After spending most of my life dreading the end of summer, now as a college graduate, I would love to reunite with my college friends and start a new semester. I hold on to many sweet memories of college, yet I have to admit I am definitely enjoying my current season as a newlywed. But this time of year causes me to reflect on college, the decisions I made, and the subsequent advice I must give.
1. Grades still matter.
I remember thinking after I enrolled in college that grades were a thing of the past. I had been accepted into college and received scholarships; what more did I have to prove? Well, a lot actually. Turns out those good grades I needed to receive those scholarships, I needed to maintain to keep those scholarships. This is something you should look into. You don’t want to wake up in January and be a few grand short because you didn’t think that that history class was very important. A wise friend once told me, “It takes a lot longer to raise your GPA than it takes to lower it.”
Grades also help determine if you are eligible to study abroad or enroll in grad school. And, although this is somewhat rare, I have had friends whose employers asked to see their college transcripts with an application for employment.
2. Use your summers and breaks wisely.
Come May, you will probably feel broke, and returning to that job you had in high school might sound like the easiest solution. In some cases, this could make sense, but always try to capitalize on spare time. Especially in the current job market, experience is invaluable.
Even if you go home to waitress at that hometown restaurant, find someone if your field of interest and see if there is anything you can do. Shadow them, interview them, volunteer for them. Do anything you can to help discover your interests. A degree does not get you a job when these four years are over; experience, connections and persistence will.
I spent my first two years of college thinking I wanted to be a news reporter. It wasn’t until the summer after my sophomore year when I interned (unpaid) at a news station that I realized I actually did not want to be in that field. Don’t wait until after graduation to get real experience; at that point it is too late to change your major. The sooner you test the waters, the more time you have to benefit from your education. For more advice about interning, check out my previous blog.
3. Make good friends.
This tip might seem like a no-brainer, but it is much more important than you may think. When you were in high school, your friends were just your friends. You saw them at school, at sports practice and/or events, and then maybe on the weekends and at church. But after these activities, you most likely went home to your family. They were the ones who defined you. They saw your good side and ugly side, and even if you didn’t want to, you most likely spent more time with them than anyone else. Not anymore.
Now you have a roommate you go home to and friends you can see nearly every hour of the day if you choose. You eat with them, study with them and possibly even live with them. “You are who your friends are” is never truer than while you are in college. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing; I just give caution. Invest in good friends; you have the opportunity to meet some great ones.
4. Find a church and stay there.
I’ll be honest; I was a professional church hopper in college — when I went. For the first time, no one was there to tell me where and when to go. It wasn’t that I didn’t like church; it was more that I felt I didn’t belong anywhere. I don’t blame the church but myself for not making more of an effort. If I could do it over, I would have found a church, gotten involved and stayed there. I truly feel like I missed out on a rich community that would have helped guide me during my college years.
When you invest in a church instead of hopping around, people depend on you and notice when you aren’t there. Developing a church family during this season is extremely important to your faith that will most likely be tested severely over the next few years.
A few ideas: get involved in a Bible study, teach Sunday school, volunteer in the nursery, sign up to make coffee, get involved in the praise team, or even greet. All of these things will keep you accountable to your church family and will help you build a community to lean on. It will probably even score you some delicious homemade meals!
5. Get a mentor.
College is a new life stage presenting new challenges, opportunities and issues that will take discernment and decision-making to a new level. Having a respected mentor will help make these uncharted waters more manageable.
When you are in a difficult situation, you may be blind to some of the outstanding issues. A mentor whom you can confide in and trust will help you see the obstacles with perspective. He or she can also hold you accountable to your decisions and actions. It can be dangerous for teens to go from parental supervision to no supervision. And although this a great time for learning, weaning and growth, it is also important to allow someone to keep you accountable.
I always desired a mentor in college, but didn’t know how to find one. It seems like a daunting thing to seek out, but simply ask someone at church or someone involved with a Christian organization on campus, and I’m sure they will lead you in the right direction.