For many high school graduates, the next move is college. Though the trend has changed to an extent, for most of our young people that will mean leaving home for a traditional college setting. Four years of freedom and celebration into adulthood! Right? Well, it’s a bit scarier than that. We’ve put together a list of reactions that high school graduates in your church might be thinking about, even though they may never volunteer these to seasoned adults. It’s important that as a church community, we pray often and publicly for students who are entering college. It’s an exciting time for them but we know it’s fraught with snares and lures no matter where they attend school. So, let’s “scare the heck out of them” a bit and take a serious approach to the challenges ahead with these tips for graduates. 

List of Tips for Graduates: Reality Check

It’s easy to get up and go to church on Sunday.

Freedom is often something hard to wrestle into control especially when its newly found and you’re heading to college. Going to church certainly doesn’t make someone a Christian, but the discipline of coming together is one that none of us can ignore (Heb. 10:24-25). After a week of classes and late night studying and fellowship, Sunday can come as a day of rest with a whole different purpose than resting in God’s house – resting by sleeping in. Keeping in the habit of church attendance will create natural times of worship, accountability, and that important thread of community from home church to college church.

Having a credit card? No problem.

Debt is a crippling problem for many and it often starts in college. Credit card companies must abide by more rules and helps to prevent massive debt these days, but the responsibility is still the individuals. And, let’s be honest. Credit card companies make money when all of us go into debt. Managing a graduate’s wants and needs from simply the amount of eating out each week to when and if they purchase high ticket items are learned in college and it’s not easy. Supporting them by being honest about the challenge will go a long way.

Co-ed dorms are just like a hotel.

If a student is attending a school in the Christian Coalition of College and Universities (CCCU), the co-ed dorm scene is solved because they don’t have them. So, encouraging this type environment might be the first line of discussion (certainly knowing that temptation follows everywhere). But all the other college campuses have embraced co-ed dorms. Yes, some have learning communities that give you an option, but the rank-and-file contend with a very different set of temptation than their parents. No matter how much the idea that these hallways are similar to hotels, with private baths inside each room, the lack of boundaries is prevalent.

Security is 24-7 at college so I can walk anywhere without any threats.

Several incidents covered widely in the news accent the challenge of security today on college campuses. It’s important to ask the right questions and learn more about what protocols are in place. No matter the size or location, being aware of one’s environment and ways the college is reinforcing its property and customers (if we want to talk about it as a corporate exchange), is always going to be helpful.

Getting all my college classes done in the morning means I’ll have the rest of the day FREE!

It sounds nice and if someone is a morning person through-and-through with every discipline to get enough rest to be alert at 8 a.m., bulking up on morning classes can be helpful. However, it doesn’t mean the rest of the day is free. Writing papers, reading, joining a study group, reviewing, memorizing, etc., all play a role, and a student might just find they study more than they expected, especially if they are passionate about learning.

The first year doesn’t really matter.

A student’s first year of college is a critical time to do well for several reasons: (1) it builds confidence; (2) it creates a foundation; (3) it gives them a story to tell; (4) it helps them see God’s faithfulness. Throwing away that first year can be devastating to a chosen major, especially if it’s a life direction that means graduate school. With a delicate approach to healthy expectations, knowing there will be victories and defeats every year, sharing the importance of starting well with graduates can help their focus.

My roommate will be my best friend! 

Maybe, but maybe not. There are plenty of horror stories. Many colleges direct the roommate process for traditional first-year students which means there is little choice. Roommates can certainly be lifelong friends and it does provide the opportunity to be patient and caring for a stranger. However, a healthy expectation for the challenges of roommate living can be helpful. Being aware of school policies and procedures for any changes is also good to know in case the habits a roommate keeps is distracting to college success.

Laundry is fun!

Growing up means laundry and groceries and all the pedantry things that make life happen. A student is likely not saying, “Oh, laundry will be a blast,” but it’s helpful to discuss the responsibilities of grown-up (or almost grown-up) life. The laundromat is a great way to do that! It will probably be another gathering point for students but the week-in-week-out need for clean clothes (let alone ironing) can become a drag.

Peer pressure’s a high school thing. In college people respect differences.

Guess again. Peer pressure only begins in high school, and, as leaders, it’s our role to make sure students realize that their life as individuals is only beginning. They are formed and shaped by those they choose to spend time with and the events they choose to attend. Going to a Christian college helps identify them as Christian – no doubt, but it also expounds the expectation for right living. If a student chooses a secular college, the identity of “Christian” is not easy. “Christian” is not an accepted label anywhere, especially in secular colleges. Attending parties, participating in drinking and drugs, having right relations with the opposite sex, treating fellow students well, respecting faculty all have Christian responses and people are watching students who claim to be Christians.

Daily devotions and prayer will come more naturally because I won’t have the constraints of being at home. 

It might. Recognize that, “This is the day the Lord has made”, every day will give a framework to incorporate prayer and devotion. But, in our fallen world it’s not altogether natural. College is centered around individual direction and goal-casting, and looking outside this posture of navel-gazing run directly against our culture. If college becomes a time of devotion and prayer for every today and every future day for our high school graduates, then God will hear their petitions. May we be models of holy living and be pointers for our graduates to know there are righteous people living faithfully well beyond the college years.


Going off to college is an important step for any graduate. However, there are a lot of influences out there in the world waiting to greet them once they leave your home. Most graduates take for granted the things they had while in high school and living at home. These tips for graduates are different areas of consideration that will help them to be prepared for life on their own. The best thing we can do for them is to talk about these areas and develop a plan our a thought process for these areas.

Another helpful resource is finding a great school to apply for if you have not already committed to a College or University. We have a list of the Top Theological Schools or Seminaries in the U.S. that can get you started. If your graduate is not interested in Theology or Seminary, it’s okay, they will come around. But we also have a list of Top Worship Schools and Programs in the U.S. that they might find more aligned with their gifts. With all these resources and tips for graduates, your graduate will be able to start life in the world on the right foot.

About The Author

Zach Kincaid

Zach Kincaid is a part of the Sharefaith Editorial Team. He manages and has written on C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and general Christian thought for more than 15 years. He is a husband, father, and collaborator on a variety of Christian outreach projects, including films and educational resources.

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