Today more kids go to college than ever before and yet many wonder if kids are truly ready. How do parents and pastors and influencers prepare young people for this important phase of their lives? Today I’m blessed to chat with Alex Chediak, author of the newly released book, Thriving at College. Alex is an Associate Professor of Engineering and Physics at California Baptist University.
I think Alex has written a powerful and much-needed book. What like about it is that it is so comprehensive. I’d highly recommend it to any high-school senior or college freshman (or their parents, for that matter!).
Studies show that more people go to college today than ever before. But are most kids ready when they go?
I don’t know about most kids, but many kids are not. There’s a convergence of two trends here: The percentage of high school graduates attending college has been increasing, but the readiness of the average high school graduate to take on adult responsibilities has probably been going in the other direction. Teens today are encouraged by our culture to enjoy the perks of adulthood (a driver’s license, income from a part-time job) without accepting the associated responsibilities, and to do so for as long as possible. Sometimes well-intentioned parents make things worse by parenting their children in a way that actually prevents them from assuming responsibility, learning to weigh options and make decisions, and from reaping what they sow. They are the type of moms and dads sometimes referred to as “helicopter parents.”
There seems to be a crisis in maturity in this generation–do you see that perhaps young people are more in need of developing a plan of action for the college phase of their lives?
As with any major undertaking, it helps to begin with the end in mind. College should be a launching pad into all that goes along with responsible Christian adulthood. That means academic development, but it also means character, spiritual, and relational development.
So I think it’s crucial to understand how college is different than high school. I talk about that in chapter 2. It’s important that students form good friendships, because those who walk with the wise become wise and a companion of fools will suffer harm (Prov. 13:20). Students also need to become increasingly dependable workers to grow academically in the areas that God has gifted them.
I like the fact that you delve into more than just the typical, “Stay pure, keep your faith” wisdom we dispense to departing college students. What other pitfalls do college kids fall into?
A big one is assuming that college is a continuation of high school. High school is highly structured: you’re in class much longer, but much less is expected of you out of class than in college. And living under the same roof as your parents provides a significant measure of accountability – one that’s absent when you leave for college.
That means students need to have the self-discipline to log off of Facebook and study for significant chunks of time. There are other pitfalls, like living off of credit cards and getting into serious debt.
Actually, the structure of Thriving at College is that it unpacks ten common mistakes college students make. Check out the Table of Contents.
We typically think kids goof off too much at college, but there is a section in the book on students who are consumed with their courses. Explain this common mistake.
Some college students are excessively consumed with grades and professional preparation – with what they’re going to do after they graduate, with whether their resume will be good enough, etc. Mental health personnel at Christian and secular colleges will tell you that their offices are increasingly crowded with students struggling with pervasive anxiety.
But there’s a difference between working and worrying, between being enthralled with the learning process and living for grades. With the one, you find yourself lost in the discovery process: reading a text, writing a paper, studying a piece of music, or solving an engineering problem. You’re so engrossed with the activity that you stop watching the time. Few students do this too much, but those who do need to be reminded of the physical, emotional, and mental benefits of fresh air, exercise, friendship, and sleep.
By contrast, living for grades, being anxious about every little point, is a problem many good students struggle with. Left unchecked, it robs students of the joy of learning, not to mention the joy of life. It can even make them tense up and perform far below their potential.
In Thriving at College, I encourage students to practice loving the process of learning and to let their grades be the by-product of their preparation, to do the best they can and to leave the results to God. Also, to recognize that work, recreation, and rest are all gifts of God – each has value. These concepts are discussed in chapter 7, an excerpt of which was posted here.
If you could give one piece of advice to a young person going off to school (besides buying Thriving at College, of course!), what would you tell them?
Make sure you’ve internalized the Christian faith for yourself. You cannot thrive in college on a faith and worldview borrowed from your parents. It must be your own. Not sure this has happened yet? Check out Appendix 2 of Thriving at College, and some of the references I list there.
If you’d like to purchase a copy of Alex’s excellent book, Thriving at College, here are a few important links: