10 Lifestyle Traps to Avoid in College

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We all make mistakes, right? Well, when we are headed to college there are common mistakes you can avoid your first few years out of high school. I want to give you my list of the most common mistakes made by those who are leaving high school and entering the real world. These top 10 traps are in no particular order, but they all represent very real temptations for you to avoid as you head into this next chapter of your life. I don’t want to sound like your mom or dad, but someone who has made many of these mistakes myself. These are just wise, but direct, words to help you avoid the traps.

1. Listening is important.

Many leaving the high school world think they have it all figured out, so they are not very teachable. Be careful to express your opinions and “expert advice” at the right times and in the right places. If you don’t, you could find yourself in trouble with friends, coworkers, professors, church leaders, pastors and others around you. Remember to listen more than you talk; this is proven to produce wisdom.

2. Get exercise on your calendar.

It’s vital for both your physical and your mental health. Some of you might have been active in high school, but many of you were not all-star athletes. Start a habit of exercising immediately.

3. Build healthy boundaries.

An overwhelming number of young people leave high school and drop their moral boundaries and become sexually active. Don’t put yourself in this position (literally)! Live for love, not lust. Set your boundaries now so you don’t find yourself in a compromising position. The consequences could send your life on a major detour for the worse. You don’t want to go there.

4. Plan to have fun.

Seriously! College is about getting an education, preparing to get a job and bringing home some cash, but these years are also about growing into a mature Jesus-follower for the rest of your life. This is a fun time. Let me let you in on a secret. God invented fun. So make sure you laugh and enjoy the abundant life he created for you to have in college and beyond.

5. Facebook can be tricky.

Be really smart with your social media posts. A “status” could come back to haunt you. A picture could hinder your chances at that scholarship or job. They are public, and oftentimes your future employer will ask to see your Facebook page before hiring you. On the other hand, if you are living for Jesus and your attitude on social media shows, you are good-to-go.

6. Food fights.

Many leaving high school eat everything in arms’ reach. Finally faced with the opportunity to make all their own choices about food, they think they’ve died and gone to heaven. All-you-can-eat everything … at … every meal! It’s great—until the second semester ends and they realize the reality of the “freshman 15.” On the flip-side, some students don’t eat enough (or at all) and endanger their own health. Be wise in your eating habits: Your identity in Jesus is positively or negatively affected by them.

7. Freedom is awesome.

Many who’ve recently been released from parental boundaries decide to party it up (yes, even Christians). They drink too much, do things they don’t remember the next morning, and start down the path of destruction. Decide now that you won’t put yourself in situations that can negatively affect your studies, class attendance, church participation, friendships and overall health. You don’t want this kind of reputation, especially as a Jesus-follower.

8. Avoid putting it off.

Some leaving high school wait till the last minute to get things done. Consequently they fall behind. Maybe you got away with that kind of approach in high school, but it’s time to wake up. In college and in the workforce, waiting till the last minute will get you failed or fired. Walking out of high school into the real world can be like stepping on a treadmill that’s already moving 100 miles per hour. Be careful—you could get hurt. Once you’re in the groove of college or the workforce, stay on pace so you don’t get behind.

9. Get out there.

Many college-aged individuals sit in their dorm room or apartment when they’re not in class or at work. It’s hard to imagine, but some choose not to get involved in extracurricular activities. In college, there are plenty of extracurricular things to do. There are many campus ministries and local churches to plug in to. The options are endless, so take advantage of your interests and stay active … but balance them with studying and other activities.

10. Take Jesus with you.

Seriously! This one is the key. Many leaving high school forget to take Jesus along. Make Jesus a central part of your life. He loves you passionately and only wants the best for you. Follow him and let him guide your identity, choices and who you connect with in community. It will be worth it.

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Jeff Baxter has a doctorate in Youth and Family Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary and more than twenty years of experience on staff in local churches. He’s written The Ultimate Guide to Being Christian in College and Together: Adults and Teenagers Transforming the Church, and he’s a frequent speaker and consultant with Ministry Architects. He is currently the Lead Pastor at Light & Life Church in Lakewood, CO.