YOUNG ADULTS: 5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Went To College

It’s “Back-to-School Season”: that time of year across the country when we put Summer fun and freedom behind us, and we look ahead to the structure and routine of the school year.  Many students will be going back to college, while others will approach their final year in high school.  It’s a time which symbolically marks the end of childhood, and it gives us a preview of the beginning of adulthood: and – for many of you who may be reading this – life on your own in college.

I recently thought about my own high school junior year, decades ago.  I still remember the first realization I had that I’d be leaving the small-town comfort and familiarity of home and family to embark upon my journey to adulthood in the big city. Up until that point, I’d spent most of my time focused on finishing my last years of high school.  I’d been planning and preparing for entrance exams, college applications, and portfolios, and gathering the necessities for dormitory life. Then it hit me: I’m going to be living a totally new life away from my family – and I had no idea what that life was going to be like.

Looking back on those first few years of college now, I see an amazing adventure, and I wouldn’t have traded in a day of those experiences. But years later, much has changed in the world of today. The times are very different: and there might be a few things I’d want to know if I were doing it all over again.

Here are 5 things I wish I’d known before going away to college:

  1. Your faith will be tested (Deuteronomy 8:2-5).  Your first encounters may be with people, activities, or ideas which are the exact opposite of everything you’ve learned to be true up until now. But although it’s great to learn new things, that doesn’t mean that your faith is wrong: even if everyone in society says otherwise. Your homework assignment for today: Read about Daniel and friends in The Book of Daniel, chapters 1-6. Best advice here? Know that saying “No” is a strength: not a weakness.
  2. It’s not necessarily a Christ-centered education you’re getting (Daniel 1:1-4). Unless you’re attending a Christian college or seminary, your education is going to be secular; meaning, it may uphold more worldly ideas than Godly ones. I always thought that college was a more in-depth, specialized version of what we get in high school, and like the news, education was supposed to be neutral and objective, based on a central (Bible-based) truth. Well, that’s no longer true for the news, and it’s not always true for your college education either.
  3. It’s a crash course in tolerance (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). My coed college dormitory was a converted apartment building with its large apartments transformed into dorm rooms. Within my first two years of college, I’d had seven roommates; among them: a loveable white-hippie-drug-dealer; a physically-challenged Asian adoptee; a free-spirited African-American; a prim, Southern white supremacist; a shy Latino. That close proximity to actually living with diversity has continued to prepare me for life experiences to this day.
  4. You won’t always have someone on your side (Genesis 37). Nope, not even your professors. In fact, many professors believe that it’s their duty to break you of whatever old ideas they think you’re harboring in order to make you “a new creation”. But according to 2 Corinthians 5:17-18, that’s Jesus’ job.  Always remember – and stick to – the principles of your faith.
  5. It’s a very important step in a much bigger journey, so be proactive about your education.  Develop as many of your skills as possible in order to make yourself employable, marketable, financially productive, profitable (Matthew 25:14-30). Where a syllabus may fall short culturally or spiritually, research other titles or outside classes and experiences which can supplement your knowledge base. College is just the beginning of your adult life, and it’s important to always seek out and learn all you that can in order to better prepare yourself for the life God created you for.

Staying true to your Christian faith when you’re young will yield many rewards later in life.  Joseph’s story in Genesis 37 is a great one to remember regarding the trials – and rewards – of staying faithful to the dream God has for you.

I guess the diversity of experiences was a gift, and I chose to accept it head-on (unlike my racist roommate, who asked to be moved to another apartment during our first semester; never to be seen or heard from by any of us again). My college years eventually led me to a fuller understanding of Jesus, of God, of my own values, and of the world. It may sound trite, but life really is a wonderful journey if you remember to keep the faith, stay the course, and hold on to the lessons it brings.

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SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES: Deuteronomy 8:2-5, Daniel 1:1-4, 1 Corinthians 9:19-23,  Genesis 37, 2 Corinthians 5:17-18, Matthew 25:14-30, Proverbs 22:6-8, Philippians 4:13.

Photo composition by Karen Lascaris; photos by Oliver Cole and Michael Beckwith for Unsplash.

VIDEO: Below, watch as our youth pastor, Minister Donnie Briggs, talks about overcoming challenges through the love of Jesus: