I loved teaching college students. When I was younger, I knew I was going to be a teacher. My favorite teacher was my third grade teacher, Mrs. H. Ever since then, I wanted to teach third grade. Boom. That was it. Then I got into high school, and I realized I really didn’t have a gift for being with younger children, so I decided I wanted to teach high school. Went on to college, and you guessed it. Decided I wanted to teach college students. I think I could handle teaching high school in the future, but I know I was not made for teaching the little ones. . . Yikes!
College students are great. They are still at the age where the rawness of life hasn’t fully been grasped, so they have some naiveté that is refreshing to watch. I love being around their energy. I love when they come to me with a problem, because I enjoy helping them fix it. Most of all, I love watching them succeed. I taught theater and speech, and there is nothing like watching a student grow in confidence as the semester progresses. I have had students fail their first speech and end the semester with A’s, and that is because of their drive. Their hard work. Now, there are definitely some students that fall through the cracks. They don’t believe in themselves; they don’t want to do the work. My heart always breaks for these students. But I can’t make them believe in themselves the same way I do. They have to do that on on their own.
So this is for you, college students. A little bit of advice to you all whom I love and will miss teaching:
1. Work hard from the start. Start the year right. Don’t begin doing your work half-heartedly with the hope of “catching up” in the end. It doesn’t always work that way. Avoid procrastinating, and give yourself a chance to do even better than you thought you could do. If you are a freshman, work hard this year. I don’t think I really grasped the importance of doing well academically until after my freshman year.
2. Invest in others. The coolest thing about college is that everywhere you walk on campus, you run into people you know. You will never again be in a place where you are surrounded by so many friends. That is probably the thing I actually miss about college. Facebook is awesome in that I have been able to keep up with so many college friends that I never would have otherwise, but there is nothing like being able to go to a friend’s room at night, open the door, plop on the floor, and start spilling out your heart. Don’t take that for granted. Give of your time. Enjoy the extra-curricular stuff. Get involved in activities that help you meet other people. There is something special about being a part of a community of like-minded people!
3. Really learn to communicate. Take opportunities to improve your communication. Not just communicating in front of other people, but also your interpersonal communication. If you are shy, determine that this year, you are going to work on talking with others. Take a communication class! I cannot stress the importance of communicating well for your future career and even relationships. Actually, probably most importantly relationships! My husband got a Marketing degree and now owns his own company renovating houses. He told me that being a good communicator has been vital to the success of his company. Get rid of the verbal clutter; learn some new vocabulary! You want to cultivate relationships and grow a career when you leave college? Learn to communicate well.
4. Make time for God. This may sound contradictory, but if you go to a Christian college, I believe it is very hard to make time for God. I’m sure it is hard at a public college too, but my experience is with a Christian university. You are surrounded with opportunities to reflect on God. Classes, chapels, room devotions, etc. etc. etc. I know I felt like I had met my “God quota” in one single day at the school I went to. But, I didn’t grow. You have to be intentional about your time with God.
5. Enjoy it. Life tends to get harder as the years go by. I’m not trying to be a pessimist, and I know some of you are going through situations I could never even dream of. And there is grace for every trial. But, for the most part, college really is fun. Enjoy it! Take the pressures of studying and grades and relationships, and learn and grow from them. Don’t let those pressures get you down. Keep your head up and enjoy every minute. Life flies by way too quickly. Your best friend across the hall may someday be your Facebook friend that comments on your photos once a year. Seriously.
Love deeply, give of yourself, work hard. You’ve got this. Enjoy a new year. It begins with endless possibilities. Love you, college student!
Finding joy in past students today,
A picture of my husband and me from the college days.