Dear Incoming Freshman: Advice from a College Graduate

It's the Monday after graduation, and I'm not starting my dream job. And that's okay. As a high school senior, I dreamed of college: joining a sorority, finding my future husband, loving all of my classes, and graduating with my dream job (at that time, a broadcast journalist) starting the next day. Four years later, NONE OF THAT HAPPENED! But I'm not disappointed. I wouldn't trade my college experience for anything. Reflecting on the past four years, I'd like to share a few pieces of advice and lessons learned specifically for incoming college freshman:

Scrap your five year plan

No matter how much you plan your life, your college experience will not be what you expect. God has Him own plan and it's so much better than anything you can imagine.

In my case, I planned to pledge a sorority and become a broadcast journalist, when in fact, God planned for me to join a campus ministry, lead a bible study, serve & mentor other students, and share my faith in the marketplace as a public relations professional. Through his plan, we grew closer exponentially, and I live today with more peace, joy and faith in the Lord. In order for this to happen, I had to give up on my five year plan and relinquish my tight fist around my future.

I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "Let go, and let God." This simple phrase is a lot easier said than done. Giving up your life for yourself and dying to self is incredibly difficult and downright scary.

Imagine you are walking on a marked path and then decide to turn into a dark tunnel. Suddenly, you have no idea what's in front of you. You've lost your sense of direction and destination. You know there's light at the end, but you can't see it. Someone with a flashlight takes your hand and guides you down the tunnel. You can only see the steps in front of you not the destination. That's what it feels like to give your future to God. As much as you want to know your final destination, calling or whatever, He reveals his plan step by step.  (at an antagonizing pace!) You have to trust Him and believe He is guiding you to your best life, full of abundant joy and fulfillment. 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
— Jeremiah 29:11

you don't need to worry

On a more positive note, no matter the chaos you face in the next four years, it will all work out in the end.  In the past four years--no, in my entire 19 years of school--of all the times I stressed over a single paper, final exam or design project, I can't think of one time when the worrying was worth it. In most cases, stress harmed my well being on multiple levels. 

I understand it's human nature; You can't control your natural emotions. But your Creator can. He formed and knows every fiber of your being. God can calm your anxious heart.

When you're feeling anxious and stressed, take a break and a few deep breathes. Welcome God's presence into the moment. Ask Him for peace, and you will not look at the day's stresses the same. I've experienced this euphoric release many a times. I personally like to journal a list of everything I'm stressed about. Most times I stop short, because I can't even remember what I was worried about. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:6-7

Dare to do college differently

Be who you are and all God is calling you to be. You don't have to be and do like the other students on your campus. Don't like drinking? Then don't. Don't like going to parties? Stay in for the night. Don't like pulling all-nighters? Figure out how you can best manage your time and work efficiently. (There's nothing wrong with any of these activities) Give into the gentle urgings from the Lord over the pressure of the world. God calls Christians to walk in His word and instruction, to stand out from the rest and reflect His light into the world. We are supposed to be different.

I, on the other hand, fell into the rhythm of the typical busy student during the first semester of my senior year. I interned three days a week, took five classes, and lead a bible study. Regularly sleeping four hours a night, I overextended myself. In the midst of the storm, I finally took a rest and escaped the city for a weekend. During that break, I realized the error in my people-pleasing and controlling ways. I thought I could do everything on my own, but human strength is truly limited. Even though I had the typical college student schedule, God was not calling me to be the typical college student.  He wanted me to cling to Him in faith and show others how to do the same. He chose me as a figure to show how you can do college differently and walk in the Light.

In short, God kept me. Through the final exams, late nights, and 30+ page papers, God kept me. I share my story as a testimony to how the stress of college can be an opportunity to experience Him in new ways and allow Him to shape you into all He's called you to be.