Dear Christian University Freshman...

Dear Christian University Freshman:

If I did not say it already, congratulations on graduating from High School! Job well done.

Now that you are at college, you are at the place where you can begin to truly tell people what you want to do when you "grow up," and your response will be taken seriously, whereas before it was just considered kinda cute.

Of course, as you probably are aware, it is highly likely that the college degree you earn will have little-or-nothing to do with the actual job/career path you take once you actually graduate from college.

But that's ok, our lives are in God's hands anyway, and where we end up has more to do with the things and people God brings into our lives than the goals and dreams we aspire to achieve, and the degree we earn while in college. Be that as it may, set goals and don't be afraid to dream anyway. Seek God, pursue the stirrings you find in your heart, and leave the outcome all to Him.

Having once been something of a "professional college student," I would like to take a moment and make some observations about things you will probably experience, and give some helpful advice to those of you who find yourselves on this exciting new journey in your life.

1) You are going to see a lot of your good Christian friends from your youth group fall away from the faith.

Within 6 months to 1 year, especially for those who moved away from home, many of your Christian friends lives will be indistinguishable from somebody who has never known the Lord. They are going to fall, and they are going to fall hard.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Sometimes, it is because your youth group friends were never really saved to begin with. Others had a very shallow faith, and never learning to stand on their own, they let their guard down, and are soon overcome by a lot of temptation. And yet others get caught up in the cares of this life, and simply drift away.

Pray for your friends. For some, the problems that experience in college represents a temporary bump in the road on their Christian journey. Some will eventually come back to the Lord and the church. Be ready to love them along the way.

And if you find yourself among those who don't put the Lord first at college, keep in mind that no matter how far you stray from Him, He's always standing there with arms wide open, calling you back to Him.

2) Work on your relationship with the Lord.

While college life provides ample opportunity to delight yourself in expressing pent up carnality (even at a Christian college!), it also provides you with the opportunity to really plunge into the depths of their faith. What you get out of it ultimately depends on you.

Get involved with your campus ministry. Read your Bible. Pray. Share your faith. Get plugged into a local church. Just because you go to college doesn't mean you have to come home weaker in your faith. If you can graduate college strong in your faith, you'll be ready to tackle the rest of what life throws at you.

3) Don't simply study for the test, study to learn.

There are a lot of people in college simply looking for the piece of paper. Don't be one of those people.

While getting a degree can be a very valuable thing for your career in and of itself, there are some things more valuable than the piece of paper. The skills you acquire in college you can take with you wherever you go, and will still be with you long after you've forgotten who Voltaire was.

Develop good study habits. Learn how to actually do in-depth research. Develop critical thinking skills and listen to alternate points of view. Be the guy in class that always asks a lot of questions.  Become an expert at communicating and reporting what your research yields. Learn to juggle competing deadlines, and never ask your professor for an extension. You will seldom get extended deadlines at work, and you will often have conflicting priorities. Learn to manage these stresses in college, and you'll be ready for the real world.

Oh yeah... and ACTUALLY learn about whatever subject matter you study.

There is a difference between studying what you need to know for the test, and actually learning something. Seek to actually gain knowledge about whatever subjects it is you study, even the intro level classes that you think are a waste of time. Read broadly, and don't limit yourself to simply reading the material only found on your syllabus. If you do college right, you will feel that college actually gets in the way of your education. Consider what you learn in the classroom to be the minimum requirements. Learn even more on your own.

If your professor has office hours and allows students to stop by and talk, or if he goes to lunch with students, take the opportunity to hang out your professor outside of the classroom. Some professors love to make themselves available to their students, and the amount you can learn talking to them over lunch is a great opportunity that you should not neglect. What you learn may not appear on a test, but it may change the direction of your life. It did for me.

4) Work hard, and work at least 1 part-time job.

If possible, try to take entry level part-time jobs in your desired career field, or for a company you think you'd like to work for one day. The degree you earn is nice, but at the end of the day, most employers want somebody with actual real world experience over somebody with simply a degree. By the time you are done with college, try to have both in hand. It'll look much better on your resume.

If you can't get some sort of professional entry-level job, at least wait tables at a decent restaurant. You'll make better money this way, you'll be humbled through what it means to work hard at serving people, and you'll develop some strong people skills in the process.

5) Make a monthly budget, stick to it as best as possible, and stay away from debt.

College is not going to teach you about personal finances. So you need to teach yourself... and quick. Don't wait until you are 30 to learn about managing personal finances like I did.  If you've not read Dave Ramsey, grab some of his books right now!

Itemize your monthly expenses on a piece of notebook paper or on a spreadsheet. Track every dollar you have coming in, and every dollar you have going out. Take out cash at the start of every month, and declare it your "mad money" that you allow yourself to spend on non-essential expenses i.e. dinner with friends. That way you guarantee you can always pay your bills, and have money left-over for espresso's and pizza.

Don't sign up for credit cards, no matter how many free t-shirts the bank gives you. I did this and it got me into a LOT of trouble, some of which still haunts my personal finances years later. Minimize your student debt levels by paying for classes with cash, living with your parents, or getting reliable roommates. Whenever possible, try to save.

Seriously, you may think it's cool to live on your own while in college, and you may use your student loans to do so, but you know what's not cool? Living with your parents when you are 30 because your $700 a month student loan bill keeps you from affording $700 a month apartment.

If you graduate with $1,000 in your pocket, you'll have more money than most adults who've been working all their life do.

And always look to give.

6) Avoid dating for a year or two...

Seriously, dating in college is hard. Especially if you also have a job. The last thing you need is a drama filled relationship that is going to distract you from your studies, and cause you to do stupid stuff when your heart gets broken. It's hard to write a 20 page term paper on British literature when you are talking to Johnny or Sarah until 2 am. Wait a couple years before you get in a relationship. Allow yourself time to master college and being on your own before you start looking for a date, or Mr. or Mrs. Right.

7) Volunteer, join student government, and other clubs of interests.

These organized social gatherings are very positive. You can make a lot of friends this way, and chances are the people that are involved with them are positive people with definite goals in life, who plan on doing something meaningful. Get to know them. You'll probably end up becoming good life-long friends with a couple of them.

8) Fraternities are not cool. Bars are even more lame.

If a "party" doesn't involve having dinner at 6 pm, and ending the evening at Starbucks or a bowling alley, stay away from it.

Fraternities and sororities are generally for people who lack a social identity of their own, and need somebody to give them one. They contribute hardly anything good to your life or education, and the relationships cultivated in these tend to be superficial and shallow. How is it somebody is suddenly your "bestie" or "brother" simply because they pledged? And in spite of what some of their recruiters tell you, people join these primarily to party, and little to nothing more. The social causes they say they stand behind are usually just a cover story they pass onto the university, so as to make them a legitimate organization.

Hanging out at the bar isn't very exciting either. I've been to my share. All you do is stand around and drink, talk to people whose names you'll probably never really learn, talking about things that don't matter, and because of the noise level, you'll have a hard time hearing the nothing they talk about anyway.

Don't worry, you aren't missing out on anything by turning down the bar scene. There are a lot of people who are convinced that they have a "life" because they are hanging out at a bar. Such people have yet to discover what "life" is, which is why they hang out at a bar. Truly, it's a pretty lame scene. It's the place where people who have little to no life go to hang out with people who largely lack the same.

9) Coffee shops and cafe's are your friend.

Coffee shops and cafe's are a great place to unwind, and are pretty decent places to study and hang out with friends. Learn to drink widely from this menu instead of the menu at a bar, and you are likely to meet interesting people with things worth talking about. Chances are, you'll take a lot of dates here over the years anyway. I know I did. That's where I had my first date with my wife.

Side note: Avoid the $5 Frappuccino’s though. They'll hurt your budget and make you fat (they did me).

10) Have fun, but remember the best days of your life are still ahead.

People often entering college are fed the lie that these are the best years of their life, and not wanting to miss out, they do a lot of stupid stuff in the name of having fun. But the truth of the matter is, the best years of your life are still ahead. Whoever thinks college was the best years of their life has never really learned to live. I enjoyed college a lot.  But I've enjoyed the years since a lot more, and I always look forward to the next year being the best yet.  For true life is found in Jesus Christ, and having a strong relationship with Him.

In conclusion, it is my sincere hope that you find these aforementioned words something that finds a place in your heart. You have an amazing opportunity set before you. Seize it with all your might, and make the most of it.

Many blessings,


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