college

Choosing a college: Practical Advice for Christian Parents by Susan Yates

We’re so grateful for this guest post by author/speaker Susan Yates. You can see more of her work and sign up for her blog posts at www.susanalexanderyates.com

Choosing a college can be thrilling and agonizing, hopeful and grab-your-kleenex-where-did-the-time-go emotional.  As Christian parents, we pray not only for the right school for our children, but also that they will get involved in campus ministries and build solid relationships with other believers.

How can we guide our children through the process of choosing a school, and help get them established once they’re there?

Here are some practical tips I hope will help — with thanks to my daughter Allison, who provided input.  It’s hard to believe our two oldest grandkids are now college-aged!

Visiting colleges

It’s best to begin visiting colleges your junior year or before. This will enable you to know what the realistic options are, and will help relieve the stress of the unknown. (A visit with a college counselor might also inspire your child to work harder to be considered.)

A few tips to get the most out of these visits:

  • Meet with campus ministries.

Before your visit, line up a college tour, and arrange to meet with a representative of one or two campus ministries. You’ll want to find out what the fellowship is like on campus. A college administrator should be able to give you names or check out groups like Cru, InterVarsity, Navigators, Reformed University Fellowship, etc.

  • Visit during the week.

It’s best to visit a campus during the week rather than on the weekend. Time your trip so your son or daughter will be able to attend one of the campus fellowship meetings.

  • Take notes!

Have your student take notes on each place, listing the pros and cons. It’s easy to forget the details when you’re looking at several schools.

  • Consider budget and scholarships.

Be careful looking at colleges you know you can’t afford. This will set you and your child up for disappointment. However, do check out financial aid and scholarship possibilities. There are many — often unpublicized — options and you don’t want to miss them.

Determining which school

Set a date before the beginning of senior year for the college applications to be finished. This is a long process and your child may need your encouragement along the way (even if they roll their eyes, they appreciate it more than you know).

Once you’ve heard from schools, it’s wise to visit the ones your child is most interested in again. This time, arrange for them to spend the night in a dorm with a believer. Going to class and attending another fellowship meeting will give them a better picture of what college life is like. If you’re visiting with them be sure to give them space to attend activities by themselves.

Consider a gap year

Many students benefit from taking a gap year off before beginning college. If you’ve been accepted at your school choice, you can apply for a deferment for one year, which will secure your place.

A gap year should be a meaningful experience. There are many opportunities that integrate discipleship as well as service. Our long-term goal is that our kids love Christ and love their neighbor, so you want to choose a program that has these components. Simply hanging out at home is unlikely to contribute to maturity. Choosing a gap year should be a family decision.

Before they go

  • Encourage your child to find a believing roommate.

They may not become best friends, but they’re more likely to have the same moral standards. This is crucial because your child can’t always control what will go on in their room. There will be enough adjustments and they don’t need to add a difficult roommate situation to the mix. Right after our granddaughter was accepted to her school, she found a Christian roommate on the college Facebook page and it has proven to be a huge gift.

  • Connect with ministries from day one.

Many campus fellowships host “moving-in day” luncheons for families. Find out if there are some on your campus and sign up to go. It’s a great way to meet other believers the first day. Statistics show that who a student hangs out with their first ten days of school will largely determine what group they align themselves with.

Expect your child to attend a campus fellowship. It’s wise to check out several and then commit to one by the end of the second month of school. The same is true for church. Especially if you’re supporting your child financially, it’s fair to expect this in return.

  • Communicate clearly about financial expectations.

Be clear about extra expenses, credit cards, and who pays for what. This will avoid misunderstanding in the future. It may be wise to write out an agreement.

Along the way

A wise parent will have begun preparing her child to leave for several years. We want to raise independent, confident kids. This involves the turning over of responsibilities along the way. Your high school kids should be doing their own laundry, making and keeping their own appointments, waking themselves up, writing their own thank-you notes. (It’s important to thank those who wrote a recommendation. Gratitude is a character trait, and we need to thank those who take time to help us.)

Teach your teen how to use online resources for reconciling their bank accounts and using a budget app for planning expenses.

Pray and trust

This may be harder for mom and dad than the student. As parents, we’re used to providing for our child. But we have little control over what a college will say. Our child may feel rejected when he is not admitted by a school.  We must remember that God knows our child and He knows what is best for them. He will lead them to the right place. In the final analysis it must be their decision, not ours.

If your child does not get into his first choice, he needs your reassurance that God has a better plan. He may need to rely on your faith — and your faith will be stretched as well. But God does have a plan for your child. And He will cause all things to work together for good as we trust in Him (Romans 8:28).

Although this can be a stressful season, do enjoy the blessings of it. You are about to launch your child whom you have had the privilege of raising. You are entrusting him or her to God in a deeper way. They have the privilege of a good education in a free country. None of us want to lose the perspective that education is a gift.

May God guide you and your child through the process of choosing a college.

Anything Dead Coming Back to Life Hurts | Reflections by Cynthia Ajuzie '19

If I’ve realized anything about being at UVa the past four years, it’s that one of my favorite quotes from Toni Morrison’s Beloved holds true. The quote is “Anything dead coming back to life hurts”. (Slight digression: I wasn’t sure if I should write this blog post about how college has further solidified my identity as a Nigerian-American woman, but I often need to my remind myself that being black is only one story that streaks my life and that God has given me many other stories that deserve attention too.)

Merely a few weeks into my fall semester as a third year, I quickly noticed how difficult it was for me to stay on top of my workload. However, I thought that my struggles were just going to be something I overcame by working hard and being strategic with the time I spent studying. School had always been something I felt completely in control of and believed I could excel at with the right efforts, so I didn’t worry too much about my rigorous course load. The night before my first exam rolled around and I remember reviewing notes in my room, trying to elucidate concepts that were still blurry to me. Once I realized that information was no longer sticking in my head, I decided to go to bed. The only problem was that after I did get in bed, I couldn’t sleep. My mind continued strumming through concepts I didn’t understand and my heart felt squeamish in my chest. By 2:30 a.m., I figured I should probably try to talk to someone to see if that would get my mind off of things. I called my mom, who works night shifts as a nurse, and she tried to calm me down for a few minutes. It was comforting hearing her voice and being reminded that my heart and thoughts were not the only sounds that sloshed the earth.

I viewed that night of not sleeping as a fluke that would certainly not happen again because I’d be more diligent in making sure I got to bed earlier at a consistent time each night. However, even with my efforts to apply better sleep hygiene to my life, I continued struggling with anxiety and insomnia multiple times a week. Lying in bed exhausted in the middle of the night, feeling betrayed by and unfamiliar to your own body is one of the worst feelings I have come to know in my life. Insomnia descended me into a pit of loneliness, fashioned by anxiety and I was so unaware of how to plow myself out of it. Many activities that I used to enjoy became lackluster and I dreaded having things to do that would require a lot of energy/thinking. I felt like a walking silhouette of who I knew I was.

Desperately wanting to improve my compromised mental health and not wanting to turn to my parents for help (who come from a culture that struggles with legitimizing mental health issues), I began trying to think of ways to fix myself. I visited CAPs, looked up organic remedies to insomnia, sought prayer from my housemates, bought religious self-help books for sleeping disorders, and had my sister stay on the phone with me some nights in hopes that it would help me sleep better. Nothing seemed to be working long term. With my frustration towards myself and God mounting, I resolved to accept the fact that insomnia had woven it’s way into my life and I’d just have to make room for it on my bed most nights.

The night before my biggest final that semester, I began hearing strongly from God. I was on the floor in the room of one of my housemates who had struggled with insomnia one summer and told me I could stay in her room, so I wouldn’t feel as lonely, while she played worship instrumental music to see if that would help me sleep better. After she had fallen asleep and I was still wide-awake ready for the sun to sprout in a bit, I felt the Lord drop this poem in my spirit based on Psalm 23.

It is well with my soul

For the Lord is so faithful and gracious

He makes me lie down in still pastures

And allows my joy to overflow in abundance

He gives me reasons to sing

He calms my spirit

He gives me strength

He is my strength

After I received those words, I felt lighter. It’s interesting how easily we make room for our struggles to ingest more and more of our lives until something - an epiphany or encouraging word- reminds us that those struggles do not have to permanently suffocate who we are as people. God is our reminder of this fact. And He does it so well. He meets us right where we are, just like He met me in that moment, and tells us that there is hope. He is hope.

I’d be lying if I said that night was the last time I experienced sleeplessness. But, it was the last night I viewed insomnia as some insurmountable entity that characterized all of me. That poem God deposited into my soul made me realize two things:

  1. God is always faithful and his faithfulness is noticeable if we actually open our eyes to see it

  2. God wanted me to stop being so close-fisted with my studies/ future and to relinquish those parts of my life to Him

After I made these realizations, I felt a peace that I had not felt in months. I allowed myself to indulge in the kindness and graciousness of God unrestrainedly. Experiencing a semester racked with sleeplessness and anxiety made me notice how God is a high tower for those who seek Him. His hands are strong enough to carry all of our burdens and His love is deep enough for Him to actually want to carry them. Nights can still be difficult for me, but not as often anymore because of my confidence in God’s faithfulness and his desire to give me rest. I had to go through one of the most difficult seasons in my life for God to revive who I am in him and for him to truly make me a new creation.

John 14:27, Philippians 4:7, John 1:5, 1Peter 5:7-10


Is your nest emptying? Guest post by Susan Yates

This is a guest post by the author/speaker Susan Yates. Email this post to a friend and CC us (christy@theologicalhorizons.org) and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a copy of Susan and Barbara Rainey's book for both you and your friend!

Are you getting ready to send a child off to college or preparing to send your youngest to all day school? Or have you just had a wedding? If so, you may be an emotional mess. The empty nest hits us in different ways, at different times, and often when we least expect it!

How well I remember dropping our last child Susy off at college and beginning the long drive home. The week before, we had left her twin sister Libby at another college so not only was I sending off my last two at once, but it was the first time the girls, who are very close, had been separated. My husband John thought this would be a celebration of sorts for us! All those years of daily parenting five children would be finished and now we could focus more on us. So he planned an overnight on the drive home at a romantic lodge in the mountains. Ha.

As we pulled away from the college campus my tears started to flow. I felt like my life was over. My main job of parenting was done. What was my purpose to be now? I ached for the sadness the girls were experiencing in being separated. It had been their idea to go to different colleges but none of us anticipated the pain this would cause. In the midst of my tears I tried to explain my feelings to my husband. Feelings I couldn’t even understand. I felt lonely in my misery. I felt guilty. After all, this was a good thing! And I had a great husband who was trying to please me. Yet I was miserable. Needless to say our romantic getaway wasn’t very romantic!

You may not experience sadness at having just sent a child off. In fact you may be thrilled. Each one of us is different and we never know when the emotions of the empty nest will hit us. It may not be until your last child is married. Or you may grieve when they begin high school. This season is not neat. It’s messy. And there’s not much written about it to guide us through it. But God does have a new plan for each of us as we approach the empty nest. And it is exciting.

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If you are about to drop off your college freshman here are 4 great tips:

  1. Before you go to campus research the fellowship groups on the campus. Groups like Cru, RUF, Christian Study Centers, Navigators, IV. Find out when and where they meet and tell your child that you want them to visit two at least twice and then join one. The same thing applies to church. Visit 2 and then commit to the one that feels right. This should be a clear expectation, similar to going to class. You are likely financing some of their costs and you have a right to make this a condition. They should commit to a fellowship group and a church within the first 2 months. Statistics show that the first 10 days of college life are crucial in determining what “group” your student will hang out with. We want to encourage our kids to seek healthy relationships.
  2. Many college fellowships have move-in day luncheons. Sign up to attend one. You and your child will meet other believers and hear about fellowship groups on campus. The Center for Christian Study in Charlottesville, VA has one such lunch that my daughter Libby and I helped start nearly 20 years ago! 
  3. When you move in wear a t-shirt from a Christian camp or some logo. When our daughter Libby moved into her dorm she had on a Young Life t-shirt. Another girl moving in recognized this and the girls realized they were both believers. This was a huge connection for their first day!
  4. Be positive, even if you are sad and your child is too. Communicate to your child that he or she is about to begin a great adventure and it is good! And continue to pray daily for them and for their friendships.

Barbara Rainey and I wrote a book which deals with various challenges of the empty nest including loneliness, redefining marriage, how to let go of your child, etc. The book contains a 4-session group study. We hope you will invite some friends to join you in an Empty Nest book club.

What Does Every College Kid Need? Good Friends. - Jodie Berndt

We are doing a book give away of Jodie's new book, Praying the Scriptures for your Adult Children! Email us your name and mailing address by midnight, Friday, January 12th and we'll announce the winners early next week!

I remember the high school counselor asking Robbie and me what we were looking for in a college for Hillary, our eldest. He expected, I guess, for us to say something like “affordable tuition” or “strong academic reputation” or even something lofty, like “opportunities to pursue bio-medical research.” I think the guy was a little stunned when I gave him my answer:  I wanted my daughter to go someplace where she would make good friends and enjoy strong Christian fellowship.

Fellowship is a tricky word. Author John Ortberg says it is “churchy,” and that it “suggests basements and red punch and awkward conversations.” I get that. But I also understand what Ortberg means when he says that fellowship is something we can’t live without. And when the time came to send Hillary—and then later, her siblings—off to college, my first prayers were for them to find life-giving friendships, the kind marked by things like loyalty, joy, and a vibrant commitment to Christ.

God answered those prayers, but the road to connectedness has not always been easy, or quick. I remember dropping Hillary off at U.Va. on Move-In Weekend. Someone had chalked a cheery greeting on the sidewalk steps: 

 

Steps.jpg

The words held such promise! But, two months later, as the newness wore off and homesickness set in, they seemed almost hollow. Hillary had a great roommate and her life swirled with classes and social activities, but she had not yet discovered “her people.” There was friendship space that had yet to be filled.

Our kids need good friends. We can’t make them for them, but we can certainly ask God to provide. And as we pray for this need—as we partner with God to accomplish his good purposes in our kids’ lives—let’s look to the Scriptures for insight on what matters most. There are, obviously, all sorts of ways we might pray; here are three of my top friendship requests:

Constancy. The Bible offers several portraits of friendships marked by loyalty, dependability, and faithfulness:  Jonathan and David. Ruth and Naomi. And of course Jesus, the one who promised to be with us “always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Let’s ask God to give our kids faithful friends and to draw them into a life-giving relationship with Jesus, the one who gave up his life “for his friends” (John 15:13).

Next, Transparency. When I was a student at U.Va., I had two roommates (Susan and Barbie), and we gave each other permission to be what we called “brutally honest.” It didn’t matter if we were critiquing an iffy outfit or confronting each other about a questionable behavior; we spoke the truth. We tried to do so with love, but even the gentlest rebukes sometimes hurt. “Faithful,” Proverbs 27:6 says, “are the wound of a friend.” Let’s ask God to give our college kids friends like that—friends with whom they can admit their mistakes and find restoration, forgiveness, and genuine love.

And finally, let’s pray that our kids will enjoy friendship with other believers, the “fellowship of the Holy Spirit” that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 13:14, the kind that fosters connection, not just on the natural level, but also in the deepest recesses of the soul. Friendships forged around common interests (sports teams, Greek life, good books) are wonderful, but when the common ground of eternity comes into play, the most satisfying relationships—the kind that transcend things like race, age, and socioeconomic background—can take root. Let’s ask God to surround our children with friends who will “spur them on toward love and good deeds” and run alongside them as they “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.” (Hebrews 10:24, 2 Timothy 2:22)

If you like praying this way—taking the words we find in the Bible, and using them to give shape to our prayers—you’ll find hundreds of prayer prompts in my new book, Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children. In addition to the prayers about friendship, the book covers grown-up needs like getting a job, resisting the party culture, and making the transition to adulthood with wisdom, purpose, and grace.

It doesn’t matter how old our kids are, or how far away they may go. We never stop loving them. We never stop wanting God’s best for their lives. We might not be able to pick their friends (or anything else they might choose), but we can pray. We can slip our hand into God’s—the One who loves them enough, and is powerful enough, to do more than all we could ask or imagine—and trust him to do what he promised.

It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)

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Jodie Berndt is a 1984 graduate of The University of Virginia and a former co-chair of the U.Va. Parents Fund Committee. The author of nine books (including the popular Praying the Scriptures series), Jodie is a speaker, writer, and Bible teacher. Find her writing at JodieBerndt.com, or connect with her on Facebook (Jodie Berndt Writes), Instagram (@jodie_berndt), and Twitter (@jodieberndt).

Jodie and her husband, Robbie (Class of 1985), have four Wahoo children and two Hokie sons-in-law. Which, except during football season, is not such a bad thing.

 

 

Directionally Challenged | Horizons Fellow Ellie Wood '18

“Arrive at Christy’s house by 8pm” -- a simple direction, with a not so simple destination. As a Horizons Fellow, I have the unique opportunity to meet with the other Fellows every month to discuss theology, chat about life, and learn how to live a life for Jesus.  Christy, our fearless leader, has been gracious enough to open up her beautiful home out in the countryside for our monthly meetings. On this particular night, Margaret Draper (another Fellow) and I decided to carpool out to Christy’s house. Now, for those of you who don’t know me, you should know one thing: I am perpetually late.  I have always been and most likely always will be at least 10 minutes late to the party.  Following this pattern, Margaret and I were already running late to our Fellows meeting when we lost cell phone service and as a result lost our sense of direction.

Snaking down unknown, curvy roads, we quickly realized we had missed our turn. As we drove aimlessly, we discussed our post-grad plans and realized neither of us had any concrete ideas. We both had joined in on the typical UVa business consulting career frenzy but through our conversation, I realized I had no idea why I “wanted” to go into consulting. Within my major at the Batten School, everyone feels the unsaid pressure to have the best job in the best city while singlehandedly changing the world through policy. Somewhere along the way, consulting became the route to achieving all of this and more, so I wanted to get in on it.  I didn’t consider whether or not I would actually enjoy consulting nor did I even attempt to ask God about it. I was captivated by the world’s definition of success but deaf to the Lord’s voice in my life. God calls us to a much higher purpose than to simply “be the best.” In 2 Peter 1:3, Peter addresses this calling by saying, “his divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” The key to this verse for me is ‘our knowledge of him’—and I realized that night that through my pursuit of knowledge in my major and in my job search, I’d forgotten first and foremost to seek knowledge of the Lord.

Despite arriving 30 minutes late, Margaret and I eventually made it to Christy’s house, and everyone welcomed us in with cookies and laughter. Although we may have taken the longer route to get there, the conversation was well worth it. As a 4th year, life often feels like a journey with a not-so-simple destination. But, since that car ride, the Lord has gently reminded me that He is the one holding the directions.