[Next Generation] Preparing students for college

By: Mike Sandusky

Every year the Arkansas Democrat Gazette publishes an article about how prepared or unprepared academically high school graduates are for college. There has been great concern for preparing students for the next level of education, and both parents and students take great measures to ensure that they are adequately prepared. However, there may be a more urgent concern and that is, “are our youth prepared spiritually for college?”  

A majority of high school graduates in Arkansas come from small schools. Granted, every high school regardless of size has issues when it comes to worldliness, but it is small in stature to what they will face in the university world. College freshmen are inundated with in-your-face sexual immorality, drugs, and a large party scene. In addition, they are confronted with issues of faith when they encounter very secular philosophies from professors and other students, people of other world religions, and people who strongly oppose Christian views and values. Often our high school graduates are just not prepared to face this kind of world spiritually. 

In recently discussing this issue with a group of college freshmen who had just completed their first semester, students admitted that they were not prepared for what they encountered on the college campus. Many of them were trying to establish spiritual habits that would help them survive and learn how to defend their faith not only in the residence halls, but in the classroom as well. Many of them are left to trying to discover what they actually believe and exactly what their faith is based upon. 

So how do we, as parents and as a church, prepare students for university life? The first line of thought is that we need to realize the harsh realities of this generation. It is estimated that less than 10% of the college generation are Believers. To send a Christian student to college unprepared spiritually is perhaps far worse than sending them unprepared academically. Both could end up in failure. Just as we would not send someone unprepared to war, we should not send our youth unprepared for the spiritual war they are going to encounter on the college campus. 

Here are some thoughts to help high school seniors prepare for that first year at college. 

  • Stress the importance of strong spiritual habits. In visiting with many freshmen, it is staggering how many are not consistently in the Bible each day. It is a guarantee that students are going to have a very difficult time surviving in college spiritually apart from having a consistent time in the Word of God. In addition, helping them develop a strong prayer life is vital.  

Finding a strong church family during the first couple of weeks at college is also important. It has been stated by many that college students tend to wander from church during the first year of college. Helping them find that church home before they actually leave home could pay huge dividends in the life of your first-year college student. 

Many students are encouraged by their youth leader and other church leaders to develop healthy spiritual disciplines, but are they told why this is necessary? High school seniors need to understand that by developing these habits they are preparing to stand firm in a world that has a totally different philosophy. 

  • Help them develop a Christ-centered worldview. In working with college students, many come to the campus not knowing what they believe or why they believe in what they do believe. As young people enter the arena of the university classroom, they can become easy fodder for professors who may be pushing a worldly philosophy. It is also true that professors can be known to target Believers and challenge them about their faith. During that final year as a high school student, they need to be led in developing a Biblically sound worldview so that they will be able to stand firm upon the tenets of their faith. 
  • Instruct them in world religions. When students arrive on the college campus they are not just entering into a worldly environment, they are literally entering into the world. Arkansas campuses are well represented when it comes to an international presence. Students from the Middle East, the Pacific Rim, Asia and many other regions are coming to Arkansas for higher education. For many students, this may be their first encounter with an international student. With them, these international students bring different world religions. I have often heard first-year university students state, “I wish I knew what other religions believed.” Our youth are walking side-by-side with other students from around the world, and they need to understand what these other cultures believe and more importantly, how to reach them with the Gospel. 
  • Instill in them a biblical view of sex. This is often a hot topic even in high school, but it is escalated on the university level. There is a very open mindset among students when it comes to sex, and it is next to impossible to avoid it at college. There are pressures from both genders to be involved in “casual sex” as well as a larger community of the homosexual lifestyle. Freshmen are not unaware, but they are definitely unprepared for the magnitude and openness of the sexual environment. Students need to be grounded in God’s plan for them sexually (I Thes. 4:3-4). 

How prepared are your youth for college? We need to be very intentional in preparing our high school students to stand firm in their faith, and then make a difference on the college campus rather than succumbing to the worldly environment that awaits them.  

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