Boxes and bags stacked by the door remind us that a daughter or son is leaving for college. While the moment is ripe with anticipation for the budding freshman, Mom and Dad struggle with roiling emotions. What happened to childhood? Is she ready for this adventure? Have we taught her enough so she can handle life?
Years of schooling, lessons on life skills, Sunday school, youth group, summer camp, mission trips—she’s been groomed for adulthood, but the college campus oozes good and bad influences. What advice might warn her about pitfalls and encourage self-control in choosing her steps? Here are seven lessons from a father’s heart.
1. Find a church home quickly.
Web searches reveal businesses near the campus such as grocery stores, affordable eateries, auto repair shops, and discount shopping venues. While those are important they pale in comparison to finding a church home—a place to worship and feed on Scripture.
Campus leaders such as your dorm director may offer church recommendations if you ask. Pay attention during orientation as some local churches establish a presence on campus to welcome new students. Seek out campus-based ministries, and give them a try.
Certainly it takes courage to visit a group of strangers. Be a leader, and invite others from your dorm to join you. You might help another student survive the stresses of the coming weeks. Meeting with a group of like-minded believers and continuing your life-long habit of church attendance will provide a spiritual anchor in your college life and beyond.
2. Be prudent when using your computer.
Most college programs require personal computers. Keep your virus software up-to-date to protect against the infestations that traverse the network. Set and use passwords to guard your personal data.
Maintain personal standards of holiness so you will be able to turn from temptations to view filth and degradation on the web. Say no! Guard your heart and mind.
3. Use credit wisely.
Financial agencies wait on campus with credit card offers touting quick approvals. Their booths are staffed by smiling representatives showering free t-shirts and other prizes on students. Many will be captivated by easy credit becoming servants to the cruel master of debt. Remember our discussions on handling money.
You have the credit card we established in your name at the bank. Emergencies and unplanned expenditures are part of life, and I know you will use the card in a responsible manner.
4. Manage your time.
Adopt healthy scheduling habits during the first weeks of college, and they will sustain you through graduation. No one will ask if your homework is finished. You must drive yourself. Make use of a paper calendar or software on your computer to track assignments and projects. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different techniques to find the time management scheme that works for you. Your college opportunity demands vigilant stewardship of time.
Humans, even invincible college students, require regular periods of sleep to function at their cognitive peak. Set your clock and arise consistently each morning. Select an hour that affords time for Bible reading and prayer.
5. Take care of yourself.
Fashion has its place, but common sense is paramount. Rain, snow, and sleet can turn a cross-campus excursion into misery. Sturdy walking shoes beat flip-flops in those conditions, and a collapsible umbrella adds little weight to your backpack. Be prepared.
College life does not orbit around daily meals prepared by your health-conscious Mom. At times you won’t feel like walking across campus to the cafeteria and some mornings that extra hour of sleep seems more valuable than a hot breakfast. Keep a supply of your favorite cereal and munch out of the box. A dry breakfast washed down by a water bottle beats no breakfast. Eat healthy food, and watch out for tempting alternatives. Wrong choices grow into bad habits that may be difficult to overcome.
6. Observe the safety rules.
Students party, and while parties may seem harmless, they are ripe with danger. In the heat of the moment usually responsible people can make decisions with life-changing impacts. Be aware of your surroundings. Your safest mode of socialization is with a trusted girlfriend by your side. If she leaves the party, you leave also. Avoid liquid refreshments when you are unsure of the contents, and opt for bottled water instead. Have fun, but stay safe.
7. Serve others.
While you’ve experienced mission trips and other adventures some students may be away from home for the first time. Be sensitive and spread the blessings of kindness and friendship. Sharing your abilities and resources in even the smallest ways will keep you thinking about the needs of others.
Competition is fierce in the world, and the practice of using people rather than valuing them is common. Consider the example of Jesus as He took the towel and washed twelve pairs of dirty feet. His teaching is clear—serving others is the secret to greatness.
Editor’s Note: Looking for a checklist of have-to-have items as you help your new college student pack? Check out Packing for College —useful tips from a Dad who survived eight years of daughters in college.