College life means change…..for students and parents alike.

Many years ago, there was a popular bumper sticker slogan that read, “Change is good. You go first.” When many of us think about this issue of change and its impact on our own lives and communities, there is often a degree of uncertainty and apprehension about what “change” means. How will things look different? How will they stay the same? This is true of the transition to college as well . . . for both students and their families. Navigating the many changes during this pivotal time of life can seem a little daunting, but change and our adaptation to it is an important reality of life.

Students . . . during the college years, you will undoubtedly grow and mature intellectually, socially, emotionally, vocationally and spiritually. It takes time to develop a sense of competence and courage amid the challenges of new routines, new friendships, and new academic expectations as you develop a compelling vision for your future.

In his book Courage and Calling, Gordon Smith asks these poignant questions: “If I could only be one thing and do one thing with my life, what would I want it to be?” and “What do I long for more than anything? What brings me joy?” A significant part of Christ-centered education is encouraging you to ask and begin to answer these and other key questions so you can have a lasting impact as you press into the unique gifts and abilities that God has given you.

Parents . . . for those of us who work in Christ-centered higher education, our hope and prayer for each of your sons and daughters is that they will catch a vision for their lives that will enable them to serve others from a place of joy and gratitude. Your role in supporting and encouraging your daughter or son is critical. Following are a few principles that might be helpful as you seek to do this:

• Believe in them and communicate that trust and confidence regularly
• Encourage involvement, but also balance so that they maximize their college experience without burnout
• Turn them loose . . . let them learn from their successes (and sometimes their mistakes!)
• Encourage excellence, but let them “forge their own trail”
• Be transparent and open with them and encourage the same with you
• View them through the lens of time as they grow into the men and women God wants them to be

I love to recount the story of a woman named Helen Keller who lost sight and hearing at a very young age. She was asked as an adult, “Ms. Keller, what could possible be worse than being born blind?” to which she immediately replied, “to have sight, but no vision.” I often think of this story when I interact with students. We want to partner with students and parents in encouraging a vision for their lives that is consistent with their gifts as they pursue their chosen vocation!

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