3 things i wish i knew before i started college
Nick Wong | AUGUST 28, 2019 | 3 MIN READ
College is so fun. But this precious time passes quickly. As I’m entering my third year, and I can’t believe I’m past the halfway point.
In these two years, I’ve already seen how much God has grown me. Many of my early pursuits were in vain, as I would chasing after things that could never satisfy. But God has used those experiences to graciously give me wisdom and teach me how to live a life that pleases him.
Here are three lessons I’ve learned from my specific context that I hope will also help you love and obey the Lord more in your college experience.
1. FOMO is overrated
Many members of my campus ministry would hang out (or “study”) together past midnight, and I often joined them. I made plenty of fun memories during these hours, but the toll of these late nights is painfully evident in hindsight.
Because I wasn’t sleeping enough, I couldn’t focus during lectures and I felt myself processing information more slowly. Since I was constantly tired, my disposition was rarely cheerful. I realized I had actually shot myself in the foot in my goal to make good memories and friendships since I now needed to study more at night and I was also a less fun person to be around.
What was my problem? FOMO — fear of missing out. FOMO was the reason my heart ached with jealousy as I saw posts of friends spending time together without me. My self-centered, illogical nature assumed that these people who I valued had consciously rejected me. These foolish thoughts and emotions kept me from recognizing the opportunities I had with those literally sitting around me while I used my phone, meaning I was actually missing out on relationships God had placed in my life.
With a greater understanding of God’s sovereignty in my life, I now see that He is a good Father who gives his children good gifts (James 1:17). FOMO isn’t compatible with trusting in God. There is nothing to miss out on because if we already have God, then we know He is enough and he will provide for us all that we need (Philippians 4:19).
In college, we have unique proximity to others and a potential for a high impact for the Kingdom.
In my first semesters, I primarily spent time with Christian organizations, and within those, I hung out with people I already knew fairly well. Looking back, I wish I had invested more time into the other members of the organization, as well as my dorm neighbors and people in my major.
Through college, God had provided an easy environment to create new relationships, but I only concerned myself with the 10 people I already knew and liked.
This isn’t to say we shouldn’t hang out with other Christians. With those who know Christ, it’s an opportunity to share and celebrate what God has done and encourage one another through the difficulties of life. I’ve found my spiritual growth accelerates as I walk alongside other brothers and sisters in Christ.
But college is also a place to live out a Gospel-centered life as a testimony to those who don’t know Christ yet. It’s important to not view these relationships as “projects,” but if the Gospel is the greatest news in our lives, we should yearn for others to hear and believe as well. It is through friendships that we build in college that we can have lifelong relationships that can be safe spaces to share the Gospel.
There is so much potential in building relationships. These next two years, I’ll be prayerfully pursuing those in my circles.
3. Steward your education
Lastly, I’ve learned that my primary role in college is to be a student. (Surprise, surprise!) Yes, I live missionally and build relationships, but I’ve been blessed with the non-universal privilege to attend college. Because of that, I should be responsible with my academics and use my opportunities to the fullest.
For me, this means planning enough time to not only complete homework but also study. This means giving precedence to academics over social activities. This means attending every class and resting well so I can focus.
However, taking classes is just a part of stewarding the college experience. College comes with a whole set of opportunities you can’t get elsewhere, such as attending sports events, participating in organizations, or taking fun classes. College is a short 4 years. Take advantage of these opportunities!
Reflecting on my college experience has shown me the enormous wisdom required to steward this blessing. On the flip side, the potential growth and harvest of my time in college gets me excited for how God can and will move.
As we head to campus, whether for the first time or the ninth (I see y’all super seniors), let’s study well, initiate with friends and acquaintances, and get involved. Most importantly, let’s rely on and grow closer to God, who empowers us to live a life pleasing to Him.
Nick Wong is a Turing Scholar at UT Austin. He hopes to sleep at least eight hours each night this coming year. In his free time, he likes to play sports and eat food.