The summer before going off to college was, for me, filled with great hope and expectation. A fresh start, an opportunity to prove I could handle the responsibility, the chance to choose courses I wanted to study, make new friends, and look to have an impact on the world around me. All of that was very exciting. I have seen the same excitement in graduating high school seniors as they prepare to go to college. I graduated high school a long time ago (in 1994), but as a former youth pastor, I celebrated with graduates every year. Through the graduation parties and the long (too long) graduation ceremonies, I heard lots of great counsel to those going off to college. Here are the five best:
1. Learning to learn is as important as what you learn.
You will likely change your major. You may not end up working in the field you study. Even if you do, the field you study will likely deeply change in the next decade. All of this means that in terms of your college classes, learning to learn is as important as what you learn. Learn how to study, how to read well, and how to learn from others.
2. Be proactive, not reactive.
Engage the class, the professors, the college, and the community where the college is. Don’t passively attend class but actively engage and take notes. Meet your professors. Don’t just eat in the food court; check out the local restaurants and explore the city or town where your college is.
3. Choose your relationships wisely. They will impact your future.
The friends I made in college deeply impacted my spiritual growth, and I am forever grateful for them. I met Kaye, my wife, my sophomore year. Even twenty years after graduating college, a funny memory of LB or Schaff—two of my best friends in college—will come to my mind. But so will one of the formational talks we had late at night in our apartment. In many ways I am still being impacted by the relationships I formed in college.
4. Build habits for your holiness now.
Developing spiritual disciplines will develop your character and put you in a posture for the Lord to do His gracious work. The Lord uses spiritual disciplines to grow and mature us. If you build a rhythm of holy habits such as reading the Bible, memorizing Scripture, praying, and fasting, the discipline will equip you for your whole life.
5. Serve in a local church now.
Right before I went off to college, someone told me to get plugged into serving at a local church right away—the very first semester. It was great counsel. I learned a ton and made an impact while doing so. College student: Don’t just consume from a church in your college town. Pour yourself into one. Don’t hop from church to church every semester. Find one and invest your college years there. You will make a significant impact in that time.