In 2004, I entered college as a bright-eyed, naive 18-year-old. Sporting chunky blond highlights, a new Northface fleece, and a portable discman in hand, I walked through the front door of my dorm, Shilling Hall. I thought I had everything figured out and knew exactly what I was doing. Wow. Was I wrong (and I’m not just talking about my fashion sense). Here are four things I wish I knew my freshman year.
You don’t (and shouldn’t) have to have your life all figured out.
This was my plan going into college: I will be a music major so that I can become a high school choir director and eventually college director. I will meet my future husband during my freshman year and we will date all 4 years of college and then get married.
THANK GOD THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN!
About a year in, I realized I wasn’t at all interested in music education. Also, my first dating relationship as a freshmen epically went down in flames. And I will never regret that I got to have so much fun being single with my sisters in college.
My point is, we shouldn’t pigeonhole ourselves by setting such rigid plans for our futures when we barely know enough about ourselves to make such big decisions. Had I stuck to my plan, I probably wouldn’t have joined Pi Phi. Also, I wouldn’t have been open to the idea of working in full-time ministry for Greek IV. And, if I had been dating said-freshman boyfriend, I wouldn’t have met my current husband during my senior year. Yikes.
Be fluid with your plans and be open to God switching them up. You might be surprised at what you like and don’t like when you hold your plans loosely. Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” When we cling too tightly, we might miss out on far better things that God wants to accomplish through us.
It’s ok to try something and fail.
When I realized that I didn’t want to study music, I slightly changed my degree from Music Education to Music Therapy. What I really should have done was change my major completely to areas I was actually passionate about like Psychology or Communications. I didn’t change my major because I was afraid: afraid that I would fail my friends and family, afraid that I would disappoint my professors, and afraid that, if I did switch, maybe I wouldn’t like my other choices either.
Instead I stuck with a program that, while I still succeeded at and enjoyed, I don’t use in my current job! I will say that it is important to make a decision and stick to it because truthfully many people work in fields that have nothing to do with their college degrees. But for me, I was motivated by fear of other people rather than trusting that God was maybe leading me into something else. Failure will not end you, it will not mess you up forever. Failure is an opportunity to learn, grow, and depend more on God.
The older members in your chapter are more chill than you think.
As a freshman in Pi Phi, I remember feeling so intimidated by the juniors and seniors in my chapter. Do they like me? Will they judge me if they find out I’m a Christian? I was afraid to go public with my faith because of what older members would think of me.
I was surprised when an older sister, Melissa, asked me if I wanted to co-lead a Bible study with her. With her support, I started sharing a little more about my faith with my sisters. I was surprised at how open and interested my sisters were! I learned that my sisters in Pi Phi truly cared about my interests and passions, even if they didn’t agree with them. They weren’t really that concerned whether or not I would do a keg stand with them. And they didn’t judge me when I went out with them to parties and didn’t drink. I could talk openly about being a Christian because my sister were way more chill than I gave them credit for.
Your job is not to please everybody.
Even though you are officially an adult and most likely living on your own for the first time, your parents and peers still have a lot of influence in your life. Each relationship you have might have different expectations for you. You dad might want you to study medicine. Your mom might want you to eat healthier. Your big bro might want you to do shots with him. And your pledge sisters might want you spend 8 hours together working on Initiation week crafts. Some of these might be good decisions, some might be bad.
Your job isn’t to please them, it’s to please God. Galatians 1:10 says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
What does God want you to do? It could be what your friends and family want you to do. But it might not be. You might receive criticism for doing otherwise but it is far better to follow after God’s desires for you, which are always in our best interests, than simply try to please everyone around you.
As I reflect on my freshman year, I’m grateful that I stayed connected in my faith through Greek InterVarsity. My relationship with God was what sustained and encouraged me through so much transition and stress.
Click here to find a Greek IV chapter near you.