A Word for the Class of 2018

You’ve been dreaming of this day forever…college…Duke.  You got in! God is good! You are about to arrive at Duke in the heat of August in North Carolina and unload all your treasures and earthly possessions into the dorm room you’re about to call “home.” Your mom will keep trying to put a picture of the family beside your bed and you will roll your eyes at your roommate trying to cover your embarrassment.  The time will come to send your parents back on the road and let this new adventure begin.  “Geez, Mom, no kisses! Didn’t we get over that in middle school!?!”  Secretly, you’ll soak up that last hug.

blog post-freshmenThe admissions staff told you if you came to Duke you could pursue everything you’re passionate about and that attending Duke will help you change the world.  You’ve checked it all off the list to get in: good grades, AP classes, volunteering, church, participation in sports and music and art.  You’ve filled up that calendar with activities and then packaged them together into a star-studded college resume.

Soon you’ll be here…in a hot dorm room…with a roommate you’ve never met…and you’re wondering to yourself: WHAT THE HECK AM I DOING HERE? WHAT AM I PASSIONATE ABOUT? WHERE DO I BEGIN?

Maybe you’ll think to yourself, “please God, show me the way…” or perhaps more honestly, “Seriously, God?  This is what you brought me all this way for? This is NOT all it’s cracked up to be!”

Maybe everything will go fantastically and you will want to jump up and down and say “Thank you, Jesus!” not particularly because you’re thinking about Jesus but that’s just what you say when you’re jumping out of your skin with thanks that college is not a total disaster.

So as you prepare and as you arrive, know the following:

1)    You are amazing.
The admissions staff was right.  You have an abundance of God-given gifts and you are being welcomed into a place where you can use all those gifts in any way you choose.  On the days when you feel small, remember that you were fearfully and wonderfully made by a loving God.  Then call your mom and have her remind you why she loves you too.  Moms are good at that (plus, you’ll make your mom’s day).

2)    Other people are also amazing.
If you feel on top of the world, remember that there’s probably someone nearby who doesn’t feel that way right now and keep an eye out for that person; they’re just as wonderful and might be just the person you need to get to know.  If you feel intimidated by the talent around you, remember that even the most amazing person nearby is still a person, who needs basic things—friends, love, care, and dinner at the Marketplace; that gregarious person is not too good for you.

3)    Choose wisely.
Duke wasn’t lying that there are a plethora of opportunities and you will be tempted to sign up for 500 activities.  Sign up.  Check them out.  Discover a new passion.  But then choose.  Choose the two or three or four (but seriously, not more than four) things that are worthy of your unique investment.

4)    Don’t forget to take care of yourself.
Your brain will get a workout at Duke, no doubt.  There are an abundance of club sports, running trails, and a fully-equipped gym to keep your body healthy.  But don’t forget that your soul needs care too.  Find a discipline that gives you space for reflection and rest.  Maybe its prayer, scripture, devotions, remembering that you actually like to read for fun and not just for homework.  Whatever it is, care for your whole self, and then find a group that will support you in that venture as well.  Which, of course, means its time for a shameless plug….

5)    Engage in a faith community.
Duke PCM offers you a home away from home and a place to be supported at Duke. What will you discover?  A group that’s asking questions and laughing and praying and trying to put all the pieces of their lives and scholarship and service together with their faith.  It’s a place to encounter the living God.  It’s a place to love and be loved.  It’s a place to help you find that unique purpose and call that will enable you to use your God-given gifts to change the world.  

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