In July, I had the amazing privilege of speaking at Lipscomb University, my alma mater. (My return to school is pictured above)

Being on campus again stirred up a lot of old memories.

Thirty-five years ago, I came there as a freshman, excited and nervous, having no idea what the future held.

Adjusting to college life was pretty challenging for me. Everything was so new. At first, I battled the anxiety of trying to fit in. Later on, I struggled with career decisions, tough classes and difficult relationships.

But even though I had my share of heartaches and struggles, I grew to love it. College ended up being a great experience, teaching me far more about life than it taught me about my major.

Maybe you are facing college for the first time, right now. My prayers are with you and with your parents.

Some will transition easily and some (who are like me) may struggle a bit.

If only I had known then, what I know now, adjusting to college would have been so much easier. The following list is what I wish I’d known when I went to college.

10 Things College Freshmen Need to Know:

1. You need God. There is an empty space in your heart that only He can fill. Don’t try to fill it with activities. Substances. Achievements. Significant others. Make time for the Lord. Read His word. Pray. Worship. Feed your soul every day. (My book, Seeking a Familiar Face, can help you)

2. Don’t live by default—discover who you truly are. These are foundational years; don’t live them by default, merely reacting to what’s going on around you. Define who you are, what you believe and who you want to become. Be specific. Write your life statement down in a journal and date it. Pray over it and try to live by it.

3. Don’t aim for perfection, aim for progress. You will make mistakes. Forgive yourself and move on. If you fall, get up again. Accept God’s forgiveness, knowing He still loves you, mistakes and all (Rom. 8:34-38). Surround yourself with like-minded people who won’t drag you into making further mistakes.

4. Look for a few true friends instead of striving for mass popularity. Be friendly to everyone, but be sure to reach out to people who have similar beliefs, dreams and goals. Friends affect you greatly, so choose wisely (Proverbs 22:24-25). If someone does not respond to your friendship, accept it and move on to someone else.

5. Become the kind of friend you need to have. Instead of trying to get friends to meet your needs, try to meet theirs. Be thoughtful. Trustworthy. Quick to forgive. Accept and enjoy friends just as they are, not as you wish they would be. (For more tips on friendship, click here)

6. Be yourself, but also be open to growth and change. Ask yourself, What is it like to be around me? Am I annoying? Self-centered? Rude? If so, then stop it. I made myself stop chomping on ice, even though I kind of enjoy it, because it’s annoying and I want people to enjoy my company. Be painfully honest with yourself. Ask God to show you what you need to change and work to change it. Let Him help you become a better you.

7. Failure can make you stronger. You may fail a class or two, but don’t give up. I failed quantitative methods. It was my first and only college failure. I was devastated, but thankfully, failure fueled me on to make a B in quant. the next semester. I felt empowered. Failure doesn’t have to be a terrible thing. Even though it hurts, failure can teach you far more than success can.

8. Make the most of your college years. You only have the college experience once, so make the most of it. Become a zealous learner. Be willing to try new things and to take some risks. I regret not studying abroad. I was too scared to go to a foreign country without my friends or family. What a shame—I would have loved it. And I probably won’t ever have the opportunity to live in a foreign country again.

9. Protect yourself. Have the courage to get up and walk away from a bad relationship. Consider the long-term effect of your behavior. Being mature is being able to choose what you want in the future over what you want right now. It’s time to mature. Don’t wait until you have made a lot of mistakes. Protect your body. Protect you heart. No one else will.

10. You can do it! Believe in God. Believe in yourself. Disbelief only drags you down. I know. For years, I lacked self-confidence. I had big dreams, but was too afraid to go after them. Finally, I learned that pursuing dreams requires faith. That was my problem—a weak faith. I had to believe in God’s power, first. You and I can do great things, not because we’re great, but because we have a great God. Draw closer to the Lord first, and then, swing for the fence!

Please share this post with a college student you love!

This week, I’m offering this list + 10 additional things college kids need to know as a FREE download. Includes verses for college. Click here to download “20 Things College Students Need to Know.”



Pin this list to a bulletin board or place it in  a Bible or journal.