Deciding on college related things is the first of many major choices most of us make as we grow past our teenage years. Which school you attend, if you go at all, how long you will wait before deciding, and what you do in those years after high school will all have a tremendous impact on what sort of person you become and what direction you go in life. No pressure, right? ;)
College is a place of discovery, and God has used that time to shape the lives of many believers and set them on a path He's laid out. Even if you decide not to attend college or you decide to wait a year or more before attending, God can use those years after graduation to help you grow and mature as a believer and as a human being.
Like any other decision, big or small, God is involved in all aspects of planning. Some will invite God into their college planning process more closely than others will. Some will hardly involve God in the process at all and simply go with the most practical option. One person may feel an extremely clear direction toward a certain school or degree. Another may be completely in the dark. Either way, these decisions are ultimately between you and God.
Regardless of how you look to God for guidance, and regardless of where you go and what you do, His plans are ultimately good. You aren’t going to royally screw things up by picking the “wrong” path. He’s still God, He’s still in control, and He’s still got your best interests in mind (Matthew 7:11).
No one can make this decision but you. You’re free to work with God however you wish. You're free to seek wisdom from your parents, teachers, or older friends. And you’re free to let intuition be your guide. It’s true that the heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), but it’s also true that if a situation just feels wrong, it probably is.
If you do find a school or path that God wants you to follow, He’ll let you know. His word is a light to our feet (Psalm 119:104-105), so it’s especially important to take time with Scripture during this change. He’ll be there with you as your guide.
Aside from knowing scripture, prayer is the most direct way we connect with God and try to know His desires. Jesus promises in John 14:12-14 that He will answer our prayers. We should go to Him in prayer eagerly, asking for guidance as we transition from one stage of life to the next—and preparing for college definitely counts as a life transition!
There are no "right" ways to continue your education. You have to do what is going to work best for you—emotionally, financially, socially, and spiritually. These options aren't listed in any particular order.
Four-Year University. You might already know you want to go to a four-year university to study for a specific career path, and that's great! Four-year schools give you the opportunity to be truly immersed in your field of choice and connect with professionals and peers in your field of study. Four-year schools grant a Bachelor's degree at the end of your term.
Community College. If you don't yet know what career path to take or you want to take your time, a community college can help get your feet under you. Many have found that, after investing thousands of hours and dollars into a university, they wished they'd have done something different. This isn’t true for everyone, but some find it worthwhile to branch out and ease into the process. The lower cost and lower pressures of a community college can allow the space to decide what direction you want to go. Two-year schools grant an Associate's degree, which can be fairly useful in many workplaces. Look into your local community college and see what programs they offer that might give you some guidance and a good head start.
Trade or Vocational School. Not everyone needs a fancy degree to get started on life, and if you know that there's a specific trade or vocation that interests you, then that's awesome! Or maybe university just isn’t a good fit for you, and that's OK. Trade schools are a wonderful opportunity for people wanting to learn specific skills for a specialized career. Trade schools grant certifications for professional electricians, dental hygienists, different kinds of medical techs, civil engineering techs, cosmetology professionals, and more.
Depending on your background, which school you choose, and what city you end up in, college might be your first time in an environment of mixed beliefs and backgrounds. This new exposure to a diversity of ethnic, cultural, and religious variety can be a LOT to take in if you're not used to it. Having a faith community to support you is crucial to helping you process new questions, challenges, and anxieties.
This community might be a campus ministry like CRU, the Navigators, or Young Life. It could even be a local church that meets nearby and has groups for college students. A lot of churches located near large campuses have established ministries for this very purpose!
We are social creatures, and no matter where we're located, all Christians belong to the same universal Church (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). The importance of having community with other believers cannot be understated—especially when you're learning what you believe as a young adult. Communal worship, Bible study, and friendship are so important for all believers as we grow in our faith.
It's perfectly OK to be slow and deliberate when making your choice. Do your research and examine your options. Don’t worry about choosing the “wrong” path. Don't make hasty decisions in a panic or due to external pressure from parents or friends. No matter where you go, even if it isn’t your first choice, college can be a fun time of exploration, growth, and learning that you really won’t get anywhere else. Don’t be afraid to stretch out a bit and let yourself live. At the end of the day, God’s still going to be with you no matter where you go. And He'll always be ready to catch you if you fall.
Preparing for life after high school is a major step each of us must take as we grow up. Some choose to go straight to a four-year university along a specific degree path. Others choose a community college or vocational school instead. Some may need some extra time to choose what to do. Some may decide that continuing education is not for them. All of these options are perfectly valid. Before you begin, pray and study scripture, asking for guidance from God (Psalm 119:104-105; John 14:12-14). Research for schools that will fit your needs and desires and that has a strong Christian community nearby. Fellowship is crucial for the faith of a young believer (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). There isn’t a “wrong” path to choose, as God has promised to always stay beside us and guide us if we choose to let Him. No matter what you choose, He is still God, and His will is always good (Matthew 7:11).
When he’s not with his family or studying God’s Word, Brian is making the most of the outdoors. He loves answering questions and sharing reasons for the hope that we have so that other people’s faith can be as strong as possible. He loves his family, friends, and his dog, and he's here to help with anything that comes up. Nothing is off limits.