Dear College Student:
College is one of the most exciting times in a person’s life. It is a time when everything that you have known changes — your schedule, your friends, your way of seeing yourself and others. Change is good, it strengthens us to face challenges and helps us to become better people. But it can feel unfamiliar and painful.
I am going to share with you three pieces of advice that I wish had been shared with me when I first went to college.
- My first piece of advice is a simple one. Don’t be late for your first class!
Nobody wants to be the one person who is late for their first class in college. No one wants to walk into a room full of strangers whose eyes move to the girl in the navy blazer making her way nervously across the lecture hall. That girl was me. I was late for my first day of college! My parents had insisted on driving me up to Dublin and traffic was delayed because of a car accident.
Flustered and irritated after bickering with my parents about leaving earlier, I was not in the best frame of mind to begin my new life as a college student. Even though I was 20 minutes late, my mother insisted on walking with me through the door of college right up to my lecture hall. Cringing and slightly embarrassed by this, I rushed to get in to begin this new life and close the door on my old one. This brings me to my second piece of advice.
- Take the time to be present to your parents and family to thank them for all of their sacrifices for your college dream.
I barely remember what my mother said to me that morning as she kissed me and hugged me goodbye as I rushed into the hall to begin my philosophy class. If I had slowed that time down, I would have seen in my mother’s face all of the hopes and dreams she carried for my life. I would have seen her tears as she held me and told me to “work hard and do my best.”
I would have seen how she was struggling to say goodbye to her eldest child and how proud she was of me. But I was so focused on what was ahead of me that I failed to see the gift that was standing in front of me in my mother’s love. Please realize that this is a hard time for your family and take every moment that you can to spend quality time with those you love. It is hard for them, too.
- My third piece of advice is to hold on to your faith.
During this time of change, your Catholic faith is one that will ground you through this transition. As you grow as an individual, your faith will grow with you. Don’t abandon your roots as a Catholic as you stretch and reach for the stars. Following the path of Jesus Christ and his body, the Catholic Church, is a path that will never lead you astray.
Take time for prayer, connect with friends through your Newman Center or campus ministry program and continue to go to Mass. When we make a mistake, we believe that we are unlovable and that our mistake is unfixable. Please know that there is nothing that God cannot forgive us for if we approach him with a sorrowful heart. When you make a mistake (and you invariably will), don’t forget that the loving arms of Jesus are always open to you in the sacrament of reconciliation.
To those who are beginning college for the first time and those who are continuing their college journey, I wish you love, laughter and much joy.
Stanz is director of the diocesan Department of New Evangelization and co-author of “The Catechist’s Backpack.”