“Welcome to your first year of college. To start, let’s go around and say your name, major and favorite ice cream,” says any number of professors. That’s a glimpse of every class your freshman year.
When you go to college, you probably aren’t expecting to answer these questions any more – you had plenty of it at high school graduation. Reality does not always match expectations.
Expectations vs. Reality
Everyone has a vision of what college is going to be like. Parts of those ideals can come true, but they’re often countered by reality.
Roommates can be hit or miss. Some experiences are great, and others are AWFUL. Unless you have shared a room with a sibling, having a roommate is the first time that you’ll ever have to share a living space with someone, and that can be tense sometimes.
To the best of your ability, try to gauge your roommates schedule, interests and personality. Respect her space and needs. Make sure everyone is receiving some alone time. Be reasonable.
In high school, you leave for school at 7:30 am, have classes all day, then extracurricular activities, then homework and somehow make time for a social life. That schedule is rigorous, so it’s easy to think that balancing a different schedule will be easy, but it’s not.
You don’t have a community of people surrounding you to hold you accountable to your schedule, plus there are a lot of other distractions. You don’t have to set an unobtainable schedule to succeed, but you do have to manage your time well.
The sad truth is that college meals are barely nutrient efficient. You have to look for the healthy options hidden among the popular items.
Select a plan that works for you. Your mom isn’t cooking for you anymore and unless you’re used to food preparation as a part of your daily routine, it can quickly become overwhelming . Find a good meal plan, or a local grocery store and Farmer’s Market. Create a balance between already prepared meals and ones that you need to prepare for yourself. Eat balanced meals too. Avoid unnecessary sweets and fried food. Always opt for fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains.
Professors are a huge part of your life at college. Going into college, it’s easy to classify professors as: easy professors and hard professors. Competent yet creepy. Intelligent and humble. Prideful and unhelpful. Fair and kind. Hard and intimidating. These are more accurate descriptions of the professors you’ll experience. Each professor is different, which means that each class is different.
If you’re having a hard time with a particular professor, you can’t simply switch classes to have a different teacher. College doesn’t always work that way. Communicating with the professor isn’t always the answer either. Unfortunately some professors don’t want to hear from you. As frustrating as it may be, sometimes you just have to deal with it, and by doing so, you’ll learn more about other people as well as yourself.
Neglecting church is easier than you might think. Going to church on a regular basis can be difficult. Finding transportation and energy on a Sunday morning can be a challenge. Start getting into the habit quickly. Even if you go to a Christian college, being part of a church is incredibly important. Church connects you to the community and gives you a break from campus. Church keeps you grounded and reminds you of the true relevance of faith and importance of life in the midst of papers, professors, social events and deadlines.
Many churches have buses or some kind of transportation system to and from church. Take advantage. Or, find a campus ministry that meets at a more central location. Perhaps Sunday morning isn’t the best fit for your college life, so go to church on Saturday night. Church needs to be a major priority in your college life, but it doesn’t need to be inconvenient.
The party scene varies from school to school. You aren’t going to become a party evangelist at college, nor do you need to avoid significant opportunities to connect with other people because there’s alcohol present.
Only you can know your threshold. Establish your guidelines and stick to them. Don’t allow yourself to compromise. It isn’t always appropriate for Christians to be seen at a party, but you can’t reach an untapped group of people if you aren’t willing to go where they are. God created you for a distinct purpose and the party scene shouldn’t dictate your identity. Rather, be in tune with yourself and God so you know where He’s placing you regarding the party scene. Your group of friends should also honor your boundaries. That doesn’t mean they need to have the same boundaries.
College will challenge you in more than academics. Your classes, extracurricular activities and your friends will challenge your worldview and the basis of your worldview – Christianity. These challenges could be as minor as working through secondary issues that you thought were not important. But these challenges can be as major as grappling with your faith entirely.
Don’t be discouraged. Many Christians will tell you, “Don’t be a doubting Thomas”(John 20:24-31), but Jesus Himself was patient and understanding with Thomas. Jesus just said, “Here are my hands and feet.” Jesus will not change, He will not apologize for who He is, but He will meet you where you are. Make yourself available to Jesus and connect to Him regularly so you’re available to see what He wants to reveal. If you aren’t around, He’ll simply wait until you’re ready. He will never leave you, nor forsake you. So question, ask, search. Find Jesus because He’s found you.
Like any relationship, friendships take some amount of work. If you live in a dorm, establishing friendships can be a bit easier because your friends live down the hall, downstairs or are a five minute walk away. If you commute, then establishing friendships can be a little difficult. Just because it can be hard to make new friends, don’t feel discouraged!
Universities and college campuses are set up so students meet other people. Plus, everyone has the same goal. All new students are looking for friends. Everyone wants to fit in and find where they belong. To start making connections, sign up for a club or program to meet like minded people. Friendships will come.
Facing the Reality of College Life
-Prepare and release: Prepare as much as you can but release expectations. You have no idea what college will really bring for you, so be prepared for the unknown.
-Pray: It sounds obvious, but take your concerns and expectations to God.
-Talk: Talk about your concerns and expectations. Talk to people in your church that have gone to college and ask them any questions you have. Connect with your family when you’re facing uncertainty. They’re a great resource to reach out to during unknown circumstances.
-Read: Educate yourself! Read your Bible, read up on your school and the area.
-Say Goodbye: Especially if you’re going away to college, saying good-bye to your high school life is an important step to moving to college. There will be people and places that remain relevant during your college life, but they will dwindle.