Dear Student Me: A Thirty-Something’s View on College

The last two months have been a blur with the wedding, honeymoon, speaking event, and travel. In addition, I also started a summer college class for my teaching re-certification, because that’s just how the timing worked out. But when is life not busy?

However, I’m making the best of the course about technology in education, which is actually quite interesting. Besides, having a student ID again has its perks. Who knew I’d be claiming student discounts at thirty-something?

In all seriousness, though, this going-back-to-school experience has shed a new perspective on college that, if I could, I’d share with my teen- and twenty-something self. Maybe you’re in college or know someone who is. If so, I hope these thoughts will be encouraging to you.

Be less of a perfectionist.

Hands down, I struggled with perfectionism in college. I remember crying on the sidewalk outside my history class because I scored an 88 on a test. I did all the bonus essays in speech class to get my grade to an A. I even volunteered to do most of the work in group projects because I didn’t trust the other members to do the work right. (They were usually very happy about this arrangement.)

While I’m proud to have graduated Summa Cum Laude, I wish I could have told my younger self to be less hard on myself. I still strongly believe in the importance of doing my best work, because the Bible says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10, NKJV)

However, no where does the Bible praise perfectionism. When I spoke with the ladies of Connersville Baptist Temple in May, we looked at Martha as an example of someone whose well-meaning expectations almost stole from her something far better. She wanted to be the perfect hostess, but that’s not what Jesus cared about. He cared about her heart. Listening to what He had to say was more important.

“… Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

Maybe we perfectionists mean well, but we miss the mark and often life’s greater blessings.

Dear student me, do your best but don’t obsess.

Prioritize better.

Even though I had a campus job and full load in college, those responsibilities hardly compare with the ones I have today. As a newly-wed student working a full-time job, I definitely have more on my plate now than I did back then. The beauty of this reality is that homework can’t get first place, and as a result, I have to prioritize better.

In college, students are discovering freedoms for perhaps the first time away from Mom and Dad. The perfectionist in me, as we already discussed, didn’t take advantage of free time like some students might, but I was perhaps just as guilty of misplaced priorities.

The Bible places a high value on how we use our time, because no one is promised tomorrow. Regardless if we live out the length of our days or find life cut short, we need to be good stewards of the time given to us.

Although there are many relevant verses on this subject, I’d like to focus on I Peter 4:7-10 today, because it provides some guidance for how we’re supposed to spend our time. I encourage you to read these verses on your own and then consider these takeaways:

  1. Pray seriously.
  2. Love fervently.
  3. Give generously.
  4. Serve specifically.

These points could be a post in themselves, but for now, let’s focus on that last one, which was a real stumbling block to me until I learned that I didn’t have to do everything to serve Jesus. Instead, we should prayerfully consider the unique gifts God has given us and His will for us in whatever season we’re in before we sign up for the next service (or class) project. For young people, time seems abundant, but that’s no reason to spend it foolishly.

Dear student me, prayerfully consider how you use your time.

Switch up your setting.

In college, I was guilty of retreating to the desk in my dorm room and hobbitting there for hours on end. There was no interaction with other people. I enjoyed the blissful quiet (because my roommates were extroverts or actually had social lives). My goal was efficiency, and I knew myself well enough to understand that I did my best work in quiet spaces.

However, I wish I had relocated my laptop to the cafe or even spent more time in the library instead of hauling the books back to my dorm room. A change of setting can be equally refreshing, and honestly, being with people wouldn’t have hurt my social life.

God never intended for us to do life solo. A very important point here is that I’m not talking about singleness or marriage. God’s will for people in this area is a completely different topic. What I mean by solo is to live in isolation of other people. After all, how can a person who’s isolating herself carry out any of these biblical commands?

  • “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)
  • “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
  • “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

These verses just scratch the surface and hold more life application than one post can discuss, but I hope you see the point that we’re meant to do life with people.

Today while I tackle homework, I try to be more intentional about unplugging my laptop and camping out on the couch next to my husband. We might both be working on our laptops, but we’re doing so together.

Dear student me, don’t be a hobbit.

Wherever you are in life, whether college or otherwise, may these thoughts encourage you to be your best self in your season and steward your opportunities and time well.

Kristen

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