went to church, but they said they didn't have that information. The church he picked for us to try the first day ended up being one some friends from Ballet Magnficiat! went to, and it was such a great place that I never even went to another one my whole time at college! I knew that it was where I belonged, and God was very faithful to lead us to it!