There I was, standing in the parking lot looking up at my dorm. I had finally arrived . . . at college that is. And after filling out a pile of paperwork, I was the proud owner of a key that would cost me $15 to replace if lost—but it was to my own room. I walked in and was greeted by the sweet smell of industrial-strength disinfectant, cinderblock walls painted pale blue, a metallic bunk bed, and a yellowing bathroom that four sets of roommates would share. Along with my roommate, Dave, this was home my first year of college.
My first week of school was kind of a blur. Everything was new and I was nervous! Not only did I have to find out where to eat (and quickly learn what not to eat), I had to find my mailbox and sign up for a parking sticker. (My conspiracy theory is that universities fund their budgets by the revenue from all the parking fines they make students pay—so be careful where and in which direction you park.)
Every kind of club and organization imaginable had tables set up all over campus. There were banners, fliers, welcome parties, and lots of free food. There were signs for rush week (for fraternities and sororities) and progressive dinners at local churches and ministries. It was a buffet of activity.
I could go on. But my main point is this: you may think and feel at times that college is a random series of classes, events, and relationships. You may not even be at the college you wanted to attend. Regardless of the situation, I assure you that God is at work. If you yield to His will, you can be confident that He will lead you in the way you should go. Remember, He has good plans for you (Eph. 2:10).
Three Pieces of Wisdom
There are many important lessons to learn during college, but I think these three will be especially helpful in the beginning.
1. You are not alone. It will be tempting to think that you are the only one who has ever felt “this way” or struggled with a particular fear or insecurity in college. Not true! College can be lonely and overwhelming at times, but this is the reason that life is a team sport: we need each other. Good friends are essential in college. Moreover, as a son or daughter of God, you have the sure promise that your heavenly Father will never leave or forsake you (Heb. 13:5). Hang in there and stay faithful by leaning on God and the solid friends in your life.
2. With freedom comes responsibility. College is great! You are finally not under the all-seeing eyes of parents. There are no curfews, and no one will make you do your homework or eat your vegetables. You don’t even have to scrub the toilet or wash dishes if you don’t want to (though I’d advise against this particular expression of liberty). What will you do with this newfound freedom? Will you define freedom as living any way you want, or will you define it as the opportunity to live how you ought to live? College is not like golf; there are no mulligans. Your free choices have real consequences. If you don’t study or go to class, you’ll fail. If you don’t take care of your body, you will be sick much of the time. If you break the law, you will have to deal with the consequences. So enjoy your newfound freedom—I sure did—but be responsible in your decisions. What you sow now, you reap later.
3. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Take college seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Like everyone else, you will have your moments of wanting to go crawl under a rock and hide out of embarrassment and awkwardness. Many situations will feel like they are the end of the world; they aren’t. You are going to have some bad days. It’s kind of like a rite of passage. If you can’t laugh in the moment, you will definitely laugh later!