It’s just about that time of year. College choices. A variety of emotions accompany the word “college.” For some, it’s fear and doubt, others joy and high expectations. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, it’s okay. It’s okay to be unsure, and it’s also okay to have a plan set in stone. I’m about halfway through my second semester of college, and I still don’t have it all together. I’ve wanted to compile a list of things I’ve learned at college for a while, but the problem is I’m still learning. So here’s a list of things I’m learning.
- Resting. Rest sometimes seems impossible. There’s always more to study and more social events to attend. I’m learning the joy of power naps, and I’m also finding more and more value in sleeping more than seven hours a night. It’s perfectly acceptable to stay in the library until 2:00 AM a night or two every week. You will have late nights, and you will anxiously await the day you can sleep. You may find yourself awake for twenty hours of the day, and some days you may have classes for six to seven hours. Even so, you will soon realize you are not invincible. Rest is vital, and it’s not exactly optional. Choose your all nighters wisely.
- Failure. You’re going to fail. You may fail an exam or you may fail to meet the goals you’ve set. People will also fail you. Doubt often accompanies failure. Maybe you’ll doubt yourself, your major, your friends. It’s okay to doubt. It’s not okay to make impulsive decisions based on your doubt. Don’t change your major because of one failed quiz. It takes work, but you can recover. Don’t doubt someone’s appreciation for you because of something they say or do. It’s really easy to overanalyze and jump to conclusions. Everyone carries their own baggage, and sometimes their stress will be put on you. Finally, don’t doubt your ability. You are capable of overcoming even when it seems impossible. Drink some coffee, smile, and rise. (also you’ll probably end up drinking coffee if you didn’t before college. i didn’t think it could happen. it did.)
- Eating. There are so many different approaches to this topic. Some people have problems with remembering to eat, others have issues with making time to eat. Others eat enough, sometimes too much. Even others compare themselves to their peers and decide to stop eating. Eating healthy in college is hard. Keep produce in the fridge and bring sandwich bags and pack small snacks for busy days. If you find yourself struggling with an eating disorder, tell someone. Tell anyone. It could be a friend from home, a roommate, and often, the counselor’s office is pretty confidential when approaching these situations.
- Stress. You will be stressed! Duh. Your hair will fall out. Your body will be exhausted. Your mind will be torn in many directions. It’s important to remember to breathe. Focus on what you can do. Focus on the task at hand, not the task ahead. Pray. Get a hug. Take a walk. Take a shower and cry in the shower. Organize something. However, avoiding your task list because you’re overwhelmed isn’t going to do much for you. Write down everything you need to do and go down the list. Anyway, you’re going to get pretty good at managing stress. Good luck.
- Patience. I live with eight other girls in a suite originally designed for six people. The nine of us share two toilets, one shower, three sinks, one fridge, a microwave, and a toaster. We don’t have a common living area. Something I’ve learned is the importance of loving patiently. You may be the one to clean up after everyone. You may be the one to massage everyone’s feet and get rid of their headaches. You may be the last one to shower. Your food may not fit in the fridge. Your roommate may turn on the lights when you’re trying to nap. The room next door may keep you up an extra hour when they blast music at 1:00 AM. You may need to take care of the hairball resting on the floor of the shower. You may be the one to vacuum your room every. single. week. You may buy all the soap and cleaning supplies. You may need to listen to people. Patience. People deserve to be loved, and living with strangers is going to be challenging at first. If you need a rant, call someone back home. Love patiently.
- Community. I am so blessed to go to a school which values faith and openly advertises bible studies, chapels, and worship nights. Go. Get involved. Find a small group to meet with every week. Get to know the people on your floor. Don’t sit next to your roommate if you have classes together. Meet new people. Be bold. If you don’t, someday you’re going to come to the realization that everyone around you has already made their circles. It’s going to hit you hard. Everyone stresses getting involved. It’s so cliché. But it’s true. Start from the beginning, because it’s a whole lot harder to work up the courage halfway through second semester. Embrace community, and learn to be authentic and vulnerable with people. They may just become your lifelong friends.
- Love. Some people go to college and find the person they want to spend the rest of their life with. Some don’t. Some do during their senior year. Find peace with where you fall. If you do fall in love, yay. If you don’t, yay.
- Home. Your home will soon become your dorm room. Your dorm room will become your safe house, but you other days you will avoid it at all costs. Your family will miss you. Some friendships from home will last, others won’t. It happens. And it’s sad. But, you can be incredibly intentional about maintaining them. I love to ask how I can pray for my friends back home. It allows me to be in communication with them and remind them I care. When you come home for breaks, spend many moments with people you love. Also, when you come home for breaks, you’re going to want to go back to school immediately. When you come back to school after break, you’re going to want to go home. Some days, you won’t want to be in either place. That’s normal.
- Class. Go. To. Class. It’s important. You’re paying big money for this. Give your professor a reason to like you. Get those participation points. Appreciate the opportunity you have to learn. 8:00 AM’s aren’t cool. Neither are three hour long night classes. Either way, you need to go. Learning is neat, and often, your professors are actually really interesting people. Maybe the topic isn’t, but some profs will tell you about their personal life. Go to their office hours if you have questions. Try to get to know them as a person. My anatomy and phys prof used to be a Latvian Rhythmic Gymnast. Who knew.
- Faith. Your faith becomes up to you in college. It is up to you to make time for Jesus. It is up to you to find a church. It is up to you to watch sermons. It is up to you to find time to pray. It is up to you to find a community who will help you foster your faith. Take initiative. Run towards God. Go on prayer walks. Ask how you can pray for your roommates and friends. Find a few people you can have really deep theological conversations about. Keep a prayer journal. Jesus is the best thing you can run to in college. It’s also never to late for redemption. You will go through dry seasons, but run back to Him. He wants you and awaits you with open arms. Make goals of areas you want to grow in your faith. Set high expectations.
- Time. Time goes by so fast. I remember the day I moved in. I remember my first audition, my first class, my first chapel. Cherish these moments. Write down something happy each day. These years are going to fly by. Be present, and enjoy your crazy stay.
To all my anxious seniors, breathe. Whatever you end up choosing is going to enable you to learn. You will discover new things about yourself, and you will experience new things each day. Pray, but also know God will use you wherever you go. You’re allowed to be bold and ask for confirmation. Even after you get to school, it’s important to ask for God’s reaffirmation. Sometimes, His plans change. If there’s something on your heart, run towards it. It’s going to work out. So breathe, resist senioritis, enjoy your last days of gym class and bell schedules, take those AP tests, go to senior prom, and trust that it’s going to be okay.