Eighteen years ago, I was eighteen-years-0ld and heading off to college. Hard to believe how the time flies by! I wish I could build a time machine and travel back to tell myself some important truths. Since I can’t build a time machine, the least I can do it tell these truths to you, because I’m convinced that the decisions a person makes in his or her first year of college have the potential to shape the rest of his or her life. It’s quite possibly the most important year of decisions a person will ever make.
Taking all I learned from my own college experience, my years working in college admissions and my years since working with people of all ages as a pastor, I’ve compiled a list of the most critical truths every college freshman needs to know and do. I’m convinced that these seven simple principles could have a life-altering impact for those who apply them:
(In no particular order):
1. Never trade temporary pleasure for permanent regret.
As a new college student, you’re going to be exposed to a world of temptations and those temptations will usually come with the illusion of no permanent consequences. I assure you that EVERY decision you make will have either a positive or a negative consequence. Don’t make reckless, impulsive choices. You’re better than that.
2. Show up for class.
Nobody is going to be waking you up and laying out your clothes and making sure you get to class on time. You’ve got to be a grown up. The biggest predictor of success or failure in a college course is simply whether or not a student shows up. If you consistently skip class, you’re light fire to your money (or someone’s money) and you’re undermining your own future.
3. Recognize that every choice you make is creating either future opportunities or future obstacles.
Realize the weight of the decisions you are making. I don’t say this to scare you or make you feel a constant sense of stress over your choices, but you should be sober-minded in your approach to every decision. Don’t just think about the short term. Don’t waste your time on video games or hours of mindless activities, because your time is the most valuable asset you have. Think about how every present decision may shape future opportunities in the longterm.4. Avoid debt as much as humanly possible.
I’ve seen WAY too many students spend money like it’s play money only to come out of school strapped with debt. I have friend where are decades removed from college, but are still dealing with financial stress caused from debt in their student years. Don’t max out your credit cards. Live frugally now so you can live with financial freedom later. Here are 7 things you need to know about money.
5. Choose friends who bring comedy, not “drama.”
Life is complicated enough without unnecessary drama in your life. Surround yourself with people who you genuinely enjoy being around. No games. No drama. Choose friends who strengthen your character, not friend who compromise your character.
6. Be thankful; not entitled.
You’re getting a higher education which is a privilege so great, many people around the world have died in pursuit of the opportunity for themselves or for their children. Less than 3% of the world’s population has a college degree. Don’t embrace the privilege of higher education lightly or flippantly. Enter it with an attitude of gratitude and a disciplined determination to make the most of it.
7. Don’t give up!
There are going to be plenty of moments you feel like quitting, but don’t trust your feelings. Trust your commitments. Pray when you feel like worrying, give thanks when you feel like complaining and keep going when you feel like quitting! You’ll thank me later.
There are actually many more than seven, but I wanted to keep this list short, because I know you have a lot of studying to do! You have so many beautiful adventures ahead! Have fun, work hard, stay true to your faith and give it your very best.
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