From the YM: Choosing A College

One of my favorite parts of youth ministry is sending graduates off to college. It’s bittersweet in a sense, because I’m sad to see kids go, but that is easily trumped by the joy that comes from watching students head off for their next big journey. Wether it’s a local community college, an Ivy league school, or a prestigious institution of higher learning like Oklahoma Christian University (Go Eagles!), college has the potential to be a pivotal time in our student’s lives. Here are a few things that I’ve tried to pass on to students and families in regards to the process of choosing a school.

  • There are over 5,000 Colleges, Universities, and Community Colleges in the US alone. That number can be staggering, like drinking water from a fire hose, and can scare some people off from starting the process early. Start with narrowing down your field to a select few. There are six processing factors that I recommend to students and families when it comes to narrowing their list of potential schools. Rank these in order of importance to you and your student for a streamlined search:
    • Location. Do you want to stay close to home, or head to the other side of the country? Do you want to be a road trip or a plane trip away from home? Do you prefer somewhere by the beach or near the mountains?
    • Cost. What are you willing to spend on an education? Are you willing to go to a dream school and do the work for more financial aid? How much debt are you willing to take on? Is it important for you to graduate debt-free?
    • Size. Do you prefer the feel of a small campus or a large campus? Do you prefer smaller classroom setting or large lecture style? Would you prefer to know everyone on campus, or have the opportunity to constantly meet new people?
    • Atmosphere. Doe the school have a Christian atmosphere? Is it a party school? Is there plenty to do on, or near campus, or is there something nearby? What is the housing situation like? What kinds of activities are popular with the student body?
    • Major. Are you looking for a specific major, or a school with several options? If you already have a specific career path in mind does this school offer your program? If you don’t have a major in mind, does the school have a reputation for a specific degree?
    • Recruiting. Are you going to compete collegiately in a a sport? Are you a stellar musician? An actor? Are there schools vying for your attendance?
  • When I was looking for a school, location was a big factor for me. Every school I applied to was more than 1,000 miles from home. Next was atmosphere. I knew I wanted to be in a Christian environment, and wanted to be active on campus. I had two majors I was interested in, so that came next, with cost, size and recruiting rounding out the list. The level of importance of these determining factors varies for every student, and may change over the course of time, but it helps to keep a clear view of what is important in mind when beginning the initial search.
  • Visit as many schools as you can, even ones you are not necessarily interested in. Visiting non-recruiting schools can give you ideas on what to look for in schools you are looking towards. Also, familiarity with the questions recruiters ask, and the type of things tours show-off can help you determine what is important in your decision-making process.
  • Consider this a part-time job. Routinely dedicate specific amounts of time towards the college search process. I’ve encouraged families to take a couple of hours once a week to dedicate to college related work, or a whole day out of the month.
  • Start your search early. It is never too early to start saving for college, and it is never too early to start the search process. While the crux of college planning lends itself to junior and senior year of high school, taking a freshmen to a college campus to familiarize themselves with the environment can do wonders for motivation, and may take away some of the fears that come from trying to figure out what direction to head after high school.
  • Ask a lot of questions. Wether it’s talking to your local guidance counselor, a college recruiter, or a family that has been through the college process, feel free to seek as much advice as you can.
  • Pray. Choosing a college has the potential to be one of the biggest decisions you make in your life. I can’t imagine making that big of a decision without seeking the counsel of the Great Counselor. While you may not get the specific name of a school, humbling yourself before God and asking for wisdom in the process carries with it the promise of God’s blessing wherever you choose.

 

One love, one heart.

The Single Life: Worst Date Countdown #3

 One of the joys of being in the dating scene for a while is amassing a nice collection of war stories from dates gone bad. I’ve tried to narrow down the list to my top 3 worst dates. Before we get into #3 here are a few highlights from ones that missed the cut:

  • The date that yelled at me (literally) because I put our bicycling trip around Mission Bay on pause for 30 seconds to see if the young lady bleeding from her head and yelling at the top of her lungs needed any help. Turns out she was just drunk and had tripped and fell but still, somebody should at least stop and check right? Best line of the night, “You don’t need to be THAT kind of a minister”.
  • The girl the said we had not been on a real date because I hadn’t spent more than $50 on her for dinner. The total bill was $78.
  • The girl who talked for 72 minutes (timed it) about how much she loved the show Friends. Best line of the night, “How much of a Rachel do you think I am?”

And now on to the countdown with Worst Date #3:

My senior year of college in Oklahoma I was asked out by a freshmen from a small town. I said yes to the date because a girl asking a guy out on a date at OC was not as common as the traditional routine, and I figured it was out of her comfort zone to do so. That kind of courage earned at least one date, and I wasn’t one to say no to someone crazy enough to ask me out without the aid of WPA (women pay all: yes, it’s a thing) week. She suggested dinner and a movie. Not the ideal first date setup but she seemed pretty excited so I went along. She also said she wanted to drive to which, in my experience in Oklahoma, was pretty unusual.

My roommates said they heard she was pretty weird, and I should bail, but I decided to go ahead and proceed, keeping an eye out just in case she took a turn for the crazy.

I knew it was going to be a long night when she didn’t want to talk. At all. About anything. I asked questions about her home town, how she liked school, books, movies, the usual first date stuff. I’ve never heard anybody respond to that many questions with that few words. At best I got an awkward grin and a shoulder shrug. Yikes. By the time we got to dinner I was already pondering a ‘run out the clock’ strategy for the night and return the silence. Fortunately we had a movie to kill some time. So we watched some boring movie for a couple of hours and start heading back to campus. It was about a ten minute drive with not a lot in between the school and the movie theaters. As we came up to one of the intersections in the middle of the open land on the way home, she put her hand on my knee, stopped the car, and asked “So what should we name our kids?”

(crickets)

“Wait…What?”

“What should we name our kids? I think we’d have cute kids.”

(crickets)

“No offense, but we hardly know each other. I think it might be a little early to be talking about naming kids.”

Waterworks. Not just teary-eyed, ‘what-you-don’t like-me?’ tears, but full on, my life is a teenage soap opera crying.

At this point we are stopped in the middle of nowhere far enough from school where I don’t really want to walk, which was the first thought that crossed my mind. It was the first time in my life I seriously regretted not having a cell phone. Or a whistle. Or anything. This chic had the potential to be a bucket full of crazy and I was stuck in the car with her. Switch to damage control, get home safely.

“What’s wrong with me? Why doesn’t anyone want to go out with me?”

Next thoughts, maybe getting left out here in the middle of nowhere isn’t that bad. Wait, did she mention guns earlier? Why is her hand still on my knee?

“I’m sure you’re really nice, but we’ve just met and we really haven’t had a chance to get know each other. Why don’t we head on back to campus? You don’t want to be late for curfew”. Making this the first time I was ever grateful for curfew at OC.

After a few more minutes of tears a car finally came up behind us, and we got moving again. And we headed back to campus. She parked by the girls dorms across the campus from my apartment. I didn’t mind the walk, but I did skip the part where I wanted to kiss the ground after making it safely out of that car. Four hours of my life were never coming back, but I had managed to talk my way out of getting left in the middle of nowhere by an emotionally unstable freshmen, so all in all, I call it a win.

More awkward and embarassing moments to come soon.

One love, one heart.