Dear New College Student,

You are about to embark on one of the craziest adventures of your life.  College will be a blast and it will change things.  You will change and transform.  You’ll probably change your major once, or 3x like me.  You might fall in love.  Or out of it.  The question is who will you be after these 4+ years?  What will happen to your inner person?  What about your character?  Here are my TOP TEN things you need to know.  In no particular order:

  1. You matter. Your life matters. What you do for the next 4 years matters.  Your decisions have consequences.  You are shaping who you will be for the rest of your life.
  2. You were meant to change the world.  You aren’t totally sure about this but let me confirm what you’ve already been feeling—you were meant to make a difference.  You were meant to have an impact.
  3. Use these next 4, 5, 6, or 7 years to find out who you are.
    1. Invest some time in your spiritual growth.  Does God exist?  If so, what is God like?  “Who is God?” might be the most important question you answer in life.
    2. Find your “yoda” or even a couple mentors that are a little older and a couple steps ahead of you.  Learn everything you can from them.
    3. Find out what matters to you and what you are excited about.  Try all kinds of stuff, not drugs or anything weird but different interests, organizations, clubs, etc.
    4. You have certain innate talents that make you feel alive.  Explore and develop these. Find out your strengths, weaknesses, passions, blind spots, liabilities.
  4. Learn how to study
    1. Only cram on stuff you don’t want to retain.  Then ask yourself the question why am I taking this class in the first place?
    2. Go to class.  Sit near the front (this will help you stay awake and pay attention).  If it’s terrible, study during class or do other work.
    3. Talk to professors and meet w/them.  Go to office hours and ask how to study and how to do well in their class. Know your class policies/how grades are determined inside & out.
    4. Go to review sessions.  Sometimes little “secrets” are given away.
  5. Learn time management – you only get one shot at life, only one time through.  Don’t you want to get the most out of life?
    1. Choose people over program and sometimes over being responsible.  Hey, you’re in college!
  6. Figure out a way to serve.  How can you give back?  It really is in giving that we receive.  That’s not just a cheesy line, it’s a profound truth.
  7. Sex is really, really good.  Actually fantastic.  But it is not to be trifled with.  It is not just physical and there is no casual sex.  It’s meant for 2 people who are committed to each other for life.  Recent research (see the book Hooked) has shown that the people who are the happiest are those who wait until marriage to have sex. Try and wait.  It will be worth it.  I promise.
  8. Meet everyone you can early.  Knock awkwardly on the doors of your hallmates.  Plan hangouts.  Take advantage of living in such close proximity to great people.  And don’t be afraid to make friends out of your dorm. Most of you will not live in a situation like this again. Everyone is waiting for someone to take the initiative.
  9. Don’t get a credit card. Don’t buy anything you can’t pay cash for.  Use your debit card for all purchases.
    1. Start saving and investing.
    2. But also don’t let $ hold you back from something you want to do.
  10. Be aware of your physical, emotional, and spiritual health.  Exercise.  Do intramural sports.  Go easy on the all-you-can-eat part of dhall.  Eating 3 meals at all-you-can-eat is a recipe for disaster.  Also, maybe don’t have dessert with every meal.  Sleep more than you think.
  11. OK I lied.  I have 11.  Write down what you want to accomplish.  It can be dumb stuff but also some serious hopes & dreams.  Written goals are HUGE.  There is power in written goals. Who do you want to become?  What do you want to do?  Get some clarity on what you want to make of these next 4+ years.

GO FOR IT!  DREAM BIG!  TAKE RISKS!  And have a blast.  You were made for such a time as this.

–Pete Hardesty, former college student.

Pete Hardesty

Author Pete Hardesty

Pete Hardesty is the Director of Young Life College at James Madison University. He grew up in Baltimore, went to college at UVA, and has worked for Young life ever since, first in Virginia Beach and now in the Friendly City of Harrisonburg, VA. During that time, he crammed 3 years of grad school into 17 finally getting an M.Div from RTS in 2014. Likes: His nieces, Ravens football, college people (even though they make him feel old), movies, cigars, Thai food, the Middle East. Dislikes: Country music, tomatoes, shrimp, rice crispy treats, and wet socks. Pete believes because we only get one shot at this life we need to figure out what matters and give ourselves to it. Let’s make it count. If you have a problem with this, he challenges you to meet him behind the dumpster after school to fight.

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