A Good Start for College Freshmen
I vividly remember two things about my first day of college. First, I was excited! Second, I was crazy nervous!
Up until that point of my life, I hadn’t experienced anything more exciting than my first day on a college campus of more than four thousand people. None of whom I knew. In a new city. Away from my parents. With freedom to make my own choices and no one to tell me what to do.
The transition from high school to college raises a mix of emotions. On the one hand, who wouldn’t be excited about the chance to finally graduate high school, move out of the house, and begin an entirely new season of life? Freshman year almost always equates to new friends, new clothes, a new environment, and just about a new everything. The flip side, of course, is that there most likely will no longer be anyone there to have a hot breakfast ready for you as you race out of the house in the morning, have the fridge stocked with your favorite after-school snacks, or have your favorite jeans washed and ready for another Friday night of high school fun. Not to mention the fact that you are now spending the next ten months of your life sharing a room about the size of your parents’ walk-in closet with someone you barely know.
As most colleges begin class this week, here are a few thoughts for college freshmen to begin the new journey strong!
Week-One Jitters Are Normal
No matter how independent you are, when your parents drive off and leave you standing there on your college campus the first day, it can be intimidating. The hectic pace of getting your dorm room in order, figuring out your class schedule, getting to know your roommate, scoping out the campus, and discerning the business school from the humanities school can be overwhelming. I remember this well.
On my first day, I found out I was rooming with a baseball player from Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. The first thing he said to me was “Hey. I’m Kevin. You don’t mind if I chew in here, do you?” The fact that I thought he was referring to Bubble Yum explains a lot about our differences.
I spent the first few nights trying to get used to the smell of saliva-soaked tobacco in our room. I’ll never forget one night that first week when I got out of bed for a trip to the boys’ room and tripped over one of Kevin’s many cups of Copenhagen spit he had sitting around the room. (Unless that carpet has been replaced in our old dorm room, I wouldn’t be surprised if that stain were still there.)
Kevin and I roomed together only one semester. But we became really good friends and taught each other things about ourselves we didn’t even know.
I loved college. If you choose to go to college, I hope you will too! It may not be exactly what you expect it will be, but it will be a time of making unforgettable memories (hopefully some good and probably some less than good) that last throughout your life.
Connect with Campus Ministry
If you don’t work hard to commit to a disciplined schedule early on, your calendar will begin to control you rather than you controlling it. This is especially true for your growth as a believer.
Four out of five Christians leave the church within the first year of college. Many factors contribute to this reality. One is a lack of discipline. So repeat this principle to yourself: My walk requires work. Putting out effort is critical to your spiritual growth, especially during your freshman year of college.
Getting connected with a campus ministry is essential for you. This will not happen on its own. It will require effort. Those students who seek out a campus ministry their first week will dramatically reduce their probability of walking away from church during their first year.
I got involved in a campus ministry my first week of school. I met people that first night who are still some of my closest friends. Also, in my freshman year, I started singing in a group sponsored by a ministry on our campus. Three of the guys I met in that group were in my wedding seven years later. Another in this group owns a production company that handles all of the media, Web, and print design for our ministry. And one of the guys, Mike, is my best friend. He and I talk almost every day. We vacation together. We do ministry together. We do life together.
I love Proverbs 18:24 (niv), which says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” I found this friend because I got involved in campus ministry.
Campus ministry surrounded me with people who, like me, understood the importance of being in community to maintain a walk with the Lord. Campus ministry didn’t replace my responsibility to attend and serve at a local church. But it did give me a place to worship on campus while also surrounding me with people who helped to keep me accountable, not to mention people who have impacted my career, my family, and my life choices to this day.
I encourage you to take the lead on this. Talk with the admissions department about the various campus ministries. Find out when and where they meet. Make it a priority of yours to get involved the first week. I am sure you won’t regret it!
Missing Home Is Normal
Leaving your family, friends, and everything you’ve known your entire life can be an emotional experience. If your family ever moved while you were still living at home, you have a good idea of what it’s like to be thrown into an unfamiliar environment. The good news is, most freshmen on campus are dealing with the same emotions you are.
I missed everything about my home the first few months of school—my family, my dog, my bed, and even my own toilet!
Though it may be difficult at first, try to focus on the excitement of this new season of your life, rather than focusing on what you miss back home. Call home, but try not to do so every day. If you live close enough to drive home on the weekends, try not to do this, at least for the first few weeks. Staying in communication with your family is important. But learning to maintain those relationships with restrictions will help to give you the time you need to adjust to your new environment without a constant emotional pull.
Time Management Is Essential
Gone are the days of Friday night football games, picking out the perfect prom dress, cruising the town with friends, playing on the Xbox until three in the morning, and senior skip days. Sure, the first semester of college will be a blast. But it will also be a bust if you do not learn the importance of time management, and learn it fast.
There is a great warning for this in Proverbs 26:14-15 (niv):
As a door turns on its hinges,
so a sluggard turns on his bed.
The sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth.
Look, there’s no one there to get you out of bed for class after you hit the Snooze button for the fourth time. (Unless you have a roommate who is cool with that!) This is college. The real world. And the old saying has never been more true than when it comes to college life: If you snooze, you lose!
Manage the Distractions
You will learn quickly that at college there is almost always a party going on somewhere. Social life at school rarely sleeps. It’s important to make new friends. But it’s just as important to manage time spent with these friends. This means that there will be times when you just have to say no. Don’t allow the noise of the crowd to lure you into believing that you have to be the person who attends everything
Manage Your Attendance
I’ll never forget Christmas break of my freshman year. I was home with my family when the grades from my first semester arrived. You can imagine the look on my dad’s face when he saw three D’s! No, it didn’t read “3-D”! I wasn’t majoring in high-tech movie animation. I received three D’s in school that semester. One was in Freshman English. One was in Accounting 101. One…was Men’s Choir. (At that time, I was a music major.) Yes, choir!
Men’s Choir was an 8:00 a.m. M-W-F class. Dean Ensminger was my professor. He made it clear to us men that all we had to do to make an A in his class was to show up and sing. He also made it clear that for every two classes we missed, our grade would drop one letter. I missed class six times that semester. I hope you’ll learn now what I should I have learned then before choosing to sleep in on those days. It’s amazing how six hours of sleep cost my GPA. It took me several semesters to correct the low start to my GPA.
Many professors won’t say anything to you if you miss class. That’s your choice. But if you miss, it’s also your loss. Make 100-percent class attendance your goal. You’ll find that if you don’t manage your class attendance, it will be easy to rationalize sleeping in or skipping out on an evening class to hang with friends. Don’t start a bad habit that you’ll later regret. Trust me, it’s no fun sitting around the family Christmas tree convincing your dad that Men’s Choir was just too intense of a course to take your first semester!
Manage Your Study Time
I wish someone had told me how much study time would be required of me to make the grade in college. As a general rule, two hours of study time will be required for every hour you are in class your freshman year. If you are taking fifteen hours of courses, plan on forty-five hours a week for studying. As you can see, getting behind one week makes it difficult to catch up. And if you are accustomed to a teacher posting homework assignments online in case you miss a class, wake up! This is college.
Manage Your Room
One great thing about moving out of the house and into a dorm is that no one is there to make you clean your room anymore. One bad thing about moving out of the house and into a dorm is that no one is there make you clean your room anymore.
Sure, you can choose to let your dirty jeans lie on the floor until the dust bunnies carry them away. But this is now your home. And it should go without saying that keeping your room habitable is a good thing.
These are just a few thoughts as you begin this new season of your life. I’ll post a few more throughout the week, so check back!