College has a well-earned reputation of being a complete den of debauchery once the sun goes down. It seems like the news is filled with stories of college kids getting themselves in trouble with the law or causing harm to themselves, their friends or the surrounding area. As such, Christians often find themselves believing that they are either doomed to be dragged into such sin during their college years or that they will somehow float above it all on God’s grace. The reality, however, is likely to be somewhere in between, and realistic expectations are perhaps a Christian’s greatest defense against both the inherent sins of college culture and the crippling loneliness that can come from not taking part. Here are some common misconceptions about having a Christian college experience and how to avoid them.
"God will give you perfect peace and comfort throughout the years."Religion has been shown to help people immensely when it comes to issues requiring emotional resilience and recovering from hardship. That does not mean, however, that you are going to face those trials with saint-like serenity. You are going to argue with your roommate. You are going to feel overwhelmed. You are going to have a class you hate and a class you pass by the grace of a good friend’s borrowed notes. That is simply the reality of it. College is going to be four of the best years of your life, but it is also going to involve a lot of changes and a lot of upheaval. You are likely going to be in a new city where you know few to no people. Your support network is going to be extremely distant, and you are going to have to handle issues on your own. This is all important growth, and God will guide you through it. That does not mean you will not have to shoulder some of the problems. Christ might help you forgive your roommate when they kick you out of the room for an evening so they can have some alone time with their significant other. He is not going to stop you from being irritated that you cannot get into your room to get your books to study for your exam the next day.
"Everyone is going to try and get you to sin."College can get pretty wild. You do not have to take part in any of that craziness if you do not want to, but do not be surprised if you are invited to join in the insanity. Your friends and classmates are not trying to drag you kicking and screaming into a den of debauchery. They are going to a party they think will be fun. They are simply trying to share that fun with you.
If you are not interested in the party scene, politely refuse. Do not, however, get on your high horse about it and then wonder why no one invites you out anymore. If you do not want to go to a crazy party, suggest an alternative event. Some people go to parties because they do not know what else to do. Given an alternative, they will happily take it. If your friends still want to go to the party that night, make plans for another day. That way, your friends know that it is the party that you are uninterested in, not their company.
"Your professors are plotting to destroy your faith."Higher education is a bastion of atheism. This is not news to most people. It does not mean, however, that your professors are actively working to undermine your faith. Do not view every class with suspicion and defensiveness. This is a quick way to hurt your grades, make enemies of your professors and make you equal parts paranoid and miserable for four years. Instead, take each class with a grain of salt and be respectful of other people’s ideas. There is a time and place for a religious debate. The lecture hall of Biology 203 is not it.
Treat your professors with respect, but do not be a doormat either. If you have a professor who singles you or other people of faith out in their class for unfair treatment, be sure to know what your options are as a student. In some colleges, speaking to the department head may be enough to end the issue. In others, you may have to speak with the dean or even call the Alliance Defending Freedom and prepare for a court case. Be aware of the reputation of a college, department or class before enrolling in order to save yourself some grief.
"You are guaranteed to make lifelong friends in your church."Student churches and religious student organizations are great ways to meet people when you are in college. They are not, however, guaranteed to be where you meet your closest friends. Some Christian students feel like they have to find their best friends in their church or student ministry. There is no guarantee, however, that you all share any more common interests than your faith. While faith is a great start to a relationship, it cannot sustain one alone if you and the other person are complete opposites in every other way.
If you do not click with the people in your church, there is nothing wrong with you. It simply means you need to look for friends in other places. Get to know your dormmates. Talk to the people who sit next to you in class rather than scrolling through your phone. Join another student organization dedicated to your interests. There are dozens of ways to meet people in college. Do not limit yourself to just one.
"You will either be perfect or fall completely into sin."Some Christians seem to think that college is all or nothing. They either remain pure, holy, perfect angels all the way through graduation, or they go careening off course into a life filled with alcohol, drugs and sex. The reality is, however, that you are likely to fall somewhere in between the two. Staying a perfect angel in college is all but impossible. For most people, this is the first time they are completely on their own. This means your parents are not there to remind you to get up on Sunday morning to go to church or to give you a curfew on Saturday night. You are human and getting a crash course in personal responsibility. You will slip up. You will stumble. This does not mean you are doomed. If you made a mistake and let your friend talk you into those drinks or completely abandoned going to church for a semester, you are not a complete failure as a Christian. Christianity is based on the understanding that people will screw up. That is why grace and forgiveness exist.
Having a Christian college experience means something a little different for everyone. The key, however, is understanding what is likely to actually happen in college. You will face temptation and struggles. You will stumble and fall at some point. Then, you will pick yourself back up and keep moving forward, wiser and better prepared to face temptation than you were before.