10 tips for the (Christian) college freshmen

They were giggly, silly sixth graders when I interned for our church's youth group. We went to Valleyfair and the water park, went sledding and baked cookies. Somewhere along the way, those giggly girls turned into wise young women, who needed boy advice and help with loving their friends through hard times. And this month they start college -- two of them at my alma mater. :) I've been thinking about what I can pass along to them -- the lessons I learned the hard way that might make their next 4-5 years a little more fun and life-giving. 

So, to my old small group girls and everyone else who needs it, here are my top ten tips for starting out at college:

1. Be real. Those first few weeks will be nerve-wracking as everyone tries to adjust to a new home and a new community. Be real with the people you meet -- let them know you're nervous, let them get to know your weird side. 

2. Plan your time wisely. Yes, there is that little detail about going to class. And doing homework. So it's important to find a way to schedule your time well, to make sure your priorities are being lived out. Make a list of the things that you need/want to do each week, and assign them a priority. Then schedule a time to do those things! If you have a smart phone, use your Reminders or Calendar app to help you stay on track. It doesn't sound very fun or glamorous, but planning your time will help you to manage stress and make time for work and fun. 

3. Be open. Your college friends might be completely different than anyone you hung out with in high school - and that's okay. Be open to meeting new people. Open your dorm room door; invite people in for snacks or a movie night. Especially in the beginning, everyone is looking for a place to belong, and you can help to make people feel at home. And again, be open about who you are and what you're feeling. 
Luau fun with my hall in 2005

4. Say yes. I know some of those orientation activities probably sound awful and awkward. But just say yes, just go. When new friends invite you to go to the football game, just say yes, even if you'd prefer some quiet time. Those first activities are often where people form their friend groups, and you don't want to miss out! 

5. Talk to your professors. Ask questions if you don't understand an assignment. Let them know if your group for a project isn't working out. I had one (new) professor who cut out about half of our assignments because one person was willing to speak up and tell him (respectfully) that it was way too much to expect from us. 

6. Join something. Find an on-campus group that fits your interests! Whether it's a sports team or a drama team, a Bible study or service group, find something to plug into. And if there isn't anything that you're interested in, don't be afraid to start something! 

7. Be free. I've noticed that at Christian college, everyone wanted to pretend that they were perfect. There seemed to be a lot of hidden shame, even though we were all free in Christ. Don't be ashamed of your sin -- confess it, receive God's forgiveness, and move forward in freedom. And don't be afraid to confess your sins to close friends, because chances are some of them struggle with the same things. 

8. Really get to know people. You don't have to stay at surface-level just because you're only going to be in college for a limited number of years. Invest in people, truly get to know them, even if you have to say goodbye someday. These friends may become life-long or they may be there for a season. Either way, it is worth loving them well! 

9. Live on campus. I know it can be expensive, but if at all possible, live on campus. My second year of college I lived back at home, and it was cheap but lonely. I loved having my parents nearby again and eating homemade food -- but I missed out on developing a lot of friendships. 

10. Plug into a church. Even if you go to a Christian college and feel like you're already at church all day every day -- find a church and serve there. Find a place off campus that has people of all ages, because you'll miss seeing kids and grandparents! Get to know people, ask for a mentor, and you will grow so much more than you would've while sleeping in. ;) 

And to my girls -- know that I'm praying for you as you go off on your own. You are smart, wise, kind, and beautiful. Dream big, work hard, and love well. God is going to do great things in and through you! I love you so much.

For those who've been there -- what advice would you add? 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you soo much! This is 1. Absolutely adorable 2. Great advice and 3. So awesome.
    Thank you for taking the time to write this out for us. I know I appreciate it a lot. You've always invested your time in us and I really miss our small group. We'll all have to get together when we are on break or something :-)
    Love you Amy! :-) <3


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