It’s the middle of July and if you're going to be a freshmen in the fall, your first semester in college will be here before you know it. After getting my college diploma and after observing how many students, including myself, have tried not only to survive but to thrive in college, I've realized that there are some habits you're going to want to avoid in order to get the most out of your college experience. Here are the top four mistakes you don’t have to make:
You get that exam grade back and you can’t believe it; you’ve never seen that percentage on one of your returned exams before. That’s right, you are not in high school anymore. Listen, don’t hear me say that grades are not important (to one degree or another I’m sure your future employer cares about your grades). But you have to realize that no one exam, not any one class, not even any one semester is going to ruin your future so that your fate will be living as bagger at your old grocery store back home.
In the bigger picture what matters in regards to your grades is all four (or five) years of your efforts. Besides, many employers care just as much about your experiences and involvement outside of academics as they do strictly your grade in O. Chem. You have time. You can learn and adapt to academics in college. After all, maybe you’ll find that you want to change your major anyway.
Did you see in the previous point where I said “you are not in high school anymore?” Another disclaimer is probably appropriate here: my point is not that you should just shun friends and family back home like Dwight Schrute because you went off to college. Yet, it is entirely too easy to fall back into your old comfort zone. Sometimes it can be hard to meet new people and make friends at college, especially compared to the history and trust that you have with those back home.
It is very normal at times to feel lonely, to be unsure of your place in the social world of the campus. But you have to be willing to fight through those times of awkwardness, and make attempts to build relationships with new people. Especially early on, it is entirely possible that you have not even met those whom you’ll become closest with. The bottom line is be patient, and be fully present where you are. You can also “go home” every weekend without going home. Hours in your dorm on the phone or playing video games with high school buddies has the same effect… you don’t live where you are and you miss opportunities to experience college life.
In a way, this is going to the other extreme. Students who make this mistake usually don’t have a problem being fully present on campus. Rather, they throw caution to the wind (and throw out their brains and their hearts along with it). Listen, the point here is not that you shouldn’t have fun. The issue is how you will have fun. Most students don’t think about how the decisions they make now form habits that set a trajectory for their life that will alter the rest of their lives. As much as you may think you are “free”, your choices and experiences are forming you into a certain type of person whether you are conscious of that or not.
A state university offers you an education to prepare you for a career, but they do not adequately teach you about life. The university offers you recreation centers and intramural programs to keep you physically fit, but they do not help you to be spiritually fit. You are more than a future employee or entrepreneur. You are more than flesh and bone, more than a mass of millions of molecules. Cultures all over the world from one millennia to the next agree that somehow, some way, there is a spiritual component to our human nature. You have questions that shouldn’t be ignored. How did we get here? Why are we here? Is there meaning in life? How should we live our lives? Where is the story of our world headed? Is there life after death?
Though a philosophy class may have a thing or two to say about these types of questions, involvement in a student organization like Cru will help you to live life as the spiritual person that you really are. Is God real? Is Jesus Christ who he claimed to be? What difference does this make? Wrestle through these questions with us by checking out a small group in your dorm, or maybe even consider joining us for a winter conference of a couple thousand students from colleges around the Great Lakes. But whatever you do, don't ignore life's biggest questions.