Leaving home for college is many a young person's dream. It is a time when they “fly the coop” and the safety of the home and the support system that they have depended upon for about 18 years. Although it is quite the adventure, this new chapter in a young person's life may also bring some challenges. Even for the student that has a great Christian foundation, college presents new life lessons. Here are what I see at the top 10 challenges that Christian college students face.
#10 Professor vs. Student Beliefs
Many times Christian students are required to take courses that teach a direct contradiction to what they believe and even what the Bible teaches. Students mus remember that this is a required course and even when they disagree with the information being taught, they need to provide answers on quizzes, tests and written papers that agree with what the Professor has taught. Students will be graded on how much information they have absorbed from the course content. The only exception to this is when they are asked to provide an opinion, it that case they can share what they believe to be the best answer.
#9 Owning Your Faith
"The Truth" (2 Timothy 2:15) “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Many new college students struggle with the question “Is this my faith or my parent's faith?” Answering this question becomes a matters of commitment and conviction. Students need to study to show themselves approved. They must know what they believe and why they believe it. The only place to find the answer is in the Bible.
#8 Relationships & Socialization
Relationships are one of the most important things to a college student. Everyone wants to fit in and have friends. Some Christian students were raised in a home that has no or very lax conditions for the company they keep. Others come from a very conservative upbringing. Students must test all things and guard their heart. Relationships are important, but if they get in the way of education, which is the reason they are in college, they should count the cost and even reconsider sometimes.
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Similar to the relationship challenge, college students are introduced to an all new social atmosphere. This is the beginning of the time in their life where thy want to experiment with people and places. Being exposed to others who have different values may be a source of temptation. Students will have to rely upon the Holy Spirit to keep them from falling into situations that prove to be trials. They must never forget that they have a way out.
Freedom is something that many college students were not granted back at home. Because of this freedom can be dangerous. Students are suddenly in an environment where they are vastly unsupervised. This leads some students to compromise values and “go along” with what everyone else is doing. Students must be careful not to use their liberty too liberally.
#6 Time Management
College requires the ability to set goals and meet goals. Students need to take care to write things in a calendar/scheduler (or electronic scheduler). Knowing where they need to be when they need to be there may have fallen to their parents up until now. Time is not free and must be managed properly as not to become a source of stress and even failure.
#5 Missing Home & Community
Most Christian college students come from a church that has similar family dynamics as their own. The community in which they were raised has a cultural “footprint” that was very comfortable and came to be known as “home”. The youth group that they so enjoyed is now a thing of the past. The company of their brothers and sisters is no longer a daily thing and soon loneliness sets in. It is very important that the Christian college student finds a good local church of people who believe like they do. In college towns many local churches have activities and even Sunday school classes specifically geared toward the college age person.
Diversity is a word that is thrown around like a football in the business world now-a-days. Therefore students must learn to live with other young people and teacher/mentors that speak differently, have a different color of skin, eat strange looking (and smelling) food and even dress different than they do. Students should talk about it with their classmates, learn about their background and sometimes even about their home country.
Not all college students are blessed with wealth and/or wealthy parents. Some need to work their way through school. Learning to budget so that they have money for everything they need is a great challenge for this time in their life. They will learn to “pitch in” with their buddies for that pizza or barter some “tutoring” so that they can eat a good meal. But then again, there's always Ramen noodles … the ultimate college student staple, right? Romen is nondenominational!
#2 Commitment to Study the Word
With all the excitement of new surroundings and changes in the life of a Christian college student, second only to choosing the right school, is the challenge of committing to personal time in the Word. Jesus said to his disciples (students) “... If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32). Students must be daily in the Word to know God's plan for them in college. His word will continually teach them and reinforce the things that they already know. Students need to be very careful not to let college life get in the way of the true “Bread of Life”.
#1 Making the Right Choice of School
There is a myriad of choices for anyone who is interested in pursuing higher education. For the Christian the choice is narrowed somewhat. Pre-college students need to do research and get the help of their parents too. In a young person's junior year of high school they should be planning trips to see the top three colleges or universities on their list. Most colleges and universities host “college days” which is a time when perspective students and their parents are invited to come see the campus and meet the faculty. This is a great thing to do with parents and something that will be a fond memory later in life.
These are the things that come to mind when I think of challenges for the Christian college student. Perhaps you are a student,or a parent of a student or even faculty. Do you have challenges to add to the list?