If you’re anything like me, it’s late June and you’ve already stockpiled enough furniture and décor to fill TWO dorm rooms. You’re excited and hopeful but maybe at the same time, the feelings of “oh my goodness I am NOT ready for this” are starting to settle in. I know those feelings all too well. You are constantly being told things like “the world is at your fingertips!” and “you can be anything you want to be!” …but you’re just wondering how you’re gonna be able to straighten the back of your hair without your mom’s help [or maybe that was just a personal struggle].
I believe you made a wise decision, going to a Christian college. But by no means did you choose the easy road.
I was going to a tiny Christian school in a town in Indiana that no one has ever heard of. I was also going with my best friend, so I didn’t have to endure the whole process of trying to track down a not-psycho roommate. I thought it was gonna be smooth sailing. All of my friends from high school were worried about how many times they would have to go out per week to not be considered anti-social and whether their professors would be crazy or mean and how in the world they were going to walk to the shower with a pack of freshman boys living right down the hall. Meanwhile, I was chillin'.
You know the saying ‘hope for the best but prepare for the worst?’ I think I was hoping for the best but preparing for nothing. I had heard so many people talk about how everyone thinks going to a Christian college will be like church camp every day but really it’s nothing like that, and I was probably banking on it being just a little bit like that.
Well… shocker! I was wrong. There is not a bubble surrounding each and every Christian college, keeping sin and temptation and ungodliness out. Not to mention sadness, loneliness and anxiety. And get this- there WILL be people at your school who don’t love Jesus. What?!?
I think that God loves your decision to pursue Him further through your college choice. But that doesn’t mean you get a free ride away from all the struggles of any other college student.
My experience will undoubtedly be much different from yours, but throughout the past two years, I have undergone the ups and downs full force. I would love for you to read this and feel even just a little more prepared to take on all of the trials, challenges and learning experiences that will face you in the year(s) ahead. And I hope you are looking forward to the triumphs, joys and adventures that will surely accompany them.
Temptation will still surround you.
Sure, Saturday nights on campus are pretty uneventful. You won’t find crazy parties behind every other door. But take two steps off campus and I assure you, they’re there. You might not have to worry about telling a boy he can’t spend the night in your room because the rules have already told him that. But there is plenty of trouble you can still get in before midnight with your door open at a 45 degree angle.
It may take a little more effort to seek out, but you will have access to all of the same temptations that anyone going to any school has. You may not get approached quite as often with opportunities to stray from what you know to be right and true, but you are absolutely going to find yourself having to say “no” sooner or later.
Expect this to happen. Prepare yourself to refuse anything that doesn’t line up with who you are in Christ. Don’t ever let your guard down. Find friends who will stand alongside you in resisting temptation, not ones who will test your boundaries. Have confidence in the fact that you are not missing out on anything worth compromising your faith.
Not everyone you meet is on the same page as you.
I think the most surprising thing to me upon starting my journey at a Christian school was how many people there weren’t actually Christian. I bet most of them- if not everyone- would claim to be a Christian. But I’m talking about people who are actively pursuing a stronger relationship with Christ. I thought, why in the world would you want to come to a Christian college if you don’t care about the CHRISTIAN part? But turns out there are more people than you’d imagine who are there but want as little to do as possible with the whole Jesus side of it.
I’ve met my best friends for life at school, and they are some of the godliest, most trustworthy girls I know. I’ve built relationships with professors who genuinely want to be there for their students. I am smiled at by strangers more times than I can count on the way to class each day. The atmosphere is overwhelmingly positive. But there WILL be negativity. There will be people who constantly complain about the rules and the mandatory chapel attendance and the required Bible classes. There will be people who lie and cheat and steal.
Don’t let your guard down because you assume everyone’s intentions match yours. Choose your friends wisely. Start building a reputation right away as someone whose life revolves around Christ and you will attract people whose priorities are similar to yours. Stay so firmly rooted in who you are and whose you are that the naysaying voices of a few are powerless. You know why you are there.
You may not actually find your future husband within the first month.
I’m pretty sure there is a shared belief among EVERY SINGLE freshman girl [don’t even try to tell me you aren’t one of them] that going to a Christian college yields a 100% success rate in finding a husband. And while I will say that the number of proposals I witnessed last year verges on ridiculous, this is absolutely not true.
As a freshman, I watched some of my friends spend so much energy chasing after boys and worrying that they weren’t good enough because they didn’t go on a single date all year. I watched them cry because the boy they thought was made for them decided to transfer. I watched them remain in relationships even when things fell apart because they didn’t know why God would bring a boy into their life if he wasn’t the one.
Use this time to grow into the woman that God wants you to be. Develop your faith. Explore your interests. Expand your horizons. Let God freely work in your heart and in the heart of whoever it is you’re going to end up with. When the time is right, He’ll bring you together. You may think you’re ready, but God knows the innermost depths of your soul. Trust Him.
Your relationship status does not define your worth. Maybe you’re entering college already in a relationship. Maybe you will meet a great boy right away or maybe it’ll take a while. Maybe you know a relationship isn’t what you’re looking for right now or maybe it’s all you want. Maybe you have absolutely no idea what you want [Hello!!! Same]. Regardless, your worth is found in the love of Christ which you don’t have to work for or prove that you’re worthy of receiving. Rest in that truth.
It’s okay to have absolutely no idea what you want to do.
Something you will undoubtedly encounter many, many times is people talking about their “calling.” Lots of my friends have known for a long time that God has drawn them to nursing. Another one, bless her heart, feels led to be an elementary school teacher. And me? For a long time I had not a single clue. And that really worried me, because why hadn’t God called me to something specific like He had, it seemed, everyone else? I changed my major three times during my freshman year alone because I wanted to feel like I had some purpose; like I was “called” to something.
Your purpose in life reaches far beyond a major or career path. God can and will use you if you let Him, whether or not you know exactly where you want to be in 10 years. You are not the only one who feels confused or anxious about the future. Have patience and follow where God leads. He ended up turning my long-time backup plan into something I am passionate about and love learning about now.
Your true calling is just to love and to serve. As long as you are doing these things while you wait for Him to show you exactly where He wants you to go, I promise that you are doing exactly what you are supposed to do.
It’s just as easy to neglect your faith as it is to nourish it.
This was another big surprise for me- something I wish I had been more prepared to deal with. I went to chapel twice a week. My floor met for small group every Monday night. I was taking a Bible class. But I still don’t feel like I grew in my faith very much throughout the course of my freshman year.
You will be required to do a lot of things… don’t stop with those. Don’t let your faith become more like a chore or a homework assignment than something you passionately pursue because you desire to grow closer to Christ.
Find the way you connect with Christ best. For me, it has always been worship. At the end of a long day, I came back to my dorm room and blasted my “Praise Jesus” playlist on Spotify for however long it took for me to feel refreshed and renewed. Not because someone was going to give me a grade or make sure I had done it, but because I wanted and needed to spend that time with God.
Don’t let reading your Bible or spending time in prayer become items on a to-do list that you check off so you can move on to the next thing. Being able to have a personal relationship with Christ is the most precious privilege; treat it accordingly.
It is okay to not be okay.
I won’t lie to you guys- I was a MESS my freshman year. I felt lonely, confused and afraid. Nothing was going how I had expected it to, I missed my home and I cried a lot. Meanwhile, I was surrounded by some of the most joyful people I’ve ever met. People who genuinely loved where they were at in life. People who seemingly had no trouble at all just blindly trusting God to lead them through this new phase in life.
All I did was make it harder on myself by trying to hide my struggles, my doubts, my insecurities, my fears and my anxieties. I wanted my outward appearance to match that of those around me- carefree and confident. But on the inside, I was conflicted and scared.
Learn to be honest and vulnerable. Everyone is wrestling with something, I promise you. Open up to others so they feel that they can open up to you, too. Strive to be someone who is known for their realness, not their perfect outer shell. There is no shame in struggling. God turns trials into victories when you decide to conquer them instead of letting them conquer you, and that’s not something you can do alone.