If you are the parent of a prospective college student, it’s highly likely you are running to the mailbox daily or checking your email incessantly. ’Tis the season of college conversations and admissions letters.
Before you get your finances in order and rush to Target to buy all the dorm decorations, it’s helpful to prepare your soul (and the soul of your would-be college student). Before the acceptance or rejection letters pile up, we would do well to pile up the promises of God. The following are five reminders to keep Christ at the center of this significant decision.
1. Being chosen by God far supersedes being chosen by a college or a social circle.
As you wait to hear back from colleges and universities, it’s tempting to attach your worth to their acceptance or rejection. After all, you have worked hard up until now to make a compelling case for your college ambition. But please fight to remember that your identity is as stable as its source. If your deepest source of worth and sense of self is performative, you will constantly be working to maintain and keep it. But as believers in Christ, we work from our identity, not for it. God loves us with an unmerited love (Deut. 7:6–9; Rom. 5:6). Our ambitions proceed from this sure foundation of unshakeable, unchanging love. A college acceptance does not enhance our security and a college rejection does not diminish it.
2. God prohibits with purpose and leads with love.
God’s ways do not always make sense to us. They are often unpredictable and surprising. This—while initially frustrating and often disappointing—is, in fact, a good thing. His ways are different than our ways and his thoughts are different than our thoughts. They are not just different—they are higher than ours (Isa. 55: 8–9). We’re commanded to trust in the Lord and his infinite knowledge, not in our fallible and limited understanding (Prov. 3:5–6). When God prohibits us from doing something we desired or seems to hinder a pathway we longed to take, he does so with eternal and trustworthy purposes even when we cannot see them (Ps. 25:10; 146:17–18; Rom. 8:28–32). When he leads us to places we did not expect or plan, he does so in love.
3. FOMO and regret make poor companions. Trade them for Christ who brings contentment and peace.
All the shiny brochures promise you endless fun, academic rigor, and updated dorm rooms. But whatever college you end up choosing will also provide hardships, bouts of loneliness, and challenges. Contentment and confidence will be eroded by constant comparison. Rather than constantly wondering, “What if?” or “What am I missing out on over there?” believers can rest on God’s promises and good intentions. Whatever lot God has given to you (and you have carefully chosen), you can say, “The boundary lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; I have a delightful inheritance” (Ps. 16:5–6). As David said at the end of his life, “God has made an everlasting covenant with me, ordered in all things and sure” (2 Sam. 23:5).
4. The daily decisions of how you spend your time in college matter more than the single decision of where you attend college.
As you agonize over the significant decision of where to spend the next four (or so) years, it’s helpful to remember that the daily decisions you make at the habit level shape you far more. Yes, your college matters. Yes, your major matters. Yes, the professors you sit under matter. But the things you watch, listen to, and follow in the rest of your waking hours matter more. Decisions to make a habit of worshipping weekly with like-minded believers, spending time with God in his word, and making God’s priorities your guide rather than your feelings are powerfully shaping. So, pay attention to big decisions, but pay closer attention to your soul (Deut. 32:47; 1 Tim. 4:16).
5. The people with whom you surround yourself impact you more than the prestige of a place.
When making your college decision, make sure you factor in the faith community as much as you factor in the prestige of a school. Don’t just visit the halls of academia, visit the local churches. Investigate opportunities to grow spiritually as much as you investigate opportunities to study abroad or do challenging internships. Our highly individualized Western culture often forgets that most of the commandments in Scripture assumed the second person plural (you all; y’all; you guys). As Paul reminded his young mentee, Timothy, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness … along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22).