rebelling against low expectations

The Most Important Things I Did at College Weren’t in the Classroom

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“I would rather you stay up with a friend who needs help than finish your essay for my class on time.”

These weren’t the words I expected to hear from a college professor on the first day of class. She was not only telling us she was fine with us putting off assignments, but she was encouraging us to do so.

When most books and articles advising for college focus on the importance of studying or attending class, this advice was different. Jolting even. Was she suggesting my studies were not top priority at college?

For some of us, it can be tempting to let studies consume everything. And yet, as I look back at my college career, I realize the most important things I did to prepare for life outside of college weren’t done in the classroom or at my desk. Here are three things I did that were more important than the classroom.

I realize the most important things I did to prepare for life outside of college weren’t done in the classroom or at my desk. Click To Tweet

1. I Connected Meaningfully with Christian Classmates.

I had two key advantages with the classmates I interacted with at school: it was a Christian school, and I lived in a wing with some of (in my mind) the best Christian guys on campus. This led to a lot of regular late-night conversations on a variety of topics—from theology to politics to relationships to philosophy. Between those conversations, we formed strong friendships.

The reason that I learned more here than in the classroom, however, is not because I made friends but because of how they changed me. As my friends pointed out my flaws and encouraged me through rough patches, they helped me understand how to live faithfully as a Christian.

It was a struggle to balance my time between classmates and studies. You don’t want to neglect either. But as I look back at the most meaningful parts of my college career, it comes down to what’s most important. Was it more important to prepare for a professional career? Or was it more important to have a deepened understanding of what it means to live life well regardless of where my professional career took me?

While both were important, I’m most appreciative for the latter. The time I spent discussing serious matters with my wing mates helped me become a better person.

2. I Connected Meaningfully With My Local Church.

Sometimes in Christian colleges, students can overlook the importance of the local church. Most people may attend a worship service. But for many students, it’s tempting to come in five minutes before the service and leave five minutes after.

One of the best choices I made while at school, however, was to spend as much time as possible with my local church each Sunday—both in fellowship after worship services and in the afternoons at members’ houses. This was a necessary reminder that life existed outside the college bubble.

There aren’t only 18 to 22-year-olds in the body of Christ. During my most stressful weeks at school, leaving the college community and spending most of Sunday at my church was a welcome relief.

The biggest benefit this had, however, has perhaps been how this affected my post-college life.

While I had the benefit of living in a Christian community at school, I haven’t had that benefit in my professional life post-college. The most-regular source of Christian community I get these days comes at my local church each Sunday.

Learning to connect meaningfully at my local church in college prepared me for the real world by building habits I’ve needed to strengthen my faith post-college.

3. I Connected Meaningfully with God.

This may seem like the clichéd third point to make for a Christian site. But before you flip to the end of the article because you already know that this is important, have you considered what it entails to prioritize a relationship with God during college?

I’ll be honest: when it was 11:00 at night, I had a major paper due next day, and I hadn’t done my devotions yet, it was hard to put off my pressing paper to spend time in the Word and prayer. Most of the time I failed when presented with this “dilemma.” It was hard to prioritize God when other factors came into play.

Yet whenever I placed God above my studies in these situations, I never regretted it. Click To Tweet

Yet whenever I placed God above my studies in these situations, I never regretted it. Setting aside time each evening to pray, no matter whatever else I had on my plate, not only got me through difficult times at college, but also built the habits I’ve needed to stay close to God when removed from daily Christian community post-college.

What Do You Prioritize?

What is the chief end of man? Is it to have a great academic and professional career? Or is it to glorify God and enjoy him forever?

Don’t get me wrong—your academic and professional careers can and should glorify God. But glorifying God is larger than that. That’s why my college professor encouraged her students to prioritize the needs of our friends over the needs of the class. Her class wasn’t the largest priority in our lives.

Seeking to prioritize classmates, my local church, and God required sacrifices. I couldn’t always study as much as I wanted to and that wasn’t always an easy choice to make.

But not only did I see the benefits of those sacrifices during my college career, but my faith today would be much weaker if I hadn’t already built those habits during college.

Your college career is not simply a launching point into your professional career. It’s a launching point to your entire life. It’s not simply a launching point either. It is your life right now.

Your college career is not simply a launching point into your professional career. It’s a launching point to your entire life. Click To Tweet

What habits are you building now to pursue your highest priorities?


About the author

Josiah DeGraaf

is a high school English teacher and literature nerd who fell in love with stories when he was young and hasn’t fallen out of love ever since. In his free time, he enjoys nerding out over theology, ranting about Christian fiction, and obsessing over superhero films. He currently serves as the fiction content manager of the Young Writer’s Workshop and writes fantasy short stories at his website.

rebelling against low expectations

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