I’ll be at college in four months, give or take a few days. That’s utterly insane to me. It feels like just yesterday I was a middle schooler, totally in awe of the kids who were going to college. I mean, can you imagine being that old and independent? Taking on the world by yourself? I couldn’t wait till I was all grown up like them.
Well, here I am, realizing that they weren’t anywhere near as much of an adult as I thought. With that realization comes one more: the next few months before college are a precious time, and I can either use them to bolster my faith and prepare me for college or to have fun and act like I’m not entering entirely new territory in August. My old youth pastor used to say that one of two things happened in college: you owned your faith and grew in ways you’d only imagined before or you turned away from the Lord and chose to live for yourself.
After asking peers and mentors for advice and doing my own research on how to prepare for such an important phase of life, I have some tips for my fellow almost college students.
1. Understand that you will face new battles and temptations
I’m going to a Christian college, so my fight won’t be as intense as could be if I went to a secular, non-Christian college. But, that doesn’t mean I won’t face new temptations and things I’ve never battled before.
With independence comes a new world of things trying to pull us away from God. Acknowledging that is the first step to beating each one of those things. As my pastor frequently says: you need to admit that you face a very real enemy. You need to be aware of the dangers you are going to face.
2. Find accountability
When you get to school, you’ll likely form friendships and find mentors to help you on your journey, but that’ll take time, especially to form the trust necessary to go to them when you find yourself struggling.
Choose one person—it can be a family member, a mentor, or a friend—who you have what I like to call an “open policy” with. This means that you go to them the moment you find yourself tempted, and if you give into that temptation. They’re there to speak truth into your life in a loving manner, never judging, and to pick you up when you’ve fallen. Maybe you already have this relationship with someone, or maybe you need to build it. But don’t go into college without it!
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up.” (Ephesians 4:9-10)
3. Research churches and campus ministries
“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Proverbs 13:20)
“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33)
Community is beyond important in the Christian life. Who you spend the majority of your time with often determines who you will be, as the Bible makes abundantly clear.
One of the first things you should do when you get to school is find a church home and a Christian group to surround yourself with. Finding churches and campus ministries you might be interested in before you even get to school will help save you time in your search; you can even reach out to the ministry leaders if you want to get a better idea of what their groups will be like.
4. Know your beliefs and your doctrine
At some point in your college journey, even if you’re at a Christian school, you’ll likely face a question or conversation that goes against your belief or your doctrine. Be prepared for it.
“But in your hearts honor Christ as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)
If you don’t know what you believe, you will not be ready—and you likely will not respond with gentleness or respect. Know your beliefs and know why you believe them so you won’t be caught off guard and pushed into unnecessary doubt, so you can shine a light into others’ lives, and most importantly, so you can obey God’s command.
5. Form good biblical habits
It’s hard to start a habit in the middle of insanity. And guess what? The start of college tends to be a bit insane. You’re adjusting to a whole new world—do you really think you’re going to be up for forming biblical habits, too? Probably not.
So, I encourage you to start them now. Figure out what time of day you can give God your best, and create a habit of doing your devotions then. Set a reminder on your phone if you have to.
But don’t forget the other spiritual habits: prayer and memorization. Find a chapter or verses on a certain topic and memorize them so that you have them hidden in your heart when you’re at school, ready and waiting when you need them. Craft a life of prayer and learn what 1 Thessalonians 5:17 meant when it said to “pray without ceasing.”
Form these habits now, when you’re in a place and schedule you’re used to, rather than waiting until you get to school.
Create a list of your goals and get a group of friends together to keep each other accountable in your preparation.
I’m a list person. I need lists. I also need people to keep me accountable. Which is why I got a group of friends together in my writing group (The Young Writer’s Workshop) to go through this journey of preparation together. As soon as we created our group, we each made a list of the things we wanted to accomplish before we head to college, and we encourage each other in our goals and provide a solid group of like-minded friends before we head to school. It’s one the best and most helpful things I’ve done in my efforts to prepare for college.
College will be a whole new world compared to what most of us are used to. But, with the right preparation, we can go into it stronger than before, and leave even stronger than we started.