A Letter to College Students
This is the month you move on to the next chapter in your life. You’ve lived at home or bounced between homes with parental guidance or legal guardian support, discipline, direction. Now, it’s time to stretch those grown up legs and venture out into the world without parental tethers and constant lines of communication to those who tended to you. Your life is effectively in your hands (and God’s, of course). So I’ll share a little bit of wisdom about that next chapter in your life.
This advice could apply to multiple generations, if you're not a college student and want to read. However, I share this with a specific audience for a specific purpose.
UNDERSTAND WHY YOU’RE THERE
You’re off to college or already there. Surely by now, you’ve asked yourself some serious questions and made important decisions. But just in case you haven’t… Why are you going to college? Are you going because you want to go or have to go? Are you going because everyone else is going? Are you focused and driven? Are you passionate about what it is you’re going to study? Do you know what you want to do; or are you just going hoping to figure things out?
Christian college students may be asked a few extra questions. Are you going because that’s what everyone else in the world does or calls you to do or has God led your steps in that direction? Are you going as a representative of Christ or as yourself?
People go to college for different reasons, with different studies and ambitions. Wanting to go to college and being there are different things. It’s very easy to get caught up in the freedom, fun, and social elements of college. You show up. Everyone’s eager to make friends and hang out. People form cliques and enjoy icebreakers and group connection exercises. You get so caught up in the other stuff, it’s easy to take your eye off the ball.
So, before you dive into college culture and life, take into heart a little introspection and ask yourself the hard questions. Why am I here? What should I be focused on? What should I guard myself from so I don’t become distracted and lose my way?
Now, having said it’s easy to take your eye off the ball, here’s the ball.
You are a child of God first in all things. Focus on your walk in Christ. Your relationship with God always comes first. Being in college does not mean you pray less, read the bible less, go to church less, sing and worship God less, share the gospel and good news any less, or enjoy quiet time with God less. Don’t go to college and become Godless. Jesus is your rock, your foundation. He got you into college. If it’s not in your best interest to be there, and it serves His will, He will take you out of college. College is a gift, a blessing, and should be treated as a gift with intentionality and respect.
Furthermore, you are a representative of God, a precious member of the body of Christ, and college is your mission field. You may be the first Christian some people will have ever met. Or, it’s very possible they’ve met some Christians and had a negative experience. It’s important that you pray for consistency and be consistent. As much as it is reliant on you, be at peace with everyone. Be mindful of what is right or wrong according to God, and do not look to the right or left. Be considerate of other people’s positions, but stick to your guns. Don’t compromise your beliefs or walk to appease others, as long as your beliefs are in alignment with God. And if you ever doubt or question your stance on an issue, as people will try to make you doubt your position, pray and look up the issue in the bible. If it’s something that isn’t clearly addressed in the bible, seek out someone wiser than you. Never let people press you, in the moment, change your position on something.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
Focus on your education and developing your skills and talents. Relationships form naturally in college. If you want to be social, form groups that are centered around productive things. (And make it very clear to those who join you as to your productive intentions. If someone’s not interested, it’s okay.) Create study and prayer groups. If they can be both—I encourage you to try, even if it means just starting or ending the study group session with a short prayer—that’s even better.
Seek out other Christians and invite them to join a prayer and/or study group. If your college has an on campus church, that’s fantastic. If your college doesn’t, find a place where you can consistently and regularly congregate. This will make it easier to build a respectably-sized prayer or bible study group. And when the group gets too big, you can split it into multiple groups. Again, we are one body in Christ. With that mindset, it would be of spectacular help if you could support each other on campus. Many of you will face similar problems and with prayer and support, come up with similar answers and solutions.
(If you are not a social person, I still strongly urge you to find one or two equally non-social Christians and attempt a group. Keep the group small, more intimate. You don’t necessarily have to say a lot. However, you have gifts and talents that are beneficial to your brothers and sisters in Christ. And they have gifts and talents beneficial to you. We’re all in this together. It’ll help all of you to pray and study together.)
After you’ve sought out Christians, you can then invite non-Christians to the groups. People are commonly skeptical of what they don’t understand. And in college, you’ll see and hear all kinds of opinions of Christianity and religion. Some people lump all religions into one category: bad. Show them they’re wrong. Invite them into study groups. Be helpful. Tutor people as much as you are able with your schedule. Invite them to a prayer group. Talk amongst yourself about what’s going on in your lives. Be open/transparent and vulnerable. Let them in. Give them an opportunity to open up. Pray for them. Pray for each other. Let them see the fellowship at work.
Try your hardest not to let too much worldly conversation get into your prayer and bible study groups. If you find that your groups are spending most of their time talking about worldly matters or interests, and far less on biblical or Godly matters, respectfully highlight the purpose of the group.
If you are driven and focused, you will set an excellent example for others. Your example, influence, and support may be the difference between someone else failing or succeeding.
A FEW DON’TS
Having made these suggestions, I just want to say, don’t stretch yourself too thin. I suggested the study group to help you. If it becomes more of a distraction to yours or other’s studies or prayer, you don’t have to keep it going. Don’t fail because you’re trying to facilitate multiple groups and handle a heavy class and work load.
Don’t follow the crowd. You’re not there for the crowd. The crowd didn’t get you into college. The crowd isn’t paying for your books, tuition, and other bills. The crowd isn’t doing your homework. The crowd isn’t responsible for the rest of your life. The crowd doesn’t breathe life into you every morning. The crowd doesn’t feed you. The crowd did not take your sins to the cross and die so that you would be pardoned of your sins and walk blameless in God’s loving grace. Don’t follow the crowd. Follow Jesus. Always, forever. Even if that crowd is a group of Christians. Jesus didn’t say follow Christians. Jesus didn’t say Christians are the way and the truth and the life. Jesus is the way. Everyone else is human. Have an open ear to humans, yes. Consider wise counsel, yes. But don’t entertain anything that’s not pointing you towards Jesus Christ and the fruit of the Spirit.
Don’t experiment or even entertain the concept of alcohol, drugs, parties, or sex. Flee from these things. They are distractions. They are traps. And in some cases, especially for young women, it is not safe, as there are people out there looking to get you drunk or drug you, and take advantage of you. Boobies, vagina, and pleasure. That’s all that’s on their mind. (Yes, I’m aware young men are at risk as well. However, as far as I am aware, it is more common for females to be raped in college than males.) You’re not in college to party. You’re not in college to drink. You’re not in college to have sex. You have the Spirit of Christ inside of you. Therefore, be holy. Do what Jesus would do.
Be careful as to with whom you associate yourselves. When you’re making friends, choose a core group of friends who are and want to do something constructive and healthy. (Just because they say they’re Christian, it doesn’t mean they fit that category.) Don’t surround yourself with people who are into the drug, alcohol, and partying scene. You can be friendly. Invite them study and prayer groups. However, don’t practice what they practice. Don’t make them your core group. You can enjoy their company without insult or judgment. However, be upstanding at all times.
Be aware and wary of people who want to corrupt you. There are people out there who will look at you, say you’re innocent (mockingly or jokingly, as if innocence is a bad thing), and go out of their way to expose you to worldly things. They’ll try to get you to watch pornography. Again, they’ll try to expose you to alcohol, weed, other drugs. They’ll put a lot of peer pressure on you. They may even try to seduce you. These are people for whom you should pray. Guard your heart. Be on guard. Leave the door open for them to join study or prayer group, but maintain a healthy distance. Close doors that may lead you to temptation or stumbling.
Be mindful of what comes out of your mouth. As Christians, we try our best, always, to not speak vulgarity, profanity, and anything that does not honor God. In the company of people who curse and swear, it may be easy to become comfortable with it. Set a standard for yourself to be above vulgarity, and lean on God to be your lips, tongue, mouth, and voice. Blot vulgarity out of your mind and vocabulary.
Don’t be surprised and don’t lose heart when one of your “brothers” or “sisters” in Christ stumbles or succumbs to temptation. Be there for them. Pray. Forgive. Some may trip up and get right back up. Some may take a very long hard fall into the darkness. Very few people of the faith have the same path. Some of you grew up in the church. Others believe in God because they looked at life square in the face and God took them out of that situation leaving them with no question or doubt that He is real, true, and good. When your brother or sister in Christ stumbles or falls, remember we are human. We make bad choices. One day we’re all about God. The next, life happens. We change. Sometimes, people have to take the hard path in order to reach the kind of relationship with Christ they’re meant to have. Sometimes, people choose a hard path. The ones you least expect may fall the hardest when face-to-face with a world they’ve never known. Remember, God is in control. Trust Him. Pray that your friends and family stay true to Christ or are led to Him on the other side of their journey or experience. But don’t expect their walk and progression to look the same as yours.
Some of you may be interested or intrigued to try new things, worldly things, especially when you see people having fun and don’t see with your eyes, or hear with your ears, any negative consequences of their actions. You’re human beings. We have desires and feelings screaming at us. Our flesh is insatiable and insistent. Humans are very curious creatures. The curiosity is not worth the trouble. Some may say, “Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.” Knock it. Don’t try it. You may come to like it. In fact, you will like it. That’s not a good thing. Just because it feels good or is fun doesn’t mean it’s right for you.
This poison that is sin tastes delicious and is addictive but has a terrible aftertaste and deathly consequences. We were not made holy, set apart from the world, to be worldly and do unholy things. Please heed my words and listen to the stories of those who are in college who have been tempted and tried and pressured.
You are a child of God first in all things. You are a student second. And for some, an employee third. Stay focused on God, your studies, and work. Everything else will work itself out. You’re not there to find a girlfriend or boyfriend. You’re not there to party and be the fun popular person.
You have two or three jobs:
- Introduce people to Jesus Christ, and provide guidance and support to your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
- Study hard, get good grades, and hone your talents.
- Work hard wherever you are employed, if you find, need, and/or pursue employment while taking classes.
You are a beautiful young person. Chances are high that you’ll find yourself in a romantic situation. Remember 2nd Corinthians 6:14-18. Don’t entertain a romantic relationship with a person outside of the body of Christ. Just don’t do it. Don’t date to convert. Don’t invite them to church in hopes they’ll convert so you can be a couple. No. Invite them to church, yes, but not for selfish reasons. If you are intent on being in a relationship, pursue marriage (no casual dating, no games, just intentional courting for something holy, lifelong, and beautiful), and only with someone with a pre-existing relationship with Christ. Be equally yoked.
I could go on, but won’t. I’ve written enough. If you want to talk about any of this in greater detail, talk to me on my official author’s Facebook page or Twitter or comment below. You can also send me a message via the "Contact Me" box on the right.
Father, please guard the hearts, minds, bodies, and souls of our youth as they begin this new chapter in their lives. Please keep them focused on you, what you have called them to do in their lives, and building healthy connections with believers and non-believers that people may come to know Jesus. Please shape them into equipped and capable ambassadors, counselors, prophets, and priests. Fill them with your strength, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Help them be brave and bold. Please whisper in their ears to be strong and courageous when they grow hesitant to speak or act righteously. And finally, hold them close to you and do not let the snare of the enemy take hold of them. I pray this in Jesus’s name. Amen.