Written by Emily Shirley

Before leaving for college, I received several pieces of advice from family and friends concerning how to make the most of my college experience. Some of this advice was helpful, some was obvious, and some was simply terrible. One of my bosses at work counseled me, “If you are going to go to college, make sure that you get all As the first year so you can party the rest of the years without your GPA dropping too low.”

Regardless of how much advice you receive prior to packing your bags and moving in to your dorm, nothing can fully prepare you for college. I would contend that the most effective way to prepare for college is to recognize the freedoms you will have and decide how to exercise them wisely.

Being a student at a Christian college means many things, but the most important of these things is freedom. To begin, church attendance and other religious practices are now a choice the student will have to make for him or herself. It is important to understand that being a student at a Christian college is not equivalent to being a Christian college student. Each Christian student must consciously decide to live for Christ and act accordingly. There are also responsibilities that all college students have, whether Christian or not, such as time management, self-government, and dedication to schoolwork. College is a time of choices, and these choices greatly influence the rest of your life.

Students must also decide if they wish to be an active participant or a passive recipient in their education. Some classes are easier than others, and there are always shortcuts that can be taken. But what we are sacrificing by giving less than our best? If these shortcuts are adopted, learning simply becomes a checklist and will provide little enjoyment or enrichment, making the college experience quite miserable. However, if students take advantage of the opportunities available to them—even when it means working a little more—they will find that there is true joy in learning and growing.

Above all, I encourage students to recognize that being a student is not an obligation; it is a gift. Not all have the opportunity to attend college; it then follows that those who do should recognize the blessings of higher education and take advantage of them. Undoubtedly, some will argue that this is unrealistic; it sounds nice in an article but will not change a student’s mentality towards college. To this I would respond that we must strive for excellence; we must set our bar high; we must aim for ideals. As Charles Dickens says in David Copperfield, “My meaning simply is, that whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely; that in great aims and in small, I have always been thoroughly in earnest.” While we may fall short of our goals in some respects, earnest effort is never wasted; it develops students academically, spiritually, and intellectually.