I still remember my college in vivid emotional detail. Each of my four years were very different from the others, involving a lot of ups and downs, and a lot of trying to figure life out without my parents or home.
I loved college. College is a really formative time for men and women, and is a great first step into adulthood. College is like the pre-season for any major sport, a safe place to figure out what works and what doesn’t, without having to suffer any major consequences. I know, I know, you could fail college, and yes that would be difficult; however, it’s not the end of the world. Life is too full of opportunities and God’s goodness to hinge entirely on college. So stay focused, but take off the crushing pressure that makes college feel like a life or death event.
While my college experience shaped and formed me for the better, my four years were some of the most difficult years of my life. Here are four lessons I learned outside of the classroom:
1 | Fix Your Eyes on Christ, Not Community
I am a big extrovert, and met a ton of great friends in college. However, my friend group and I struggled being in community with each other, often times we were dramatic, hurtful, and petty toward each other. At times l felt like I was back in Middle School with the drama of things, which was a shocking experience to me. I really thought my friends and I were mature adults since we were in college. Truth is, we weren’t. I struggled to love my friends well in college, because I was too fixated on that community. I looked to my friends for all my comfort and acceptance, and in reality, it was too much for them to supply. What I needed was more Jesus. I needed to pursue and understand my identity in him, rather than look for it from my friends. Doing this would have freed me to love my friends better, and be less dependent on them.
2 | Character Trumps Success
I love being competitive. I love succeeding at things, and I love winning. In college, there is a weight and an importance placed on what career you pursue, what job you’re going to get, how well you are doing in the classroom, etc. All these things are really important, and you should think about what God wants you to do in life and strive for excellence as a way to worship God; however, you should spend more time focusing on godly character. You should spend time cultivating your relationship with God, allowing Him to change and shape you so your character reflects him. Character gets you further than GPA, experience, and lofty goals ever will. Character breeds peace with your life faster than getting the “perfect” job ever will. Having a godly character is infinitely more valuable than any degree.
3 | Take Off the Pressure
In college, I concerned myself with what I would do after college. I focused on having my life figured out by graduation, and it came as a surprise to me when I graduated that I had my whole life in front of me. I realized that college is big, but life is WAY bigger after graduation. When you graduate at 22, odds are you’ll have 60 years of life ahead of you. Sixty years to figure out and pursue adventure with God. Sixty years to grow and develop a relationship with God that can change the world around you. So take the pressure off. You don’t have to have it figured out in college. You are free to pick a degree course knowing that your whole life is not riding on that degree. College degrees are important, pick one, work hard for it, but don’t be crushed under the belief that your life will be defined by one degree.
4 | College is Formational, not Forever
College is important because it’s the beginning steps of adulthood. I remember being so excited, so focused on college, that I didn’t even think about how short it would be. I thought college was everything, then I graduated and realized that 4 years really isn’t that long of a time period. I realized that college was a place to start a foundation, not build a house. College is the beginning, not the end. When I began to understand that college was not forever, it actually freed me to enjoy college more, and not cling to it unnecessarily.
These four lessons are pretty simple, but I wished I had known them when I started college. I wish I had focused more on God and his character, and less on achieving my own glory.
High School grad, congrats on completing the first stage of your life! I am so excited for you, and your future whether it’s in college or the work force! Spend the next four years working hard, dreaming, setting goals, but more than anything , pursuing God. Find out just how much he loves you, walk humbly with him, pursue him to love those around you, accept his pursuit of you. God is worth sacrificing your future for. Besides, he probably has everything for you taken care of. After all, he is God. That’s what he does.