I have to say goodbye to a longtime friend of mine this week as she moves away to finish college. Hearing her share her hopes and fears for her upcoming college experience makes me reflect on my own experience. Sometimes I really miss being at school, and thinking back on my four years in college, there are a few things I would change if I could go back and do it over again.
For those of you heading off to college for the first time or going back for another year, here is my advice on making the most of your college years.
1. Focus on academic excellence, but leave time to invest in campus community. College community is like nothing else you will experience. You are surrounded by people your own age, and campus life is often referred to as a “bubble.” In hindsight, I would have spent less time working and trying to feel like I was in the “real world” and more time getting to know the people around me.
I was often too tired to socialize because I was focused on internships and on-campus jobs on top of taking a full load of classes. Preparing for my career was important, but looking back, I wish I had spent more time simply hanging out and experiencing the college community. Now that I have been out of school for a year and post-grad is nothing like I expected, I wish I had relaxed and focused more on investing in relationships.
2. Plug into a local church with a diverse church body. Speaking of community, I wish I had been more plugged into a church community during my college years. I had to rely on other people to get to church every week because I didn’t have a car, so it was hard to join something like a small group. I wish I had been more aggressive in finding transportation.
Even though I attended a Christian university and was required to go to chapel, I longed for a more diverse community and fellowship with older women who could serve as mentors. One of the dangers of attending church close to campus is that the majority of the congregation is likely to be your classmates. Try branching out and finding a church a little further away where you can meet new people and build new relationships. Do your best to find time to serve in the church or participate in a college group or small group. For encouragement and resources about finding your place in a local church, join Boundless’ ROCK THE BODY challenge.
3. Take advantage of special chapels, lectures and events. Junior colleges and universities frequently have guest lecturers or university-wide special events. Sometimes special chapels or get-togethers will be hosted within your major. It is a great time to expand your knowledge on a topic that interests you outside of your classes.
I loved walking through the student art gallery and attending on-campus plays and concerts. I always tried to make it to guest lectures given by speakers of a different religion who wanted to share the fundamentals of their beliefs in a safe setting. I tried to make it to the different types of chapels offered to experience what they were like at least once. Get involved around campus. College is the perfect time for new experiences.
For those of you already out of college, what advice would you give to those entering their first year or returning, hoping to get more out of the experience?