12 Steps to Surviving College (as a Christian)
by Jordan Moore
1. Consider your options. Let’s face it – most of us aren’t looking to attend an Ivy League school. They wouldn’t accept most of us, anyway. So we turn our attention to schools with the next best engineering program, or the next best architectural program, or the next best political science program. Others may be looking for a school with the best football program, marching band, social clubs, or most outrageous student traditions (ahem, Texas A&M). We may even attend a university, simply because it’s a family tradition. But before you ever apply and enroll in a university, consider your potential for good spiritual health at said university. Never trade your spirituality for a piece of paper with a fancy, renowned logo on it. Passages for your consideration: Matthew 6:33; Ecclesiastes 12:1; Luke 12:29-31.
2. Find a good home. Dorm? Apartment? Rent house? Van down by the river? It’s an exciting time to get to fly the nest out on your own. But the most important home that you should be concerned about is your church home. And we’re not talking about the one that you grew up in. We’re talking about the one that you’re going to be a part of while in school. We’re talking about the one that you should place membership in so that your soul is accounted for by a group of local shepherds who care about you. We’re talking about a home that is sound in the faith and will help to direct your paths in this new-found stage of life. We’re talking about your home away from home. Passages for your consideration: Hebrews 10:24-25; 1 John 4:7; Ephesians 2:19.
3. Be on a first name basis with the dean. It’s a great honor to get on “Dean’s List.” But the most important “dean” that you should be concerned about is the “dean” of Heaven and Earth. Don’t spend all of your time working at impressing, emailing, and idolizing your superiors. Rather, establish a direct line with the very God who created everything that you’re studying. Pray to Him and listen to Him (in His written word). Not because your direct line with Him will guarantee a better GPA or will help you land an internship later, but because only He is truly sufficient for all of your most important needs. Passages for your consideration: 1 John 5:14; James 5:16; 2 Timothy 2:15; Hebrews 4:12.
4. Schedule regular visits with your advisors. Your academic advisors are great; it’s highly recommended that you see them! But academic advisement is not the only counsel and advice that you should be seeking. Search out and latch on to a spiritual advisor – the Yoda to your Skywalker; well, shall we say, the Paul to your Timothy. We recognize and appreciate the need for this in the academic realm – and we would do well to put this into practice as Christians, as well. Passages for your consideration: 1 Timothy 1:2; Proverbs 11:14; 12:15; 19:20-21.
5. Team up with good study partners. You can make it through college without ever talking to another classmate. But it will be considerably harder. Study partners are helpful for clarification, accountability, and the occasional notes that you missed due to sickness (not skipping!). But spiritual study partners are far more beneficial for spiritual success. Having other Christians of like-minded faith to lean upon, team up with, and to hold you accountable is paramount to your success. God intended His church to be a family, and the last thing that He wants are first-time fledgling college student out on their own with no one else to help share their burden. Passages for your consideration: Proverbs 27:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Ephesians 4:15-16.
6. Study on your own. No corner cutting, Cliff notes, or cheating allowed. You (your parents?) are spending thousands of dollars on a piece of paper with a letterhead – be sure that you absorb the knowledge to go along with that diploma (!). But more importantly, no corner-cutting on your Bible study. What’s more important: knowing what God wants you to know, or knowing what your potential future employer wants you to know? Don’t get to the end of your college career looking like a body-builder in your degree field while looking like a malnourished puppy when it comes to Bible knowledge. That’s not to say that you’re going to be, or that it’s expected of you to be, a distinguished Bible scholar, Magna Cum Laude. But at least put some healthy effort into gathering spiritual knowledge. Don’t procrastinate in studying for the Test – the final eternal test (with God as the Judge), that is. You can’t wing that one. Passages for your consideration: Psalm 119:15-16; Acts 17:11; Matthew 25:1-13.
7. Get a meal plan. Danger! Danger! Danger! Beware of the Christian’s “Freshman Fifteen.” Fifteen pounds of weight gain from unfettered access to dining halls and soda machines, that is (not alcohol). But we’re not talking about a meal plan consisting of physical food. Rather, we’re talking about investing in a meal plan that will nourish your soul – one consisting of spiritual food. You’ve found a church home, connected with spiritual advisors, linked up with study partners. But don’t simply rely on your own personal Bible study. Get involved in efforts that feed you with Bible knowledge that others want to share with you. Don’t sleep in through Bible class on Sunday morning. Yes, you’ve been up for “8 AM’s” all week, but c’mon, Bible class doesn’t start until 9 AM – that’s an extra hour of sleep! Attend campus ministry efforts, extra devotionals, Wednesday PM Bible classes, weekend Gospel Meetings, anything that can supplement you in this spiritually difficult time! Passages for your consideration: Philippians 3:17; 4:9; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Proverbs 18:15.
8. Think critically. College is all about diversity of ideas, thinking for yourself, and exploring things like philosophy and human psychology. That’s not inherently bad. But don’t let anyone else do the thinking for you. Challenge what your peers say. Skeptically evaluate what your professors say. It’s not even wrong to look at the Bible from a critical point of view. It’s okay to question. The Bible has withstood 2,000 years of scrutiny – you’re not going to be able to challenge Truth. But if you do think critically about everything, even the Bible, you’ll come out on the other side with a stronger faith, because you’ve examined the evidence yourself and you have made your faith your own; not your parent’s, not your preacher’s. Passages for your consideration: Romans 12:1-2; Philippians 2:5; 4:8.
9. Buy good textbooks. Quite possibly one of the most painful things about college is purchasing outrageously priced textbooks. You’ll need them. They’ll be useful. But no college textbook is going to be as important as the Bible that you carry and the additional spiritual resources (books, articles, audio lessons) that you accumulate. First and foremost, the word of God is the source of all answers. Buy a good one that will be yours for a lifetime. Even one of the most expensive ones is reasonably priced compared to some textbooks. But sometimes there are going to be things said in your classes that are questionable and that do not add up with what the Bible says. Sometimes, those things might even seem innocent and reasonable. Search out resources that will help you easily work through and reason about those ideas. Consider resources like Apologetics Press, Christian Courier, and WVBS.
10. Get good sleep. Remember the days of kindergarten naps? Yeah, those are over. You’ll be longing for the days that you had time to lay your head on a pillow instead of it accidentally face-planting into your textbook or keyboard late at night. But you do need your sleep to succeed. Get to bed. And not just because you need your sleep, but because bad things happen at night when you’re supposed to be asleep. If you’re in your bed when you’re supposed to be, you won’t be tempted by the late-night invitation to the bar; you’re less likely to be parked in a car with your girlfriend or boyfriend on a back road, giving in to temptation; you’re less likely to be accused of misconduct or theft when you’re legitimate alibi was that you were at home and in bed. When you’re in bed when you’re supposed to be, your worst nightmare will be about the upcoming Physics test, instead of jail time or trying to figure out how to pay for both your classes and for the diapers of the baby that you produced with a person who wasn’t your spouse. Passages for your consideration: Isaiah 29:15; Job 24:14; John 3:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:7.
11. Set Goals. It’s great that you’re shooting for a 4.0 GPA. It’s great that you want to be a doctor, a lawyer, a senator. It’s great that you want to earn an annual six figures. But set spiritual goals, too. Guys, shoot for possessing the spiritual characteristics of a deacon or an elder (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1). Ladies, shoot for being a “Proverbs 31 Woman,” a Priscilla, a Lydia. A happy and successful life is not about the paycheck or the job title – it’s about being like Jesus, about being a light in this sin-sick and dark world. Passages for your consideration: Psalm 127:1; Proverbs 19:21; Romans 8:28; Philippians 4:13.
12. Graduate. Stay faithful in college, yes. But don’t stay in college forever. Yes, some need to go back to college later in life to pursue a new professional career. That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about maturing and moving on from the things that are often associated with college students – immaturity, unreliability, poor stewardship, etc. Instead, move on, move out and get moving toward even greater holiness. But you’ll never graduate into maturity, unless you put in the work now. Passages for your consideration: 2 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 6:1; Luke 17:5; Colossians 1:9-10.