The primary reason you are heading off to college is to get a great education for the glory of God, but college goes beyond the classroom. No matter where the school is you decide to enroll, the opportunities to get involved are endless. This experience will give you a million chances to glorify God as you learn about life, people and yourself while growing into a mature Jesus following adult.
The first few weeks landing on my college campus were difficult. I was a Christian and an athlete heading to campus, so my first place to look for connecting points with friends and faith was a Christian organization called Fellowship of Christian Athletes. It was a fantastic place to meet new students, learn about the Bible, and grow in my leadership skills as I quickly jumped into servant leadership roles. As the first few years passed, I was an elementary education student, so there were other opportunities to get to know other future teachers on campus. Classes and clubs offered many opportunities to get to know life-long friends with a likeminded worldview.
As soon as you arrive on campus, get involved. Do not sit in your room helping to develop homesickness (that will happen on it’s own). It is a little nerve racking and uncomfortable, but you will get over the hump of awkwardness. Involvement gives you a voice on-campus and confidence with your surroundings. You will learn about your personal strengths and weaknesses. You will learn your God-given skills and get experience. It will also give you many opportunities to develop new interests.
Books could be written about the number of places to connect on the college campus. We will only skim the surface here, but I want to give you a broad menu of places to look so you don’t miss them. There are lots of groups, societies and clubs to research. Most universities have a “student life” section on their webpage that are very helpful in providing all the information and contacts for these places on campus. Check them out and give folks a call before you land on campus. Once you arrive, take them out for coffee and ask your questions. Here are a few of those places.
1. Whether it is a small college or a large university, your options for club involvement are endless. There are many kids of faith-based clubs like Campus Crusade, InterVarsity, Navigators, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and others (or unfortunately anti-religious groups like the Atheists).
2. Political belief groups exist to run for campus offices and debate the death penalty and abortion.
3. Talent and hobby groups exist from scrap booking to instrument playing.
4. Educational groups help students study a foreign language, do science projects or math equations.
5. There are lifestyle groups that celebrate eating habits like being a vegetarian to sexual orientation.
6. Social justice groups exist to bring awareness of AIDS in Africa, famine in Somalia and poverty in Haiti.
7. The arts and theater are part of every campus life. Many involved in acting club have theater majors, but not all.
8. There are local interest clubs based on geography. In Colorado, there are hiking groups. In California, surfing is big.
9. Culture groups take interest in wine, art and music.
10. Sports are a big part of campus life and intramural sports can be a great way to connect without having to be a professional athlete.
11. Student government goes beyond political clubs. Maybe you were not the school president in high school, but you would like to run for office on your campus.
12. Many sororities and fraternities exist on college and university campuses. Sometimes they are nationally known and other times there are local chapters. Some are Christian based and others are business based. Do your research before joining. Find out the history, beliefs, focus, moral standing and reputation in the area. These can be great connecting points for new students or can send you down a difficult path as a Christian. Be wise and discerning before you jump in.
Your life will be full on campus. If you get connected with just one of the opportunities in the list above along with your studies, your calendar will be overflowing. But, it is always good to give of your time for free. Make an effort to volunteer a few hours of your time each month (at least). Maybe it is with your local church. Maybe it is on campus. Take a look into your heart to determine where you should volunteer. Is it with children or teenagers? Do you love using your hands to build things? Are writing letters an interest?
There are many places to volunteer and I would look to your local church first. Outside the church, there are over 600,000 charities and non-profit organizations longing for more volunteers. Here are just a few: World Vision, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Salvation Army, Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, Habitat for Humanity, YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, the Red Cross, Homeless Shelters or other parachurch ministries in your college town. Do a little research and ask some questions, but be sure to volunteer.
When you volunteer, you are living out Jesus’ command to be light in the community. You are not getting any financial reward, but a heart reward. The chance to see and experience someone else’s reality is impacting. Volunteering takes the focus off of you and puts it on someone else while you live out the loving one another commandment of the Bible. It can’t hurt the resume either.
Enjoy this tremendous opportunity to get connected and involved in the life of your college campus, but also take time to volunteer and rest. You are setting rhythms for the rest of your life.