You’re in for a treat. If you’re anything like I was at this point, you’re scared and excited at the same time and either one of those emotions tend to overcome the other on any given day- or minute. You see so many unknowns in front of you and all you’ve got is maybe your room number or a brochure of information. And you don’t know what the heck you’re getting yourself into.
Let me just start off by saying that college is literally the hardest, greatest, trying, most beautiful, crazy, and most fun time ever. Take my word for it, the road is somewhat difficult….but I promise you that by year two, you’ll never have experienced so much growth in your life- if you do it right.
I’m seriously excited for you as I’m typing this out because part of me wishes I could go for it all over again.
I’m here, writing you this letter, to tell you the truth about college- but also to give you some encouragement and shed light on what people may forget to tell you as you’re checking off your lists and preparing your vulnerable and scattered mind for this whole shebang.
So let’s hear some tips, shall we? (take these seriously, folks):
1. Get involved as much as you can/want to by sophomore year. Don’t keep saying “I have plenty of time. I’ll do that later.” You’ll find that “later” slips by you all too quickly. I want to follow this up directly by saying don’t overload yourself. If you start to feel strung out and worn thin and your to-do list gets longer than your arm, you’re probably too involved.
2. There’s such thing as too many shirts. Be smart and don’t spend $200 a semester on shirts that will end up taking up four drawers (oops).
3. Sabbath. I could go on forever about this. To be short, it is essential for refocusing your heart, mind, and soul and becomes your saving grace and your weekly mind-sleep that you can’t do without. For more on why God calls us to discipline our time this way, check out this message from Church of the Highlands.
4. Keep a blog or a journal, if nothing else than to reread later. You’ll be surprised how much you grow.
5. Get in a bible study or a small group right away and be all in. It’ll impact your life more than you ever thought possible.
6. Once you’re in that small group or bible study, take 20 minutes and get everybody to take the love language test online with you. Things will start to make a lot more sense about people and you’ll know how to love them much and love them well.
7. Keep Jesus your first priority. Talk to him first when you wake up and throughout the day. Make His plans your plans. Let him love on you and live through you.
8. When you have hard days (they will come), grab you some queso and chips and watch your favorite movie in the dark. It gets better. I promise.
9. Stay at school the first month. Don’t go home. I promise the homesickness is worse if you do.
10. Be intentional about staying in touch with your home friends just as much as you are about making new ones, even if it seems you’re putting in the most effort at first. Ask them what you can be praying for in their lives. You’ll be so thankful you did later. And so will they.
11. When you have the choice to take the elevator, take the stairs. I know, I know. I had tons of classes on the fourth floor. You get used to it and it wakes you up!
12. Be expectant that stress will come full force. If not the first week, or even the second, it’ll come. Be not afraid, just learn how to treat it as early on as possible. (Hint: my treatment is praying, caffeine, soaking in God’s truths, and taking time away from studies and all. the. things. to just sit and be still.)
13. That Freshman 15 is the real deal (hence “take the stairs”) and, if you’re not careful, could lead to the Sophomore 25. I know the buffet style cafeteria makes your eyes get a little too wide and it feels so good to eat that piece of cake every Tuesday and Thursday after speech class, but I promise it’s not worth it (that’s not to say don’t treat yourself after your first speech- it’s a doozy and you deserve a spoonful of chocolate icing).
14. Survey the laundry room and find you a good time (hint: it won’t be Sunday afternoon) when no one usually occupies it. And stick to your time, girl…stick to your time (read that in Hagrid’s voice) if ya can.
15. Playlists, playlists, playlists. Make one for when you’re studying, for when you’re out on the town with friends on a Friday night, one for when you are lonely, one for when you’re really mad that you’re not home and you just want to scream (I play this one while driving around by myself…which now writing seems a little dangerous…), and for when you just want to worship.
16. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. This is one is easier said than done, of course, but you’ll find that the more you open up and act (in my case) as weird as you actually are, the more you’ll find that the parts of yourself that you used to hide are actually your most admired qualities by others.
17. For the organized: GET YOU A NICE PLANNER. I’ve gone through my share of planners and have found that my absolute favorites are the ones that cover 3 semesters. It’s helpful because it lets you look ahead and you don’t have to buy another one as soon.
18. You’re gonna hear a lot of talk about sororities. I’m sure you’ve already heard the opinions of close friends or family members about what they are and what they make you, but can I offer one more opinion? If you’re going to go through recruitment, just do it for the right reasons.
Beyond that, if you’re going to join a sorority, do it for the right reasons. I attend a small school, so sororities are slightly different, but I have friends from all over the place. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Greek Life is a wonderful opportunity for leadership, social, spiritual, and intellectual growth, and friendships and I definitely wouldn’t have had near as good of a college experience without being in my sorority. But don’t feel like it’s something you have to do. If it’s something you believe will enhance your growth and be beneficial to you in good ways, go for it. But don’t feel bad about yourself if you don’t feel like it’s you.
19. Live in the moment you’re in. This one’s a hard one, especially when the whole reason you’re going to school is to get a job in the future. But I promise college flies by just as fast (if not faster) than high school, and living in the present and enjoying moments as they’re happening is something I wish I would have done more of and something I’m still working on.
20. Dare to lead someone. Whether that’s someone younger from back home that you can mentor, or a group of 20 girls who don’t know which sorority they want to be in, or leading a Bible study, do it. It’s the most rewarding thing and everyone needs someone older to turn to.
21. Go on a trip. It doesn’t have to be somewhere drastic, but hop in the car a few times with a friend or two and go explore, even it’s just the city you live in. Go to a concert. Or twelve. Go out of state on spring break to a place you’ve never been before and just see new places with your people.
21. Focus on finding your worth in Jesus alone. If you’re anything like me, you may measure yourself by your grades or the number of good friends you have or maybe how many dates you go on. Choose to find your identity in Christ – again and again….and again. Choose to believe you’re enough. I see this struggle so much in myself, but also in my friends. It’s so easy to place your value in something that’s tangible, especially when you want to do and be your best. But I challenge you to do your best in school and in deed, and let Christ shine through your successes and your weaknesses. I think we neglect so often that He can be glorified in both.
There is so much more I could say about college…and I’ve still got one whole year left. I wish the very best for you and pray that, no matter what school you go to or path you take, you’ll seek the Lord’s face in everything. He’ll be your strength and your peace as long as you let Him.
a College Senior Girl