Tuesday, April 24, 2012

College Q&A Day (Part 1)

What are some of the biggest things that surprised you in college?

Academically, I was not prepared for how much more difficult college work would be from my schoolwork in high school.  I went to a private Christian high school that was very small and personal.  The teachers and principal were all involved with the lives and learning paces of the students at my school.  If any of us struggled with a subject, the teachers took the time to make sure we fully understood and could continue to make decent grades if we made any kind of effort.

Even for my hardest classes in high school, I rarely spent time on schoolwork outside of the classroom.  I actually studied for possibly two or three tests during my entire high school career... and I still managed to graduate with nearly a 4.0.  Although this was fun at the time, I entered college completely unprepared academically.  I'm finally learning how to study and how to prioritize my time to get all of my schoolwork done.  If I don't study for my college classes, I'll fail.  This isn't something I've had to deal with until now.  I was surprised at how difficult college would actually be in this area.

And because I was a sheltered, private school kid, I was shocked at the standards my peers at a public school would hold.  I didn't realize so many people drank underage.  I didn't realize how common it is to cuss and use the "f-word" in public settings.  I didn't realize how many people actually participate in casual sex.  Basically, after a week of stepping into the public school environment, I was surprised about how sheltered I actually was.

Finally, I was surprised at how strong the Christian community is at Texas A&M.  I knew I would be a minority at a huge public school, but I didn't realize how close-knit and involved the Body of Christ is at my school.  It's so special to be part of a community that is eager and willing to pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ. 

What kinds of Christian ministries (i.e. Cru, InterVarsity, etc.) are you involved in?

I am involved in several different Christian ministries at Texas A&M.  Most of these organizations carry over onto other college campuses, so even if you are considering attending a different university, there should at least be something similar available for you to try out.  

I am a counselor for Impact, which is a Christian fish camp for incoming freshmen.  A couple of weeks before school starts, we have a retreat for the freshman class.  I will be in charge of mentoring and encouraging a small group of freshman girls and not only will I be able to pour into them over that short (and amazing) weekend, but I will also be given the opportunity to mentor these girls over the entire next semester.

Impact is the second largest student-run organization at Texas A&M and the counselors and staff prepare for the summer retreat starting the winter beforehand.  We meet at least once every week the entire spring semester and spend time in prayer and preparation for the incoming freshmen.  Impact is an amazing college ministry.  If you are planning to attend a state university in Texas, chances are, there is something similar to Impact available for you.  If you have questions about that, send me an email.  I'm aware of a few of these ministries and I can try to help you get connected. 

I usually attend a weekly Bible study with InterVarsity.  It's a small ministry at Texas A&M, but it's pretty diverse and spread out over several different campuses across the United States.

I attend Breakaway each week.  It's a huge Bible study every Tuesday on the Texas A&M campus with several thousand attendees.  Breakaway would have to be the highlight of my week.  It has great worship, a great speaker, and it's so encouraging to see the Body of Christ at A&M stepping out and worshiping wholeheartedly in one room.  If you're considering becoming an Aggie, I definitely encourage you to try out Breakaway... if not, they have a free podcast on iTunes for anyone to check out!  All you have to do is search "Breakaway Ministries" and subscribe to their podcast at the iTunes store. 

I also try to attend a life group at my church each week... although I don't attend that one as frequently as I should because it coincides with another Bible study I enjoy attending.  Wherever you go to church when you start college, try to connect with a small group of some sort.  The close knit fellowship can be a great way to join the Christian community at your university and keep accountable.

How do you know what major to choose? 

This is a tough one.  Whatever you do, don't rely solely on your own knowledge to choose your major.  I encourage you to visit with an academic adviser at your future university before you select your major.  They can help you out quite a bit.  Also, try to find people who currently have the career you desire and ask them what major they chose when they were in college.  

And remember: you can always switch majors.  I have once already.  The major you choose at the start of your freshman year probably won't be your major when you graduate, so don't stress out about it too much right now.  

What do you think about spending your first two years at one school and your second two years at another school?

If this would involve moving cities halfway through your college years, I personally wouldn't recommend it.  It's already tough to start out in a brand new environment freshman year without having to move somewhere else and make all new friends barely two years later.  Obviously, some people do this and if this is your plan, go for it... but I do know that I would struggle with the idea of changing locations and friend groups halfway through my college experience.

On the other hand, I know some people who are attending a community college in Aggieland for their first two years and then switching to Texas A&M after that.  In situations such as that, I don't see much of a problem, considering that you'll have the same groups of friends and probably continue to live in the same apartment or dorm.  The only thing that will change is the setting of your classes (and the prices). 

Whether or not changing schools for your junior year is a good idea depends entirely on your individual situation and preferences, but be sure to consider the consequences of having to move schools halfway through college before you make your final decision.   

What if I get horribly homesick?

I'm not going to sugarcoat anything for you... you probably will at first.  Nearly every single person I have met so far, especially the girls, have gone through a season of homesickness their first few weeks of college.  It's tough to move to a brand new city filled with people you've never met.  It's hard to leave your loved ones and everything familiar to you back home.  You're not just changing schools; you're changing churches and friend groups and homes.  It's tough.  There's no denying that.

However, remember that everyone goes through homesickness.  Your first semester will be your hardest, but with each week of college, life will get easier.  By October, you should be nearly over your homesickness.  By the end of Christmas Break, you'll probably be eager to return to college.

I encourage you to prepare yourself for the homesickness ahead of time.  Be ready to experience a roller coaster of emotions your first few weeks of college.  Know that you'll miss your family and high school friends.  Realize you'll miss your old bedroom.  Despite your homesickness, prepare yourself to not give up on having a good time at college, just because it's hard at first.

Plan ways to overcome your homesickness as best as you can.  As soon as possible, get involved in a Christian organization.  Start attending church from week one.  Put yourself outside of your comfort zone and make friends, even when you're feeling shy.  Keep yourself busy and don't let yourself dwell on how homesick you're feeling at that moment.  Keep in touch with your family.  Schedule a couple weekends to go home each semester.

If you know someone older on campus, talk to them about how you're feeling.  They'll have some advice for you because they'll have gone through the same things.

Most importantly, realize that homesickness is a season that will pass.  You'll get through this difficult time of transition and make it out even stronger and more independent than you were before.  Use this time to place your reliance on the Lord.  He will show you that when all else is gone, He is taking care of you.  He is always there for you, even when you feel alone.

Being homesick was hard for me the beginning of my freshman year, but I was able to learn so much from the experience.  One of my biggest trials in life ended up becoming one of my biggest growing experiences.  I found out a lot about myself during that time and I was ultimately able to depend on the Lord's strength to get me through.

And now, although I do miss my family and friends, homesickness isn't a struggle for me.  I feel at home in college and I feel at home when I'm home.  I have two homes now.  The transition is over. 


If you have any more questions that have not been answered, feel free to ask and I will get back to you with answers.  Because there will be a few different parts to my College Q&A Day, if you leave questions in the comments below or send me an email, they'll be answered in the next week or so.

1 comment:

  1. I've met a few people in college who have done really well in high school but came unprepared for college. For better or worse, I went to pretty tough high schools, both of which seemed more difficult than my upper division classes (I'm a third year student at UC Irvine). I wonder what it was like to enjoy high school, because I sure hated mine.

    It is really surprising to find out that so many people drink underage and have "casual sex". Honestly I find it hard to imagine that students do these things, but maybe it shouldn't be surprising anymore. People sure smoke a lot though! >_<
    There are certainly a lot of people who use foul language :( Unfortunately, I got a little accustomed to it. Sometimes I do want to tell people to use fewer curse words because it bothers me, but I don't know if that's... polite or not.

    What major did you change from? Just curious.

    Another question: What advice would you give regarding time management? Even though I'm a third year, managing my time efficiently is difficult. Did you already answer a question like this? I can't remember.

    I hope I didn't talk about myself too much... .__.