Anthem Alumni: Conner SalterSurviving College
I thought I knew everything when I left for my first year of college. I’d visited the university campus for three weeks a year before, so I knew the basic layout and where to go for whatever I needed. I’d taken community college classes throughout high school, so I figured I knew what classes would be like. Of course, it turned out I wasn’t nearly as prepared as I thought. I faced many challenges my first year of college, here are three things I learned that will help you survive the biggest ones.
First, learn to live and get along with strange people. My chosen college, Taylor University, is in Indiana so I lived in a dormitory with two roommates. I knew one roommate from my three-week visit, the other guy I had never met before and didn’t have much in common with. We didn’t hate or kill each other, but it was definitely awkward sometimes.
Even if you’re used to sharing a bedroom and get roommates you mesh perfectly with, you’ll still have to decide all the little things that come with living in a college dorm. Things you’ve never had to deal with before like “Can I bring my girlfriends/boyfriend over? If so, can we get some alone time or does the door have to stay open?” Sometimes, you’ll disagree about how things should go, and you need to know how to deal with conflict while still living in peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).
If it’s possible, do what I did and take some time off between high school and college to go on some kind of trip. It can be an extended missions trip, it can be an out-of-state summer job, something that forces you to leave home and live with new people. You’ll learn how to get along by necessity and be miles ahead of many incoming college students.
Second, balance your friends and grades. Lots of people talk about living the party lifestyle in college, focusing more on having fun and on social relationships than on classwork. I have the opposite problem. My first semester I barely went to any events, got most of my assignments done two weeks in advance, started my freelance writing career and somehow found time to start a weekly blog. On paper I accomplished a lot, but I barely spent any time relaxing or building relationships. By the end of my second semester, I was seeing just how unhealthy it is to be that isolated.
I spoke to a classmate about this, and he mentioned Charles E. Hummels’ essay “Tyranny of the Urgent” (http://static1.squarespace.com/static/52f11228e4b0a96c7b51a92d/t/5321d9a8e4b053c8acec66b0/1394727336868/Tyranny+of+the+Urgent.pdf). In life, my friend explained, there are urgent things (answer an email, finish an assignment) and important things (spend time with friends, study a good book). Don’t let the urgent things consume your time for important things, my classmate advised. Don’t be lazy, but make time for the important things and remember that it’s just as vital sometimes to hang out with friends as it is to achieve good grades.
After all, as another friend recently told me, you won’t remember the homework you did in college. You’ll remember the friendships.
Third, hold tight to your relationship with God. I’m fortunate to be attending a private Christian college – with chapel services three times a week, students who are required to take Bible classes, and professors who are perfectly comfortable praying before classes. Even so, it was easy to just do all the right things and not get the spiritual advice and growth I needed.
As college students you enter the phase where you’re really responsible for your own spiritual growth, Mom and Dad aren’t around to ask how you’re doing. So find ways to deliberately stay close to God. Take time to read Scripture every day, find a Bible study group, and look for someone a little more spiritually mature to meet with and advise you. Spiritual mentors are worth their weight in platinum.
I hope these thoughts help you prepare for college, and you have a blessed time in it. As Paul exhorted his fellow believers, “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with you all.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16) (NIV).
by Conner Salter