My young, hip 18-year old friend is about to head off to college for her freshman year next month 🙂 I’m really excited for her…it’s such a fun time in life! Much better than high-school in my opinion.
And, it’s hard to believe I was doing the same thing (ahem) FIVE summers ago!
Well, sort of. I lived at home during my first two years of college as I attended Community College on scholarship, trying to figure out what I wanted to do, taking basic courses, etc., and then spent Jr/Sr year at University of Maryland in their Communication program.
This friend recently asked me, “What is something you wished you did in college that I should definitely do?”
I’ve been thinking about her question this past week, trying to decide what I would say…I don’t have a lot of regrets from college, as if I look back on those years with angst. They were good years, filled with great memories, great life lessons, and great friendships. So, in some ways, it’s hard to answer her question.
On the other hand, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to comment on a handful of minor “I wish I had’s”…
So, here’s a Top 10 – a combination of my own lessons-learned + things I’m glad I did + regrets I don’t want you to make + funny things just for kicks.
10. Time is Relationships. Don’t sacrifice people for the sake of good grades. It’s easy in college – especially Freshman year when you are trying to establish yourself and familiarize yourself with a new culture of sorts – to get sucked into seeking perfect grades, A’s on all your papers, and good standing with every single teacher. Grades are important, but they aren’t everything. And, in some ways, I regret spending too much time seeking perfection, accomplishment and stewardship, at the cost of building into people, fun, memories, ministry and opportunities. You always think you’ll have more time in the NEXT season of life…but, it’s just not true 🙂 Life only gets more crazy and busier the older you get.
9. Play Pranks. You can do these sorts of things on a college campus; not in a professional office. So, within reason, have fun and make some memories 🙂
8. Study Abroad. The world is flat, so they say. In an increasing global economy and international business market, it’s important to expand your horizons early, so that you can be prepared AFTER college for pursuing international opportunities – whether for further education, ministry or pleasure. Now, I say this having NOT studied abroad during college, but then living in Kenya for 11 months after I finished my undergrad. So, if you can’t study abroad during college, don’t feel rushed. There are countless opportunities to do so after you finish…
7. Let Love be Genuine. OK, girls…listen up 🙂 Let’s be honest. Your antennae will be up as you walk around campus during the first few weeks of school…you’ll see attractive people. You’ll talk to cool, interesting, intriguing new guys. You’ll join clubs, attend classes, and head off to social activities and start to develop new friendships with members of the opposite sex. And, before you form a crush on anyone, remember Romans 12 – Let. Love. Be. Genuine. Some DO meet their future spouses while in college. But, many don’t. And, the biggest mistake you can make is to miss out on tons of great friendships and opportunities to encourage others, simply because you are playing the “Potential” game. God will bring the right guy at the right time. So, in the meantime, just enjoy people because they are your fellow brothers in Christ, and fellow individuals made in the image of God!
6. Become Bi-lingual. Today’s job market is competitive to say the least. If you know another language – and REALLY know it – you will have gained a lot. Not only appreciation and understanding of another culture, but flexibility for the future.
5. Take Unique Classes. Who cares if you’re never going to be a professional dancer? or Rock-climber? or Forensics scientist? 🙂 Even in your Freshman year, when you are tackling all those basic ho-hum courses, don’t be afraid to sign up for a wild and out-of-the-box class. You NEVER know where it will take, who you will meet in the class, and how much or how little you’ll like the class. For many, it is the process of elimination that helps you realize what you DO want to do. And for some, it is simply the matter of taking ONE class to discover that it’s EXACTLY what you want to do. Over the course of my four years in school, I took Ballet, Rock-Climbing, Forensics, French, Chorus, Yoga, Shakespeare Literature and a host of other classes that didn’t have anything to do with my Communications major. Looking back, some of my favorite memories were made while taking these 🙂
4. Stay Active! When you get your first job out of college, it’s a major wake-up call. 40 hours a week, sitting at a desk, working on a computer. So, as much as you can, stay active! Walk to class. Bike around campus. Participate in sports clubs. Go hiking. Swim. Golf. Play tennis. Do whatever you can to be outside and keep moving, because there will come a day when you won’t always have that luxury.
3. Have Culinary Creativity. Cheap. Fast. Easy. Filling. The four words that come to mind when I think about college nourishment. It has to work within your budget, be fast and easy while on-the-go, and substantial enough to keep you full for all those afternoon classes and evening study hours. But, let’s face it. It’s easy to grow comfortable with whatever we’re used to eating. During college, I really expanded my culinary mindset. As I got to know other people from diverse backgrounds and cultures, my curiosity to try their local flavors and foods kicked in. Packing lunches doesn’t have to be boring 🙂 Find an inspiring food blog, and commit to cook a unique, creative dinner for yourself and a few friends once a week. Learn to eat vegetarian. Start a Super-Salad Club, where everyone brings various toppings and shares them. Find a local supermarket that carries interesting brands and ingredients. In other words, don’t reserve your “Experimentation” to Chemistry class 🙂 And, on this note, don’t skip Breakfast. Breakfast is truly the most important meal of the day!
Now, for the most important ones…
2. Don’t try to be best friends with everyone. I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Why not? I have a whole FOUR years to get to know everyone!” I suppose people could go both ways on this point. Some people have an amazing capacity for lots of people, and like to have friends in lots of different groups and circles; others tend to do better – and feel most satisfied – with a smaller, core, tight-knit group of friends. You probably know yourself well enough to realize which group you generally fall into. But, I would venture to say that when you eventually graduate, and spend a bit of time in the professional career world, you will probably only stay in touch with a handful of people. I’ve talked to many friends who confirm the truth of this perspective. It’s not that you don’t care about all those people, or genuinely love them. It’s just that life gets busy – seasons change – and people move on. SO, with that being said, my personal perspective is to really INVEST deeply into a few solid, genuine friendships…spend time with those people…pray for them, encourage them, make memories with them…and love them. At the end of the day, you won’t feel as pressured and tired by trying to ‘manage’ being best friends with everyone.
Most important of all…
1. Spend time with God alone every day. It’s easy to get busy with tasks, responsibilities, tests, extracurricular activities, and the like. And, don’t get me wrong…all those things are important. Truly. But, it’s even easier to subtly let the ONE thing – the most important thing – be pushed onto the back burner. I once heard an analogy of our relationship with God that has stuck with me. Imagine two large glass jars. Two people each have a bag of sand and a big rock. One person fills their jar with the sand first, only to discover that they can’t fit the Rock into the jar, because the sand took up all the space. The second person places the Rock on the bottom of the jar first, then pours the sand over top, and all of the fine pieces fit. OK, perhaps a bit cheesy of an analogy…but I think it’s really true! Prioritize God first, and He’ll see to it to make sure everything else falls into place. Prioritize other things first, and it will pretty darn hard to fit God into your life and circumstances. In the end, we can place full, complete Trust and Confidence in the Only One who EVER gets His To-Do List done everyday 🙂