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