1. College is a Privilege; Take it Seriously! Every year, thousands of freshmen come to campus and immediately start taking college for granted. They cut class, they stay out too late, and they try to get by with the minimum work required… that recipe leads to disaster! Nationally, only 2 of every 3 freshmen will come back for their sophomore year. And, while there are many factors behind that statistic, personal folly is certainly a big one.
As Christians, we have the responsibility of being “sober-minded” (1 Peter 5:8). We’re called to understand what reality is and respond to it accordingly. So, in college, that means we should understand the importance of the assignments we have and work hard to meet those challenges. Also, we should see our school work as the task that God gave us and work hard, like we were doing it for Him (Colossians 3:23). Sometimes that means missing-out on the popular thing to do, and that’s ok.
2. Know why YOU are a Christian. If your sole motivation for “Christian living,” up to this point, has been the fear of your parent’s discipline, then you need to rethink some things. I would urge you to study Matthew 16:24. It teaches that genuine followers of God should deny their own desires and seek to live for Him. Are you ready to do that?
There are two types of Christian students in college: Those who are living for God, and those who are living in sin. Are you ready to live for God without the threat of parental discipline?
3. Don't date right away. I wish I could say, don't date until you’re a senior, but nobody would listen. My advice: Get your feet on the ground. Get used to being a college student. Find a church. Get plugged in. Find accountability… THEN date! Truth be told, as a casual observer of student’s lives, relationships that start during Welcome Week typically end by Labor Day. So, why not just focus on making friends for now?
4. Having a Job in College is a Good Idea. Now, I’m not saying to start a career; working 8 to 15 hours of work per week will probably be fine. Here’s why:
6. Join a Church. Don’t just visit different churches every Sunday and remain uncommitted. You need to find a local body of believers to join. You need them and they need you. If you think you need to stay at your church back home, do the math. Which church will you be at more during the year? And, do you plan to move back in with mom and dad when you graduate?… I didn’t think so!
If you live in the Grant county Indiana area, I recommend my church, Liberty Baptist Church.
7. Planning Ahead is the Key to Success. Don’t let any due-date surprise you. After you have collected all of your syllabi, sit down and map out your semester. If you don’t have a calendar, YOU WILL ACTUALLY NEED TO BUY ONE! Electronic or paper will work, but I prefer the ease of color-coding and rescheduling items that an electronic calendar offers.
Luke 14:28 says, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it” (ESV)? Planning ahead isn’t just smart, it’s in the Bible!
8. Sleep at Night, Work During the Day. It’s crazy that I have to say this, but college students have a funny way of getting these things mixed up. It’s often a result of poor planning. Making the most out of your day-time hours will help you keep a more productive rhythm. For example, an all-night cram session one night, will lead to a day-time nap the next day, only to be followed by another all night cram session… Bye bye productivity!
9. Get to Know Your Professors. Every school is different, but many top educational institutions want their professors to become their student’s mentors. Why, you ask… because students who know their professors are more apt to stay and graduate.(2) It’s true, “distant students” that have never talked to their professors, don’t do as well.
10. Your Parents will Miss You. Call Them. You don’t have to call them everyday, but you should make time to call them at least once a week. When you go to college, your relationship with your parents will change a lot. Believe it or not, you will mature and your relationship will grow. On top of all that, calling your parents is a good way to honor them and the investment they are making in you (Ephesians 6:2-3).
11. Don't Sign-up for Everything. When you show up to campus, every student organization will be vying for you. The truth of the matter is this, you can only do so much in a day. You can’t and shouldn’t be a part of everything. I usually make the following suggestion to students: Join a church and then join a secular club that interests you. (i.e. if interested in photography, then join the photography club. If interested in public policy, then join the Student Government or College Republicans).
Joining a secular club doesn’t just make you more well-rounded, it also gives you a platform to share the gospel.
12. Prepare Yourself to Be a Friend. Sometimes, finding a good friend in college will take some work. My advice is this: First, be yourself. Don’t try to be someone that your not. Second, remember the old adage: “if you want to find a friend, you need to go out and be a friend.” That idea is actually quite Christlike, since Jesus taught us that we should “do unto others, as we would want them to do for us (Luke 6:31).
I am a Husband to Clarissa, Pastor at Liberty Baptist Church, reader of many books, and tweeter at @brad_merchant.