For teenagers who grew up in faith communities, the transition to college can be a tough one for a number of reasons. Whether they move away or stay home, chances are graduating means they’re no longer in the youth group. And that means…
- Their high school friendships aren’t in the same place anymore
- Their previous mentors aren’t around
- Their normal go-to for community isn’t an option anymore.
Now, don’t misunderstand. All of those things can be a great part of the college experience. Churches in their new town, college ministries on their new campus and friendships in their new dorm can eventually become a faith community even stronger and more important to them than their high school youth group. But, that usually doesn’t happen right away. Despite the best efforts of college ministries and local churches to host welcome weeks, freshmen groups and move-in day socials, the reality remains that these college relationships are still new and foreign and nowhere near the depth of the friendship they had in high school.
That’s why for many students the chief descriptor of their first semester in college is loneliness. Despite how culture depicts college social life, first-year students experience epidemic loneliness which can leave many students with a heavy feeling of “I’m doing it wrong. College is supposed to be fun!” or “College is horrible. Maybe I don’t have what it takes.” Neither of those sentiments are necessarily accurate, but they can certainly feel very real.
With parents, friends, and faith communities in the rear-view, it can (and should) take more than a week or two to build relationships in a new place with the depth that they are accustomed to. Will they get there eventually? Totally. But how do we help them in the awkward months in-between now and then?
- Tell them to hang on. As adults, it’s easy to remember that this period of loneliness won’t last forever and won’t characterize their whole college experience. After all, it makes sense that 3-week old relationships won’t feel like the 13-year friendships they had in their hometown. During this awkward in-between, college freshmen may need reminders that it won’t always be this way and freshman-year loneliness doesn’t necessarily mean they’re doing anything wrong.
- Give them something to hang onto. Sometimes when everything feels out of control, it can be helpful to have something to hangout. This is especially true in the early days of college life where extended periods of free time mean loneliness and boredom are not just present but amplified. And, this is one of the reasons we created the Starting Now devo.
During the first six weeks of college, when free time is high, relationships are low and there are more questions than answers, we wanted to give students a resource to help them not only get through their freshman year but lay a foundation for a great college experience.
In Starting Now, here are a few of the big ideas we help college freshmen think through (often for the first time).
Community: You were made for it. So how do you find friends, good friends, mentors, and healthy relationships in college?
Identity: For the first time, you are 100% in charge of who you are. So what kind of person do you want to be
Faith: What does it look like to own your faith as an adult?
Integrity: How do you be the kind of person whose actions match their values?
Freedom: What do you do with all this freedom you have? And how can using it well now lead to more freedom later?
Service: How can you make your college years matter more?
To find out more, check out StartingNowDevo.com.
You can pick up a copy of the Starting Now devotional at Amazon for yourself or a recent high school graduate. It’s a must-have book for those entering this new season of life.