Dear College Freshman,
You finally did it! You graduated high school and just moved into your new 228 square foot home. If you’re anything like me, it probably feels like you just got dropped off for a few weeks of summer camp. I know you’re excited and nervous (whether you admit it or not). You’re on the edge of so much unknown while simultaneously holding on to so many expectations of what college will look like for you.
As if you don’t have enough things on your plate already, I figured I would write to you about the things I wish I had known six years ago, standing in your shoes. I am in no way an expert on how to “do” college. Actually, if you want to look at my track record, I did just about everything wrong before I ever got anything right. But man, I am thankful for those experiences and I am confident that these lessons I learned are beneficial for any college student to know!
Disclaimer, most of the wisdom that follows is not my own. I was blessed to be surrounded by friends, mentors, pastors, parents, and teachers who poured into me my four and a half years at Auburn University and helped me learn and grow in each of these ways.
Get plugged in FAST
College is so unique and special in that for the first time in your life, you are on your own and making decisions alone. Nobody is going to wake you up for your 8 AM class, force you to eat something other than Chick-fil-a, tell you to brush your teeth every morning, and nobody is going to make you show up to church. While this freedom is a good thing, it can also be easy to get distracted by all that’s going on and neglect investing somewhere.
But don’t let time slip away, and don’t even let that first week go by before you visit a church! I know how intimidating it can be, but this will be the best thing you do for yourself. We weren’t meant to do life (especially college life) without other believers by our side to lean on and learn from! Choose community and put yourself in places where you will find that.
Don’t expect to have all your best friends immediately
Have patience with yourself and know that these “lifelong friendships” you hear about may not come in the first semester of you being in college. But like any good thing, finding and building those relationships will take time! Your friendships will most likely change over the next four years and that is ok.
Don’t let the highlight reel of other people’s lives on social media allow you to believe the lie that you don’t have the close friendships you think you should. Instead, be present in every moment and enjoy getting to know new people you meet! Be a good friend to others and you will find true friends in return.
Learn to say yes and no
Personally, this is a lesson that has carried seamlessly into my life now as an “adult.” Not only are you on your own for the first time, but you will have more time and opportunity to always be doing something, going somewhere, and hanging out with someone than you ever have before. Learn to say no or your academics will suffer.
I will be the first to admit I learned this the hard way. There will always be another hangout, movie night, game night, or dinner to go to later. On the flip side, maybe you’re more of a homebody who would rather tell people no. While this can be good for your grades, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and do things or meet people you wouldn’t otherwise. You will never have this much time to yourself again, so don’t waste it!
Don’t make college about you
My college pastor was quick to encourage us to not make college about ourselves and it may be the greatest thing I learned in college. All you will hear for the next four years are questions about “you.” What are YOU majoring in? What church are YOU going to attend? What clubs are YOU going to join? Who are YOU going to hang out with? All of these are valid questions, but they tempt us to stay focused on ourselves.
That way of thinking is detrimental to ourselves and to others! Humanity’s greatest downfall is placing ourselves on the throne of our lives and not Jesus Christ. I want to encourage you not to make your time in college about you, but rather about who God is, and in seeking Him you will know your own identity more fully. If we are only looking inwardly, we will miss out on the ultimate joy of loving God and loving His people.
While this probably wasn’t the cheat sheet to surviving college, studying, or dating that you may have been looking for, I am confident that these things are going to lay the foundation for a successful and fruitful time in college and life afterward. The habits you are forming now will also shape the rest of your future. These four years will be over before you know it, and I hope you enjoy every minute of it. Both the good and the difficult, because every experience is being used by the Lord to shape you and sanctify you all for His glory!
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