Learning to Thrive at College

College should be a temporary season of academic preparation and personal growth to propel a lifetime of effective service to God and neighbor. It should be a launching pad into all that goes with responsible Christian adulthood. Yet for some, it’s a time when they abandon the Christian faith, displaying that they never really belonged to Christ (1 John 2:19). For others, their faith remains intact, but they waste their college lives with video games, partying, and other frivolities—an expensive vacation funded by Mom, Dad, and debilitating student loans.

Today, seven out of ten high school graduates immediately go on to college, but about 30% will never become sophomores, and about 50% will not have graduated even six years later.1 Many who do graduate move right back home with their parents, assuming little responsibility and armed with little ambition for Christ.

Thrive at College

I’m convinced that you should not just survive college but thrive at college. Don’t just maintain your faith, but really come to own it — growing thick, strong roots (1 Timothy 4:12). Don’t just squeak by classes with as little effort as possible, but strive to discover your calling — what God uniquely wired you to do — and to love God with all your mind by giving it your very best (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

Socially, college is a season for making life-long friendships — not just the kind you have a great time with (good as that is) but the kind that spur you on to love, trust, and follow God. Pursue relationships that help you put away childishness, grow in maturity, increasingly make wise choices, and “expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.” And who knows? Maybe one of these friends will become a fabulous husband or wife.

College is a time for assuming responsibility, for becoming a disciplined steward of time and money, for recognizing that recreation is a gift of God to be enjoyed in measure but never to dominate our lives. Rather, when properly pursued, recreation empowers us for our work rather than distracting us from our work.

As a student, remember that your work is learning (studying) so that you can, for a lifetime, increasingly love God with a well-trained mind, a mind that can identify key questions, pursue understanding, dissect arguments, discover logical fallacies, and communicate effectively.

Be Trained to Make a Difference

College is an opportunity to get the training you need to make a difference in the world — by becoming a business person, an engineer, a doctor, a teacher, a historian, a physical therapist, a husband, a wife, a parent, who sees God’s lordship extending to every area of life and every corner of the globe.

It’s a time to take the gifts God has given you and develop them into finely-tuned skills — the kind that can really serve and benefit other people (some of whom may even pay you). It’s a time to become a man or woman with unshakable character and faithfulness — the kind that can be given increasing areas of responsibility, and who can eventually rise to leadership. It’s a time to honor all that your parents did for you by learning to own your decisions, even your mistakes, as you embrace a full-orbed, God-dependent adulthood.

Alex Chediak is an associate professor of engineering and physics at California Baptist University and the author of Thriving at College: Make Great Friends, Keep Your Faith, and Get Ready for the Real World! (Tyndale House Publishers, April 2011). Learn more about Alex on his site, and follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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1"College Enrollment and Work Activity of 2010 High School Graduates," United States Department of Labor, April 8, 2011. Mike Bowler, "Dropouts Loom Large for Schools," U.S. News and World Report, August 19, 2009.

Alex Chediak (@chediak) is a professor of engineering and physics at California Baptist University and the author of Preparing Your Teens For College (Tyndale House, 2014) and Thriving at College (Tyndale House, 2011). Learn more about Alex’s work at his site.