It is hard to imagine that my first semester of college was 19 years ago. (I really don’t like to think of myself as actually being that old). It honestly feels like it was just yesterday I hugged my mother good bye and began this new exciting chapter in my life. As for myself, I traveled about as far from home as I could possible afford. After spending the first 18 years of my life surrounded by corn and beans in central Illinois, I headed for the Sunshine State. I attended Florida College in Temple Terrace, FL. I would be lying if I said that the transition went smoothly. While I was surrounded my many wonderful opportunities to grow as a Christian, as a student, and as a person, I really did struggle. And while I am nearly 20 years removed from my first day of college, I wanted to provide you with a bit of wisdom as you are now getting settled into your new dorms, your new classes, and your new lives. Here are three tips for getting off to a good start.
- Find a good church to identify with. At Florida College there were many opportunities to find a wonderful church to worship with. My first year in college I didn’t do this. Because I didn’t have a car, I was always relying upon the generosity of others to take me to services somewhere. I ended up bouncing from congregation to congregation. As a result I never really identified anywhere. This kept me from having a solid group of people to help encourage me. Instead, what I had was a vast sea of strangers and a few “I think you have been here before” types. I had no one to call when I was struggling. I had no one to help keep me on the straight and narrow, and because I was so far from home, I had no one I could call family. By my second year I began to realize my mistake. I began worshipping with the Belmont Heights congregation and found a family that loved me. It provided me with the opportunity to feel like a belonged somewhere. Don’t make my mistake and wait a year before you start looking. Begin looking now for a congregation of God’s people. Make certain that they are loving, kind, and compassionate. Make certain that they are not just about making your feel good about yourself, but will provide the proper environment for spiritual growth. And make certain that instead of offering you powder puff worship services, they are providing you with the bible based teaching.
- Don’t get distracted. This is easily one of the biggest mistakes freshman make upon heading off to college. Let us be honest, for many of you, it is the first time you have been on your own. Most of you just graduated highschool earlier this year and have been holding on to your parents’ apron strings for the last 18 or so years. Without their guidance it is going to be easy to permit yourself to get distracted. I recall one week we had a video camera on our floor. One of the guys recorded just about everything that happened that week. When we all sat down to watch it months later certain things came to mind. Such as, this was only a week? Did anyone get anything done this week? I really don’t recall any studying that went uninterrupted. And I really hope that was not indicative of an average week in our dorm. (Sadly I think that it was). I am not saying that you cannot have fun. By all means do as Solomon said, enjoy the days of your youth. However, don’t let your enjoyment get in the way of why you really are in college. You are there to get a college education. If I could travel back in time I would give myself a severe kick in the pants for goofing off as much as I did. I missed out on some great opportunities from some very knowledgeable men (some of whom are no longer with us). These are years you cannot get back. Don’t waste them by getting distracted.
- Maintain your purity. It is said that I feel compelled to write that. What is even sadder is that for many of you, that purity has already been lost. You have already succumbed to peer pressure and felt that living like Tim Tebow was to live a prude and boring life. It isn’t. It is living a life to its fullest. It is living your life without regret (such as getting drunk and then doing something that you wouldn’t want to tell your moms about later). College is filled with temptations around every corner. Don’t give in to them. Your “college experience” is not better because you went to the frat party. Your “college experience” is not better because you were sexually promiscuous. Your “college experience” is not better because you used to try all sorts of experimental things. These sinful actions will find you out. You see, Solomon didn’t just say, enjoy the days of your youth. He also said, “Remember your creator in the days of your youth ( 12:1). You might end up pregnant. You might end up addicted to drugs. You might end up with a few one night stands that end up with her being pregnant. Know this. You can say, that won’t happen to me. I’ll be careful. I won’t get in to deep. But no one says, “I hope I drop out of college because of stupid mistakes I made.” No one plans on messing up, but they do. They only sure fire way to assure you maintain your purity is to abstain from every form of evil (I Thes. 5:22).