See that girl there? She’s seventeen; strong hands grip the wheel of her daddy’s Cadillac, and she’s barely out of the driveway. That’s her own never-known-another house in her window. But in the windshield, well, that’s a whole different view. You see, that picture was taken the summer I graduated homeschool high school, a scant few months before I took off for the city and college and adulthood like I’d never known it before.
These last four years have been amazing, and I wouldn’t trade (most of) my experiences for anything. I learned a lot–some even from classes.
So here’s some wisdom from four years down that road I should have been watching as this picture was taken…
Dear College Me,
1. You’re Going to Get Lost Along the Way
You’re going to map out your route and think you know exactly what you’re doing–until someone hands you a syllabus that’s 16 pages long or you take a wrong turn and find yourself behind a campus building you didn’t even know existed. This isn’t an excuse for poor planning. Keep mapping out your route (to classes each semester and for after) and telling yourself you know what you’re about. Embrace the confidence that comes with an uncertain pit in your stomach. Shaking hands don’t mean you’re not ready for that test or the next step. They mean you know the importance of preparation…and trusting God with the unexpected.
2. You’re Going to Laugh
Heads up; this will really happen. A professor will crack a joke at the front of class, impersonate the character he’s talking about, and you’re going to lose it. Then when everyone else has long since sobered, you will be head-down on your desk, trying to take in air as quietly as possible while still busting up inside. I don’t remember if it was a long day or what (remind me after you get there?), but you’ll find the whole thing so funny that you will take in this great gasping breath that will set everyone to laughing again. And then your professor will grin big at you like he didn’t even know he was amusing and off you’ll all go again. Embrace the title of the Girl Who Laughs.
3. You’re Going to Cry
Each semester, you will have two days when you can barely hold it together. You might assume I’m talking about the last two days of the semester, when Finals descend, or even the two days in the middle, when Midterms make you sick. Nope. The first two days of the semester will always be the hardest. After a great winter or summer break, you will suddenly be inundated with schedules, assignments, reading lists. Bulging binders will make your shoulders ache. How am I going to do this? will make your head ache. I give you permission right here and now to cry. It’s okay to be overwhelmed, frustrated. It truly is. By Wednesday, you’ll be down a highlighter, but your planner will be half neon and you’ll be good.
4. You’re Going to Want to Give Up
Don’t even think about it. Don’t even go there. You’ll wonder what you’re even doing this for, this whole degree mess, and you’ll consider claiming your associate’s degree and calling it quits after that. You won’t tell anyone, but you’ll seriously think about. Let me remind you of the scholarships that say someone believes in you and believes this is worth it. Let me remind you of the family who cheers you on. Let me remind you of the friends who see how busy you are and love you anyway. Let me remind you that, no, a college degree is not an end-all, you’re right about that. But you want it. You’ve always wanted it. And it’s a dream that God has blessed. So don’t give up on it.
5. You’re Going to Get Scared
Metamorphosing from a homeschool grad to a college girl in the space of a summer is sudden and sticky, and you will not excel at it. Then you will excel during your first semester and for many semesters more have a great grade point average that scares you a little because you feel like you have to keep it up. And you’ll have a part-time job that you love and you’ll feel like you have to keep it up. And you’re still made of ink and words and you’ll feel like you have to keep it up. Advice? Sink down every once in a while. Find the floor. Nestle your knees there. Give over the fear of failure, of missing out, of not measuring up and raise your empty hands. You may fear the future, but you know the One who holds it.
6. You’re Going to Break Your Binders
During your first semester, you’ll be on your way to your first class, walking that mile-long hall (you know the one?) with about a million people in it. You will trip and the book and binder in your arms will soar through the air in slow motion before your horrified eyes. About the time you ask Jesus not to let your notes knock someone out, that pretty binder you bought will hit the ground and spill your class notes and doodles all over the hallway, right in front of everyone. You will be mortified and scramble around so fast you won’t even see the one sweet soul helping you gather things until you both are finished and the hallway is clear of both your mess and everyone else. You will smile at him, he will smile back, you will not marry him, and you will buy another binder (and another and another).
7. You’re Going to Wonder if He’s Here
Newsflash: the ring-by-spring epidemic is real. You won’t see it as much at the community college, but you will be blinded by the bling during your time at the small Christian university. You will meet nice guys who love Jesus, you will meet future pastors, you will meet brothers in Christ. You will discover that there are guys out there who love God. Be encouraged. And be warned, your Prince Charming is not among them, and you’re going to be okay with that (oh, don’t believe me? That’s okay, I can hardly believe it, either). Remember: he’s out slaying dragons for you.
8. You’re Going to Get Tired
More tired than you’ve ever been in your life, actually. Waking up by an alarm will lose the luster it once had, homeschooled one. Instead it will be pure torture to reach over, stop the blaring, and get up. Do me a favor and keep exercising and stretching so that getting out of bed is easier (learn this lesson sooner than I did, please?). Realize that exhaustion is real and sleep is sweet and put down that book before it falls out of your hands. And, oh, yeah, it would be super nice if you would come to this conclusion about rest early on in the game, okay?
9. You’re Going to Make It Without Any 8 a.m. s
You think you’re a morning person now. Well, think again. The 9 a.m.s will test your tolerance so avoid the 8 a.m.s with a vengeance. Choose your classes as soon as registration opens. Buy (or rent or borrow) your books early to save money. Invest in a good binder (or two) each time you break an old one (which will be often, I’m afraid). Stock up on pencils, post-its, and those black-ink pens that are your favorite. Pass it along, too. Be generous with your friends. Lend them your books and your notes. Just be prepared to laugh with them when they discover what a doodler you are!
10. You’re Going to Make It Period.
These four years will come to a close and the ones who have stood by you the whole time will whisper that it flew by fast. Nod and smile and agree, because, in a way, it did go quickly. But revel in the roaring freedom of knowing you did it, you accomplished what you set out to do. It was a long hard road which you skipped over sometimes and sludged through at other times. But He is faithful, His Word is true, and striving to make Him your first priority (although you didn’t always succeed) was well worth it. You’ll well remember that Wednesday afternoon that you came home, dumped your books on your desk, and crawled beneath the covers with your Bible. Keep that attitude. Be His girl, not just a college girl…
Oh, and one more thing? You’re going to be just fine.