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5 Things New College Students Should Know

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It disturbs me to admit this but I began my first college class on a muggy August day, 8 years ago. I still remember that frightening feeling when my parents hugged me goodbye and I found myself alone on campus. It was matched only by the excitement of quickly meeting new friends and beginning to share our lives together.

When I embarked on my first weeks of college, there were still several things I was yet to learn. I believe if I had realized them, life would have been a bit easier on me in the beginning. If you’re a freshman in college, I hope you pick up on them faster than I did.

1. You’re there to learn.

Having grown up in the church and being interested in theology from the beginning, I went into college feeling like I already knew what I needed to know for ministry. I went into college to prove my call to ministry rather than to improve the skills and knowledge I needed to succeed.

The problem with this was that my beliefs needed to be challenged so I could grow. Our professors began to tear down some of the spiritual concepts we had grown up with in light of Scripture. This was sometimes a painful process but necessary for my growth. Until I learned to humble myself, ask honest questions, and dig deeper into my studies, I lost opportunities to grow as a person and a minister.

2. Your classroom experience isn’t enough.

At some point, you need to roll up your sleeves and get an internship somewhere. The college classroom is not designed for you to learn everything you need to know for your future life and career. That isn’t even possible. Rather, it gives you the background knowledge and research skills necessary to embark on a life of learning. This means you have to gain experience so you know how to apply those skills in everyday life.

Nearly every career field requires you to succeed in an internship. Use your summers as an opportunity to develop the street smarts you need to succeed after your graduate. I’d also add that if you plan on being a minister, you better be serving in a local church while you’re in college. If you’re too good to serve while you’re studying, you need to check your attitude.

3. Most of what you learn won’t come from the classroom.

Don’t make the mistake of only going to class and skipping out on the other important experiences that make up your college education. So much of college is about discovering who you are – how you work best, your strengths, your weaknesses, your true friends, your self-destructive tendencies, and your selfishness. This comes through getting to know others around you, participating in university events, getting connected with a local church, and learning to balance all the different aspects of your life that come from these.

4. Work as if someone’s life depends on it.

I’ll never forget carelessly submitting a workbook assignment to my Spiritual Formation professor in my first semester. Apparently I wasn’t the only one to do it either. Thinking I would receive a B-, I was surprised when the grade was a 35! Shortly after seeing the grade online, our entire class got an email from our professor.

In the email, he challenged us with this thought. “Would you want to go into a surgery knowing that your surgeon only did C- work in his anatomy classes? No! You want to know that he worked his hardest so that when the moment came for him to slice you up, he would know what he is doing. How much more important is it that you, as future ministers, study with that much care?”

If you’re going to college to grow as a person and a professional, doesn’t that deserve your absolute best effort?

5. College is about more than building your career credentials.

So many people look at college as the crucial step to making it in their careers. There has been so much written lately on whether or not college is even important when you consider the amount of debt that you build along the way. But college isn’t just about having credentials so you can get a higher paying job. In college you develop a philosophy of life and work through a holistic education. You aren’t just there so you can learn to be a great accountant. You’re there to learn the skills that will make you a better person and a more educated follower of Christ.

Discuss: What would you pass on to other college students?

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