For many first-year college students, the last several months have been an emotional roller coaster. You were stressed about where to go to school, then avoided senioritis so you could actually graduate—and, oh yeah you need money to pay for college—and then there was the parent meltdown when mom or dad realized their child really was leaving home.
Despite these anxieties, college can be one of the most fun and exciting times of your life. You are entering a season where you will grow and mature more than you ever have because life forces you to. Now, I don’t want to be the guy who squashes the excitement out of you, nor should I. But I would like to encourage you to go deeper than “fun.” If you choose to put your faith first—imperfectly, but consistently—it will transform your college experience socially, emotionally, and spiritually.
Take Holiness Seriously
Let’s face it, you are going to make mistakes. You have more freedom than you have ever had. Even if you live at home, you are in a new season in which the rope your parents have on you is longer than ever.
With freedom comes the opportunity to make more mistakes. Student, you will sin in ways you never thought you will. You will learn habits that you will look back on and laugh at. That is just reality. I encourage you to learn from these experiences and use them to grow, rather than slide, in your faith.
Make no mistake: this all-in approach is absolutely necessary. We live in a world that is leaning farther and farther from the things of Christ. College increases your exposure to this brokenness in ways that are often deceitfully attractive. If you don’t intentionally find ways to fight your sin, you will find yourself becoming a person you do not recognize. You must, as John Owen once said, “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.”
This does not mean you become a legalistic no-fun person. You can have loads of fun. Rather, it means that you must discipline yourself for holiness. Fill your heart with the gospel through reading the Scripture, worshiping with a local church, and practicing community so that your joys will be found in godly things.
As you fill your heart with gospel truth, you will also need to determine what guardrails are needed in your life. These guardrails will serve to protect you, to help you flee sin and unwise decisions.
Here are a few examples of “guardrail questions” to ask yourself:
- Will going to a particular setting or party entice me to drink when I cannot legally drink?
- Does this friend or group of friends push me toward godliness or toward a sinful or unwise lifestyle?
- Does this dating relationship have the accountability that it should, given my increased independence and freedom?
No guardrail or college Bible study will prevent you from making unwise and sinful decisions through college, neither will they assure your salvation. But intentionally pursuing holiness as a college student will put you in a place where you can grow closer with Christ and in your love for him. And ultimately, that wisdom and growth is far more valuable than anything else you will learn in college.