You are about to enter an unparalleled season of opportunity. The decisions you make during your university years have the power to set the course for the rest of your life. Call it the domino effect. One decision leads to another. Patterns and habits made in university tend to stick. Here we focus on five decisions you will face and give some tips to help you navigate them.
1. How are you going to make Jesus the priority?
University assumes increasing independence and responsibility. You will probably have more options and power to choose your program, courses and schedule. You may even have to cook, clean, budget, and pay your own bills for the first time. Unlike high school, no one will be holding your hand or monitoring you as closely. You have to rely on internal motivation to get to lectures on time, make the grades, or hunt down the professors for help.
Of first importance, you will have to decide the priority of your relationship to Jesus. Will you prioritize time to pray and get God’s word into your heart and mind through Personal/Group Bible study and church? To be certain, there will be many lesser priorities shouting for your attention. No one will be forcing you to grow your walk with God, yet Jesus warns that the cares of this world and the worries of life can choke out our growth in God.
2. How will you make faith your own?
Are you a Christian mainly because of your family or church culture? Do you struggle with doubt? These may become magnified during your university years. There will be some students and professors who are disillusioned with, mock or oppose your Christian beliefs. Others may ask you questions that you don’t have answers to.
You don’t need to be afraid of your own doubts and questions, but don’t ignore them either. Be sure to seek out answers. University is a great place to find other Christians who can help you on your journey and provide you with the insight and tools to thrive – not just survive – as a Christian.
3. How much time will you devote to your studies?
For certain, there are a lot of smart people at university – many who are smarter than you. In many courses, you may be bombarded with more work than you can handle. You may feel the pressure of bombing a test or assignment, feeling like it may be career limiting. You may feel panic when you hear the dropout rate for your program. Excelling at university can easily consume all of your time, focus and energy.
Yet as a Christian it would be wise to ask yourself “Is academic success my only reason for being at university?” You’ll have to decide if you will allow the sheer volume of work to dominate your life. What makes it challenging is that you’ve worked hard to get into university and you don’t want to mess up now. However, it is wise to keep in mind, if you build a habit of allowing work to dominate your life during university, it’s likely to continue to do so when you get into the workplace.
4. How distracted will you get by opportunities?
There are so many opportunities for your involvement in university culture. There are clubs, sports programs, pub crawls, debates and social events galore. Add to this the existing distractions of social media – connecting with your old friends and adding new ones – you get the sense that there are more opportunities than you can fit into your schedule.
So how do you decide the best use of your time? Start by asking God what his priorities for you are. What kinds of friendships and support will you need to succeed as a Christian on campus? What opportunities will only be available to you during your university years? Which ones will help you to gain unique experience and perspective? Which ones will help you to build on your faith?
5. Who will you hang with?
Whether your university is in your hometown or far away, you could potentially feel very alone and disconnected on a big, unfamiliar campus. You will naturally gravitate to people in your classes, work groups and labs. Your new relationships will shape you. You will influence those you meet and work with. But each relationship has the potential to bring you closer to God or push you further away.
To grow your faith in God on a secular campus, you’ll need a strong Christian community for support, encouragement and challenge. I encourage you to take initiative to seek out churches and Christian clubs on your campus that will help you grow your faith in Jesus.
Decisions, decisions, decisions…
These aren’t just decisions for university students; they’re life decisions. Your maturity and overall health will depend on your responses. The decisions you make are setting the tone for your life.