College enrollment was expected to peak at 18 million last year.[i] This projection was up from 12.8 million just 20 years earlier.[ii] As your college bound students—those who feel called to continue down the educational pipeline—transition into college this fall, what are some last minute steps you can take to prepare them spiritually? Here are 4 suggestions:
Stress the priority of conscience now. I’ve talked to a number of college students who were glad to be reminded that the most important decision they could make was to determine in their hearts not to get stained by the campus culture. When Daniel started his program in literature and language his first step was to “determine not to defile himself” (Daniel 1:8). Mending the spiritual pipeline begins by helping students make a decision now to keep their integrity intact and to do nothing against their spirit-led conscience. Remind them that conscience isn’t some mystical inner voice, it’s understanding right from wrong. Let them know that spiritual preparation is the single most important step a college-bound student can make. A clear conscience will help guide them in selecting a major and in their studies.
Students who come to college with the desire to be servant-leaders have no problem adjusting to the campus environment. Remind your students that a heart for ministry is the best approach for succeeding in college. Servant-leaders are teachable, so they seek out helpful advice. They listen and grow; they don’t act out of a sense of entitlement. With its vast number of students, staff, and faculty, the college campus is a tremendous place to serve God. Encourage your students to get involved on campus. Help them to know their options (e.g., student government, internships, research, judicial board, respectable campus organizations). Help them to see that their papers, presentations, and kindness will have a far reaching effect.
Inspire your students to talk with God about their transition. Through prayer, God will align their hearts with his purpose for them during college. He’ll show them that college is less about graduation day and more about developing the right heart. Students who pray stay focused on the deep purpose of college, their spiritual destiny. Pray with them that God would purify their motive for being in college. Teach them to pray for students, staff, and faculty at the school they’re attending. Students who pray stay focused and work better with those they are praying for.
Provide practical advice for your students in transition:
- Recruit parents to set up a campus tour for college-bound students to attend together (a trip with a group during the summer could give them the spiritual confidence they need).
- Give students a Scripture-based college guide book
- Link helpful college websites to your youth page (e.g., knowhow2go.com, everystudent.com, tryhigher.com, bls.gov/OCO, summit.org).
- Inoculate their faith with an overview of worldviews this summer before they leave your group.
Many students make it to college without their youth minister ever addressing the transition. Do them a huge benefit and make it a point to address, in simple conversation, these simple but far reaching steps. Mending the spiritual pipeline begins by asking our Counselor to guide our students and follows by taking practical steps to help them make smart choices as they begin college.
Trevor Francis, Ed.D., is an academic counselor, former youth group intern, and author of the upcoming college guide Try Higher: The Call to Every College Student (July 2009). For more tips on college students and college life, visit tryhigher.com.