Monday, February 24, 2014

10 Tips for Surviving College

Day 6: A piece of advice you have for others

I am young and have not accumulated much wisdom yet, but as summer draws nearer, I've been watching the tours of wide-eyed and slightly terrified high school seniors wander through my college campus.

Today I would like to list 10 things I wish a tenured college student had told me as I began school August of my freshman year. 

1.) Don't worry about what you look like when you go to class. 
If you have an early morning class, don't be afraid to wake up 10 minutes before you need to leave, throw on jeans and a t-shirt, and brush your teeth.  You can straighten up during the reasonable hours of daytime after you get back from class.  (On the other hand, wearing house shoes and pajamas is usually frowned upon.)

2.) As a freshman, get involved, but pick one or two organizations at the most.
Getting involved and finding community is very important for your college life.  Being in a club helps you to find a regular group of friends, and it can also serve as a distraction from homesickness.  However, a mistake that is easy to make is getting over-involved.  When I was a freshman in college, I joined so many Bible studies and clubs that I was spending time with a different group of people six nights each week.  I was distracted from my homesickness, but my grades reflected my schedule and it took me longer to make close friends.  When you hang out with someone new every single day, you are not putting quality time and effort into the relationships that will last long-term.

3.) Balance out your study time.  
This can be difficult, especially when you are over-involved.  There will sometimes be three or four weeks in between tests in a class, but don't use that time to procrastinate too much, because in a week, you may have four or five tests.  Cramming for four tests at once is pretty much impossible and one of the most stressful college experiences you can create for yourself.  Try to keep up with your reading.

4.) You'll be less tired if you get up early enough to start class on time.
This sounds like it doesn't make sense, but trust me on this one.  When I have an early morning class, I tend to press the snooze button over and over again until I'm running late.  It's not worth it.  The stress of gathering your things (and forgetting the right notebooks in the process), missing the bus, and rushing across campus is exhausting.  Make sure you get up within enough time to make it to class even 3 minutes before it starts.  You will start out your day feeling a lot less overwhelmed, scatterbrained, and worn out from stressing out about being late.

5.) Don't look for a church exactly like your home church. It does not exist.
If there is one issue I keep hearing from college freshmen, it is: "I just can't find a church that I like.  I absolutely loved my youth group and pastor at my old church.  No church here can compare."  Never church-hunt with that mindset.  No church will have the same exact feel as your old church, especially when you're already feeling homesick.  College is a new experience.

Look for a church that aligns with your beliefs, has a welcoming environment, and will provide community where you can grow and serve.  Determination to find a church exactly like your home church will only leave you feeling over-critical, disappointed, and it may even lead you away from finding a college church altogether. 

6.) It is both possible and wise to avoid all-nighters.
All-nighters are never worth it.  Staying up all night studying will only make your mind feel mushy and tired the next morning when you actually have to concentrate on your exam.  Study in advance and make sure you get at least a few hours of sleep before your tests. 

7.) Learn how to use a planner.
A planner has been my life-saver in college.  Transfer all of your syllabi into your planner right before your semester begins.  I have friends who keep five different syllabi in their backpacks, and I have friends who have a simple planner that tells them when everything is due.  Not only do I keep track of my tests, projects, and appointments in my planner, but I also keep track of where in my textbooks I should be reading that week.

8.) Missing meals is not worth it.
I do this all the time and I always regret it.  Whoever plans classes never think about mealtimes.  I always seem to have class directly during lunchtime or way too early for me to feel hungry for breakfast.  But whatever you do, eat something small before class or you'll find yourself nodding off during lecture.

9.) Don't skip class. 
A lot of people do it.  A lot of professors are horribly boring and give long and dreary lectures.  But if you skip class, you will almost certainly suffer for it.

10.) Find study friends that will encourage you to work hard more than they will distract you from studying.
Study dates and parties are always happening.  However, don't mistake social studying for actual studying.  Productivity rarely happens during these times.  If you're with a group of friends, about 30% of your attention is going to be on what you're studying.  If you really hate studying alone, I encourage you to find a friend who will sit quietly with you and talk only for those few minutes that you need a brief lapse from concentration.

If you're currently in college or you're a graduate, what advice would you give to incoming college students?  If you're in high school, what concerns do you have about starting college?

One year ago: Bigger
Two years ago: What I leave behind and Five Inches

Friday, February 21, 2014

Grace Unimaginable.

Anonymous: So, the Prodigal Son, I get the story and its meaning, but what would happen if the son ran away again once he'd been welcomed back? I've had my prodigal son experience, but I've mucked up and run away again... more than once. Will God still want me back, or have I used up all the grace and all my chances? And how would I go about approaching God again? I don't think he'll be very happy if I do, but I so desperately wish I knew how to maintain a relationship with him :(

First of all, let me tell you without hesitation that you are desired and cherished by your Creator, no matter what you’ve done or how far you have run.

As I read this, I can’t help but see my own thoughts from several years ago at a time when I was feeling completely forsaken and drenched in the consequences of my own mistakes and shame.

An earthly father might not give third and fourth and fifth chances, but this Father isn’t bound by our limitations.  He is the Creator of grace and mercy.  There is a reason He sent His Son for us, and it certainly wasn’t to give conditional love.  Isaiah 30:18 says, “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.”  And a few chapters later, in 43:25, He says, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”
One of my favorite songs goes like this: “I could run away, but You would never leave. You would always stay right by my side.”

I have run from God.  I have returned wondering if there was any way His forgiveness could reach as far as I had fallen, but it does.

The good news about God’s love is beautifully simple.

God is holy and righteous and just. We’re all sinners and separated from God because of our mistakes and the brokenness of our hearts. (Romans 3:23)

Despite everything we are, we are loved endlessly by God. (Ephesians 2:3-5; Lamentations 3:22)

Because of His great love for us, God sent His only Son Jesus to die and take the place for our sins, to provide atonement. (Romans 3:24-25, John 3:16)

If you have faith, He will save you by His grace. (Acts 16:31, Romans 10:9, Titus 3:4-7, Ephesians 2:8-9)
Repentance and desire to know the Lord shines so clearly in your words.  He knows your heart and His grace extends beyond all borders.  Do not be afraid to approach Him.  He desires for you to seek Him!  And He loves you so, so much.  His love is bigger than the worst mistake you have ever made.

Deuteronomy 4:29-31 says, “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.  When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the Lord your God and obey Him.  For the Lord your God is a merciful God; He will not abandon or destroy you.”

I don’t know how to articulate enough how much the Lord desires to have a relationship with you.  You don’t have to enter His presence perfect or with your life all together.  Come to Him as you are, in humility and in tears and in rags.  He desires to be with you, just as you are, and He looks at you with love.

"I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’  I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’" -Hosea 2:23

You have not used up all the grace that is offered.  You are so very loved.  God wants you back, and like the Father in the story of the Prodigal Son, He welcomes you back with open arms.

"And I pray that you... may have power... to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." -Ephesians 3:17-19

I was asked this question via my ask box on tumblr.

Two years ago: Where two or three gather and Oh, Happy Day!
Three years ago: I don't have enough thumbs for this.