Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Different Kind of Rec Letter

I am blessed to have a lot of people in my life 15-20 years younger than me. It is a blessing to be surrounded by their hope and idealism. I learn so much about the weakness of my faith by watching those in their early 20s live out the transitions from college to 'the real world' of marriage, ministry, careers, etc. So many choices are made at their age--and so many adventures are being lived out with their youth, optimism and lack of responsibilities.

This Summer I am watching a couple of high school friends transition to the next chapter of their story. Writing a sorority recommendation letter for one of them recently left me longing to write an additional letter--this one to my young friend with recommendations of how to live through four years of college without a plethora regrets. (I originally typed that sentence to say 'no regrets' and realized how unrealistic that is.)

From my perspective, 20 years down the line, these are the things I am glad people told me and/or really wish they had.

1- Find some sort of Christian fellowship AS SOON as you get to campus. There are so many great organizations...FCA, RUF, Crusade, Young Life... Try them--sooner rather than later--especially if you plan to join other sorts of social organizations. If you don't find your groove at one, keep trying. You are choosing the group of people who will be speaking into your life and your decision making. This is a big deal. Be selective about the voices you allow to influence you.

2- If you are going the Greek route, please be yourself during Rush. I asked houses if they had a Bible Studies. I am pretty sure it resulted in my move from the front row to being dropped by at least one house, but I am so glad that decision was based on my truthfulness about who I am/was.

3- You WILL have access to substances and situations that are new to you--without a parent (or hometown accountability) around to check up on you. Remember WHO you are and WHOSE you are. College can be wild, free and fun. It does NOT have to be the place where you compromise yourself.This leads to my next point...

4- You CAN reinvent yourself in college--especially if you are going somewhere without a lot of other people you know. If you choose this route, just be sure you are aiming to be a better version of you. I have been heartbroken to watch young friends' natural process of self discovery become a 'downgrade' of sorts where they lose the sparkle of their unique giftedness. (This almost always ties in to use and abuse of substances, by the way.)

The girls people respect  & remember are the ones who have the courage to be THEM, not just carbon copies of everyone else.

5- You WILL regret decisions you make with boys under the influence of alcohol. You are not invincible. Be smart. Be careful. Embrace self respect and self control.

6- Your parents are going to care about your grades, even if you don't. While the four years of college seem to be largely about transitioning to adulthood and coming into your own, don't forget that there are large fees being charged for the education you are there to get within the classroom. Many future employers will ask about your grades--and google you, so...

7- Have fun, but look for 'life that is really life' (John 10:10) not cheap substitutes. You will be blessed by your obedience and have consequences as a result of compromise.

I made some hard choices in college, specifically as it related to alcohol and boys. A few times, there were stinging doses of rejection as a result. I have gotten over those. Other times I chose poorly and suffered a different kind of sting, the one of humiliation and regret. I still have to pray for deliverance from those periodically (20 years later!!)

With God's strength, you can do hard things...and honestly, eventually, you start to find that they aren't so hard anymore. It is a short term process with long term benefits. Your reputation, your safety, your heart and your story are totally worth it.

"Every decision you make is nothing more than a story you will one day tell. Tell great stories." -Andy Stanley

13 comments:

Pam said...

Well-written, and I'm not surprised. Thank you for sharing the wisdom you've gleaned. I will be sharing this with my rising junior in high school, and I pray if she chooses to go the route of sorority life. -- she'll come out on the other side of it like you have.

Kayla said...

What great advice! I just graduated from Alabama in May. This is right on target!

dee said...

I will be having my son, who leaves for college in a few short weeks, read this. I have prayed these very things for him, and we have had similar conversations. But, maybe seeing it in print (from someone other than his mom) ;-) will also make an impression. Once again, thank you!

Jill said...

I've had similar conversations with the young women in my life as they headed out off to college. It can be such a great opportunity to "come into yourself" and discover a deeper faith. I think you should put this in booklet form and give as a graduation gift.
Great wisdom

Mary Lou said...

This was wonderful. I am going to share this with a young friend who is headed off to college. she has a full scholarship, academic and one for basketball. She is coming off of a hard two years where she has seen her parents divorce and some things this spring that a young person should never have to face in their parents. She will not have hardly any free time to come home on the week ends, or vacation or break times. I have been praying for her and will step up my prayers after reading your suggestions. Thank you for sharing the wisdom you learned and for sharing it with the young people that God has put into your life. You are a blessing.

Kelly Jones said...

thank you, thank you, thank you. i am the mama of a high school senior....these words of life are a blessing to me, and i pray they'll be a blessing to her!

HW said...

Might I add: choose housing wisely. If there is an option between a co-ed dorm and an all girls dorm, I do hope young women choose the all girls dorm. It seems so dangersous to me to put men and women under the same roof where experimentation with alcohol might be taking place.

This is a great post and timely for me. Our daughter leaves in 33 days to begin her college journey.

JMom said...

Feel free to pass along to whomever you feel led to & HW it dates me that co-ed housing wasn't even on my radar. I have failed to consider that...yikes! You are right. That can be a recipe for trouble!

HW said...

It is only on my radar because we are in that phase of life. Our daughter has chosen a Christian Univeristy where the boys are not allowed past the girls lobbies and girls are not allowed past the boys lobbies. There is a curfew and the lobbies are monitored very closely.

She has taken some teasing for her choice - kids who say she must not want anything to do with boys. She simply says she will be around lots of boys; they just won't be entering her room at all hours of the night. We are very aware that kids will still make choices that are not ideal, even in a strict setting. But I do like that there are a few safeguards in place. And I certainly don't disparage young people who have chosen a different kind of college setting.

Great words from your blog again.

Stacey said...

Saving this one! You have such a gift of written word.

Casey said...

I love this- and sharing with my college small group I lead.

Samantha said...

Oh, how wise are your words! Thank you for making this list. Now, if I can keep it someplace safe to share with my daughter and her friends a few years from now...

Rosemary Clark said...

I love this post and will also be saving it to share with the teens at my church as they enter college. I've often thought about things I would share with them, but I believe you said it best. Thanks for sharing!