Index editor Scott Barkley holds his just-bought “KSU Dad” coffee tumbler beside his daughter, Rylee, at Kennesaw State University.
A couple of weekends ago, I joined other parents helping their child move to college. In many ways, it was a scene lived out for many years. Moms and dads fussed over getting clothes, food, and bedding moved in. Mini-fridges and microwaves helped fill up large carts from parking lot to the elevator, if you could get one. My daughter is a music major, so that included muscling a heavier-than-you’d expect electric piano up five floors. Dorm rooms are known for their, ahem, economic use of space, so it sits juuuuuust outside of her bathroom door.
Of course, with a worldwide pandemic on our hands, this makes 2020 unlike any other year. Trust me, said piano would’ve been tough enough without the mask I wore battling my lungs for oxygen. We’re all having to learn to do things in a new way. That said, there are nine pieces of advice I’d like to pass along to college freshmen based on my own observations and experience.
1. Learn to talk to people. I mean face-to-face, not the screen world we’ve come to inhabit these last six months. Yes, that was out of necessity and even now many classes are going to be exclusively online. But whenever possible, put down the phone and develop the skill of conversation. Ask questions. Show interest in that person. Don’t just talk through a text or direct message.
2. Check your sources. We’re all inclined to go with the story that backs up what we want to believe. That’s why articles from unreliable websites and writers get passed along. Before you share something outlandish or shocking, research it across other outlets.
3. Find time to yourself, and make it count. You knew this was going to come in a Christian publication, but if it was important to Jesus, it should be important to us. In fact, this is going to be the biggest determiner in how you view and interpret the world.
4. Don’t believe the first post. It may be my jaded nature, but with any headline or video I watch, I need to know more before I buy in on what others are saying. We can be thankful that technology has alerted us to crimes and helped right wrongs. It can be a tool for good, but also a weapon to deliver the first punch of a narrative. We’re in a “gotcha” age at the same time the deep fake is a reality. That is … not good. Context is everything and, unfortunately, it’s something for which few people have the patience.
5. People can be nice and still wrong. I had several professors I respected, and yet disagreed with them when it came to matters of faith. If you’re in a secular university, you’ll be pushed on your beliefs. Count on it. I built relationships with those professors and even had some be my guest at events my BCM held to honor faculty.
6. Don’t treat your metabolism like it’s unbeatable, as fun as that may be. You are the reason the phrase “freshman 15” exists. My goodness, you can have cookies delivered to your dorm room at 3 a.m. Just don’t make a habit of it.
7. Find trusted ministry leaders and ask the tough questions. You’ll encounter those questions like never before. They want to talk to you about them.
8. That Bible your church gave you upon graduation? Mess it up. Highlight passages. Make notes in the margins and on the sides of the page. See point #7.
9. Remember that you are a key part of the local church. The temptation is to sleep in on Sundays now that you’re out of the house. But this is where you start making those adult decisions such as getting yourself to where you need to be. It’s important to not just attend a church near your campus but become a part of its overall ministry. You’ve heard that you’re the future, but don’t forget you’re just as much the present.
College is a time for growth, and your relationship with Christ should be leading the way. Remember that God has already set up the things you’re going to do and difference you’re going to be in people’s lives (Eph 2:10). Trust and follow Him, and enjoy your time doing it.