It didn’t take too long into my freshman year of college to realize that I was up a creek without a paddle, or maybe a fish out of water, or whatever description there is to describe the immense difficulties that college brings. I was in over my head (I promise no more metaphors!), but like most freshman in their first year of college, I was heavily overwhelmed with all the reading, all the homework assignments, and all the information thrown at me…and that was just the academic side of things.
College also brought on challenges beyond academics- like learning to manage my time. I especially had a hard time saying “no” to the spontaneous pranks the late night Chubby’s runs, exploring downtown Denver, road trips to California, watching movies, hanging out with friends, playing intramurals, going home for the weekend, and more. (FOMO is real) Other obligations such as playing on the men’s soccer team, working jobs both on and off campus, participating on the chapel worship team, serving as a residential assistant, and courting my future wife compounded my struggles to get through college. It was just as difficult to etch out time to spend with the Lord.
Many times I questioned if I could make it through college, but the Lord got me through…even though it took me four and a half years to earn my degree. Looking back to those years I know it was the hardest hurdle to overcome in my young life.
Fast forward 15 plus years later and I am now a husband and father. There are no more assignments due, mandatory readings, cramming for exams, biology classes, college algebra, or any other topic I was less than average in. I thought that life would be great without the struggles of college, because I was convinced that once I finished my program, the hardest hurdle would be overcome. In actuality it has been the contrary…life after college is harder! And the Lord used those college years to prepare me for the challenges after college.
While there were no longer assignments due, I still had to find a job to pay the bills. (If you think the consequences of missing an assignment are bad, try missing the payment of any bill. Ouch!) It wouldn’t be so bad if there were a few bills to pay a month, but it doesn’t work that way. There’s rent/mortgage to pay, car insurance, life insurance, the water bill, the waste management bill, the energy bill, student loans.
These obligations don’t even include luxury things like phones bills, internet and cable bills, a gym membership payment, my sports illustrated subscription, etc. Oh wait there’s even more! Budgeting to eat, buying gas to drive my vehicle, and a small amount for entertainment costs really add to the complications of having so many obligations to keep up with. And those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.
My college obligations really pale in comparison to the obligations after college and I didn’t even get to the obligations I have to my wife and 3 boys. (Whew. I really used the word “obligations” a lot in this paragraph!)
Being sleep deprived in college is a badge of honor. Being sleep deprived as a parent just wears you out and makes you more prone to dad jokes. The un-interrupted 4-6 hours of sleep in college is way better than the very much interrupted 4-6 hours of sleep my wife and I got in those early years of raising our boys- because in order for them to survive you just can’t ignore their late-night pleas for food and diaper changes.
Time management skills are very important in life after college. As tough as it was to say “no” to hanging out with friends in college, if I over commit myself now it’s not just missing out on a good time with friends, it’s missing out on times with my family. Not to mention- it seems as though life likes to throw curves at you. Like spontaneous emergency room visits, calling the insurance company because your house and cars just got thrashed from a hail storm, or something as simple as orchestrating family time. My calendar needs more days in the week to get everything done.
If you are reading this, you are probably thinking what a downer I am. My intentions are not to be discouraging, but rather throw a little caution and a lot of encouragement your way. I also know that everyone’s story and circumstances are different, but life challenges us all in real and difficult ways.
In the book of James we are told to rejoice when trials come our way because through these trials the Lord is strengthening us. The struggles in college are strengthening you for what’s to come later in life. Embrace these challenges. Learn from mistakes and create good habits while in college. You will be better off for overcoming the college hurdles. College is hard and it’s not intended to be easy, but it will prepare you for life after college!