Elisabeth Wilder lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and is studying at Eastern Mennonite University. You can usually find her with a cup of coffee in her hand and her trusty planner by her side as she goes between classes, meetings, and other campus activities. When she’s not writing papers or studying for an exam, Elisabeth enjoys hiking, hanging out with friends, and lounging in her hammock with a book and/or pen in her hand. She is passionate about ideas and people, and aspires to become an attorney upon completing her degree in social work. Until then, she will continue to grow wherever she is planted as a follower of Christ. Elisabeth is the newest blogger for The Mennonite, Inc.
It’s that time of year again where mini fridge sales go up and the amount of laundry done on a regular basis goes down. Yes, college students around the country are saying goodbye to loved ones and making their way back to the perfectly manicured lawns of their college campuses.
But even for the college student who is beginning their third, fourth, or perhaps even their fifth year of college, there is a lot of tension that doesn’t go away when classes start. As a senior in college myself, I feel just as nervous for this year as I did when I was a first-year walking into my 8:00 a.m. macroeconomics class.
So pray for me. Well, not me specifically, but take a moment to reflect and pray for the college student in your life. Maybe it is your niece, son, neighbor, or mentee. No matter who it is, there are fears and questions that don’t go away once the car is unloaded. After all, each year comes with its own obstacles.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a school right across the street or a move halfway across the country, the beginning of college is an elusive mystery. Starting college comes with new classes, friends, and all the challenges that come with learning how to balance a budget and do laundry. Without guidance, first-years are incredibly vulnerable as they are often left to their own devices for the first time.
First-years need social support, a sense of belonging, and answers to questions about how to live on their own. As you pray for first-years, ask that God will provide opportunities to build relationships, opportunities to utilize their gifts, and help–through hallmates or a parent– with budgeting time and resources.
By the end of the first year of college, though, many have gotten this whole college thing down. Sophomores know to put water in their Easy Mac so they don’t set off the fire alarm, and that fabric softener is not the same thing as laundry detergent. But now sophomores are figuring out how to plan events in their leadership roles, settling into a major and beginning to build deeper relationships with friends.
Sophomores want direction and encouragement–people who are willing to mentor them in their roles and an audience to listen to them when no one came to their first campus event. Pray that God will create a balance between the heart and the head as sophomores narrow their friend groups and academic interests so that they can live into every moment and learn from it.
After two years of college, juniors really know what they are doing. Juniors have friend groups firmly established, homemade meals that no longer consist of cereal and ramen, and majors finally declared, to the relief of many parents. For many, junior year is the sweet spot in which one finds enough stability where they are at and sufficient challenge to get where they want to be.
Juniors are looking for more depth in their relationships, academic goals, and from their experience. In this stage of life, ask God to provide meaningful work, relationships, and purpose in the midst of what may seem like just another year of school.
Gone are the days of all-nighters and 2 a.m. trips to Waffle House. College and life just got a whole lot more serious. Seniors are beginning to ponder what comes next after this year and coming to terms with the end of their college journey.
Seniors are searching for ways to reconcile the bittersweet end of college and the beginning of what lies beyond. Pray that God will provide peace as seniors live in the midst of uncertainties in vocation and calling, as well as the grace to say goodbye with confidence and assurance.
For every college student returning to intramurals, taking notes, and late night chats in the dorm, may you go out with joy and be led forth with peace as you begin another chapter of one of the most formative years of your life.
Editor’s note: You can also consider keeping a college student in your life up-to-date on the latest Mennonite happenings with a six-month student subscription to The Mennonite magazine.