Back To School, Part One

It’s Tuesday, August 4th, and I’m pretty confident to think that in some way, shape, or form, most or even all of you faithful readers are preparing for school. Whether you’re a parent, getting read to send your precious babies back to school/away to school/to school for the first time, or you’re a student, preparing for the new year at your school as the big man/woman on campus or the little fish in the big pond at your new school, this time of year is all sorts of exciting and nerve-racking.

And as long as school is in your life, there will inevitably be challenges and hardship that are in your near future. So, humor me for a few moments as I hope to try and give you some advice to bypass these speed bumps, or even roadblocks.

I feel like I have this whole school thing down pat. I’m coming up on my 18th year of being a student in the education system, so I have a little bit of experience. Most of students from the past few years weren’t even born when I started school, which makes me feel old. But, over the past 17 years, I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks about how to conquer the struggles of schooling.

I didn’t do things the right way by any means. In fact, most of what I know has come from making loads of mistakes. Chris Sonksen, a Next Level Church staff friend and pastor of South Hills Church in California, always told us, “Amateurs learn by making mistakes, professionals learn by coaching.” So, welcome to a condensed and free coaching session from yours truly.

Here we go. I’ll make this easy and divide these tips into For High Schoolers and For College Students.

For High Schoolers
There are so many different things that I know now that I wish I knew in high school. I breezed by in all my classes and graduated with a 3.69, so academics were never a problem for me. However, my social life and my attitude did me in for a world of problems. I was a lukewarm Christian, I had a terrible relationship with my mom, and I cared way too much about what others thought. Bottom line, I was an idiot.

1. You’re still cool even if you don’t follow the crowd. Conforming to the societal standards has been a mainstay within the walls of secondary education. Hear me loud and clear on this one, peer pressure really isn’t all that fun. Seriously, don’t do something simply because other people want you to do it. Be your own person. Do the things you want to do, within reason of course. If peer pressure means you choosing between being cool and staying out of trouble, ALWAYS choose staying out of trouble.

2. Your parents actually know what they’re talking about. I know, I know, parents aren’t cool when you’re in high school. You never want to associate yourself with them unless there’s money or food involved. And you want to be as far away from them when they start trying to teach you lessons. Do whatever you can to resist this urge. Fun fact: your parents were once your age. Radical, I know. They’ve lived enough life to be credible sources for advice.

3. Jesus is just as important during the school year as He was during the summer. In the church world, we all know about the “camp high”: your student ministry goes to a camp with other churches or alone and you have a special encounter with God, sustaining your commitment to Jesus throughout the summer, but the commitment level diminishes and dies off. Why is it that this happens? Usually because there’s nothing to preoccupy our time in the summer, as opposed to there not being enough hours in the day during the school year. Don’t let the fire that was set ablaze within your soul be squelched by busyness. Your time with Jesus is THE most important time of your day. You have no excuse not to open the Bible app on your phone and spend 5 minutes in a plan; the bus ride is longer than that amount of time.

For College Students
By the time I went away to Liberty (for the first time), I had learned quite a bit about who I was as a person, I had a long-term relationship under my belt, and I had a sense of what direction in which I wanted to point my life. But, I was far from having learned the most important things that I had to find out the hard way. I moved home and transferred to Liberty’s online program for a girl that ended the relationship shortly thereafter, I missed out on some of the most exciting years of college experience, and I passed up meeting tons of new friends and networking. Don’t get me wrong, I loved gaining the ministry experience and moving to Georgia, but I regret missing out on so much fun.

This may be reminiscent of my To Graduating Seniors post I wrote awhile ago. It won’t be identical, but it will be similar.

1. Don’t go to college with a significant other. If you’re in a relationship as a senior in high school, and your boyfriend or girlfriend is going to a different college, or has different plans than you do for the next four years, then listen really close. Take a clean break. At least for until fall exams are over. Don’t communicate regularly, don’t go out of your way to see him/her, and don’t pass up opportunities that you may have on campus to see him/her. Have zero expectations for whether or not you’ll resume the relationship at Christmastime. Use your first semester at college to meet new people, focus on studying, and be present on your college campus. I spent every other weekend (for the most part) of my entire freshman year traveling back and forth between Lynchburg and Hampton to see my girlfriend. I met maybe 30 new people, as opposed to the countless amount of people from all around the world that are at Liberty. I was consumed with my relationship and didn’t get involved here.

2. Do ALL the assigned reading. Trust me, you’ll thank me later once you’ve come to the end of the semester and understand what was on the exam. Usually, your professor literally wrote the book on the subject he or she is teaching. No, seriously, your textbook was written by him or her. So do yourself a favor and actually read the textbooks; they’re actually sometimes pretty interesting.

3. Get plugged into on-campus organizations that suit your interests. Almost every college has a list of organizations on their website somewhere. This is where you can meet some of your closest friends, your worst enemies, or maybe even your future spouse, among other people. Your friend group can instantly expand over the course of maybe 30 minutes or so, depending on how long the first meeting is. If you’re at a non-religious college and you’re a Christian, then I believe that it’s imperative that the first thing you do is figure out when the Christian organizations (like Cru, Intervarsity, BSM/BCM, RUF, etc.) meet and try each of them out at least once. If you’re at a place like LibertyU or Regent, then take full advantage of chapel/convocation or campus church.

 

I’m not an expert, by any means, on how to survive school, but I really hope these help you out. If you’re a parent of a student in these two categories, I want you to come back tomorrow. I’ll have something just for you.

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