College as Calling?

“Your college education is meant to prepare you for prime citizenship in the kingdom of God… Your calling is to prepare for further calling, and to do so in a Christian community that cares as much about the kind of person you are becoming as what kind of job you will eventually get, and as much about how you will do your job as about which job you do.” – Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

If you could put all of your thoughts, feelings and emotions about to college into one word, what would that one word be? I like to ask this question when speaking to college bound high school students. Most often I hear the following: scared, nervous, stress, money, freedom, party, excited, adventure and opportunity. I then challenge the group to consider another word: Calling. Should college simply be the assumed next step after high school or should we be thinking more deeply about this major decision? What would it look like if we thought of college as a calling?

First, we need to discern if college is in fact where God is calling students. This will require good conversations with God (in prayer) and with people who know them well. Youth workers and parents should be sure to create space for open and honest conversations about whether or not college is the best next step for life after high school.

Second, if students do get a sense that God is leading them to college after high school, we need to prepare them for what’s ahead. Invite students to talk to people that have gone before them and to ask questions about what to expect in college. Here’s a good activity: have students ask someone who is 20 years removed from college what they would do differently if they could do it all over again.

Finally, if college is a calling, students should be “sent.” This will require the community of faith coming around the college-bound students in prayer, letting them know that the body of Christ is behind them and with them as they go. During college breaks, create opportunities for students to report back to the congregation on how things are going in their calling.

Transitioning to college is not easy. Many students are overwhelmed by the pressure to go and to succeed. Framing the decision in terms of calling reminds students that college is a gift and that their lives are in God’s hands.