Start College Right

I love Instagram. I don’t have to read silly, often-uninformed Facebook rants or be bombarded with ads/promoted posts on Twitter. This past weekend I noticed a wave of people posting pictures of their newly decorated dorm rooms. As you can imagine, there is a ridiculous difference between a freshman girl’s dorm setup and a freshman guy’s setup.

Watching these new students get settled in and adjusted to college life reminded me of how unsure I was when I first stepped foot on my college campus. If I could sit down with any incoming college freshman this is what I would tell them.

Here are 4 ways to start college right:

1.) Get involved.

Being in a new place, away from the comforts of home can be nerve racking. But the best way to overcome it is to simply put yourself out there. Maybe you don’t have many friends from your high school attending college with you. Maybe that’s a good thing! Either way, you get a fresh new start in the friendship department, something that does not come around often. Start right from the beginning because it’s so hard to move backwards, especially when many people have already established themselves in certain friendship tribes by the middle of the semester.

Even if you’re a commuter, spend lots of time on campus. One year in college, my wife commuted an hour to campus and would often end up staying on campus with friends until midnight. Join an organization. Make friends. Be spontaneous.

A word of caution: be picky with who you pick as your new friends. They are more influential on your life now that you’re away from home and don’t see your family as much. You will become who you hang out with. And some of the decisions you make during your college years (major, job/career path, maybe even who to marry) are shaped largely by the influence of your friends. Choose wisely.

2.) Don’t date your first semester.

Don’t get me wrong…college is a great time and place to date. I met my wife there. We started dating there and we got engaged there. But during your first semester away from home you’re still adapting to a new world and so is that person you’re interested in. Give it a few months. If they are not willing to wait until after Christmas, are they really worth dating anyway? See who you start to become. See who they start to become. Then decide. (See: How to Date as a Christian).

3.) Actually go to college.

I promise your parents didn’t make me say this but you do actually have to go to class. Remember why you’re there: to get an education as well as an experience that will help equip you for your future. Education first, experience next.

Some practical tips:

  • Don’t take 8 AM classes unless you were home-schooled.
  • Study in the library, not your dorm or the coffee shop. Netflix and flirting with baristas don’t benefit your GPA.
  • Don’t fall for the flashcard effect: I use dto trick myself into thinking I had studied when I had really just made flashcards. Preparing to study is not studying. Find what works for you but then actually do it.

4.) Plug into a local church.

I could write forever on how much I love the church. Being away from home means finding a [new] church. It will not take you long to see an abundance of fake community on your college campus. Find a church where the people are real and will help point you to a real Jesus.

College is a time where you will hear over and over again: “This time is all about you. These years are all about you.” Don’t buy into the lie. Join a local church and serve someone. Get outside yourself and grow with a community that will love and equip you during these amazing years.

Question: What other tip(s) would you pass along to new college students?


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About Steven Hill


  1. Entering into my senior year I tell freshmen to question the things that they’ve been taught their entire lives. Especially things concerning God. Not in a judge mental and hateful way, but genuinely search for God. Even if it means starting with the question “Does God exist.” College is the time to begin to learn about your faith and what you actually believe and I know too many people who simply believe things because their parents/youth pastor told them to believe. If God is who God claims to be then God be revealed to you in an absolutely incredible way, regardless of the questions you ask and research.

    • What we’re seeing now is that questioning phase is hitting really hard earlier and earlier, even in the beginning stages of high school. The questioning that our students are having now is, “What good is church?”

  2. During my last semester of undergraduate studies I remembered wishing I had loved people more. That I had invested more time into individuals and just flat out spent more time having fun with others. My biggest recommendation is to live each semester as if it’s your last one! (And sometimes, you never know if it is). With this in mind, I encourage students to approach their church community, their studies, and their social community with the utmost care and gratitude, cherishing every moment to love those the Lord has blessed them with. I learned the most not in the classroom but from interacting with friends and mentors on an intimate level.

    This doesn’t mean be friends with EVERYBODY. As Steven said, “be picky with who you pick as your new friends.” In fact, having too many friends wears a person out. Definitely choose (and I know that sounds bad but it’s actually what we do in life) those you want to keep after you leave. Sometimes people choose you and that’s always fun. It’s definitely trial and error, but it’s the mutual love that lasts past graduation.

    I could go on and on. That’s just a tid-bit of “do college right” blab!!

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