1) Identity in Christ
Humans are relational beings. We were designed to live, grow, and exist in community and communion, both with God and with one another. We become reflections of our surroundings, relationships, cultures, activities, vocations and communities. And while all of these have a role in shaping our experiences, none of these were designed to fully tell us who we are or where we come from.
Every year, freshmen show up to campus across the country. They’ve be “churched,” meaning they believe they’re Christian because they come from Christian communities or have been shaped within a Christian culture. But often, they have no real-world experience in following Jesus outside of youth group. The majority of their Christian experience has been a 20-minute Bible lesson once a week for a few years. Their identities have been formed less in relationship with Christ, and more by their communities and cultures. When that happens – and they arrive at college and are outside of their culture and away from the community in which they identify – a crisis of identity occurs because it has been formed, not around Christ but around other things.
God designed us to find our identity, meaning and purpose in Him. And if this is something that hasn’t happened for you before college, it should be the focal point of your college experience. Otherwise, you’ll be prone to find your identity in your majors or communities.
2) Speaking of Community
Many studies have shown that the communities you’re involved in within the first 3 weeks of college will form your friendships for the next four, or even forty, years! Plan to be intentional about where you invest your time in the first 3 weeks.
Often, students resist the fact that they’re now in college. This resistance comes in the form of trying to maintain life and community the way it was in high school. Many even spend the majority of the time back home, both physically and mentally, even if they dorm.
Embrace this new life context. It’s where you will be spending the majority of your time and energy for the next 4+ years. And, like it or not, God wants to meet with you, challenge you and shape you in this context; not just in Bible study or church once a week, but every day on campus, in classrooms, etc. Embrace college and invite God to meet you there. Don’t just rely on church to make sure you become spiritually fed. You’re an adult now. (Plus, honestly, half the time you’ll be sleeping through church anyway. But we’ll talk about rest and time management…)
4) Time Management
There are 168 hours in a week. Yes, that is all! And guess what?! You’ll (ideally) spend 56 of those hours sleeping. Math majors, how many hours are left? 112 hours! That does seem like a lot of time. But you’ll have to divide that time between 4-6 classes, study and work for each class, meals, exercise, having a social life, possibly having a job, commuting (if you’re not dorming), doing laundry (if you are dorming…or love your parents), resting, spirituality, etc.
Learn the art of time management in your first semester. That’ll save you mountains of frustration…and a lot of money otherwise spent on coffee and energy drinks!
5) Don’t Do Everything
It’s tempting to want to do everything. But if you just read the above point, you’re now aware that you can’t possibly do everything. Every year, numerous students try to attend every club, every meeting and every event. Everyone knows them, and they know everybody…but not very well. These people end up being a mile wide and an inch deep. Sure, they’ve scratched the surface of a lot of experiences and people, but they haven’t learned anything or been able to know anybody. No deep friendships have been formed and no real knowledge or experience has been acquired. Plus, they haven’t made an impact anywhere because they haven’t been around enough to commit and serve in anything. And think what their grades are like! If they’re out this much, how much are they really working?
If you discover that you have FOBLO (Fear of Being Left Out), and are afraid to miss out on something, take some time to reflect and discover why you have that fear. Find a few things that you want to learn and groups that line up with your values. Plan to narrow down your time, commitment and service to 1-2 groups and activities.
6) Plan Ahead
Plan to use your time wisely over winter and summer break. Otherwise, you’ll end up sitting on your butt watching Youtube and Netflix. And you’re not paying to major in Youtube and Netflix. During the semester, if entertainment is a vice for you, limit it to the weekend. And even then, keep it to an hour tops. There’s no shortage of shows and stories to watch, but you’ve got a life to live! Don’t spend it watching someone else’s life!
7) Summer Job Hint
Start looking for a summer job in February. Seriously, you might think they’ll be there when you finish your finals, but the early bird gets the lifeguard position/camp counselor role. So, if you want a job over the summer, don’t wait for April or May. If you do, you MAY not get a job!
8) Learn to Study
Learn to focus on studying your first year. If study doesn’t become a priority now, it won’t be in the future. If you find that you’re cramming too much, or at all, something’s wrong. Study now to avoid cramming and pressure later. Seriously, you have a smartphone that you can use to make flash cards and audio notes! Use that to your advantage!
9) Change the World, Start with Your College
InterVarsity, a College Campus ministry, believes that if you change the campus, you change the world! That’s why we respond to God’s love, grace and truth by establishing and advancing witnessing communities on college campuses comprised of students and faculty that follow Jesus as Lord and Savior. And we work with these witnessing communities to help them grow in love for God, His Word, His people of every ethnicity and culture, and His purposes in the world!
You see, college is about more than just gaining a job when you graduate. It’s a place where God’s people and His message can radically transform the people, ideas and structures that exist in the world today, from small communities to entire nations! If you look at the world, it needs love, work and radical transformation carried out by people who know God.
So the last point here is simply this: ask God to begin to move and guide you on your college campus. And if an InterVarsity chapter, or other great campus ministry, doesn’t already exist… start one!