How are you holding up in college? How’s your faith holding up? Honestly.
College is an exciting, foundational season of life. It’s also a challenging one, especially for Christ followers.
I’m in my late 20s now and still reflect on lessons I learned during my time as a college student. Whether you’re a freshman or you already have some semesters of college under your belt, I’d love to share a few tips to help you get the most out of your experience (and put the most into it as well).
Here’s my advice based on things I did in college and things I wish I would have done better.
1. Have a vision to be a well-rounded person.
I went to college because I wanted to study music industry. I love everything that makes the music world function. As a singer-songwriter and a worship leader, my dream was to learn more about the music ministry and the business of music better to be an informed artist.
So, naturally, I hated core requirement classes. It felt like such a waste of time to study U.S. foreign policy just to fill a requirement when it wasn’t directly related to my passion or my major.
What I realize now is those classes that feel like a waste give you a chance to learn about different subjects and areas of life that can actually prove helpful, even if it’s just to make you a more knowledgeable, engaged conversationalist and person in society.
One of my goals recently has been that I don’t want to be the kind of person who can only talk about one subject. I won’t be an expert in everything, but I want to be aware and able to engage in meaningful conversation about a variety of things. I want to be able to contribute to the world around me in a variety of ways, even if it’s not my formal job description. If you can grab hold of that kind of goal during your college years, you’ll be way ahead of where I was in mine.
2. Don’t neglect your faith.
Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near. – Hebrews 10:23-25
Don’t neglect your personal relationship with Jesus or community with other believers during your college years.
College is often a time when young adults drift away from faith but it doesn’t have to be. You can still have a strong relationship with Jesus, be active in Christian community and be a representative of Jesus on your campus.
It will take effort, saying “no” to some things and maybe even being a little misunderstood. But it’s worth it. Jesus calls all of His followers to make sacrifices as we walk with Him. Closeness to Jesus and faithfulness to Him are more valuable than anything.
Find the gaps of free time in your schedule and put time with Jesus in them.
You could spend time early before class or before bed at night. You could pray when your roommate is at class and you have the dorm to yourself for an hour.
On busy days when I couldn’t have my devotion time alone at my dorm, I would to go to the quiet floor of the library between classes, pop my headphones in with some worship music and read my Bible and pray.
I planned during which break I would do that each day, depending on my schedule. I had a friend who would drive to campus early, bring her Bible and spend time with God in her car 30 minutes or so before her first class. Ask God to help you find what works for you.
If your campus has campus ministries or local churches nearby, try to find one to connect with. Once you’ve found your community, prioritize it. It doesn’t mean you can never miss a meeting. Stuff happens, but make those meetings a real commitment in your schedule just like classes or studying.
This is time you are committing to spend with God amongst other believers. Get to know people in your campus ministry and grab dinner in the dining hall together a few times a week. I’ve made lifelong friends this way and my relationship with Jesus was made stronger for doing it.
3. Build relationships with people who aren’t Christians.
Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way … – 1 Peter 3:15-16
Be a person who points others to Jesus during your time on campus. You can’t do that if you’re hiding in a bubble and never have genuine interactions and friendships with people who don’t share your faith.
Get to know people who live in your dorm. Join clubs, whether interest- or career-based, and get to know people there.
I’m not saying make friends to convert them. I’m saying make genuine friends, love them like Jesus and share your Christian hope with them as God opens up the conversations.
Keep your Christian community a priority. There’s a lot of temptation in college. You need to learn how to have friendship with people without getting pulled into the things they may be doing that aren’t pleasing to God. You need Christian accountability and community to keep you rooted and to help you make choices about how and when to hang out with different people and environments.
In college, if friends would invite me to go to partying, I’d respectfully say no and let them know that it wasn’t my scene. I’d thank them for the invite and suggest we do something else to hang out another time. We would get together in someone’s dorm and watch a show together every Tuesday night and just chill. I kept my boundaries of what I felt comfortable doing, the person felt respected because of the way I declined the invitation, and we still got to build relationship another way.
You don’t have to be in a bubble and only hang out with other Christians, but make wise decisions about what activities you do when you hang out with people. That way, your choices are helping you to faithfully walk in God’s ways and to be a good representative of Jesus to others.
Talk to God, as well as trusted Christian friends and mentors, about what that looks like for you.
Don’t be shocked if this works out great in some instances and in other instances people think you’re a weird Christian kid and prefer not to be a closer friend to you. Faithfully following Jesus comes with being misunderstood and rejected sometimes. Trust God that He will establish the right relationships in your life and don’t take things personally.
You Don’t Have To Be Perfect
You’re not going to do everything perfectly all the time and that’s OK. You don’t have to. God gives you strength to do things that you couldn’t accomplish in your human weakness and He directs your paths. (2 Corinthians 12:9, Proverbs 3:5-6)
Even in my imperfections, I can honestly say that God has always directed me to the right relationships and opportunities. He’s covered things I considered a less than ideal decision and worked His purposes out of it (Romans 8:28). He’ll do the same for you.
So, take these tips as humble advice from a friend who’s been where you are now and is rooting for you. Keep your eyes on Jesus, trust Him with all your heart and give college your best shot.
This article was adapted from jasminpatterson.com. Used with permission.
blogs at jasminpatterson.com to help both seekers and believers discover and live biblical Christianity. She lives in Kanas City, MO and loves music, books, and a good cup of tea.