Some advice for the college student

Published 10:13 pm Friday, August 21, 2015

It’s the time of year when teachers and students go back to school. For some students, it’s the beginning of a whole new phase of their lives as they leave for college.

My own son left for college this week. He has been a model son, and I believe he is spiritually, emotionally and intellectually prepared. Still, was there a “Dad talk” before he left for school? You bet.

What would I say to any matriculating freshman?

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First, regarding freedom: As a college student you suddenly wake up to find that you have total freedom. How you respond to that freedom will “make or break” you.

Some respond to the freedom of adulthood by stepping up to the plate and acting like the young adults that they are. The freedom of college actually makes them more responsible, not less. Others abuse their freedom, and in the process abuse their own futures.

Second, regarding friendship. A college campus offers the possibility of forming close and lifelong friendships. Yes, you are there for the education. But a huge part of your success in life is going to be about your ability to relate to people. The relational intelligence you will need to succeed can be greatly developed in the next four years.

Be proactive about seeking friendships with quality people on campus. And remember, “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). If you are a Christian, be a friend to all but a follower of One.

And when it comes to the close friends you hang out with or date, exercise great discernment. Make sure they are people who will lift you up, not drag you down.

Third, regarding focus. The academic rigor of a good college is going to force you to “up your game.” The educational challenge you faced in high school is going to seem like a cakewalk by comparison.

There are three keys to academic excellence in college: First, work in “focused bursts.” You have to develop the habit of eliminating all distractions, getting locked into a zone, and getting things done. Believe me, when you are in that zone you can get twice as much done in half the time. Second, when you need help, ask for it. Third, be tenacious about not getting behind. In college, it is extremely difficult to catch up.

Fourth, regarding fascination. Are grades important? Sure, they impact your future. But rather than just going for a grade, embrace the opportunity to grow intellectually. Allow your studies to fascinate and stimulate your mind.

As you pour into your coursework with a passion to learn, your horizons will be expanded, you’ll have a great sense of accomplishment, your work will be a lot more fun and your grades will take care of themselves.

Fifth, regarding the heavenly Father. College is often a time when people drift away from God. But for many students it is the opposite.

Get involved in a campus ministry and local church, and you can be taken to a whole new place in your walk with Christ. You’ll own your Christian faith like never before, and you’ll emerge from college with a cause that is much bigger than making money. You’ll be about using your education to make an impact on this needy world. You go get it.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.