Well, you’ve done it. You found your dream school, you got in, you came up with a plan to pay for it, and now it’s time to go. When you arrive on campus in a few weeks everything will be awesome, right?
No! The hard part is just about to start! Don’t get me wrong, college can be one of the best experiences of your life, but it isn’t going to be easy, and nothing will just fall into your lap. You are responsible for making the good stuff happen.
So what is the good stuff that you are you hoping for in college?
For one, everyone wants college to be fun, and that means having friends. Who are your best friends now? How did you meet them, and how long have you known them? Chances are those relationships developed over many years. They may have grown out of a shared experience like a really tough class, joining a team together, or participating in youth group. Those friends didn’t magically appear; you made them. The same will be true about your friends in college. You will have to go to the cheesy freshmen mixers, talk to the person across the hall, and invite the kid from your English class to eat lunch with you. You will have to keep doing those things. When you feel lonely (and you will) don’t second guess your college decision but keep investing in the people around you. Some of them are going to become the best friends you’ll ever have.
Hopefully, you are also excited about your classes. Whether you already have a major in mind or not, it’s hard to know how interesting a program will be to you until you are actually studying and involved in that field. Fortunately, most freshmen will have course loads that are heavy on general education requirements, giving you a few semesters before you have to get serious about a specific major. This will be an important window of time for you to explore different academic areas and possible career paths. If your college offers a career assessment test, be sure to take it and carefully think through the results. Seek out upperclassmen who are majoring in the fields you are interested in and ask them what they think of their program and are planning to do with their degree. Talk with professors in different departments about what kinds of students are well-suited to that academic area, and what sorts of things they go on to do. While you can certainly be successful with any major, you are more likely to do well in college, enjoy what you study, and eventually, enjoy your career, if you are deliberate about discovering your academic strengths and understanding your personality.
College can also be a time of making your faith your own and catching an amazing vision of what life can be like as a Christian. If you are attending a Christian college you will have the chance to participate in communal study, worship, service and mission trips. All of these experiences can be life-changing, but the people you are with each day will probably have more impact on your spiritual growth than anything else. Proverbs teaches us that “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another,” and we all know that Harry was better because of Hermione, Katniss was better because of Gale, and Bilbo wouldn’t have amounted to much without Gandalf. When you see great qualities in someone, take the time to get to know them and learn what makes them different.
If you take responsibility for your college experience it will be one of the most memorable, meaningful, and rewarding times of your life. Good luck this fall!