“You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never to get involved in a land war in Asia. And only slightly less well known is this: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!” – from The Princess Bride
After twenty-seven semesters on campus – I’ve seen students make a few mistakes. I’m made most of them myself! The incredible thing is that there are actually a small number of simple mistakes that students (usually good, well-meaning students) make. I hope you will take ten minutes early in your college experience to read these 3 most commonly made blunders.
Classic Blunder #1 – Isolate Yourself
Isolation is terrific when you are cramming for that exam, but it is a terrible way to deal with issues in college!
Obviously, students who isolate themselves don’t develop friendships, and friendships are a critical lifeline in the college experience. A lot of talk and worry goes into peer pressure – and while peer pressure can exert great influence in college – typically, when students develop significant problems, they developed them in isolation.
Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, be careful about how you invest your free time. If you surround yourself with like-minded, positive, caring people and develop genuine friendships – you are well on your way to having a great college experience. Don’t let yourself withdraw from situations where you can develop those relationships. If you are on the shy side – look at college as your opportunity to stretch yourself in this area.
If you are more sanguine or outgoing, take this opportunity develop deeper relationships. The challenge for those of us who are more outgoing is to develop real friendships, not just acquaintances.
Three things to keep in mind about this:
- Stay in touch with Family and friends from home. It’s great to make new friends, but it is also critical that you stay in close contact with those people who know you best. Your family, friends, home church, etc – these are people who are most likely to be able to recognize if you’re headed for trouble; and most likely to be able to speak into your life regarding tough issues.
- Don’t suffer from SOS. I’ve identified a very troublesome syndrome that has wrecked a lot of great students – it is incredible how much damage this one disease has caused – I call it S.O.S. (Significant-Other-Syndrome). Basically, it happens to some students when they get involved in a romantic relationship. It especially effects younger college-students, or those who haven’t formed other quality (non-romantic) relationships.
Students suffering from SOS pair up and disappear. We can’t find them at Thursday Night Live, they miss their cell group Bible study, and their friends report them MIA. Don’t let it happen to you! When you do meet somebody, naturally you want to spend as much time as possible with them. Balance this out with time to study, sleep, exercise, etc. Perhaps most importantly, do an honest self-inventory. Ask yourself this, is the dating relationship you’re in making your world bigger, or smaller.
- Accept help when you need it. If you do end up running into trouble, hopefully someone will notice. Don’t fight those who try to help you. Isolation is a cyclical and accumulating problem – if someone is willing to bridge that to help you – let them. A handy rule-of-thumb is this; If someone who doesn’t have any reason to attack you brings something to your attention that makes you uncomfortable, or challenges your behavior, STOP and think very carefully about what they have to say.
Classic Blunder #2 – Go home every weekend
Okay, this probably seems like it flies in the face of my first warning. If isolation is a primary problem – why not go home as often as possible and be around the people who know you best?
Believe it or not, this is one of the most common mistakes students make – especially first year students. The problem with going home every weekend centers around how you relate to the new community you live in – the campus community. I’ve seen many talented and gifted freshman who are very involved and active in their home community fail to thrive on campus. Eventually, many of these students come to talk & reveal that they are miserable at school, they don’t feel like anyone cares about them, and they just want to quit and go back home where everyone and everything is better (this usually hits about mid-terms).
What’s going on with these guys? Basically, going home every weekend is taking them out of the natural ebb and flow of the community. They are at school – where they work and study, and then they are at home on the weekend – where they unwind and rest. This usually isn’t the best approach because it makes it take longer to feel at home. By the time most students are Sophomores they’ve stopped driving back home every weekend and learned to have some involvement where they now live.
And that’s the key – where you live. What you’ve got to understand is you are not at Camp. College isn’t a thing you go to for a week and then recover from – a key ingredient in the education process is learning to connect to a new community.
One last word on this topic. Going home every weekend not only hampers involvement other students –it also weakens your involvement in any local church. Believe me, you want to have those relationships in town, not hours away while making your way through college.
Classic Blunder #3 – Try to be involved in everything
I love students who want to do everything! In our commitment-phobic atmosphere it’s so refreshing to see students who want to make an impact in many areas. However, I usually encourage students to identify one or two areas where they can be involved.
I’ve met students who come to campus and want to be involved in every ministry. They are going to be in Chi Alpha, Navigators, BCM, Campus Crusade, Student-Mo, Wesley Foundation, and InterVarsity. It sounds great on paper!
It is heartbreaking how many times this leads to a student who drops out of everything. Recently I met a young man who was very likeable, and talked passionately about spiritual things. I asked him where he was involved and was surprised to find out he wasn’t! When I probed a little deeper, he admitted he had come to campus and tried to be a part of several ministries – when that crashed, he had pulled out of everything. Trying to get him to make any kind of commitment was like trying to put an eel in a coffee can.
Listen, there are a lot of terrific ministries at OSU. Get involved in one that focuses on Discipleship, and challenges you to make an impact on campus. If Chi Alpha doesn’t fit you – okay, but find a group of people somewhere. Commit to a group that will commit to you.
OSU Chi Alpha Campus Pastor