I once had this perception of college.
The perception that every single college student has it all together. That while I’m still floundering, these students have their lives figured out at age eighteen. That while I contemplate and wonder if this is God’s will for my life, they somehow have the ability to know the future and every plan God has ordained for them.
I would stress and feel insignificant. I would run myself crazy, trying to “fit in” and wonder how I could be more like the typical college student. However, I would only leave myself burnt out, wondering why I couldn’t do more.
Yes, I would babysit and puppy-sit pretty consistently—but it seemed most college students work 30+ hour weeks as a full-time student. I could barely keep my head above water, drowning in piles of homework.
Most college students fend for themselves, right? Yet on my busiest, most challenging days my mom would make me a steaming cup of tea or cook my favorite meal for dinner.
I would strive for perfection and fail time and time again. Because, guess what? I am not perfect. And the good news? God is.
I think this was the problem: I was looking at the Instagram-worthy lives of these college students. I was seeing a snippet of their successes.I was looking at the Instagram-worthy lives of these college students. I was seeing a snippet of their successes. Click To Tweet
I was not seeing their late night stress and the all-nighters. I was not seeing their tears and doubt. I was not seeing their regret and frustration.
I was not seeing, that ultimately, all college students are a bit like me: Wondering if they’re doing the right thing, stressing over late assignments, thinking and dreaming of all the other things they could be doing while they should be writing a fifteen page paper.
None of us are perfect, all of us need God’s strength.
I have compiled a list of all the things I’ve learned in my first year. It is a list of lessons and encouragement and lessons and promises I wish I could’ve have known and believed before heading into my freshman year of Bible college.
I pray that these tidbits of lessons learned and words of advice encourage you as you face your upcoming freshmen year:
1. Sometimes You Need to Ask for Help
Asking for help is admitting that I’m not perfect. It’s letting down walls and admitting that I need to rely on someone other than myself. And asking for help has always been a struggle for me.
Being a people pleaser, I always want to prove myself. Just like a budding toddler learning how to talk and walk and be a big girl or boy, I want to “do it all by myself!” But this year God definitely broke down this mentality. I was put into situations where I was forced to ask for help…a lot.
Asking for help is an act of humility. It means exposing our weaknesses. But through this past year, I have been learning that asking for help is also a step of growth. It means learning to forgive yourself, and learning your strengths and weakness.
Asking for help is knowing when you are at your breaking point and knowing exactly who can help tether you securely (and of course, God should always be First).
2. Sometimes You Have to Turn in Assignments Late
The dreaded email: “Professor anonymous, I apologize profusely, but I will be turning an assignment in late…”
If I hate anything, it is submitting a late assignment. However, this year, I have learned that every single college student submits late homework at one point or another. Life is a roller coaster, every week has its own unique drops and loops. And that means homework cannot always be on time.
Though submitting homework late is not ideal, sometimes it cannot be helped. But, there’s good news! The best part is that submitting late assignments is not the end of the world.
Even in late submissions and stress, God has shown me his grace over and over again. In the long run, submitting a paper a few days late is not going to destroy your grade.
There had even been a couple times where one of my late assignments had gotten one hundred percent simply because the professor was impressed with the work I put into the assignment.
3. Your Homework Can’t Always Be Perfect
There are times every college student has to rush on assignments. Maybe the deadline is only hours away and you submit a messy, cringe-worthy paper. I have been there a few times this past year.
And yet, God has shown me grace and encouragement. Those papers that I felt were my worst seemed to always earn the highest grades. These are the kind of gifts God always appears to bless perfectionists with—the humbling process of learning that God always knows best. That we can trust Him no matter what.
God sees us and the work we put into something, and he will bless us in one way or another (though I cannot guarantee that we’ll always receive a great grade).
4. Remember Personal Devotions
I love the school I go to. It is excellent, theologically sound, full of people who love God. However, going to a Bible College also has its cons. And one of those cons is the temptation to give up personal devotions. After all, most days I spend multiple hours studying the Bible for a class assignment. It is vitally important, however, to remember that the Bible is not a textbook. Rather, it is the living Word of God.
We can study the Bible for assignments, but it is only when we are taking the time to meditate on the Word and be consumed by its truth that our lives align to Christ and we can experience the eternal joy and peace found in him.We can study the Bible for assignments, but it is only when we are taking the time to meditate on the Word and be consumed by its truth that our lives align to Christ and we can experience the eternal joy and peace found in him. Click To Tweet
No matter what college you attend, you must always remember to prioritize personal devotions.
5. Be All There
There is a Jim Elliot quote that goes something like this: “Wherever you are, be all there; live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”
God clearly called me to the Bible College I attend. There are times I wished I could be doing one hundred other things with my life—but all those thoughts and dreams are brought to a screeching halt when God reminds me that where I am is exactly where he wants me.
If God has placed me in this college, then I must be all there. I must invest my time and passion into whatever job he has given me.
There were times I wished I was working (as in, anything from working a “real” 8 hour job to household chores!) instead of slaving over homework. But then God would remind me that my job right now is homework and that he has not yet given me the opportunity to pursue anything else—he obviously wants me to work for this degree.
This past year, I have learned to be more content in where God has placed me. I have learned to be all there.
In my second semester, my childhood dog and best furry friend unexpectedly passed away. To be honest, in those first two weeks of her absence I gave up on most things—I didn’t want to persevere with school or even with helping out in my family (living in a large family, I do not really have any choice other than taking responsibility).
I fell into a bout of depression and tried to take things into my own control. And in my own “taking control” I ultimately lost control of homework, falling behind. I grew frustrated with my family and was always on edge.
Finally, I went back to God. I prayed my way through my depression and slowly began to understand and experience the art of perseverance. Perseverance, I found, is a huge part of college. There are times I would feel like giving up, but through God, I had the strength to continue on.
7. Remember to Enjoy the Schooling
I would be waist high (figuratively, of course) in papers and some kind, well meaning soul would remind me, “Now remember to enjoy your college years—it’s a special gift and you’ll never have an experience like this again!” I would smile and say “thanks,” but inside I would grumble and complain and wish they only knew how stressful college is (though I am sure most who have said this have already earned their own college degree).
But no matter how irritated I become with these people, the truth is that they are right. Especially as a Christ follower, I have been given an enormous gift. I have been given the chance of education. Christ-centered education. Of course, as a Christian, I do not need a college degree to prove my faith. But, I have still been given the opportunity to learn more and grow more in my faith. There are probably many who desperately wish they were in my place and would be ten times more grateful then I usually am about life’s circumstances!
In all fairness, though my freshmen year was indeed a struggle and a time of growth, it was also an amazing year. I met new people, made friends, and learned more about myself then ever before—after last year when I doubted everything I did, I have now found a new confidence.
I learned that I could actually push myself to an extreme I never before would have believed possible. I learned that I could get through college…even those hard, long nights where studying seem impossible. I learned to trust God more…that he really does works all things together for his good.
My freshmen year of college was a mixture of tears and celebration. It was full of days I couldn’t take my eyes off of a computer screen, typing up papers, wondering if I could type one more coherent sentence. And it was full of little rejoicings—like making myself a big mug of hot chocolate (whipped cream, marshmallows, and all!) after one of those said exhausting days. Or getting one hundred percent on an assignment I thought for sure I had failed.I’ve begun to learn the art of accepting God’s grace and understanding that because his grace is so great, I do not have to be perfect. But he is perfect and his grace is always sufficient. Click To Tweet
This past year wasn’t easy, but slowly I’ve begun to learn the art of accepting God’s grace and understanding that because his grace is so great, I do not have to be perfect. But he is perfect and his grace is always sufficient.