College. It’s only the most important decision of your life so far … right? So with all the pressure that seems to surround finding the “perfect” school, is there a way to approach the college process more spiritually? What would that look like? How could it help? Jenny Sawyer, Managing Editor, Youth Content—and TeenConnect’s editor—talked with seven high-school seniors about how they’re praying about their own college searches.
What’s your starting point for the college search and application process?
Sara: I like thinking about all the other times in my life when I’ve felt God’s direction. Whenever I’ve needed guidance in the past, God has always guided me—like I’ve gotten really specific ideas that have helped me know the next steps to take. And I know those ideas are from God because of the feeling they give me. I feel calm, peaceful, and certain when I get ideas from God.
Whenever I keep my thoughts on God, I feel peaceful, even if I don’t have all the answers yet.
So with college, I’m trusting that God is guiding me in exactly the same way, and guiding all of us. Maybe this comes as specific direction right away, or maybe it’s just one step at a time while you keep listening for the ideas from God that give you a sense of peace about your path.
Cole: I sort of know what I want to do and want to study. But I still don’t know where I’d want to go, or even where I’d be accepted. So for me, focusing on God is key. Whenever I keep my thoughts on God, I feel peaceful, even if I don’t have all the answers yet. Starting from that place of openness to God and willingness to hear His direction is what helps me.
How do you know which school is right for you?
Paige: For me it’s about motives. What are my reasons for applying to a school? Because it has a good reputation? Because my friend is going there? The right motives are about something deeper than that. For instance, if there’s a program that you’re really passionate about, or you connect with one of the professors. And also, a motive to do good, to express God. Where’s the place where I can do that the best? To me, that’s the question.
Alden: I think you have to let go of human will, your own sense of things, before you can genuinely know what school is right for you. You may really think you want to be a computer engineer and this one particular college is the school to go to for that. You think that you have this path, and that it’s the right path because it’s your passion. And it may actually be the right path. But for me, I only know for sure when I can get that strong feeling of wanting, pushing, willing something to happen out of the way and trust God’s love for me.
God being Love and loving you completely means you’re going to have everything you need, in exactly the way you need it. And so maybe that looks like the school you were planning on, or maybe it looks like some other college. But you’ll know because you let God lead you instead of pushing your way to a certain result.
How do you deal with fear about finding the right place, whether you’ll get accepted, and all the unknowns of the process?
Cassidy: I like to ask myself the question: What would you do if you weren’t afraid? If you put this fear aside, what direction would you take? Because the truth of the situation is that none of us are actually afraid. We can’t be. There’s no fear in God, so there can’t be fear in us as God’s expression.
Also, instead of focusing on the what-ifs, I like to focus on the “what is.” God’s goodness is what is. God’s perfect direction and our ability to hear and follow that direction are what is.
Jack: Sometimes it can feel scary to take a risk or try something new. It might seem easier to take the safe route—like staying close to home or picking a school where you have friends. But if the new thing is God-directed, then it really isn’t a risk. It’s an opportunity to experience more of God’s goodness.
Paige: I like to remember that we’re always in God’s kingdom wherever we go. We’re stuck there. We can never leave! And that’s a good thing. Whatever school you end up at, you’re still in God’s kingdom.
Your value doesn’t come from your achievements, your acceptances. It comes from God.
That’s not to say that there aren’t going to be challenges. But I like how the 23rd psalm says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me” (Psalms 23:4). So even if we pass through rough parts during this process or even in college, the light, God, is still there. You can’t leave God’s care. Ever.
Sara: And God is bigger than fear. I think sometimes we even get afraid of fear because we think it’s going to stop us from hearing God, and then how will we know where to go or what to do? But God is all-powerful. God can’t be stopped by fear. In the Bible story of Elijah facing the earthquake, wind, and fire, I think those things might have made him really afraid. But that didn’t stop him from hearing the “still small voice” of God. (See I Kings 19:11–12.) It’s the same for us.
How do you address this idea that your worth or identity is somehow wrapped up in where you get accepted or where you go to school?
Tyler: I’m having to deal with that already because I’m not sure what I want to study, so I’m not sure what the “best” school for me would be. I’ve talked to my Christian Science Sunday School teacher about it and we’ve discussed what my identity really is. It isn’t where I go to school. And it’s not test scores or grades or anything like that. It’s expressing God’s qualities in the way that only I can express them.
Identity seems like something we create ourselves, but it’s God-given. We have the opportunity to discover more of it as we understand God better.
Alden: Your value doesn’t come from the things you do, your achievements, your acceptances. It comes from God. So it can’t increase and it can’t diminish. I think that’s the biggest fear a lot of us face—that this college decision somehow determines our worth.
If we could start from the fact that we actually can’t even measure our worth—it comes from God, so it must be infinite—then that would change the dynamic of the whole process. We’d stop feeling frantic and find it natural to trust God.