I recently finished my first year of college after a lifetime of homeschooling. Some might think that because it was a small Bible college and I still lived at home it wasn’t too different, but it definitely was. I’m a little shy, I live 45 minutes away from campus, I wasn’t used to homework, and I was honestly pretty mad at the college for a few experiences I’d had with it before the semester began, so there were a few things I needed to work through; Jesus had to calm me down and remind me to look around me instead of behind me. I finished the year absolutely loving it.
But I’ve realized my circumstances were slightly unique. I was 100% homeschooled, living at home, going to Bible college, and there are not hoards of people who can claim all three. Actually, I’d say by themselves none of them are the norm! Consequently, advice specific enough to fit me was a little hard to come by. That’s why I would love to share some of the things I’ve learned this year with anyone who fits any of the unique circumstances I had! I’m not at all an expert, but I learned some valuable things I wish I’d known beforehand. I’ll separate this into sections so you can look for yourself in it, but I’d say you could probably benefit from bits and pieces of every area even if you fit none of them. Here we go!
- Check up with the financial aid department at the school before the summer gets rolling. Mine still needed a few papers from me!
- Used books on Amazon are your friends. The condition doesn’t have to be great as long as it has everything it’s supposed to have. Also, keep a list that includes what you paid. You might be able to get tax credit!
- Get a daily planner and write in the due dates of all your assignments right when you get your syllabi. This will feel slightly overwhelming and pointless, but I promise, it is so useful! I could overlook my week and figure out when the best time was to tackle an assignment; if I had barely any homework due on Monday but quite a bit on Wednesday, I would know to do some of Wednesday’s over the weekend. It’s such a handy checklist! Keep it in your backpack and write in specific details or changes when your professor brings them up. [I stole this entire idea from my writing professor, shh!]
- Ask questions and don’t feel dumb about it. Everyone secretly wants to, and in the beginning you honestly have to. No one is going to check up on you or remind you of things anymore, but no one is going to think less of you for trying to understand something, either. Just make sure you don’t do what this guy did, haha!
- Don’t underestimate the value of making flashcards! I relied heavily on them for my biology class and would not have done as well without them. Little drawings helped my visual brain, too.
- Try doing as much of your homework as you can on paper. Computers are blessings, but they also make it incredibly easy to get distracted.
- If you keep getting distracted even while doing your homework on paper, make the things that are distracting you rewards. I like to start the day with a list that alternates homework with something fun. For example: “1) Do the reading for Literature. 2) Watch Sam and Nia‘s latest vlog. 3) Mark observations in the passage for Introductory Bible Study. 4) Paint.”
Bible College Kids:
- Check to see if your school puts on an early registration event. Not only will you know your classes (and books!) early, but it’s an excellent way to become familiar with a few of your classmates before the school year even begins.
- Don’t associate annoying or hurtful situations with the school itself. I faced rejection from the creative arts program and from work-study, and it was so discouraging, but I allowed it to make me bitter against the school. You have to remember that the faculty and staff are human beings; the college system itself may not care about you as a person, but your teachers and leaders do. Don’t let feeling like a victim ruin all the good things God has for you there.
- Be kind and genuine with staff members. It’s awkward to ask for simple information like the open hours of the school store, let alone serious things like the policy for excused absences. But if you have one or two people who work at the school that you actually have some sort of relationship with, it’s a lot easier and more effective. Most Christian colleges want a family atmosphere and don’t scoff at the idea student-faculty friendships, and professors actually want to get to know their students. In my case, one even invited the class to her house for a game night, and it was such a blast!
- Being at a Christian college does not mean all of your classmates will act like Christians. But in my experience, many of the people who fall under that description won’t come back after Christmas break. However– no matter what, you need to be kind and not look down on anyone.
- You’re going to learn so many things that will both grow and test you in your walk with Jesus. Just remember what the Bible tells us to do: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1). The fact that your professors have PhD’s doesn’t mean they’ll never be mistaken. Be respectful, but hold to what you know is true.
- Adding to that: be honest. If you disagree with something your professor says and they are a humble person, you can go to them after class and ask for clarification. Bible college professors should be open to questions and discussions, and if you present your perspective kindly and humbly (and with the motive of understanding, not displaying your knowledge) they should happy to listen. Unfortunately, not every professor will be this way, but in my experience phrasing my disagreement as a gentle and genuinely curious question makes a lot of ground.
- If you’re working on a project you’re deeply passionate about but you’ve reached a standstill, ask for prayer support. The enemy might not like what you’re discovering, and you need to keep discovering it!
- Make sure you don’t act like you’re an especially wise Christian simply because you’re a Bible college student. Yes, you have things to share and you should share them, but do so with the amount of excitement that you had when you received them. Christians can be incredibly wise, if they have a ministry degree or if they never set foot on a Bible college campus.
- Set aside time to spend intentionally with Jesus, even if your homework involves Bible reading. It’s just not the same.
- If you don’t have your driver’s license, go get it right now. This is not advice, this is a command from the girl who didn’t get it until her second semester of college. You should be able to spend your spare moments doing your homework, investing in people, and sleeping– not practicing your driving. Plus, it’s all kinds of not fun.
- If you still need tuition money, start looking for a job before school starts. Work study is great, but there’s not a guarantee that you will get it; I found out two days into the school year that I wasn’t accepted for work study, and suddenly I was looking for a few thousand dollars more than I’d thought I needed.
- Sometimes, it will feel weird that you’ve made such a life change yet are living in the same place. And that is okay. Just make sure you still intentionally enjoy your family when you can, even if it means being in the room with them as you do homework. Things in your life have changed, but your close relationships with your parents/siblings/whoever don’t have to. Remember that this is a whole new experience for you, but they might not be experiencing feelings of overwhelming change like you are.
- Go to school events. Yes, gas prices are a thing, but this is one of the best ways to build friendships! Interacting with people in a fun atmosphere is much different than sitting next to them in class. Don’t let your commute be an excuse to succumb to your fears.
- For some reason, packing lunch is embarrassing. But half the time, people are actually envious of you because they’re stuck with cafeteria food or McDonalds as you eat a homemade meal. Keep packing that lunch, you blessed and money-savvy person!
- On the topic of lunch, keeping mints in my lunch bag is one of the best ideas I’ve had. Okay, maybe not, but it is pretty handy.
- There are definitely other commuters who would love to hang out with you during Christmas break/spring break. Go shopping for sweaters on clearance then accidentally wear them to school on the same day, obsess over books, eat at Noodles & Company, watch Frozen! Spending time with friends completely outside of school is so much fun and somehow makes it surreal that you have these people in your life.
- Keep in contact with friends you already have. Call, write letters, send care packages, hug. They are so, so important!
I hope this was helpful or encouraging in some way! Do you fit any of these categories? Do you have any questions I might be able to answer? Would you add anything to what I’ve said?