{10 Things} That Made All The Difference In College

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I often receive emails and letters from college students asking for advice. The underling question is always the same: How do I do college well? Looking back, my 4 yrs at Taylor were incredibly life changing. There were several things I did right, and several things I did wrong. I am grateful for both experiences. Hopefully the following list of 10 things will encourage you on your collegiate journey!

1. Servant Leadership: It's easy to want to make a name for yourself on campus. Leadership positions are great, but "towels" are always more important than "titles." Always.

2. Solitude: Whether you're an introvert or extrovert make time to be alone. Find a place on campus where you can go re-center yourself. I used to sit on top of the soccer video taping tower. This was the one place I could cry, sing, and pray where no one else could hear me.

3. Study Abroad: I always tell students one of the best decisions I ever made was to spend a semester abroad. It changed my life. It can also be cheaper than a semester at your university, so look into it.

4. Stretch Yourself: Take elective classes that will challenge you to learn new things. My sophomore year I took folk dancing, astronomy, and photography. I ended up loving these classes more than I ever thought I would. 

5. Study: When I was in college Taylor cost $96.00 a day. Skipping class was liberating every once in a while, but going was more important. So was studying. Enjoy your freedom but don't abuse it.

6. Selflessness: College has the potential to become some of the most selfish years of your life. You eat when you want to eat, study when you want to study, and sleep when you want to sleep. Remember this life is not about you. Ever.

7. Stewardship: I spent more money my freshman year of college than all four years combined! I didn't have a budget which meant I wasn't saving anything. Whatever you do, don't graduate with credit card debt. Learn how to be responsible with what you've been given. 

8. Stories: My motto at Taylor was to "make a memory every day." This allowed me to be intentional with my time. Ride bikes at night, buy breakfast for your roommates, play intramurals, take spontaneous road trips, sneak into the art building and paint, surprise your family on the weekends, and learn how to cook something besides EasyMac and Ramen.

9. Self Work: I graduated high school an insecure, people pleasing, confused 18 yr old with a backpack full of relational and family baggage. I had no idea who I was or how I had been affected by my upbringing. Looking back I wish I would have been more intentional to sort through some of my hurts, habits, and hang-ups.

10a. Seek Peace: Handling conflict was not something I did well in college. I was a peace faker, not a peace maker. Instead of leaning into hard conversations I would sweep them under the rug. This caused more damage than good.

10b. Spirituality: Lastly, it's been said that those who follow the crowd end up getting lost in it. Take time to figure out what you believe. Without faith none of the above would be possible.   


Top 10 Books I Read in College: A Grief Observed, Ruthless Trust, The Way of the Heart, Celebration of Discipline, Blue Like Jazz, The Prophet, Connecting, The Return of the Prodigal Son, The 5 Love Languages, and Inspiration Sandwich.

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39 comments:

Han said...

5 Love Languages is an awesome book :)

I was the only Christian in my class.

If you are a Christian at Uni/College

Make a friend who will encourage you to go to church even when all you want to do is hide under your duvet on Sunday morning. Also join the CU - even if you go once and don't like it - try once each term who knows it might stick!

Anonymous said...

Emily, I love this. Brought tears to my eyes for so many reasons! Your insight is amazing. Love that you read Celebration of Discipline. I just discovered that a few years ago. And love that you read Grief Observed. I love CS Lewis. I will have to look up the books I haven't read in that list!Thank you for your encouragement and advice! --Tracie

Amy in PA said...

LOVE this list! I realized yesterday that I've been out of college 15 years (YIKES!) but certainly still treasure the memories. The only thing I'd add to your list would be to learn time management. That was the only way I didn't flunk out!! Keep up the AWESOME work with your blog!!

Kristina said...

As one who is still in college I really appreciated to read your insight on college life! And I'll definitely check out your college reading list. Thanks for sharing!

Rosemary Jager said...

I'm a student at Auburn University and really needed to read all of this practical encouragement this morning. I feel like poor time management is slowly spiraling my life out of control. This list reminded me of where my priorities should be!

Also, this has nothing to do with TODAY'S letter specifically, but while I was reading it, I reallized that Mr. and Mrs. Loarke's voices and style sound so similar that I don't know who's talking unless one of you says who or something else gender specific. I think that this is just a cute, simple, and sweet picture of two becoming one in marriage. :)

Kelsey said...

Love all of these things and will definitely heed your advice as I only have two years of school left! Masters, anyone?

Dee said...

Excellent list. I agree with the 2-5 and 8. Those were the ones for me that made my time in college strong, but looking back I could have spent more time on spirituality and self-work. They would have assisted when I struggled with my first after school job.

Kara Heiniger said...

I'm a sophomore at Taylor. Thank you so much for this! I might go use that tower :)

Nelle Somerville said...

Love you and wish I had these sageisms pre-college! What do you mean by "towels" in the first item? xoxo

Ellen Arneson said...

Wow Emily thank you. These tips clearly came from the heart and mean a lot. Thank you.

Today's Letters said...

nelle, great q. jesus washed his disciples feet, so being about towels more than titles is just a reminder to be a person marked by service rather than self-righteousness.

abbyjo said...

This is the greatest. Thanks for words of wisdom. Love the idea of making a memory every day, that's what college is all about right?

Elise said...

Love this! Those are wise words. As a senior, I definitely need to work on making a memory everyday before this college thing flies by.

lisa said...

Amazing wisdom! I loved my years in college and definitely made lots of mistakes. WIsh I had kept these things in mind.

mysterymeatballs said...

hi em, your post is truly timely. just started grad school (i'm 24...) and fortunately or unfortunately, sharing a flat with five 18year old girls. thanks for this awesome reminder to make the most of this second shot at college (for me) and to nudge my housemates in the right direction when they turn to me for guidance. i suppose by being the oldest, they've adopted me as the flat granny :)

Maria said...

My sister went to Taylor University too! She graduated two years ago. :)

Suzie said...

When did you go to Taylor? Where did you live? I was on 2EO about 8-10yrs ago!

Today's Letters said...

suzie, i graduated in 02 and lived on 2WO. maybe we lived on the same floor at the same time?

yourstruly said...

I am extremely fond of my college days and a lot of my fondness stems from sharing the same things you wrote about in your list. I found myself nodding and saying SO TRUE as I read it. Some of those lessons were learned in hindsight looking back on what I should have done then. This is a fabulous list. I will be sharing it with my college bound sister. :) P.S. Five Love Languages and Ruthless Trust are on my top 10 books read in college list too. I'm going to check out some of the others I've never heard about on your list. Thanks for sharing!

chalice said...

wow, this is such wisdom. truly. thank you so much for organizing your thoughts to love other people well by helping us make better choices. i, for one, am most grateful. not a student but totally printed this one out for my journal to read over often. this stuff applies kind of always. thanks emily! xo

Anonymous said...

you are so inspiring.
as a college senior looking into PhD programs i really do recognize the importance in all of these disciplines.
Thanks for sharing your heart with us...
it really is refreshing finding people who are real.

wildchild said...

wow, what a good list. it's definitely important to stop and think about how we're spending our time in school. i feel like these years have the potential to mold me into the person i was meant to be than any other years in life.

Suzie said...

We did! How weird! A friend (also from TU) told me about your blog so I follow it now. Didn't really put 2 and 2 together about college... ha. How random! I played bball and lived in the last room on 2EO opposite of you. Fun times. Good memories and great friends. Love your blog too. Very encouraging to see another couple pursuing God first and eachother second. It makes all the difference, huh? :)

Beth said...

this is probably one of my favorite posts of yours recently. probably just because it's so applicable to me being a college kid. 6 and 10a are definitely going to be 2 i'm working on this semester. =) thanks for writing such a great blog; it's so fun and encouraging all the time! love it.

DG said...

Were those books from classes you took, or your own pleasure reading? just wondering. :)

Today's Letters said...

dg, 2 were required, the others were read in my personal time. i read so many books in college ... take advantage of it!

Anonymous said...

I stumbled onto your little corner of the blog world through Pinterest, I thought by mere happenstance. I don't think so now. Both of my parents and two of my brothers graduated from Taylor and now I have been accepted. I guess that only makes what you've said more personal to me. Anyway, I feel God is really blessing me through some of the things you have said and I just wanted to say thank you.

Today's Letters said...

anony, so encouraged you found our blog too. hopefully he'll continue to direct your steps to a corn field in the middle of indiana where friendships and ivanhoe milkshakes will change your life ;) keep me posted ...

leahmacev said...

I also was introduced to your blog via Pintrest within the past couple of weeks. I'm a sophomore at Bethel College in Mishawaka, IN, and this list was SO encouraging to me. It's easy, even at a Christian school, to get caught up in the trappings of your own world and forget about things like spiritual disciplines and the needs of others. I am being blessed daily by your posts and your wisdom...praise God that he lead me to your site. :)

Today's Letters said...

leah, so glad you found us. bethel is a great school! i remember coming to your campus several times for soccer games. hope you're staying warm ... jan / feb were the toughest! xoxo

Abigail said...

As a student who is still in college, I appreciate this advice greatly.
What made you choose Taylor University? I know many people go to private schools despite how expensive they are for the atmosphere and the community. Is that why you went? How was the atmosphere of Taylor expressed to you as a prospective student?

Anonymous said...

Love your blog!!
I can totally relate when you say
"I graduated high school an insecure, people pleasing, confused 18 yr old with a backpack full of relational and family baggage. I had no idea who I was or how I had been affected by my upbringing."

I'm ending my sophomore year in college and still feel the same way. I'm still trying to figure out how to escape it.
How did you go from feeling that way...to this?:

"My motto at Taylor was to "make a memory every day." This allowed me to be intentional with my time. Ride bikes at night, buy breakfast for your roommates, play intramurals, take spontaneous road trips, sneak into the art building and paint, surprise your family on the weekends, and learn how to cook"

Would really appreciate any insight and wisdom!! :)

Today's Letters said...

anony, do you remember that children's book about a bear hunt where it says, 'you can't go over it, can't go under, can't go around it, you got to go through it'. the only way to live a life of peace is to face the demons of your past. until i made that choice my perspective on life couldn't shift. reflect, accept, and choose a different path than the one handed to you, all while keeping christ as your center. let someone or something else be your center and you'll lose your balance.

Sheila@TheFailteHouse said...

Love this - so true and such words of wisdome. thanks for sharing. And three cheers for studying abroad!

Anonymous said...

I just finished my freshmen year, and I love this. Thank you for your words. They are well thought and well written. I recognize myself in so many of these! I need to re-center often, I have tried to make a memory every day, I am a peace-faker. Again, thank you for this post. This is helpful in focusing my thoughts over the rest of my summer in preparation for the next years.

Today's Letters said...

anony, your transparency is humbling. love it. your 3 greatest years are just around the corner. xo

Anonymous said...

We had a pastor at Liberty University that always encouraged servitude through the motto of it always being about the towels and not the titles! Which is so true! Thanks for the encouragement!! :)

Kahle Bryant said...

I just graduated from Taylor this past spring and work at a nearby college in a residence hall! I tell my students a lot of these things and will be sharing this list with my RAs this week!! :)

Kahle Bryant said...

I just graduated from Taylor this past spring and work at a nearby college in a residence hall! I tell my students a lot of these things and will be sharing this list with my RAs this week!! :)

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