7 Tips for Starting College Right

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Moving off to college marks a new season of life for young adults who are in the process of transitioning from adolescence to adulthood. Campus pastor Guy Chmieleski offers 7 tips for starting college right and taking on everything that’s new and different.

Moving off to college marks a new season of life for young adults who are in the process of transitioning from adolescence to adulthood. There are so many things that are new and different – and require some level of intentional thought and effort for the sake of making the most of your formative college years.

So here are 7 tips for starting college right:

1) Put Faith First

Your faith, and how you engage it, will always be the single greatest decision you make. This one thing is meant to bring shape, perspective, and understanding to absolutely every area of life.

So make it your #1 priority to find a local church to belong to, a community of like-minded believers that you can grow with on campus, and find a place to serve other people. You’ll be amazed at how God will begin to transform you during your formative college years as you do.

2) Be Intentional in Making Relationships

We’ve been designed as relational beings – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will come easily. In fact, with advances in technology, it’s become all too easy to remain overly connected to friends and family back home, at the expense of forging new relationships in your new context.

Make every effort to connect with your roommate(s), hall mates, and classmates. Again, keep an eye out for those students who might become a part of your inner-circle because of the faith that unites you.

Often the relationships you make during your college years, and not your growing up years, are the relationships that will become life-long and all together meaningful.

3) Explore Your Gifts, Talents, & Passions

This is a great season to begin to explore (if you haven’t already) how God as uniquely made you. You have gifts, talents, and passions that God has hard-wired within you – and you’ve likely only explored (or become aware of) the outer edges of these things.

Take time to intentionally explore your gifts, talents, and passions and prayerfully consider how God might want to use them on campus this year – and in your future as well. Then look for ways to further explore and nurture these areas of your life.

4) Take Your Academics Seriously

This is what you are paying for! It’s true. You can pursue your faith and new friendships in wide variety of contexts – most of which will accrue you far less debt. Your primary reason for attending college is to pursue a degree – or more so, to be trained and equipped for what you believe God is calling you to.

You need to be a good steward of your college experience, and at the top of the list is your formal education. As you grow in your understanding of how God might want to use you – and your unique gifts, talents, and passions – to make a different in the world, your formal education should naturally compliment your overall preparation.

5) Expect Challenges

Yes, expect them. Because they will come and you will need to faithfully navigate them. This is a part of growing up – of becoming an adult. It’s OK to ask for help, and seek out the wise counsel of parents or others that you believe can offer you insight into your situation, but learning how to face struggles, challenges, and even failures is one of the most important lessons you have to learn during your formative college years.

Don’t fear this. Embrace it. And lean into God always, but especially when things in your life seem to be most out of your control.

6) Find a Mentor

This may take some time, but finding a mentor needs to be up towards the top of your list of priorities as you arrive on campus. Be aware of the people that God puts in your life and consider how one of them might be a great mentor for you as you start this new season of life.

Once you identify someone, be willing to pursue him or her and let him or her know that you’d like to explore the possibility of engaging in a mentoring kind of relationship. It may feel a little awkward or vulnerable, but this will be the best way for you to establish this kind of relationship during this pivotal season of life.

7) Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks/Make Mistakes

Finally, do not be afraid to make mistakes. Yes, be wise. Yes, be thoughtful. But don’t let the fear of making mistakes or even failing keep you from taking risks.

Obviously there’s a difference between good risks and bad ones. But some of the greatest learning you will do this year will come through the risks that you take – and the mistakes that result. One of the most important things that you learn will be that you can bounce back from mistakes – and that failures will not define you or inhibit you from success in the present or future.

I’m sure there is more that could be said – so I’ll leave it to you to offer your wisdom (or ask your questions) in the comment section below.

Get Campus Gods for your college kids, a book about college idols and how to avoid their destructive power.

Get Shaping Their Future: Mentoring Students Through Their Formative College Years.

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Dr. Guy Chmieleski serves as the University Minister at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee and author of Seedbed books, Shaping Their Future and Campus Gods. He is also the founder of FaithONCampus.com, a popular blog focused on better equipping mentors of college students. He has earned a Master of Arts in Ministry from Palm Beach Atlantic University and a Doctorate of Ministry with an emphasis in Spiritual Formation and Leadership Development from George Fox Evangelical Seminary. Guy and his wife Heather reside just south of Nashville with their five children Derek, Autumn, Kaiya, Noll, and Lailie Grace.

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