7 Things No One Ever Told Me About College
Going into my freshman year at Northwestern University, I was convinced that if I read enough books about it, my "college experience" would be a breeze. But God gave me a "college experience" (experience being the key word here) that was a far better teacher than any book.
So, darlings, if you're headed off to hit the stacks and decorate your dorm room this fall, here are seven really important things the college guides or admissions officers might not tell you:
1. Your plans will most likely change.
I was an eager young theatre student whose heart was set on Broadway. But, two weeks into college, auditions rolled around, and I had zero acting parts and even less confidence. One day after that, I became a Christian. The rest of my year was spent struggling with my old plans and the new desires God was putting on my heart - desires I had never thought I would have in a million years.
The lesson here, dear sisters, is this: do not trust in your own plans for your lives, no matter how perfectly laid they seem. Statistically, four out of five college students change their majors at least once. It's proof that God can turn everything around in an instant!
"A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps" -Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)
Besides, His plans for us are always better than our own! I'm not saying don't think ahead or plan. Just be willing to surrender those plans to God should He have something different in mind. I guarantee you won't regret it.
2. Your experience is determined largely by the amount of initiative you take.
A lot of people told me Northwestern would be challenging academically, but the bigger challenge was realizing that my parents were not around to make me study. I also wrongly assumed that I would not have to put in the effort of reaching out to people because there were people around every corner.
For example, I might never have even become a Christian if I had not listened to God telling me to check out a Bible study. Take initiative! Be like the ant in Proverbs 6:6-8, which "having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest" (NKJV).
Talk to your professors after class or go to their office for office hours if you need help. Be vulnerable and reach out to that girl in the dining hall who looks like she needs a friend. Find a Christian community and join in. Dream big, but then do big, too. God will do incredible things.
3. It's essential to learn how to say "no."
I learned this lesson the hard way. Last winter, I was attending three Bible studies, writing a novella, working, going to class, and rehearsing for my cappella group - and that's not even half of it. It was really taking a toll on my health, so I had to quit my cappella group. Don’t make the same mistake I did, instead, learn to say "no" so that you don't have to say "I quit."
How do you know if you're doing too much? If you're constantly stressed. If all the things you're doing are to please others and not the Lord. If your personal time with God has taken a backseat to all the stuff you have to do (even if it's "spiritual" stuff, like leading a Bible study). Don't spread yourself too thin. Sleep. Find one or two passions, and then invest deeply in them. But, always put God first.
"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." -Matthew 11:28 (NKJV).
4. College is also “the real world.”
So many of my fellow students spent their undergraduate careers climbing metaphorical ladders to the “real world” of post-graduate success, only to look back in regret. Since when does “the real world” begin after you graduate?
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” -Matthew 6:34 (NKJV)
College is a season of preparation for the future, but do not dismiss the present. God did not put you in college for you to focus solely on what comes after college. So, work for that internship, but invest in the people around you — pour love, time and attention into them. Make friends and memories. Journal about what you’re learning. Worship and serve the Lord where He has put you, right here, right now.
5. Get a mentor (or two or three).
I have several: my campus ministry discipler, Kara; my writing professors, Juan and Sheila; and a woman from my church, Tammy, who might as well be my second mother. God has used these people to teach me so much — it’s really true that “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14 NKJV).
[pullquote width="300" float="right"]“Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” -Jim Elliot[/pullquote]
In an academic sense, mentors give you an incredible advantage — guiding you toward career opportunities and even writing good recommendations for jobs! Even more essential are spiritual mentors though. As young women, we need older, more experienced women to hold us accountable, to give us advice, encourage, show us grace, and above all, lead us toward the Lord.
So, don’t be shy — seek out a godly woman from your church or ministry to be your mentor (that’s what I did). Meet with her at least once a week and study the Word. Be prepared to learn. It’s seriously such a blessing.
6. College will change the way you view others.
I grew up in a really small town in Michigan, so when I moved to Evanston, it was a culture-shock. Coming home again was a bit weird, too, to be honest. But I came to realize that it’s natural to feel out of place, especially at first. Embrace it! God moves in big ways when we step out of our comfort zones.
I have met people who defied every label or stereotype my sinful mind tried to pin on them, and I am so, so glad for it. God used college to teach me empathy and compassion, and challenged my perceptions of others.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” -John 13:34-35 (NKJV)
Please don’t isolate yourselves in a “Christian bubble.” Get to know other Christians, but get to know people of other faiths, backgrounds, and life experiences. Love on all of them. Share Jesus with all of them. Invest in all of them. I promise that if you take the time to look, you will find facets of God in every single one of His children, and you will know Him better for it.
7. College will change you.
It’s actually breathtaking how God has used three short years to change me so deeply and unexpectedly. My actions and thoughts are different. My character is different. And my beliefs are different — about people, myself, and most importantly, God.
One of the best things I ever did (I highly recommend it to you) was starting a blog to help me process all that God was teaching me. It’s really cool to look back and to realize that none of it would have happened if God had not graciously brought me to Northwestern. So, expect it, ladies. Prepare to be changed, for our God is a God of radical renewal.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” -2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)
Isn’t it beautiful that He makes all things new, including us? I guarantee that if you surrender your college years to Him, whether He does it in a day, a month or over a couple of years, He will use your time there to change you. And, in all certainty, one day, as you throw your cap up into the air, you will not regret a moment of it. I know I won’t.
// image via.