Three tips for every commuter student

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Often, moving out is assumed when people talk about going to college.  However, that is not always the case

In fact, statistics show that the commuter student population is over half that of on-campus students.  Curious?  You can read a US news article about that here.  Of course, this data will vary drastically depending on the university or college in question, and the percentage of commuter students tends to be lowest in the freshman class.  (This might be because many colleges and universities require freshmen to live on campus.)

Wondering why some colleges require freshmen to live on campus?  It’s actually for your own benefit!  Here’s a quick list of solid reasons why it’s a good idea.

Commuter students face a unique set of challenges. 

We met with a commuter student at TBC and her observations echoed that of many other commuters across the country.  There are some obvious perks to living at home and driving to class each day, but there are three main areas that are unique challenges for the off-campus student.   If you are planning to commute and want to get the most out of your college experience, these are three areas that you should consider as you plan your days.

  • Get involved. It takes extra effort to truly get to know fellow classmates and professors and be familiar with campus facilities and events. To be an active participant in college life outside of the classroom, you’ll need to be strategic.  It is easy to just go to class and leave, but by doing that you’re missing out on many of the experiences that make college so exciting.  On-campus students tend to spend a majority of their time together in the dining hall, in the library, walking back and forth to class, in the activity buildings, attending campus events, and, of course, in their dorm or other student housing.  Relationships are built during those times, and you’ll need to intentionally plug in to the campus culture and community outside of class.  It is not impossible, but it can be difficult if you aren’t naturally outgoing.

Helpful tip: Purposefully meet fellow freshmen as well as upperclassmen during orientation and build on those connections.  Freshmen will likely be slightly out of their comfort zone (but the same boat as you!) and you will likely all have a very similar schedule. Chances are, you’ll see each other frequently and probably have multiple classes together.  Upperclassmen will have the inside scoop on how things work and what to expect.  It’s always advisable to have more mature people in your life who can share their experiences and perspective.  Look for those good influences that you can depend on!

  • Traffic is unpredictable.  Depending on your distance from campus you’ll need take into account rush hours and possible traffic flow obstacles (accidents, construction, special events, etc.) Each semester, class schedules change and demand that the commuter student learn a new routine.  Don’t let this discourage you from your goal!  Hundreds of college students accept this challenge every day and pass with flying colors.  Just make a point to give yourself extra time, especially on days when you have an exam or a project is due.  Being late is never a good idea, but it is a really bad idea to be late on a day when a grade-defining event is on the schedule.

Helpful tip: For the first week or two, plan to give yourself way more travel time that you actually need to get to campus and find your classroom.  Get familiar with your route and take note of any rail road crossings or school zones.  If you encounter either of those on your way to campus, you may need to scope out alternate routes to keep in mind if needed.  If you arrive on campus with 30 minutes to spare, take advantage of that time to roam campus and get familiar with the layout.  Or look for a familiar face and start a conversation! 

  • Even if you commute from home, you may need to plan your own meals. It might work out perfectly for you to run home for lunch or dinner, but then again it might not.  Classes, homework, work schedules, and campus activities can conflict with home routines. Meals could easily be one of the main changes you’ll need to account for.  (Skipping meals shouldn’t be part of your plan!)

Helpful tip: Look into the possibility of paying for a meal service plan.  Making a stop at the college cafeteria could be the perfect answer to a crazy class schedule, and most likely be cheaper than buying snacks every day.  (Healthier too, if you choose wisely in the cafeteria!)  Another option would be to pack your own meals to bring with you.  Take that extra money you’ve saved and use it to knock out that college bill!  

In the end, your college experience can be what you want it to be. 

If you want to have a positive experience, make the extra effort to make it so!  Keeping these three points in mind as you make plans can go a long way toward creating the experience you are looking for.  Ask questions, look for creative solutions, and enjoy this exciting phase of life!

 

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Three Truths For College Students to Build Their Life On

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When I think back to my time in college, I am often reminded of just how much change took place during those five years (yes, I was one of those special students that finished a four-year degree in five). When I started college, I was living with my grandparents in Springfield, MO. I had few concerns and responsibilities in life and was basically living for the moment. Four years later, I had transferred to Trinity Baptist College in Jacksonville, FL and was about to graduate with a Pastoral Theology degree. I was married, owned a home, had a full-time job and couldn’t wait to start working on a seminary degree.

Even looking back on it now, I get dizzy thinking about how quickly God changed the course of my life. The direction, focus and clarity that came to me during those few short years is something I will never forget. It is one of the reasons that the past nearly ten years of my life has been devoted to helping other college students find that same life focus.

I believe that in God’s providence He allowed me to see some important truths through the words and influence of various mentors and teachers in my life at that time which changed the course of my life. Here are three of the truths that helped me to see life more clearly.  They are just as true for college students today as they were for me as a college freshman eighteen years ago.

  1. God is the only source of ultimate and lasting good.

During my youth, I had experienced some very difficult circumstances. My father suffered permanent disabilities through a tragic accident that I had unintentionally caused when I was fifteen. There were other painful life situations that my family and I had endured. Through all of this, I had come to see first-hand that God was still the only source of goodness.  Even in tragedy and pain, I had felt and seen His guiding hand and I did not see that anyone else had a better solution or alternative for how the tragedies of this life were going to be corrected. God had opened my eyes to the story of redemption through Jesus Christ and everything else paled in comparison to that truth. Sitting through doctrines class at a Christian college gave me the words to articulate what I had experienced in my own life.

  1. Everything you chase to bring fulfillment outside of God disappoints.

I don’t have a testimony of riotous living, but I had experienced enough of sin in my own life to know the end is destruction. Growing up in a pastor’s home gave me a front row seat to the consequences of poor choices and behaviors in the lives of so many people. I came to see that all of humanity, including me, was broken. Even the allure of youth as a college freshman could not overcome the truth that gnawed at my heart; where will all of this lead in twenty years? I know many will argue that Christianity makes sense for someone that has nowhere else to turn, but my life was not on the rocks when I committed to follow Christ. I am so thankful that the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in my life allowed me to see the truth that although my life seemed put together on the outside, I was broken beyond repair in the eyes of God. My only hope was the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

  1. Eternal rewards are not measured on an earthly scale.

This is a lesson that I am continuing to learn. I have little to say about this because I am not satisfied with my own application of this truth. This is merely an acknowledgement that even in the realm of Christianity and spiritual growth there is a tendency to seek the fame and notoriety that are, in substance, the same as what consumes celebrity culture of our modern age.   Particularly as American Christians, we are averse to anything that feels like pain, difficulty or trial because we have bought into the lie that Jesus wants us to always be happy and successful. As a college student, it is important to understand that in God’s economy, the first are often last. The weaknesses in our life allow God the opportunity to show His power and receive glory for Himself. Don’t be afraid to live a life of obscurity and faithfulness in service for God. What is done for him in secret during this lifetime He has promised to reward openly in the eternal life to come.

3 Ways Neglected Maintenance Affects Your Leadership Ability

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How many emergencies have been created in your life recently due to neglected maintenance? Maybe you were late for an important meeting because your car wouldn’t start. You knew the battery was well beyond its useful life but instead of taking 30 minutes to purchase and have a new one installed, you kept putting it off because you were too busy.

Perhaps your maintenance emergency was a financial one because for years you put off replacing a $10 air filter and now you have to call out a repairman to work on your home air conditioning system.

Have you ever tried driving a car for multiple thousands of miles without changing the oil? Eventually you will ruin the entire motor by simply putting off routine maintenance that, if completed in a timely manner, would save you thousands of dollars and many hours of frustration.

There are many examples of this in the mechanical world but what about within the sphere of leadership? Does the principle of neglected maintenance apply to our effectiveness as leaders?

I believe that it does. Let’s examine at least three ways that neglected maintenance can negatively impact our personal leadership.

  1. Areas of neglected leadership maintenance never seem important until they do not function. Just like in the example of the car battery, you can be seemingly effective in your leadership until one day you just aren’t because you have neglected to properly maintain essential areas. Some practical examples would be:
  • Maintaining a consistent prayer life
  • Studying, meditating and personally applying Scripture
  • Taking time to rest and restore mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally
  1. Areas of neglected leadership maintenance are not always exciting to work on. Just like changing the oil in your vehicle is not as exciting as getting a custom paint job or installing a great after-market DVD player or stereo, the oil is a far more critical issue. The same is true in leadership. For example, working on things like follow-through and consistent communication are less fun than attending conferences or dreaming about big ideas. While the latter have their place, it is attention to the less exciting maintenance details that actually allow us to move on to greater, healthier places.
  1. Areas of neglected leadership maintenance require discipline and consistency. You don’t change the air filter in your home air conditioning system once every five years. You have to schedule this maintenance detail every three months. This requires attention to detail. Most areas of neglected maintenance within our areas of leadership are not difficult to accomplish, the hard part is simply remembering to do them in the midst of the chaos and busyness that characterizes our daily operations. We simply forget how important these little details are until they have been neglected long enough to create a crisis.

Don’t become a victim of neglected leadership maintenance. Take the time today to evaluate the little things that have been overlooked and may become the big things if they do not receive some attention soon.

3 Helpful Journaling Tips for College Students

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It was during my undergrad years that I was first challenged to keep a journal. At that time, it sounded like a noble idea and I assumed that within a few months I would be able to look back at my progress in this area and reflect on all of the great and wonderful things that God had been doing in my life.

The reality for me was that within a few weeks I had forgotten about the journaling idea completely and it wasn’t until nearly a year later that I came across those few journal entries and was reminded about the commitment I had made to myself and failed to deliver.

Since that time, I have been consistently journaling for about seven years now, and there are at least three helpful tips that I wanted to share with college students, or anyone one else, looking to build this habit into their life.

1. It’s Okay to Fail

When I came back across my failed first attempt at journaling, I was immediately embarrassed by my lack of discipline and focus. Over time, I began to realize that this was okay. At the very least, I had recognized the need for something in my life and was attempting to make an improvement. The truth is, I started journaling a second time and kept up with it for a few months before stopping again.

Over the course of a 3-4 year period, I consistently failed at journaling! Each time I restarted the process I learned something new about myself and was eventually able to make journaling a habit in my life.

2. What You Record Today Will Inspire You Later

One thing I will never forget about those early failed journaling attempts was how inspiring it was to read back over the thoughts and reflections that I had penned down during those short spans of disciplined activity. I read about situations, burdens, joys and other details that had long been forgotten. There were specific answers to prayer in my journals that had escaped my mind and it was like reading about them for the first time. Seeing what I had recorded and being able to put myself back in the stories and scenarios that I was reading made me wish that I had been even more consistent with my journaling. It also inspired me to trust God more, to worry less about the difficulties and frustrations in my current life.

3. Keeping A Journal Enhances Other Spiritual Disciplines

There are many benefits to journaling, but one thing this practice will do is help you become more consistent with other spiritual disciplines, specifically prayer, reading, meditating on Scripture, and personal reflection. Setting aside time in your day to journal will provide a natural opportunity for these other practices and you will find that the more you spend time in prayer and reading God’s word the more you will have to journal about.

My prayer for you, especially college students, is that over the summer you will take the time to slow down and begin to build good habits and routines into your life. If there was anything that I wish I had invested more time doing as a college student, I would definitely say that being more intentional about spiritual disciplines would be on the list. We are often tempted to spend more time pursuing “quick fixes” and chasing down the latest fads and trends, when in reality we would be better served to simply invest time doing the hard work of daily disciplines that, while not as stylish or fun, will carry us much further down the road.