catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 2, Num 12 :: 2003.06.06 — 2003.06.19


The old college try

Standing outside the residence hall, they are clinging to one another. It is the end of August. It is the beginning of everything else. Parents are saying good-bye to their children in a gut-wrenching scene of emotional waffling. Some students stand strong, are even eager to find some distance. Some are fearful, having never been away from home. Parents want to be strong and encouraging. Some can do that. Others cannot. This moment is a right of passage and its significance is rarely lost on anyone involved. These students are leaving home and beginning a new life of independence, education and growth.

For four years, life is a myriad of choices, information, mistakes and experiences. Each of these holds a purpose in preparing students for a new life. This new life is one that they will own. The stakes are bigger than they have ever been. The safety net of a college community will no longer be present placing greater weight on each foible and fault. Even with four years to prepare, the task of leaving college and entering the world at large can be an overwhelming job for anyone.

But are there ways to make this transition one of ease, even joy, instead of stress and worry? Are there ways to prepare yourself and plan for your independence to be something that you have chosen and not something upon which you have landed? Here are a few suggestions that may help smooth the process.


  1. When choosing a job after college, consider the entire package. While many people look for a job that has the salary that they desire, money often cannot overcome an area where they will feel like a stranger long-term. Is the area one in which you can imagine yourself living? Are there churches nearby that agree with your theology? What will the housing situation be like? When looking at an area, remember that approximately 40 hours a week will be spent at that place of employment. The rest of the hours, about 128 of them, will be spent at home, running errands, at church and finding ways to be involved in the community. The location matters. Finding a town that is located near your new place of employment that holds a home for you is an important part of making that move work.


  3. Do not make financial commitments that will strain your new income immediately. For many graduates, finally having a steady income is an amazing experience after many years of work-study wages. It can be tempting to quickly buy a car or find other ways to tax the amount of money that a new paycheck delivers. Beginning with a modest budget that allows for tithing, saving and repaying student loans is a good place to begin. Several months down the road you will have a better idea about how much money it really takes to support yourself. At that point, you will be able to make a much wiser decision. Financial stress can be overwhelming. Avoid it if you can.


  5. Becoming involved in the church of your choice is a very important decision. If you have not yet found a way to understand your faith as your own, now is the time to begin. As independent adults, the decisions about denominations, church attendance and involvements are all your own. The days of leaning on parents, peer pressure or guilt are falling away and it is time for you to choose, REALLY choose, where you can best serve God. Finding a church that will encourage your involvement will be a very affirming experience. When we begin to work in jobs in "the world" there is something truly fulfilling about finding ways to allow ourselves to grow and be used in significant ministries through the church. Often new graduates assume they will not have time to give in this way. But what people often learn is that the time spent is so well used that it only makes sense to contribute in this way. Open yourself to new avenues of service. Volunteer for committees. The faith that you have claimed as your own, is now being put to work in building the Kingdom!


  7. Consider learning something new. This may seem like a strange suggestion after spending four years learning to work in your chosen field. However, consider this: You have had years to study one thing in depth. You may have had a chance to dabble in some areas of interest, but mainly took classes in your major. That made sense for then. Now, you will find yourself independently navigating a whole new world. Everywhere you look there is likely something you do NOT know. What are those things? Have you ever considered learning a new hobby, but did not have time to really concentrate on it? If you are living near a major metropolitan area, have you explored the many, many incredible opportunities that can be found in museums, restaurants, musical venues and city communities? The world is a rich place, created with such imagination that it is impossible for us to really absorb it all. Think about your own interests and make a list of things you would like to learn about. This is not a class. This is reaching into the gift of this world and opening one present after another. Approach new areas with joy and eagerness. You will be amazed, not only with what you learn, but with whom you meet along the way.


  9. Balance, balance, balance! While it may seem that the suggestions listed here will keep you busy for a very long time, it would be an oversight to not include the importance of balance in a newly independent life. While church, culture, community and home are vital to everyone, finding ways to balance all of these things is equally crucial. Each week should allow you time to worship, work and explore, but you must also remind yourself to choose. You must choose those things with which you would like to be involved. And, (this is big!) you must know when your choice should be to sit still. Finding ways to be quiet and take care of yourself will allow you to feel balanced even in the midst of a busy week. Working constantly and finding yourself unable to say no to requests from others will sap you of the energy you need to build a healthy and balanced life. Take time to think about what you need and make choices that bring you the peace you seek.


Transitioning into your independent life is a huge undertaking. It can be stressful, overwhelming, lonely and tiring. It is important to remember that your "adult life" is not a destination, but a journey that you will process through. By thinking through your choices and your plans, you can find that journey is affirming, exciting, stretching and joyful. Remember that you are not seeking life as you have seen your parents live it. You are seeking to create a way of living that fits your needs and is in direct response to what God is calling you to do. In that, you will find peace and fulfillment that is as you hoped it would be. And that is worth the effort.

Discussion topic: College idealism

College is an ideal place for building community, learning new things, and developing idealistic values, but the transition to "the real world" can offer a shock that causes us to leave our idealism behind. How can we learn to take the risks after college that affirm our idealistic values? What structures or experiences would make this transition easier?

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