Ellie Phillips is a freelance journalist and incessant inquirer, a Christian and a writer. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 2013. Her whole life she’s asked questions and never stopped trying to find the answers. Questioning everything, writing it down, and then sharing it with others isn’t just a job for Ellie; it’s a lifestyle, and one that she loves.
Unfortunately, I have to start this off by breaking a couple bubbles for you.
Being a Christian isn’t easy.
Being a college student isn’t easy either.
You’re about to do both, which means you probably could use a bit of enlightenment, followed by a bit of advice.
● Things are going to happen that freak you out, that you disagree with, or that make you REALLY want to run home and hide in your childhood bedroom. These are less likely at Christian colleges, but they still happen.
• It’s pretty likely that you’ll find out your roommate has sex in your communal shower (or in the kitchen, or on the couch, or really, REALLY loudly in their room next door/across the hall.)
• Unless you’re at a Christian college, (and possibly even then,) at least one professor is going to be very anti-Christianity, try to convince you that there is no absolute Truth, state that evolution is a fact, not a theory, or generally be disapproving of your opinions — especially ones that involve moral-political stances like abortion and homosexuality.
• Somebody is going to hit on you, harass you, or in some way try to get you to do something you don’t want to or shouldn’t do. This could range from a creepy guy trying to waylay you on your way home from a night class to your roommate wheedling at you to do drugs.
● Classwork is going to be either very hard, or entirely easy/review. Unfortunately, there isn’t much in the way of in-between.
• You don’t need to read every word of every reading assignment. If you have six classes and even just one reading assignment a week, that’s six assignments that can take anywhere from ten minutes to two hours to read — and with homework, projects, sleeping, and the hope for a social life (not to mention maintaining your spiritual one), it can be fairly impossible to keep up on all of it. Try skimming the readings, and then picking out the parts that are:
A) likely to be on the test,
B) likely to be discussed in class/homework,
C) apply to you personally and your future,
D) and/or just interesting. Never deny yourself the chance to enjoy learning.
Disclaimer: If you’re a medical student or prospective lawyer, sadly, this may not apply to you.)
• There will always be a leader and a slacker in every group project. Try not to be either. Leaders end up carrying most of the work, making most of the decisions, and getting the crap when (if) the grade is bad. Slackers upset everyone, and they usually bring the grade down a few points — and often get more than a few points docked on their personal score.
• You will fail (or just do poorly) on a test or assignment here and there. Even if you pray that God gives you the answers. I’m not saying God doesn’t answer prayer, and even your grades are important to Him, but you do yourself no favors by relying on Him to get you through if you’re not doing your work or studying. On top of that, even if you’ve never gotten a bad grade in your life, it’s not the end of the world if you do now. College is a different world entirely; don’t expect it to keep being easy – or the same brand of hard.
● Parties and recklessness aren’t necessary to have fun.
• Not to brag, but I got through college without attending a single college party – and I don’t regret that. My mother attended one, and she didn’t even enjoy it. Parties involve lots of drinking, lots of stupid behaviors, and lots of people that you probably don’t even know. Most of the time, it’s just not going to be worth it.
• Your behaviors have consequences, and most of the time they’re not anything like having fun. This is another variable situation; it could range from you being inconsiderate to your roommate(s) in the way you’re doing something you enjoy, or the campus police wanting your head. (Okay, so more like your wrists in handcuffs, you knew what I meant.)
• The most enjoyable activities in life are the ones that come with no guilt attached. We’ve all done something that we weren’t allowed to do, or just shouldn’t have done. The thrill of breaking the rules is cool for a while, but once it’s over, you can’t enjoy your fun post-experience. It’s so much better when you’ve been given permission, and the next day you don’t feel bad about yourself and what you did.
Still with me? Awesome, now for the advice…
• Stay in touch with your parents. Seriously, I wish I’d called my parents at least once a week, instead of just catching their Facebook posts. Even if you don’t have the best relationship with them, they’re some of the best people in your life to keep you grounded — and grounded isn’t a bad thing anymore (rejoice!).
• Stay in touch with your pastor and church family. These people have nurtured you and watched you grow in both life and faith (not that your parents haven’t.) There is no one better qualified to help you grow than someone who knows from what you’ve been growing.
• You have time for God. You don’t need to make time, you have it. Put down the laptop, game controller, the TV remote, book — and yes, homework — for half an hour or so a day and spend some time with the Lord. I cannot stress how important this is: everything in your life is centered around that relationship. You can’t get it together until you have your spiritual life together. It just doesn’t work.
• Find a place that’s entirely yours. I kid you not, alone-time is vital to your sanity. Especially if you share a bedroom, you need to find somewhere that you can be alone and uninterrupted for a while. It’s a good place to send your time with God, but it’s also a great place just to be by yourself and unwind – or get away from those crazy roommates. My university had a large arboretum, and there was one bench hidden off in the garden where I would sit and just be alone. Those solitary moments were some of the best times I had in college – away from the drama and the constant movement of being around others.
• Find other Christians. One of the most vital elements of Christianity is the fellowship of believers. We need it to sustain and grow in the faith. Imagine it as trying to press through a crowd alone; the more people you have pushing with you, the farther you go and the faster you get there. There are many Christian groups; Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, Campus Crusaders, Campus Ministry – and you can find others just by checking out the campus chapel or local churches. Don’t be afraid to reach out.
• Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. No matter what anyone says, if you’re doing it in a respectful and appropriate way, stating and defending your beliefs is both right, and your right. Remember the scary professor from earlier in the article? The best way to handle that is to know what you believe, and never let anyone try to silence you or make you ashamed of your faith. Remember that you are precious child and you are loved; even if the world thinks you’re a crazy bigoted nuthead, Jesus is proud of you. Remember to judge yourself by His standards, not anyone else’s – not even your own.