3 Pieces of Advice For The Scared To Death College Senior

Honestly, sometimes I still have a hard time realizing that I have been out of college for a whole year. Then I’m grocery shopping, getting up much too early, unsuccessfully making jello( real story), and going to work every day, and I remember.  Oh, do I remember.

College is such an amazing time in every young person’s life. It is where you discover who you are, meet friends that last a lifetime, and nap as much as you want.

However, like all good things, college also has to come to an end. Soon enough everyone will walk across the stage and hold a diploma in their hand that signifies everything they have worked and cried for these past four years. And, then, just like that, it’s all over. You pack up the dorm room full of memories, hug your friends tightly goodbye as you scatter across the country, and move back home to wait. Wait for your life to begin or at least get a job.

As much as you may say you are ready and that you loathe college, no one is really ready for the transition that comes after college. One day you’re walking around safe in your college bubble, and then pop! Suddenly you have to cook for yourself, and pay for everything, and get up early.

I hope that in this article I can help to give encouragement and strength to those of you who are about to embark on the messy, hilarious, and incredibly new journey to adulthood. Though the college years are amazing for most, society lies to us when they say that college is the best four years of our lives. They are not the best; they are the start of a much more fulfilling and joyful life. So, if I could go back to this time last year when I was studying hard for my finals and trying to squeeze in every possible second with my best friends, what would I say?

Laugh At Yourself

Adulthood is going to kick you around that first couple of months. You may be starting a job you thought college prepared you for, only to realize that you have retained nothing and have no idea what you are doing. You may move into an apartment for the first time and have to cook for yourself, only to realize that you can only make cereal. You may be moving to a city far from your family and friends, and have to find your own church and a new community.

Times will be tough, confusing, and hilarious. I can’t tell you the number of times that I screwed up cooking, I mean terribly,  and still am, my first year out of college. So learn the difference between the things that should upset you and the things you just need to laugh off.

Be open and willing to learn new things. I have learned more this past year than I did all four years of college combined. Most of that comes from the real experience I am getting at my job, but a lot of it is personal. I have learned how to be a friend outside of college, how to order deli meat at the grocery store, how to go to church by myself, how to be on my own, what I like to do in my spare time, and how to successfully not nap through the day. You will be learning a lot too. So, don’t go into that job thinking you know everything or act that way to your friends. I guarantee after a week of being a real adult you’ll realize just how little you actually know.

For instance, this time last year I had no idea that in two short weeks, the internship I had secured for the summer would be taken away, and several weeks later I would be starting at a company I had never heard of my four years at Grove City. God definitely has a sense of humor, but He also will lead you. When everything else around you is changing, including the scenery, know that the God that you have worshipped and loved for many years never changes.

Action: Keep a journal of that first year after college. This will be a great place to keep your thoughts safe when you need to whine, and to laugh at the misadventures that you are sure to get into. I promise you after your first year out of college you will be able to find yourself chuckling at the entries of you not knowing how to grocery shop or do things that are second nature to you now at your job.

Let Go Of Crazy Expectations

I think that society puts a ton of pressure on college grads, or maybe we just put that pressure on ourselves, to have it all figured out the minute we walk across that stage. But that is completely insane. If anything, you are even more lost and confused after graduation than you were going in. The world is your oyster, and you enter the workforce fresh and having no idea what you are doing. No one is expecting you to get a raise two months after starting that first job, for that first job to be your forever job, or for you to have it all figured out.

Do yourself a favor during this time and take a break from social media. This is especially true if you aren’t quite sure what God has planned for you after graduation. It can be all too easy when you are stuck at home at your parent’s house desperate for anyone to hire you, to compare yourself to those around you. To the people that have those coveted jobs, are getting engaged, are moving to new cities. Everyone looks so pulled together, much more than you are sitting in your childhood bedroom.

But friends, no one posts their tears on social media. No one posts the number of rejection letters they got before landing that job, no one posts when they are crying of loneliness during those first months in a new city, no one vents their frustrations about having to put their own gym into a GPS because they have no idea how to get anywhere in their new strange town.

As a college graduate, I can guarantee that everyone is struggling in some new way. It might not be the same way that you are, but trust me, your peers are just as lost and clueless as you feel.

Action: Pray. Pray on your knees and be honest. Don’t let social media make you question who you are or how much God loves you. Be honest with your friends and family when you are struggling. Vulnerability leads to more vulnerability. Your friends may just be waiting and wanting you to admit you are so freaking lost.  We are all works in progress; we are not completed until we get to heaven. So take the pressure off and realize it’s totally normal to be so lost and so confused. Isn’t that what your 20s are for?

Lean Into Community

One of the hardest parts of leaving college behind for me was the incredible friends that I made. There is a certain bond that is unlike any other that you have with your college friends. You lived with them, learned with them, and experienced life closely together for the past four years. They shaped you into who you are, and you shaped them. It can be hard to set out to find a new community and to keep the old. But here are some tips I have.

Set a schedule

  • Life gets crazy and so busy, make those friendships that you want to keep in your life a priority. Set aside a time each week or month to talk to certain friends. Trust me; if you don’t plan it, it won’t happen. And don’t be worried to initiate talking with friends first. The last time I checked people don’t get upset when you want to continue to invest in them.

Set up visits

  • Yes, phone calls, social media, and Skype are great, but you also need to make time to see these friends. Plan a girls trip, come together for Homecoming, or drive down to see them some weekend. This is especially vital if you are single because when you get married, it is going to be more challenging to visit those dear friends whenever you feel like it.

Community takes work

  • It doesn’t really take any work to make friends in college. Yes, you do have to talk to people and put yourself out there, but from what I remember from my freshman year, pretty much everyone is thirsty for friends. You are surrounded by people that have similar beliefs and are actually your age. You can walk up to someone, introduce yourself, and they are your new best friend. Unfortunately, the real world isn’t quite so easy. The truth is, if you don’t put yourself out there and seek out finding new friends and community, you won’t find it. If you stay in every Saturday night to watch Netflix, you’ll be watching it alone by yourself six months later just the same.

Yes, continue to invest in your college friends, but as Christians, we were created for community. Phone calls from long distance friends every week are great, but we need face to face interaction too. As a very extroverted person, I thought finding community would be so easy. It is NOT! It takes a lot of effort and time. It takes dealing with rejection and awkwardness and showing up to a young adult group again and again when you know no one.

But, after those months of trying your best to find that community, I promise you it will happen. When you put the effort in, pray for Godly friends, and seek them out, you will find them. But don’t expect people just to befriend you automatically.

So here are some tips if you are moving to a new place:

Join a small group

This is an easy way to get close to people and also have a weekly commitment. These are people just like you who are seeking out a community and are willing to put in the effort to find it. Go a couple of times before you throw in the towel, I know that my first judgments of people are usually very wrong.

Connect with other college people

Try to scope out if anyone from your college is moving to or around the area you will be living. Yes, you may not have been close or even known them well in college, but that doesn’t mean they can’t become some of your closet friends post-college.  These are people who can help to fill the college-shaped hole in your heart that throbs so much that first year away.

Go Out

Go to public places. Join a gym, go to a coffee shop, go to church, but don’t sit on your couch, cry, and call your mom. Get out there and make some friends.

Yes, finding community outside of college is a longer and harder process than it is in college, but it is so worth it. God will bring you the friends you need and friends that also need you, but you have to be willing to put in some work.

Action: Make it a goal and priority to invite someone new or someone you met for the first time to hang out with you this week. When I first moved to Lancaster and started meeting people, I made it my goal to try to hang out with two new people each month. Now, I didn’t always meet that goal, but it definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone to meet up with people and make those close relationships happen.

Life after college is a crazy, unexpected, but beautiful journey. I am so excited for you to begin this journey and hope that my advice can help you along the way. Remember that God directs your steps and He will not lead you somewhere He isn’t. Trust that He knows your plan and enjoy the ride.

5 Ways To Grow In Christian Community

community

I have personally never moved before. I’ve lived at the same quaint house my whole life, across the road from a cornfield, and looking out the same windows covered by green shutters. I’ve memorized every nook and cranny on my country road, and could probably drive to my hometown blind-folded. Even when I went to college, I simply moved 15 minutes away into a dorm room on a campus where I have grown up my whole life. And even as  I looked towards graduation, I never really thought I would be moving. I thought I would be getting an apartment in Pittsburgh, preferably with one of my college friends, and be able to see my mom pretty often. Actually, until I was contacted mid-spring by a company in Lancaster, PA, I was solely looking for job opportunities in Pittsburgh. Though my uncle lived in Lancaster,  I definitely thought a four and half hour drive from home wasn’t for me. Oh, how God has a great sense of humor.

As I am writing this post today, I have currently been living in Lancaster for about a month working at my new job. I am four and a half hours from home and living in a place where I have to MapQuest how to get to a gas station. And though I love this new city and this new season of life, there are definitely hardships that go along with moving somewhere new. So, I am hoping that if you are someone who has just relocated after college, moving or starting a new college or high school this September, or someone who has just moved back home for the first time in years, you can relate to this post. Because no matter where we are, we all crave community. And, if you are reading this blog, there is a good chance you are craving Christian community.

The definition of community is a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. It’s easy to find community when you are in college or high school. Frankly, you walk into college and everyone is just as thirsty for friendship as you are. You can virtually make friends over night. When I was in college, I literally had to decide who I could properly invest in, because there were so many great people around me and on my freshman hall. What a contrast I have now, where I moved to a big city and can attend a young adult group and no one so much as looks at me.

Maybe you, like me, are wondering why the heck it’s so hard to just make some decent friends in a new area? I’m sure you’re likable, attractive, and have plenty of offer; so why don’t you have any fish biting? Or maybe you’re so introverted that the thought of going out to meet new random people makes you want to throw up? Either way, whether you are still in college, not in college, or just graduating high school, we can all agree that we need a community to properly function as Christians.

I know that I am not alone in the way I am feeling, actually, all my college friends are currently struggling with finding new friends and trying to find a new group in the new cities or old cities they find themselves in. I guess we’ve all just watched Friends too many times and are wondering where we can find a great co-ed group of people to just go to a new movie with on the weekends. Fear not, God wants us to live in a community.

“Live in harmony with one another.”- Romans 12:6

“A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.”- Proverbs 27:9

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds.”- Hebrews 10:24

He wants us to live in a community so that we can bear each other’s burdens, encourage one another, and build each other up in the Spirit of Christ. We need people to speak God’s truth to us when we are broken, are alone, or are lost. So how do we get this community? How can we as a church be better at showing community to our new young and single members?

Put Yourself Out There

I am a person who is 98% extroverted. I’m not kidding, every time I take my personality test it just keeps climbing up. I love to be around people, get energy from being around people, and hate to be alone. But even I get anxiety from facing the dreaded Christian young adults group. I hate walking into a social setting with hundreds of people and not even knowing a soul. Now, I am the first person to complain about having to run into people from high school, but by moving somewhere completely new, I sometimes wish I could see a familiar face. But I know what you’re going through. You bring your Bible and a notebook because you want to seem extra “Christan.” You try to go up to a group of girls because you don’t want to look like you’re thirsting for a “spiritual leader” to be your husband, And you might try not to sound too fake in your conversations and only use the words: “faithful” and “blessed” every couple of sentences.  But you need to keep this up.

I love the quote by CS Lewis, ““In friendship…we think, we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of an another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

God brought you the people you were supposed to meet in college, in high school, through clubs and church camps. He will bring you a community where you are now too. But, you have to do your part. You can’t just pray for God to give you your dream job, but never apply to any. Likewise, you can’t cry about not having a community, but not actively seek it out. If you don’t live in a big area, travel to a bigger church that has a young adult group. Sign up for Bible studies, volunteer somewhere, try a new hobby, sign up for a gym, go to places that will force you to interact with other people. And when you go to those places, actually go out of your way to talk to people. Join in on others people’s conversations. Make the effort to people and I promise they will reciprocate.

Don’t Forget About Past Community 

Luckily, we all have friends. Whether you’re the person who has a booming social community, or the person who has a small circle of friends, no one is alone. Don’t forget about reaching out to those people even if you live in different places. Keep up with those college friends and high school friends who helped shaped you to be the person you are today. Set up a time to talk to groups of friends or one friend, once a week or month. Do a Bible study with your friends over Skype. Share prayer requests, concerns, dreams, and desires with these solid relationships you already have. Let these sweet friendships you already have refresh your soul while you’re looking for a community in a new area.

Reach Out To Others 

If you are someone reading this who already has a solid group of friends or feel like you have a grip on your community, look out for those people who don’t. It’s so easy in Christian circles especially, to get cliquey. To be on fire for God and want to help other people, but not realize how easy it is to reach out to those around you. You don’t have to serve at a youth group, on a mission trip, or at a nonprofit to reach out to the broken. All you have to do is look at your church service on a Sunday morning or the person sitting by themselves at your young adult group. Reach out to those people, and include them in your group. You can never have too many Godly and intentional relationships. We have all been in a position where we have prayed to God to bring us, friends. We have all felt awkward in Christian circles like we probably aren’t cool enough, probably can’t do calligraphy with Bible verses, and might not lift our hands enough in worship. We have all felt like a fish out of water. So don’t ignore those people, ask the Holy Spirit to lead you right to them.

 Be Real

Don’t put on the “Christian” act. I mean obviously, don’t self-disclose your whole life story and struggles to people you’ve just met, but don’t feel like you have to be someone you’re not to get authentic Christian relationships. When I have shared with friends about my personal struggles with Christ or the times I have felt spiritually dry, I have never felt judged.  I normally am met with “me too.” This is a great way to open up some real Christian dialogue. So, if you are someone who is more reserved, don’t worry that you won’t be enough. As a wildly outgoing person, I adore quiet and wise people. Most of my best friends are talkative introverts who listen to me blather on. And if you are worried you are too much, don’t be. God will bring you the friends who can handle all your crazy. And at the end of the day, it’s exhausting to be someone you’re not. So be yourself, and let God bring you the people He wants.

Be Intentional

Hopefully, with the tips above you’ll start making some friends, so be intentional with these new friendships. Once you have the foundation, you have to constantly be watering it so that it can grow. Especially new friendships. Out of sight can really be out of mind…forever. So don’t be afraid to initiate hanging out with someone you like and have recently met. To ask them to get coffee, or go out to lunch, or even to just sit with them at church. Have you ever been annoyed when someone has reached out to you in this way? Then don’t assume that other people will be annoyed when you ask. If you ask someone about themselves, take an interest in their lives, and intentionally try to see them, your friendship is going to flourish.

I hope that today you aren’t too discouraged about not having that perfect group of friends. I hope that you aren’t feeling all alone in a big city with almost too much to do but no one to do it with. I hope that you realize that God will bring you a new community of Christian friends and that He wants to grow you through this time of being alone. To refine you by growing your patience. He loves you so much, even when you go to a young adult group and no one talks to you. He loves you even when you spend that Saturday with Netflix again. He loves you even when your best friend from college is thousands of miles away. He loves you, He has plans for you, and He has friends for you. So put yourself out there, put on some makeup, and go out in public today. Take the plunge and I guarantee it will be worth it.

 

8 Steps For A Successful Semester

1.Be willing to put your best foot forward academically, socially, spiritually.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as if working for the Lord and not men.”- Colossians 3:23.

God has always given us His best so we need to do the same with our daily actions throughout the semester. This could be not skipping class to sleep in, setting aside a time of devotion every day, or including someone on your hall that isn’t your favorite. No one likes eating leftovers and God sure doesn’t like getting ours either.

2.Dedicate time to being a better friend

“ Two are better than one, because they have good return for their work; if one falls down , his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”- Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

This semester I want to be the type of friend that always puts people first, that always encourages, and is quick to listen. One of the best ways we can show Christ’s love is through our friendships. Sometimes in the busyness that comes with a college semester I fail to put my friends first like I should. I want to work on not taking the people that God has blessed me in my life with for granted. Be the friend that holds the tissue when the boy says no and the friend that screams when she gets the internship she wanted. It’s time to stop using pictures on Instagram to express our love for friendships and start living out our friendships by our actions.

3.Start thinking about what you can do for God not what He can do for you

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of you heart.”

I think this verse is often taken way out of context. Yes, God wants to give us the desires of our hearts, but He also wants us to start desiring what He desires to give us rather than just what we want. When we go about our daily activities this semester, we need to be asking ourselves what we are doing today that is glorifying to God. We need to work on not being afraid to say “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders,” and truly understanding the weight of those words. God has granted each of with gifts and callings that only we can fulfill. Don’t let the class where the teacher asks the impossible, trying to do every club on campus, or Netflix get in the way of that.

4.Seek time alone with God/ make his relationship a priority

“ But Jesus would often withdraw to lonely places and pray.”- Luke 5:16

It can be so crazy in our busy lives to find time to just sit and be still before God. But we need to accept that throwing up a quick prayer before we eat or have a test is not going to help us have an authentic relationship with Christ. We need to be actively seeking Him in our times of devotion so that we can have a relationship that grows. Now, I know how hard it is to set aside time when you want to hang with your friends, nap, or feel like you have so much homework you might explode. But setting aside time with God can help us to put Him first in our lives where He belongs. Growing in Him can be one of the ways we start to grow up ourselves.

5.Forgive those who have wronged you in the past and move forward

“ For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.” – Matthew 6:14

Forgiveness is not a word anyone likes to hear, especially when it involves a situation where they have been wronged. It’s not a secret that my earthly father has not exactly played a big role in my life. It is really hard for me sometimes to call him and love him when I know that he has never put me first. But even though it can be a daily struggle for me to forgive him, it is still harder for me to continue to hold a grudge and keep it bottled up inside. I am not saying you need to let that person back into your life that has hurt you in the past, but by not forgiving them how can you expect God to turn around and forgive you? So this semester let go and forgive the girls that were mean to you in the past or the boy that broke your heart. You might just point someone to Christ by your actions.

6.Enjoy your time of singleness

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”- Ecclesiastes 3:11

It can be really hard when you are in college to look around and be happy for the people that are in relationships when you are not. It can start to feel like your biological clock is ticking when you just turned 19 or 20. Let me tell you a little secret, God wants you to be single for a reason. He wants you to be in a relationship for a reason. If you are not in a relationship, it might be because God isn’t done with you yet, or it could be because the boy He has planned for you isn’t ready yet. God’s timing is always impeccable. Even if the guy you thought would be your prince charming isn’t. This semester instead of stressing about never getting married or feeling like you wear a perpetual “Friendzone Me” T-shirt, take some time to truly enjoy it. Go out with your girlfriends, invest in the guy friends you have and make as many as you can, buy a new outfit to make yourself feel beautiful just because, and have that extra scoop of ice cream. Use this time to fall so in love with God that you no longer need a boy to know your worth.

7.Gossip less

“ A gossip betrays a confidence but a trustworthy person can keep a secret.”- Proverbs 11:18

“ Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only things that are good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear it.”- Ephesians 4:29

Watching what I say is easily one the things that I struggle with the most. We can remember every single thing that a mean girl said to us in high school, the time a boy called us ugly or fat, or when our “best friend” told someone she thought we were annoying. Yet we forget to recognize that we so easily have done the same things to others. We need to be the type of friends that when we get frustrated with each other our first instinct isn’t to run to another friend and complain. We need to be the type of friends that can keep secrets. I know how much fun it can be to be the person who has the scoop at a sleepover, but it shows so much more maturity to keep the promise you kept. We were put on this earth to lift each other up and be encouraging, not to complain, ridicule, swear, and to hurt. Don’t say something in your haste and anger that you can’t ever take back.

8.Don’t stress

“ If God is within her she will not fail.”- Psalm 46:5

“ This is why for Christ’s sake I delight in weaknesses, hardships, insults, persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak then I am strong.”- 1 Corinthians 12:10

The hard part about being a Christian is that we are going to face trials. We are going to face semesters where our class loads seem insurmountable, we face problems back home, and we feel abandoned by God. In these stressful times, we need to remember to rely on God before we rely on ourselves. He alone promises to make our burdens light, if we turn to Him. No matter how many times you stress cry over a test, eat dinner alone, or feel like you can’t do it anymore, God has never left your side. You are not a failure for admitting you need help. So this semester try to truly let go and Let God. He holds our whole world in His hands, He will not let us fall without picking us back up.