An open letter to my college age son (and to any future siblings who also follow this path)
I am excited for you as you enter college. I wanted to send you off with a bit of advice. Contrary to public opinion, I am still older and wiser (in fact will always remain the first if not the second) than you. I have also walked this road before you, and observed the college years of others. So here is my advice to you...
Keep in touch with us at home. I don't expect weekly letters; I'm old enough to know what they are but in tune with the times enough to know that no one under the age of 30 knows how to write or address one. I do, however, expect texts, emails, and/or Facebook messages. Skype and phone calls should also be utilized, but are not expected as often as the former. We want to know what's going on and also how we can pray more specifically for you.
Set aside time for devotions, Bible reading and prayer everyday. If you don't start in the beginning, it'll be harder to do this later. If you don't do this at all, you will know. I am thankful that you are on a Christian campus and believe the freshman theme of "anchored" is an excellent one. You won't be anchored for long if you don't have personal time with God on a daily basis.
Utilize a prayer team. If you don't already have a prayer team, make one. Include Christians, a mix of peers, mentors, and "grandfathers" in the church (real grandfathers are good, too). Update them on a regular basis. Let them carry you when you need support, and encourage you in life's ups and downs.
Find a church. Take your time. Visit many. As long as they speak the truth of the gospel, explore them all, big, small, traditional, contemporary, fancy, plain, church building, store front, whatever. Now is the time to choose a church for yourself rather than just embracing the one Mom and Dad have taken you to for years (although I'm glad you've enjoyed that one, too).
Get involved in a church. Again, take your time. Part of your church search should involve asking yourself how you could be involved. Involvement might mean finding a church with a thriving college ministry, a community just for you and your kind. That is fine. Involvement may mean playing on a worship team or serving in youth ministry. That is fine as well. Getting involved will give you a reason to get up and go, even when you don't feel like it. It will also help to build a community that will care if you are not there and will keep you accountable.
Get involved on campus. It will be necessary to find the right balance of involvement. Too little, and you will find yourself having a hard time meeting people, and you may be bored and complaining that there's nothing to do. Too much, and you'll not only be stressed, but your grades will suffer. Explore your options and find the areas in which you will thrive and be refreshed. Find the activities that will give you a break from the rigors of academia. You might need to find your own fun and create your own groups. Go ahead. Why not?
Get a job. I'm not talking fulltime work here but you and I both know that aside from scholarships and that which has been saved, you'll be paying for much of your college tuition. A campus job is nice for convenience but not the best paying and maybe not your first choice of work. Off campus has its own list of pros and cons. You need to search for the best option for you.
Wait to date. Don't worry, this isn't forever, just for a time. A year would be nice, but at minimum, wait a month. Make sure you didn't go to college for the wrong reasons. If you find someone before time is up and she's the one, she'll still be around at the end of the year (or month, or whatever). I'm not against dating per se, I just want you to be certain you're in college for the right reason and that you will be dating for the right reason. I've read Hooking Up; I know what current young adult culture dictates. You know God's plan for marriage and how dating should look. The desire for a marriage partner should not supersede God's plan for your life. Follow through on all of the advice prior to this one, and you'll know if it's the right time or not.
Eat healthy. I won't be there to make you eat your veggies; you'll have to make your own food choices. If the Freshman 15 is what we feared "back in the day," I can't imagine what the average weight gain is these days. I look at college cafeterias today and am thankful my college years are behind me. If I had that many options, I don't know that I'd be choosing the healthy ones on a regular basis. You can splurge and enjoy cakes and cookies and ice creams every now and then but think balance and health always.
Sleep! This one was added by a doctor friend although he said it a bit more diplomatically and thoroughly, "Try to approximate some healthy sleep habits. Chronic sleep deprivation or extremely erratic sleep patterns take a toll physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. I know the college norm is often all-night'ers, and trying to do everything you can in a 24 hour day except sleep, but your total college experience will be so much better if you take care of yourself and get adequate rest." Well said.
Keep in mind that this list is subject to modification at any time. Stay tuned for updates. Assume that it will be longer and more specific for subsequent children; as I get older and wiser and have the life experience to identify bigger and better words of college advice.